Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) Revisited

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It’s finals week. It’s four days before Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) comes out; six days before I see it because I’m waiting until I come home from school to take my dad to see it (I will be destroying my brand new phone and throwing out my near new laptop for those two days); but for now, let’s talk about where it began… technically. I’ve always watched the Star Wars in the order they were released which is the original trilogy (IV, V, VI), followed by the prequels (I, II, III). However I decided since The Force Awakens takes place AFTER Episode VI, that I’d start with the prequels this time around – since nothing will really be spoiled for me, so all the “reveals” are kind of irrelevant for me. Also now I get to start with the worst and end with the best.

*SPOILER WARNING* I’m going to talk about key plot points throughout all six of these eventual posts if you haven’t for some reason seen any of the Star Wars movies

I remember seeing Phantom Menace in theaters with my dad and my brother and loving it. I remember getting it on VHS, then eventually upgrading to DVD, and now I own it on Blu Ray AND have a digital copy of it as well (This can be said about all six of the films). If you go on the internet, especially now with all eyes on this franchise, it’s universally known that Phantom Menace is a “disgrace” to Star Wars and a complete waste of time for any fan. I’ve watched many videos, interviews, forums, gags, etc. on the disgrace for this movie; and while I can agree at times that it does have cringe worthy acting and over-the-top CGI, there are redeeming qualities about it, no matter how scarce they might be.

Yes, the movie has terrible pacing. Even the opening text explaining trade negotiations and Republic congress. For a kids movie, it doesn’t sound all too enticing until the end of the text when it’s said there are two Jedi Knights on a secret mission, which is where the story starts. When we eventually get to Coruscant, a planet people have been talking about half the movie, it’s nothing but senate debates and politics that no kid can A) comprehend, and B) pay attention to. sure, it’s interesting to see the inner machinations of the Republic before it turns into the Empire; but to be quite frank, it brings the movie’s plot to such a slow crawl. The only thing that comes out of it is Senator Palpatine starts to make his moves to take over as Chancellor and eventually becoming Emperor (But we know he’s making these moves whenever he’s on screen as Darth Sidious exploiting how he already has control of the senate).

Anakin_PodLiam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn is by far the best part of this whole film – and while Ewon McGregor is more of a supporting character and won’t become a serious player until Episode II, he still plays a great, albeit naive, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Natalie Portman, however? Not that great in this movie, I can’t lie to you. Like McGregor, she’s more of a supporting role as Queen Amidala; but in the third act her character starts to take action… and talk more… and her delivery is just so off. Yet not as off as the kid who plays nine year old Anakin Skywalker – the character this whole SAGA revolves around – and yet he’s jumping around saying “Yipee!” and delivering terrible exposition like when he turns on the podracer and shouts, “It’s working, it’s working!” Naturally when I watched this movie when I was six years old, I didn’t notice things like that and so I just went with it because the next thing I knew I was watching a lightsaber fight or a podrace. In that perspective, this movie is actually pretty cool.

Phantom Menace, as well as the other two prequels, are without a doubt targeting towards a kid-friendly demographic. So because of this we get a little more humor than the originals as well as some comic relief characters. I’ll be the first to admit when I was younger I thought Jar Jar Binks was hilarious; but having gone through puberty and gained a better understanding of film theory, I can agree with the masses that he is more of nuisance and his smaller roles in the later prequels is a breath of fresh air. Yet even at 22 years old, I still love the podrace; I still love the space battle and the lightsaber fight – depsite how choreographed it looks. Now’s actually a good time to address Darth Maul.

Darth Maul says maybe two sentences in the movie? Other than that he suffers from Badass Syndrome and just walks around (phantom) menacingly until he finally comes face to face with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. The fight is cool as hell. It’s the first time you see a two on one lightsaber fight and Darth Maul has the double bladed lightsaber. THAT THING IS COOL. I used to just take metal poles and whatnot that I found around my house and try to mimic his moves, George Michael Bluth style, until I broke something. Not to mention this fight gave us what I think is the best moment in the movie: When Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are fighting Maul and the three are then separated by a series of force fields their lightsabers can’t penetrate, all three turn off their lightsabers. Obi-Wan stays on his toes – anticipating the force fields to go down. Darth Maul is pacing back and forth like a hawk looking at prey (Qui-Gon). Lastly, Qui-Gon just sits down and closes his eyes as he starts meditating. It’s a great moment that speaks volumes about these characters’ traits.Laser_gates

It’s tough to hate on Phantom Menace when it was targeted for you when it came out. I think of it like Batman & Robin (1997). B&R is a terrible movie. It’s campy, terribly acted, and the choreography is way too cheesy. Yet I watched it when it came out and it was targeted for kids and made to sell toys. So I love it… and Batman. Phantom Menace is not a good movie, by any means. But I can’t deny the kid in me is still entertained by it and it overall keeps true to the essence of Star Wars as a whole.

Next: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

-Reed

IMAGES: http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/starwars/images/9/96/Anakin_Pod.png/revision/latest?cb=20130118131336, http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/starwars/images/0/00/Laser_gates.png/revision/latest?cb=20130120033330, http://static6.businessinsider.com/image/524a0ee7ecad04330efa799b-1200-750/star-wars-episode-i-light-saber-fight-375301009b29443d.jpg, http://s58.podbean.com/pb/5e7a7b2527e475483b8209f1a2e8dc0b/566f0a20/data2/blogs24/97450/uploads/swpmpicture.jpg

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5 responses to “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) Revisited

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