Star Wars Special: The Phantom Menace Review
In a galaxy far, far away… A galactic dispute is going on, the Galactic Republic and the Trade Federation are having trouble negotiating. Welcome to my Star Wars reviews.
Genre: Action / Fantasy / Science-Fiction
Director: George Lucas
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Pernilla August, Ray Park, Frank Oz, Ahmed Best & Ian McDiarmid.
Run Time: 136 min.
US Release: 19 May 1999
UK Release: 15 July 1999
German Release: 19 August 1999
Hello and I salute you to my review special on Star Wars movies. As I mentioned in my earlier Star Wars - Trailer Talk, I am a big Star Wars fan boy! Going as far having bought several T-shirts, a Stormtrooper PEZ dispenser and having other Star Wars merchandise. That is how much I love this franchise, which I grew up with! So I am really excited and can’t wait to see The Force Awakens in cinemas this month.
To celebrate the release of J.J. Abrams new sci-fi opera, I decided to dedicate part of this and next week for my reviews of Episode I-III, the television shows The Clone Wars and Rebels, and finally my reviews for the original trilogy. Starting off today will be my analysis of the first prequel instalment: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
Let’s start with the obvious; the plot was handled absolutely wrong. It was too political, too dry with much talking and walking but nothing off interesting happening. Re-watching this in 3-D theatres in 2012, I remember losing my patience. Even the inner workings of the Jedi council seemed to be running on boring bureaucratic machinations, and they do not resemble the actual peacekeepers from the original trilogy in any way.
I have nothing against a well-structured political thriller, but this was not it! The movie threw us right into a political dispute of a Galactic Republic we know next to nothing, a little explanation of which planets belong to the republic and what exactly the Trade Federation is would have been of much help.
The original trilogy was dark and mysterious filled with philosophical and spiritual issues and it plunged you literally into a world that you could invest in. This one was build up on boring politics, slapstick humour and a Christian subplot-scenario, presented by conversations between Shmi Skywalker and Qui-Gon Jinn; when she tells him that her pregnancy of Anakin came out of the blue, which makes Anaking practically Jesus! Seriously Lucas?!?
The Midi-chlorian conversation practically destroys the original series mysticism about the Force, taking away all the magic of the original trilogy. But there had been also parts I did enjoy, like the mother and son moments that are crucial for the development of Anakin’s character, which was sadly handled wrong in the sequels.
Some of the casting choices made for major characters were complete miscasts. Up and running is Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker and although I feel sorry for him, since this role ruined his career, he frankly was terrible as young Anakin. His over the top squeals when he got happy and poor choice of phrasing lines, which sounded as if he was speaking for a children’s TV show, was simply bad!
I didn’t like Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi at all, this might be just me because I am not a fan of him, but it felt like he didn’t really understand the character of Obi-Wan. He right out insulted other living species by saying to Qui-Gon “Why do I sense that we have picked up another pathetic life form.” I also was absolutely disappointed by Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Princess Padme Amidala, but her acting wasn’t her fault rather that of Lucas’ writing and directing.
Even Liam Neeson who I really like as an actor, had trouble to portray his character, though he was one of the better personas. Qui-Gon’s character was the source of what Obi-Wan should have been. Ian McDiarmid reprised his role as Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious) and he did well as a nice, but obviously sleek politician with his own agenda. My only complaint; the character should have been portrayed different and the obvious hints towards him being the evil Sith Lord should have been downplayed.
Personally I was a huge fan of Darth Maul, like many others. He was by far the coolest thing that happened to the prequels. The design of him was horror inflicting and the fact that he had no lines, or a background story made him mysterious and interesting, sadly Lucas decided to kill him off at the end. On the other hand, one the worst characters that came out of the new Star Wars films was Jar Jar Binks, do I need to say more?
A lot of characters were coming and going without a proper introduction or letting the audience get acquainted with them, which resulted in simply not caring for them. An example is Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu. Lucas decided to hire Samuel L. Jackson due to one reason; he needed a big Hollywood name to sell his prequel trilogy.
I understand that Lucas wanted to pay homage to some of his original characters, but some were outride misplaced. Lucas should have left R2D2 and C3PO out of the prequel trilogy as they did not really fit in any of the three films, plus I downright refuse to believe that C3 was built by Anakin. The Tusken Raiders scene during the pod race was simply unnecessary; if he wanted to pay tribute to any of his creations, he should have replaced the Gungans with the Mon Calamari.
Apart from the cheesy screenplay and forced dialogue, the movie featured heavy use of computer imagery that did not age well. One of the reasons for the acting being so wooden was because 80% of the movie was filmed on green screen! The CGI scenes and characters though look really bad by now. You could make out sceneries that were purely computer generated and you always noticed when an actor was standing in front of a green-screen background. What happened to using props? There were scenes in the movie that would not have needed all this CGI!
The fighting scenes between the two Jedi and Darth Maul are good looking, but I did wish that Lucas had not used close-ups of the different characters during the battle. I also appreciated the little similarities to the original series, e.g. the death of a Jedi Master by the hands of a Sith, witnessed by his apprentice.
Verdict: Overall, I found Episode I to be a disappointment for the Star Wars franchise, when compared to the original series. No practical effects whatsoever have been used, most of what we saw was computer generated and it really shows by now. The acting was atrocious and the story a snooze fest. I will give The Phantom Menace a 5.0 out of 10.
Do you agree with what I said about Episode I? If not, leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of George Lucas’ The Phantom Menace. My review for Star Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones will be uploaded tomorrow and as always, thank you for reading!