Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace Reviews
The Phantom Menace is by no means the best Star Wars film, but it is not the worst either. I didn't get to see the OT in theatres when they premiered, I did see the SE's when they came out, but it was TPM that gave me my official introduction to Star Wars. Who cars about Jar Jar being in the film. He's not racist, he's portrayed the way GL and the actor decided to portray him. Is he a pointless character, of course, is he Star Wars, YES!!!!
TPM should hold a place in everyone's Star Wars heart, because had it not been for TPM, then that means GL was never going to bring Star Wars back.
The writing is...slack. There's little pace or tightness to anything other than the full-on action scenes. The dialogue is lazily written, as though Lucas wrote a loose, basic first draft and decided it was good enough. No effort seems to have been made to try to define characters through their speech (except maybe to define Jar Jar as 'the annoying one') or even be succinct, let alone clever or creative. The dialogue is so bad that even this overall talented cast has no hope of resembling human beings. McGregor and Portman in particular both seem very flat in their delivery, as though conceding defeat and not bothering to try. Even Lloyd, who's actually not bad for a child actor and manages a better performance than Hayden Christensen ever did, has "Yippee!" forced into his mouth - a thing people outside Looney Tunes never actually say, and which therefore fails to sound anything other than ridiculous.
The editing is also lazy, with lingering reaction shots following, for instance, Jar Jar's blundering and Padme's revelation forcing us to endure the actors' forced smiles and/or grimaces. George Lucas seems like a smart guy. Does he really think his stupid gags/non-surprises are that fantastic? Or is it all for the kids? Those kids who love political dramas about trade disputes? Is this a kids' movie or a grownups' movie? Is it supposed to be one of those movies both adults and their kids can enjoy...and not be sometimes bored and other times mildly confused by? Who knows. All I know is that Jar Jar is cringe-inducingly unfunny and Keira Knightley is noticeably taller and slimmer than Natalie Portman, and any passing resemblance between the two is rendered moot by the silly pseudo-geisha queen makeup.
Why the hell does Naboo have an elected teenage queen? Who thought that was a good idea? Seriously! And it's not like Padme's some sort of anomalous prodigy, 'cause there's a new one in each episode! Someone in Naboo's past must have realised and then suggested to the population that teenage girls somehow make the best heads of state. And the majority of citizens must then have decided that this person wasn't actually the galaxy's biggest imbecile and gone along with it.
The "epic" final battle is like an unfunny cartoon. Actually, scratch that - it IS an unfunny cartoon. Jar Jar and Anakin both win by accident. Sure, Ani makes it into the control ship partly under his own steam, but he only blows the reactor because he misses the droids he's shooting at. Are we really supposed to cheer for that? Couldn't we have gotten behind Jar Jar more if he'd actually stepped up and found some skills within himself? If the desperation to keep his world from the tyrannical clutches of possibly-racist muppets had awoken his dormant inner warrior, allowing an exiled laughing stock to redeem himself and fully earn the title of bombaad general? Maybe. But instead we get a doofus tripping his way to success like the hapless, semi-sentient dweeb he always was and will be. Is he, like Ani, destined to be a Jedi? Is he a product of immaculate midi-chlorian conception? Not as far as we know.
Why do midi-chlorians need to be a thing? The Force is magic. Magic is magic because we don't know how it works. Once we know how it works it becomes science, and there's no place for science in Star Wars. Seriously, does any other aspect of any other Star Wars movie make scientific sense? No. Where would be the fun in that? And now the cool mystical core of the series is science.
The podrace is great. The lightsaber three-way is great. Ray Park gives the movie's best performance.
But aside from these two abovementioned (largely dialogue-free) set pieces, I've reached the point where I can admit what I was previously reluctant to, due to my lifelong love of Star Wars and tendency to look for good in movies where others might not see it, or care enough to try.
This flick kinda blows.
But the Lightsaber battle was epic.