Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace
Running Time: 136 minutes
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ray Park
Directed By: George Lucas
Rating: 5 out of 10
Two Jedi Knights are in charge of peace talks between the people of Naboo and the Trade Federation. While signs that the evil known as the Sith maybe back after a long hiatus.
There have been many memorable movie characters throughout cinematic history. Unfortunately for us Jar Jar Binks is memorable for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps the most anticipated movie in nerd history, the Phantom Menace came into our lives and quickly will leave it making a very little impression. The Phantom Menace Episode 1 details the rise of the evil menace called the Sith. It also details the fight between the peaceful people of Naboo and the corrupt Trade Federation. Lastly it details the finding of a boy who is supposed to bring balance to the universe or what is known as the Force.
To start off no matter what this movie was like director George Lucas was probably not going to appease his monstrous geeky fan base. However, did he put his best effort forward? The answer is most definitely no he did not. The film starts off with the signature words rolling down the screen in space detailing the story of the film. If this doesn’t make you giddy with excitement it means one of two things. You either have a girlfriend or you are single and never seen the original Star Wars movies. (If you are single and haven’t…my god.) I know, I know, women and kids watch Star Wars to but they never seem as fervent in their devotion (obvious exceptions). The film quickly introduces us to the main characters who are the Jedi’s, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. We get to see them in action and show off their multitude of skills including telekinetic object manipulation and proficiency with a lightsaber (a Jedi sword). From the cool opening introduction the film inexplicably falls apart. With the introduction of each new character I couldn’t help but feel like Lucas incorporated them for their massive toy appeal instead of movie appeal. The film is bogged down with multiple scenes of childish humor and uninspired script. This film felt like nothing more than a cash grab for today’s youth instead of trying to capture their hearts like the original trilogy did for my generation.
The film has too many characters to review with out being obnoxious so I chose the best three and the worst three to talk about. The good characters: Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn played by Liam Neeson was perfect. His demeanor, voice, just overall presence worked on every level for me. Next was his Padawan or understudy, Obi-Wan Kenobi played by Ewan McGregor gives a solid performance as an emotionally unstable Jedi. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were great together, with their calm banter, to their expertise in Jedi fighting techniques. The film worked best when it was just the two of them on screen. Darth Maul was played by Ray Park was the final standout. He is exactly what you want in an evil bad guy. Now most of that is due to phenomenal make up and design, Park still owns this character during his small screen time. He was a pleasant surprise.
The Bad: There were a plethora to choose from but I took the worst of the worst. Digitally created Boss Nass who was leader of the Gungan people was terrible. His slobbering mannerisms, coupled with an obnoxious voice were hard to sit through. Thankfully he has only a small role in this film for he was awful. Next was the kid Anakin Skywalker played by the pug faced Jake Lloyd. He was annoying to look at and more annoying to listen to. By himself I could have forgiven his portrayal but coupled with the digitally created Gungan named Jar Jar Binks this film had no chance. I hate to get on the hate band wagon for this character but he is easily on the worst characters in cinematic history list. Jar Jar is indescribably bad as he reminded me of Pauly Shore as an alien (if that isn’t the case already) with a strange accent and doing slapstick. When he wasn’t spouting off cheesy catch phrases like “How rude” or “exsqueezeme” his tongue was getting caught in laser streams and his feet tangled with droids. I won’t give the honor solely to Jar Jar for ruining this movie but he was a huge factor.
The film is visually great and the landscapes and setting show a lot of care and thought. The story is haphazardly put together though. A scene where Anakin races a bunch of aliens in his pod racer (something akin to a space go kart) was visually stunning and sounded great but out of place in this film. There are many more of these inane scenes then good ones but when the good scenes do come you will be enthralled. These are no 1980’s lightsaber duels in this film. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon battling Darth Maul will be in your memory long after this film is done. When this film ends instead of being elated you will be left more puzzled and unsatisfied. One last thing I have to say is giant droid armies is nowhere near as cool as giant stormtrooper armies.
Director George Lucas will not be crushed by my review as he is counting his hundreds of millions of dollars generated from this film. He clearly put this film together as a cash grab for the sundry merchandise that will be put out with a multitude of images. I get he was aiming for kids but this film was too childish and downright cheesy at times. Visually it was amazing and seeing old characters like Yoda and R2-D2 is great but not enough to save this film. I was more disappointed in Lucas then I was with this film.
I cannot recommend this film and while it is cool (cough) and entertaining for nostalgia sake its childish nature ruins the fun.
T Factor + If you like quirky characters this film could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you were expecting anything like the original trilogy this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations are: Star Trek, Serenity.