So we’re just weeks away from the latest chapter in the saga now, The Last Jedi. I thought it would be fun to go back and watch the saga up til this point, and along the way, introduce my Star Wars fan girlfriend to the prequels, which she’s never seen, for better or for worse.
We just finished The Phantom Menace, and I feel compelled to write about it now. I remember first seeing the trailer on Entertainment Tonight and recording it on vhs so I could watch it over and over again, I was ready for this movie in 1999, and saw it five times in its theatrical run, loving the hell out of it, and defending the movie to those that found it less than a worthy addition to the saga.
Now here we are some 20 years later and I’m here to say, both of us, the lovers, and the haters of the film are wrong. There is still some good in this movie, but there are also things that just must be discussed, so we will do both now.
1. C-SPAN In Spaaaaacccee
The crux of the movie’s plot is political dialogue about taxation and trade federations, and this is all stuff that we don’t need in a Star Wars movie. It doesn’t add anything to the plot, or build this world at all, it didn’t need to be here save for the undercurrent of the movie that is the rise of Senator Palpatine. So in retrospect, some of this needed to be here for that purpose, but not all of it.
2. Racist Accents Abound
A lot of George Lucas ‘ work is homages to things he loved as a child, westerns, samurai movies, fast cars, movie serials, etc. But what he didn’t need to carry over from the past was racist accents and stereotypes, which vary the gamut from the Asian imitation Trade Federation to the Minstrel Show Jamaican Gungan voices, a lot that you just can’t justify in this age of social awareness. Also George, why did you name the chrome SR-71 spaceship a Nubian, come on man…
3. Which One Is Padme?
Throughout most of the film Padme (Natalie Portman) alternates between being herself and doing the “Prince and the Pauper” thing and pretending to be her servant. It makes sense to me, being that I’ve seen the movie a lot over the years, but in retrospect it’s kind of confusing, and I had to explain the “twist ” in the story to my girlfriend way before the actual plot reveal, so it doesn’t work as a “clever” twist or anything close to that.
4. The First Third Of The Movie
Essentially the entire first part of this movie is bad. The opening crawl of political talk like everyone’s Facebook feed in 2017, the whole Gungan City sequence, everything before say, the podrace scene can be abbreviated or redone as, other than introducing the cast of characters it drags the movie down.
1. The Podracing Scene
Here we have our first really huge action set piece and it’s where the movie starts to take off. Anakin Skywalker racing a bunch of non-important cgi characters in a fast paced action sequence that sounds great in surround sound.
Even if you hate this movie with a passion you can’t hate this scene, it’s just fun.
2. Darth Maul
Darth Maul doesn’t do much here in this movie, but he does do more than Boba Fett and Captain Phasma have done thus far in their onscreen time, and has one of the best lightsaber duels in all of Star Wars. And he looks badass.
You can’t deny that.
3. The Bad Guys Win
Usually in the first part of a story good triumphs over evil and everyone goes home happy, right? Well not this time. Sure it’s ostensibly a happy ending, there’s a celebration and everything but really, Palpatine got just what he wanted in this movie, and discovered his future apprentice in Anakin Skywalker, he won, and everyone is none the wiser. And really this whole prequels trilogy it’s bad guys win, getting serious “heel heat” to use a wrestling terminology until there’s “A New Hope” and the babyfaces have a comeback and win.
That’s pretty much everything that I can talk about this movie, it’s better than you remember, but not by that much.
Star Wars Episode I- Grade C