The plan was to watch all six Star Wars
movies again, for the first time in a really long time.
The dilemma was where to start. 4,5 and 6 or Episodes 1,
2 and 3? I consulted with my colleague L. Sue, an avowed
Star Wars fan, and she initially advised me to skip over
episodes 1, 2 and 3, but realizing that was not going to
happen, begrudgingly recommending starting with 'The Phantom
Menace', since it is allegedly the beginning of
everything. So I watched the much maligned, much reviled
'Phantom Menace' for the first time in a bit, and I think I
have a new appreciation for 'The Phantom Menace'. An
understanding, so to speak, of what I think went wrong,
because Lord knows the Planet Earth needs yet another break
down of 'Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace'.
The story is well known so we will gloss over the bullet
points. Cue classic John Williams score, cue Classic
title and font, and cue classic Star Wars crawl saying
something about a trade embargo or some nonsense. Next
we meet Jedi Knights Qui Gon (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan (Ewan
McGregor) who are sent to negotiate on behalf of The Republic,
but alas the evil people setting up the blockade are not
interested in negotiating. In fact they try to kill the
Jedi. By gassing them. These are Jedi Knights,
chances are they can hold their breath for a real long
time. The Jedi kill the first of what will roughly be
one million droid bots.
These evil people are being controlled by a shrouded figure we
will know as the Sith Lord and this cat is bad news like few
others. Our Jedi need to jet down to the planet to help
Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman), and this is where they make
the acquaintance of the one Jar Jar Binks, arguably the most
reviled character in the history of cinema. But Jar Jar
will be critical in helping our heroes achieve their means.
A lot more stuff happens, the Jedi and the
Queen are on the run and end up on the planet of Tatooine
where they meet young eight year old Annakin Skywalker.
The force is strong with this one. Qui Gon takes the kid
along thinking him to be the Chosen One or something.
All of the Jedi on the council sense this kid is nothing but
trouble, but not Qui Gon who really, truly believes in this
A showdown looms between the Sith Lord and his apprentice
Darth Maul (Ray Park) versus our Jedi, with the fate of the
entire Republic in the balance. More or less. More
tin can robots will be destroyed.
No matter what anyone wants to say, 'The Phantom Menace' is
not the worst movie ever made. Not even close.
Look, I've seen bad movies and I probably couldn't even put
'The Phantom Menace' in the top 1000 of bad movie of I've
seen… but it is probably would be in the top ten of the most
disappointing movies I've seen, and we are going to discuss
where we think George Lucas lost his way with his epic.
Recognizing, of course, that there was probably little that
Mr. Lucas could do, regarding the hype and time that had
passed to please anyone with this film.
Let's start off with the 1200 pound gorilla in the room, Jar
Jar Binks. I actually like the concept of Jar Jar, just
not the execution of Jar Jar. A character loyal to the
Jedi for saving his life, also with ties to people who will be
needed to defend the planet… I can get with that. I also
dig we need Burger King tie-ins and whatnot for marketing
purposes, but the level of buffoonery that was Jar Jar was
just too annoying for words. I realize there was very
little humor in the film, but this simply wasn't funny.
Imagine, instead of Jar Jar sounding like a three year old
with a debilitating speech impediment, but instead he sounded
like Avery Brooks or Sam Elliot. Imagine this character
was banished from his underground world for the crime of being
too badass as opposed to the crime of being 'too
clumsy'. Jar Jar was doomed from inception.
He needed to be more Wookie and less Bozo.
Also, imagine a movie with a real villain instead of thousands
of CGI robots. If I see one more CGI robot get shot by a
CGI laser, I'm gonna choke somebody. This is made all
the worse due to the fact the real villain was ALREADY
THERE. At this point everybody realizes that Darth Maul
should have stayed for all three movies. Would you
rather see a 98 year Christopher Lee fighting Jedi or Darth
Maul? Simply tragic that this golden opportunity for
continued badassery was squandered. Plus Obi-Wan has a
built-in reason to hate this guy for three movies, which
would've made for a nice pre-showdown before Obi-Wan's main
showdown in Revenge of the Sith.
We don't want to beat up on children but Jake Lloyd as Annakin
might not have been the best child actor choice around.
And I think he was too young… or Princess Amidala was too
old. It was kind of creepy, this eight year old boy and
this eighteen year old woman hanging out, with the eight year
boy thinking, cause he has the force and stuff, that one day…
I'm gonna tear that up. Or maybe that was just me it
creeped out. And if Mr. Lucas wanted to pare down
that eternal race sequence from the eleven minutes that it
actually ran… I clocked it… I wouldn't have been mad at him.
Another thing that seems to weigh down 'The Phantom Menace'
was that it was covered in this glaze of blasé. For a
movie to be as excitedly hyped as this one was, there didn't
seem to be any excitement to much of anything that was going
on, despite all the droid bot battles, and that is something
that I can't think of a fix for.
Again, 'The Phantom Menace' wasn't the worst movie I've seen,
but now thinking on it, it is undoubtedly the most
disappointing one I've ever seen.
Oh look… more robots are getting blasted. And I am
officially choking somebody.