Reprimanding Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
By Dylan Moure and Matthew Rembold
Dylan Moure (facts and history):
Since its release in 1999, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace has been bashed on by Star Wars fans around the world. While it has memorable scenes from Jar Jar Binks’ introduction to Anakin Skywalker’s pod race, it is still not enough to be considered one of the greater Star Wars films.
The movie starts off with a young Jedi knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by Ewan McGregor) and his master, Qui-Gon Jinn (played by Liam Neeson) headed towards a Trade Federation space station. Many consider these to be the better characters of the film, although Qui-Gon states he does not “sense anything” just as they are about to be ambushed. Obi Wan pokes fun at his master’s poor ability to use the Force by stating that Qui-Gon was only correct about the negotiations being short.
The film abruptly turns to the planet of Naboo, where it is discovered the two knights snuck aboard a hostile droid carrier. The Jedi come across a herd of wildlife fleeing due to a droid MTT (Multi-Troop Transport) trampling over their habitat. One clumsy creature stands in the middle of it all. This, of course, is Jar Jar Binks.
Binks is saved by Qui-Gon Jinn, which would soon become what many fans consider to be the Jedi’s greatest mistake. This CGI character is considered to be the worst film character of all time by many fans. His bathroom jokes and strange talk did not match up with the tone that the original films had. The oversaturation of computer graphics were a simple way of explaining George Lucas’ surprising desire of what he always wanted.
The story really slows down when everyone arrives on Tatooine. It is nice to see a similar environment to the Original Trilogy, but once Qui-Gon gets young Anakin Skywalker (played by Jake Lloyd) to enter a pod race only to buy new parts from a junk shop, the scene feels too long. The crew then go to Courscant, the home of the Republic, once the ship is fixed, and the only interesting thing is the fact that audiences get to experience Yoda and “Darth Vader” in the same room.
The other half of Couscant is all about extremely boring Star Wars politics. This goes on for what feels like half an hour, but the team eventually faces the overrated sith apprentice, Darth Maul (played by Ray Park). Qui-Gon ends up dying after the long and graceless lightsaber fight. No dialogue is said other than a long “Nooooo!” shouted by Kenobi once his master is defeated.
The movie ends with a big celebration about how the Republic kind of defeated the Trade Federation. They actually failed greatly in some aspects of the battle, but there are two more films that “need” to tell the story of Anakin Skywalker before he was Darth Vader. Although the controversy is great, Lucas did gain much popularity from the movie, and there are many fans of this film.
Lucas has poked back at other fans who complained about his prequel trilogy being an overall mess. It was actually rumored that Lucas fired someone in the set of the prequels just for telling him that the special effects are not as important as the story. It shows how much Lucas has changed because he did not always think about special effects the same way when he made the prequels.
In the documentary Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga (1983), Lucas said, “Special effects are just a tool, a means of telling a story. People have a tendency to confuse them as an end to themselves. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.” The hypocrisy in this quote explains itself.
Thankfully, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace has more practical effects than the other two prequels. It is possible that overusing effects in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith distract audiences from monotone acting in the other films. On the bright side, at least Yoda doesn’t jump around like a moth flying around a lightbulb in this one.
Matthew Rembold (opinion and more details):
As I grow older, I find it increasingly more difficult to watch Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Not only has the film not aged well in regards to visual effects or any other aspect, it was never a good movie to begin with. I believe that the only reason it is still remembered is simply because Star Wars is in the title. Had this not been a story about the Jedi and Anakin Skywalker, I truly believe it would have been a forgettable Sci-Fi film. However, it is part of the Star Wars saga, and will always be remembered as one of the biggest disappointments in cinema history. There are fans of the Prequel Trilogy; there is nothing wrong with that. I, however, am not a fan and for several reasons.
For one, all of the characters are cardboard cut outs. None of them have any real personality and all begin to blend together at a point. The only character to have any real personality is the character of Jar Jar Binks, one of the most annoying characters in cinema history. Jar Jar is an example of what George Lucas believes to make be humor, but it is simply not funny. However, Jar Jar was one of the first fully CGI character in a live action film. This advancement in technology opens the gate way for such characters as Gollum from Lord of the Rings and Ceaser the Ape from the new Planet of the Apes films.
If I can give credit to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace for one thing, it is the advancement in the CGI technology that it pushed forward with its visual effects heavy style of film making. It is, however, a case of style over substance in which the film suffers from a hollow plot because the filmmakers were so focused on the visual effects.
Not only is the plot hollow, but it simply does not feel like a Star Wars film. From the opening title crawl it already feels off. The writing speaks of trade routes, trade negotiations, and other political mumbo jumbo that simply does not sound or feel like Star Wars. Another issue with the political side of the movie is that it isn’t even interesting. Most of it is boring and uninteresting especially in the far too long segment on the planet Couresant, which is by far one of the most unentertaining film segments of all time.
There are several scenes exclusively for dialogue and only some action scenes. Both are uninteresting for the most part. The action scenes suffer from the fact that no characters ever seem as if they are in danger. The actors just seem like they are doing some jumps and flips and swinging sticks around. This is true since they are on sets with no real adversaries for them to act against. The issue with using so many visual effects and uses of CGI that the actors are forced to walk around on sets with nothing but blue and green screens to act on. This limits the actor as they don’t know how to react to the scene, making them give very wooden performances.
The most entertaining part of the film is the final light saber fight between Darth Maul, Obi Wan, and Qui Gon. It is a well choreographed fight, be it a very clean fight, that actually has real actors performing real stunts. Aside from this, every event in the film is either filled to the brim with outdated CGI or is simply not interesting.
At this point, we are simply beating a dead horse. It’s been said before that the characters aren’t great, the political elements aren’t interesting, the CGI was revolutionary for the time, but is now outdated, and most of the action filled sequences have no real weight to them. It’s a dull film that would have been forgotten long ago if it had not been for the Star Wars words in the title. The films been panned and defended for years. It hasn’t aged well, but in my opinion, it’s not the worst the franchise has to offer.