If there is any one thing which will cause The Phantom Menace to be a creative failure in the eyes of fans, it will be their preconceived notion of it. These preconceived notions about Episode I come from official press releases and spoilers. For the most part, official releases are rather harmless when it comes to the specifics of The Phantom Menace. However, spoilers are an entirely different story.
Spoilers are pieces of information which reveal key concepts of the plot or characters. This information is gathered by individuals who have connections to sources at Lucasfilm, Ltd. In some cases, spoilers are merely rumors which have gained momentum due to the mainstream and/or alternative news media. No matter their source, spoilers often have more impact on fans than official press releases. This is evidenced by the popularity of the major prequel sites and the willingness of fans to defend spoilers in various forums on the internet.
The preconceived notions of fans were prevalent in the weeks following the announcement of The Phantom Menace as the title of Episode I. Many fans refused to believe that The Phantom Menace was actually the title as the spoiler-mill had been pushing Balance of The Force for months prior to the announcement. The Phantom Menace had been around as the title for a couple of months before many of the anti-TPM crowd began to realize that it was the official title of Episode I. Yet, there are still some websites adding fuel to this dying fire by polling their visitors on what title is their favorite.
The days following the premiere of the trailer for The Phantom Menace had the internet abuzz with commentary on its quality. While the percentage of fans who enjoyed the trailer greatly outnumbered those who didn't, it was people's preconceived notions of what the trailer and film should look like which greatly influenced their dislike of the trailer. Some fans expressed their disappointment in the trailer because it didn't resemble what they had read about it on the internet, or they were knocking it because the images presented did not live up to the spoilers that they were judging the movie by. It is these types of preconceived notions which have caused some fans to place The Phantom Menace on a pedestal that the film may not be able to live up to.
May 19, 1999 will be a glorious date for Star Wars fans as The Phantom Menace is the first new Star Wars film in sixteen years. Many will walk into the theater as a blank canvas, upon which Lucas will "paint" a new piece of the Star Wars story, and walk out of the theater with a fresh perspective on the Star Wars Galaxy. Unfortunately, some will walk into the theater with their preconceived notions and walk out with mixed emotions about The Phantom Menace if it fails to live up to their spoiler-filled version. I know which group of fans I belong to, what about you?