Star Wars Marathon: Review: Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (Extended Version, 1999)

It’s time for the Star Wars Marathon to get going, I am fully prepared for the vast majority of my readers to disagree with everything I say!

Written By: George Lucas
Directed By: George Lucas

Before we begin, a bit of background on myself and Star Wars, and I realize that those of you reading at The Domain Of Nihilus have heard this before, but those be the breaks. Anyways, I was first exposed to Star Wars late one night on Chicago’s resident awesome channel, WGN. The movie I was exposed to, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. To say that I was enraptured by the world laid out in front of me would be an understatement, I loved every second of that particular experience. Sadly, my love was muted a bit when I sought out and watched the original Star Wars and was bored out of my mind. Fast forward a few years to when this Midwestern boy decided to give the Star Wars franchise another go by reading a few Star Wars books and you have the beginning of my true fascination with Star Wars. I don’t like to label myself or my Star Wars fandom, but I do like to think I am a bit of an oddball among Star Wars fans. Sure, I love Star Wars as much as one can, but a lot of what others love about Star Wars I dislike, can’t stand, or find boring. I’m sure as we progress with this marathon those of you reading my Star Wars thoughts for the first time at Bill’s Movie Emporium will cringe at a lot of what I have to say. Meanwhile those of you reading along at The Domain Of Nihilus will think of it as me being the oddball that I always have been.

Oh yeah, and before I continue, this review and the entire marathon will be full of spoilers, you have been warned.

With the introduction out of the way, let’s get into this thing. First things first, and I tackle this issue/idea before all others because it is probably the subject that I hear talked about the most in regards to Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul. Yes, he is a cool bad ass character, and sure I was initially upset that he dies at the end. But, he needed to die because what you see with Darth Maul is what you get and moving forward his type of character wouldn’t fit the direction of the story or even that of the Sith. Maul is a bad ass who likes to kill Jedi, there’s no depth to him beyond that and if he had stuck around any attempts to add layers would have ruined the character. Maul served his purpose in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, and he served it well.

With that little character tidbit out of the way I say it’s time I move into a few larger areas and I’ll begin with what didn’t work for me in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Tatooine, we all know the place, it has a certain amount of significance. I can understand from a pure movie/story standpoint why George Lucas chose to go back to Tatooine, what I can’t understand is why he chose to spend almost forty minutes on the dusty garbage dump of a planet. The entire Anakin plot on Tatooine could have been handled in ten to fifteen minutes, and when you take into account the final battle above the planet of Naboo the podrace becomes incredibly superfluous. Tatooine exists to introduce us to Anakin, but it shouldn’t exist to bore the audience to death, or as a redundant showcase of the potential in Anakin.

Not too get sidetracked again, but the idea of Anakin’s potential brings me to a couple of other points in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace that have always bugged me. First, and I know I touched on this in my review of the novelization so I will keep my thoughts brief, there is no way that the Jedi Council would turn away someone with Anakin’s potential. It’s preposterous to even propose that they would do that, because the amount of idiocy that entails is not something a group as powerful as the Jedi Council should be capable of, yet there it sits, in the movie as an example of their idiocy. That brings us to a sore point with many Star Wars fans, midi-chlorians. Why Lucas introduced this idiotic concept I will never know, and yes, I know that resorting to terms such as idiotic makes me seem unprofessional but sometimes you have to call an apple an apple. The beauty of the Force and the Jedi is their mystic nature, and the idea of midi-chlorians destroys all of that in one fell swoop. Midi-chlorians is a pitiful attempt by Lucas to make concrete something that needs to stay liquid, and thankfully in the novels and other places midi-chlorians have been largely ignored because everyone who touches Star Wars who isn’t named George Lucas realizes how bad of an idea midi-chlorians were.

The time we spend on Tatooine is boring, overlong and keeps us from the real meat and potatoes of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, the politics on Coruscant. I know that not a many were taken with the political maneuvering of Senator Palpatine , and in turn Darth Sidious, but the Star Wars nut in me who looked at the bigger picture loved everything from Coruscant onward, well expect for the Jedi Council acting like pompous morons and the movie taking their side. Anyways, I loved the way Palpatine moved the players around, how he outclassed everyone and how that led into the later Naboo scenes, scenes that were the epic storytelling that Star Wars can be very, very great at. And that is why when all is said and done Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is a movie that I still enjoy, warts and all. It would have been a great movie if you trimmed out a lot of the Tatooine fat, but even as it is I enjoy the film a great deal.

