Star Wars: Phantom Menace
Over the next two months, as the world barrels towards the final installment of the Skywalker saga, we're going to review every single Star Wars movie that has ever come before. Yes, even that god awful Christmas Special.
Up first is Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
Star Wars, at its essence, is a fun space adventure. People loved it. It was, and is, a cultural phenomenon. Back in 1999, the anticipation for a new Star Wars movie after nearly two decades was almost palpable. When Phantom Menace hit the theaters, though, many felt let down. The movie’s biggest mistake (and there were a few) was that it lost the adventure, for the most part. However, Phantom Menace had redeeming qualities that make it much better than the abysmal catastrophe that Internet fandom makes it out to be.
What didn’t work?
The biggest issue, and worst affront to the original trilogy, is that Episode 1 of the sprawling space saga got bogged down into the details of politics. Whereas people wanted blasters and light sabers, they got embargo blockades and voting. Sure, there were some epic blaster and light saber scenes, but they were diminished from being interspersed between the political scenes.
Mesa say the next issue was Jar Jar. What a horrible character. He sounded like a fool and acted like even more of one. For all the people that disliked the Ewoks as characters George Lucas injected into Return of the Jedi to sell toys, those cute and cuddly Ewoks had nothing on all the stupid, silly, ridiculous characters Lucas put in this film, especially Jar Jar. We get it, the Star Wars franchise movies have grossed over $9 billion while the merchandising has grossed over $65 billion. You don’t tank the movies by trying to make characters little kids want to buy as toys and stuffed animals though. With Jar Jar and the numerous other weird new characters, that’s what it seemed Lucas was aiming to get. The movie was hurt tremendously with their inclusion.
Though I believe making much of the movie boring is the biggest divergence from the originals, my biggest problem with the movie was actually the age of Jake Lloyd, the kid who played Anakin. First of all, the kid couldn’t act. Just listen to his line, “Now, this is pod racing” and try not to cringe. So much of the movie would have been improved if they’d picked a slightly older kid. Jake was 9 years old while filming. Yet, he flew the pod racer. He flew a ship into battle at the end. He was still deemed too old to begin Jedi training, as Luke had been at a much older age. He even flirted with a 16-year-old Natalie Portman. Successfully! If, instead, Anakin had been 14, so much of that would have made more sense. Rather than watching incredulously as a 9-year-old did the impossible, I’d have much rather watched a 14-year-old pull of the improbable. Besides, a 14-year-old actor would have had 5 more years under his belt to have learned to act better.
People see these issues and unanimously damn Phantom Menace as bad. But wait before you jump on the bandwagon! The same people that hate this movie love Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon and Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan. Darth Maul is also generally loved as the creepy and bad ass double-blade wielding Sith villain.
It was also great to see Yoda, R2-D2, and C-3PO on the big screen again, even if C-3PO was “naked”. As the tagline for this movie said, “Every saga has a beginning.” This movie, then, lays the groundwork for the rest of the prequel trilogy that takes the story right up to where the world first met Luke on Tatooine complaining about power converters.
While I would’ve loved a Phantom Menace without the above issues, this is the film we all got. So, remember, before you jump on that bandwagon of the millions that spew hatred for this movie, you wouldn’t have Qui-Gon without it. No Darth Maul. No Ewan as Obi-Wan. No incredible battle scene between the three. Take the good with the bad and enjoy the parts that are great.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – Lots to Hate, But Lots to Love as Well
- Writing - 8.1/108.1/10
- Storyline - 8.2/108.2/10
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Music - 10/1010/10
- Production - 9.3/109.3/10
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