In 1999, a major motion picture was released to a level of commercial success not seen since Titanic. While the wider public was largely indifferent to the biggest film of the year, dedicated fans attended screening after screening, to take in every single frame in glorious detail. In its immediate aftermath, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace seemed to offer everything that fans starved of George Lucas’ universe wanted. There were space battles, there were lightsaber battles, and there was plot. My god, there was plot.
The sheer joy of seeing a new Star Wars film for the first time in nearly 30 years was enough to mask the flaws The Phantom Menace had. As time passed, however, fans turned on Lucas’ latest offering. The density of the film became too much to bear on repeat viewings, and the CGI, while groundbreaking at the time, just didn’t hold up as technology advanced. Eventually, many resigned themselves to simply skipping large portions of the film to get to the end. When the space battle and lightsaber fight occur. The buzz the audience felt leaving the cinema was directly from the high brought on by that ending.
Just win, baby
As Younghoe Koo kicked a field goal as time expired to hand the Falcons their first win of the season, I would be lying if I didn’t get carried away. After all, that was the first game the Falcons had won since November 12th 2020. The way the final quarter played out was excellent by the Falcons, on all three phases of the game. But on reflection, it was clear that things were not as they seemed.
For three-quarters of the game, the Falcons were flat-out bad. The offense barely moved an inch while the defense did its level best to keep the Falcons alive. Ryan looks skittish and unsure of himself, his receivers seemed incapable of getting open, and the running back group was just ineffective. They had their bright spots; the touchdown pass to Zaccheaus was an expertly designed and run passing play that the Falcons should lean on moving forward, for example. But, for large swathes of the game, they offered nothing.
It’s better than Attack of the Clones
Much like The Phantom Menace, the Falcons’ victory over the Giants has received a backlash among hardcore fans, for all the reasons above. But the thing people don’t tell you about The Phantom Menace (and I’m letting you in on a little secret here); it’s actually not bad. There are far worse films in the Star Wars saga, and, over the past 20 years, it’s looked on far more kindly among Star Wars fans. Because the highs are so exhilarating.
The Falcons came alive in the final quarter. Down by 7, Ryan orchestrated a touchdown drive that saw the Falcons drive 72 yards for the touchdown. Yes, they rode their luck. Absolutely they did. If not for a pass interference call, the Falcons were staring at a field goal rather than a game-tying touchdown, and a far more unlikely shot at winning the game. But you need luck in the NFL, and the Falcons have lacked all too often in recent years.
In the fourth quarter, Matt Ryan completed 11 of 13 passes for 117 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. The efficiency shown by the Falcons in the final quarter is exactly what I, personally, was expecting the Arthur Smith Falcons to look like. One hopes this is how the Falcons offense operates moving forward.
Faster. More intense.
So we’re now at a bit of a crossroads. The Falcons in 2021, and Star Wars in 1999, had achieved imperfect success, but it’s only the start. The Falcons’ task is to avoid their hosting of Washington becoming their equivalent of Attack of the Clones. Where George Lucas doubled down on the elements that drew the most backlash (heavy CGI, pretty awful dialogue, so much plot), the Falcons would be wise to heighten the elements of their game that found success. That rare sighting of the human podrace that is Kyle Pitts? Let’s have more than that. Cordarrelle Patterson’s double-ended lightsaber usage in both the run and the pass? Absolutely. Hell, I’ll even take little AnaKoo Skywalker blowing up another not-Death Star if it resulted in a win.
It would take 16 years for a Star Wars film to release that would salvage the reputation of the franchise, and reassert its prominence in the public eye. The Falcons have the opportunity to release The Force Awakens without subjecting us to Episodes II or III. We’ll see if they’re successful this Sunday.