Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters in December, so, starting now, I’m going to be reviewing all previous Star Wars films in anticipation for the latest film, starting with the Prequel Trilogy, then following up with the “Clone Wars” animated movie, and then last but certainly not least, the Original Trilogy. Let’s start with 1999’s Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Spoilers ahead!
A lot of people consider The Phantom Menace to be the worst Star Wars film of the lot. When I originally watched the film years ago, I thought it was great! I don’t think there’s a single person out there who wasn’t impressed with this movie when they first watched it. However, now that I’ve seen the film multiple times…I can see where the hate comes from. Now, let me get something straight: I don’t hate on the Prequels. They have some really good qualities and a few bad ones. Most of the flaws are present in this film, but I truly do not believe this is the worst live-action Star Wars film, terrible as it may be.
I definitely want to talk about the good in this film first, because I’m going to spend a lot of time rambling on about the bad. So let’s talk what’s not terrible. For one, the visual effects are pretty good. I’ll get into my problem with them later, but for now, I’m sticking to the fact that they are relatively impressive, despite becoming dated over time. Another win? Darth Maul. This guy is the only character in the entire film that isn’t a total bore. He gets all the best scenes, and I’m thankful for that. I’m so glad that they chose to continue his story in the computer-animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV show (side note: it was a really good show, so if you have a chance, definitely watch it), as well as the newer Star Wars Rebels. There’s also plenty of Easter Eggs littered throughout the movie, so that was definitely nice. Even the action sequences (when we get them) are pretty fun. Also, the environments are really beautiful. The majority of the film take place on the planet of Naboo, and it is certainly stunning to see.
Now, lets cut to the chase: this film is a drag. A boring, mindless drag. Nearly everything about The Phantom Menace is a complete mess. Let’s talk a bit about one of the worst parts of this film: the story. When a person generally goes into a Star Wars film, they expect a few things: lightsaber battles, epic action sequences, and an overall good story. Some attempts in this film are good. Take the Maul v Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan lightsaber battle near the end. Awesome, right? It’s really fun and fast-paced, as well as thrilling and brilliantly accompanied by John Williams’s “Duel of the Fates”. Then, take the Naboo battle with the Gungans and the Battle Droids that goes on during the lightsaber battle. I hate that scene so much. Not only is it poorly edited to go hand-in-hand with the Maul battle, but it’s just flat-out dumb as well. The way that the writers conveyed this supposed “epic” battle between two armies is so terrible. “Why go out in style and have Gungans be awesome warriors in this scene when we can make the Gungans win by accident?” That’s how I imagine the conversation went down. However, I have to admit that the Podrace scene is appealing to me for some reason. Not sure why. It’s just fun to watch. On the topic of that scene, I’ve also noticed that nearly all of the shots are from the same camera angle.
Notice how I mentioned only a couple action scenes. Yeah, that’s how many there are. I’m not even joking. The rest of the film is ridiculously boring, with drawn-out political conversations. Normally, that wouldn’t be as big a problem, but the dry dialogue in The Phantom Menace just makes it worse. Not only that, but the characters these conversations are between are so dull and underdeveloped. And speaking of characters, let’s discuss someone kind of glossed over. No one really talks about him. The name: Jar Jar Binks. Oh my gosh, George Lucas, why? WHY? The dialogue, the voice, the stupidity, the clumsiness…just why? There’s nothing bad that hasn’t been said before, so let’s leave it at this: Never. Again! And then we have lil’ Anakin. Whiny, pip-squeak Anakin. The actor who portrays him is just terrible. And now he has a criminal record. You’re welcome. The Midi-chlorians subplot is also really dumb, considering it’s never really fully explored how these things came to be and exactly what’s inside them that determines how Force-sensitive people are. I think the studio was more focused on seeing what they could do with new special effects than focusing on telling a deeper, well-written, and focused story. However, that doesn’t work in its favor here, as the special effects feel quite dated, and aren’t as good as they seemed back in 1999.
Overall, The Phantom Menace is without a doubt one of the worst live-action Star Wars films. It has a couple fun action sequences, but the majority is a boring slog of a film. I only watch it for the continuity. I’m going to give the film a C-.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace stars Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Pernilla August, Frank Oz. Directed by George Lucas.