Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
There are few movie-going moments in my life more exciting than catching the midnight showing of PHANTOM MENACE in 1999. When Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Qui-Gon Jin (Liam Neeson) first revealed their lightsabers, the sold out crowd erupted in cheers at the sight of seeing Jedis on the big screen again. In fact, the elation continued after the movie was over, with most of the audience leaving with big smiles on their faces as they exited the theater. Of course, it was 2:30 in the morning, so most of us were sleep depraved. But still, it was great seeing a new saga in the Star Wars story, especially for those of us that were just a bit too young to remember seeing the original trilogy in theaters back in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
But once I took a nap and woke up to reflect on what I had just seen, I realized what we all know to be true today; STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE is a horrible film. This is clear during the said revelation of the lightsabers, when two Jedi masters get tricked into a gas filled room by the Trade Federation (something the old Obi-Wan and Jedi Luke would never have let happen), only to emerge when the Federation opens the door to check on them. It’s a ridiculous turn of events, but it serves as a preview as to what’s to come in the “new” trilogy. Some will point to the pod race or the last starship battle as glimmers of hope, but with Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) yelling at air the entire time, we’re constantly reminded of how far the Star Wars saga has fallen.
But all is not completely lost; the last Jedi battle, between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon and Darth Maul was exciting. The music is some of the best in the series and the barriers coming down, breaking up the fight was a nice touch to add to the intensity. Who was Darth Maul and why was he there? Well, don’t go asking ridiculous questions. The point is that there’s a halfway decent lightsaber battle and after sitting through two hours of nonsense, it’s a welcomed change. I would have loved to see more of Darth Maul in action, or to have gotten some background information on him so I could actually fear him during the last scene, but I realize now that that’s asking too much from today’s George Lucas.
The dialogue (written by George Lucas) is all around cringe inducing. Whether it be Anakin (Jake Lloyd, in a role he clearly wasn’t capable of handling) telling his mother he didn’t want to leave or Amidala (Natalie Portman, looking more lifeless than C-3PO) trying to cheer up Anakin, each line of dialogue was worse than the previous. The dialogue and story structure was so bad that I at times felt confused whether Lucas was trying to make a political film or a kid’s movie. At the end, I’m not convinced Lucas is capable now of making either.
The storylines are confusing, the motivations for the characters are conflicting, the acting is horrible and Jar Jar Binks is arguably the worst character ever created. This is an easy film to bash because of just how bad it is and how it failed to live up to expectations to a degree no film in history has ever failed before. But it’s still Star Wars, and although the first part of the prequel trilogy is embarrassingly bad, it’s hard not to get a twinge of nostalgia seeing some of your favorite characters on screen.
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