You’ll notice that I didn’t touch on the Padme/Anakin relationship, Jar Jar Binks or Jake Lloyd. The reason for that is simple, none of those bother me. I know that most people were annoyed by one or all three of said relationships/people, but for one reason or another they never bothered me. Maybe it’s because I buy into the universe so much, or it’s because I deal with idiots all the time and have gotten used to such people. I don’t know, but I do know that I wasn’t annoyed by any of those things and don’t feel the need to vent about them, unlike a lot of people. Conversely, I didn’t touch on the costumes or visual effects because in my eyes they are so amazing that they don’t need to be touched on. Whether we are talking Padmé’s gowns or the visuals of approaching Otoh Gunga for the first time I never had a moment where I wasn’t impressed with the costumes or visuals/effects in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

As has become the case more and more these days, I took all kinds of notes on Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and ended up using nary a jot from them. I don’t know why I do this, or even how, but sometimes I get on a roll and I keep on typing. I think the above gives a pretty good indicator of why I do like Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, as well as why I think it is a very flawed film. If you want to know more then feel free to post some comments and let me know your thoughts. I’m sure I’ll get to speak on a lot more through your comments and Edgar’s review at Between The Seats. However, that will do for this review, and I leave you with these thoughts that will rile you up, though flawed, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is a good film and one that I enjoy.

Rating:

***

Don’t forget to check out Edgar’s review over at Between The Seats, I guarantee it will be worth your time.

Cheers,
Bill

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11 responses to “Star Wars Marathon: Review: Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (Extended Version, 1999)

  1. What always gets me is the look and feel of the film. It’s such a drastic change from episodes 4, 5 and 6.

    I’m sure that from a logical stand point it’s somehow justified. I don’t really care about that. What bothers me is how it feels. I don’t sense that what I’m seeing is from the same universe.

    The design of the original movies had function over form quality. The prequels are the complete opposite. It creates this giant disconnect that never let’s me link the two trilogies on an emotional level. And the result of this is that The Phantom Menace has no weight. Anakin’s story should be important, but I just don’t care.

    Anyhow, good review. I can see how a person would enjoy this film when seen in a wider context.

  2. Perhaps its my background in the entirety of SW fiction, but the different aesthetic always made perfect sense to me,

    The original trilogy had the Empire in power, and the Empire was all about functionality and getting the job done. Even something like the Death Star is designed to serve its function and no more.

    Conversely during the prequel trilogy the Republic is still in power, and it is a Republic that is out of control. That leads to more design flourishes and more concern with how snazzy something looks instead of how well it functions.

    At least for me that is the connection I always made, and it is a theme that has run through all of the SW universe, with different eras having very different aesthetics based on who or what is in power.

  3. edgar chaput

    Hmm, I think we’ll be disagreeing about the ‘idiocy’ of the Jedi Coucil’s decision to train Anakin, although be warned that I am not as familiar with the intricacies of the Jedi as you might Jedi. I think we have different takes on the time spent on Tatouine (which, admittedly, I didn’t talk about much in my own review).

    And yes, we will be disagreeing on Jar Jar phucking Binks. There, I gave in on the hatred.

  4. edgar chaput

    I also don’t know why I referred to you as a Jedi in the comment above. I think I meant to type ‘as familiar with the intricacies of the Jedi as you might be.’ Somehow ‘might be’ becamse ‘Jedi’…I don’t know, search me.

  5. edgar chaput

    Wait…

    ‘You might be Jedi?’ No, that’s not what I wanted to say.

  6. Tis okay Edgar, I know what you meant. 🙂

  7. I still kind of dug Phantom Menace, but that could be the hardcore Star Wars fan talking in me. How I see the new trilogy is simple: it’s not for us, it’s for the new generation. Let’s be honest, nothing was ever going to surpass the quality of the first trilogy.

  8. Excellent review Bill. It has some moments that made it watchable. Yet, I agreed with you about the controversy over the midi-chlorians that irked me. The story wasn’t great either as well as Jar-Jar Binks that really did annoy me as someone who grew up watching the franchise.

    I’m anxious for what you think of the next film which I kinda liked a bit more but had issues with it as well.

  9. if they find this review theyre going to catch you, grind you into a million pieces and blast you into oblivion. or something

  10. Dreher – While there is truth in what you say, I’m not your target audience as I found all three prequels better than at least two of the original trilogy films.

    Void – There were problems like you said, but in the end I liked it because I had fun.

    Ross – That’s par for the course as far as I’m concerned. 🙂

  11. Pingback: Star Wars Marathon: The Once In A Lifetime War In The Stars Awards! | Bill's Movie Emporium

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