Paul's Review of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
After a long hiatus, the Star Wars franchise was set to be rejuvenated by Lucas and his talented team of effects wizards. The result, however, was a movie that dwelt too much on a convoluted plot, and not enough on character development. Whereas the original trilogy dealt with a small group of misfits banded together to fight an evil scourge, the characters in these three films took the whole thing far too seriously.
Coupled with some very pedestrian dialogue, the whole movie seems to sag under the weight of Princess Amidala's costumes. Enough has been said that a set of prequels was a bad choice to start with, so I won't go into that here. However, these films set up a premise and a backdrop that was better suited for a TV series that had 20 or 30 episodes like an HBO miniseries. That would allow ample time to develop the characters, and reveal the story of the plot slowly over time. Try to do 'The Sopranos' as a series of films and you get the idea.
There's nothing wrong with the mythology or the look of the film. It's glossy and pretty, and brings back some of the old favorites. So, for effects and action (when it happens) the movie is a B+.
However, the situations that the characters are put into are not designed for them to show any real skill or talent that would make us like them. Some characters, like Jar-Jar Binks, were introduced in place of others. There's no reason why the droids were introduced so late in the movie, and their old wife bickering is completely left out. They were some of the most beloved characters int the original trilogy, but they are wasted here. Binks could have been made palatable by eliminating the bad accent. In fact, the accents border on politically incorrect for most of the weird aliens.
The movie almost redeems itself with the accidental-on-purpose discovery of Anakin on the backwater world, but once again, the action is muted, and the villains are mis-employed: They should have been trying to find another secret weapon -- Anakin.
Maul is a great villain: You can only wonder if he'd been assigned to find the 'chosen one' from the very start of the film, in order to recruit or eliminate him. That might have been an interesting scenario, and set up tension for action during Episode 1 and later films.
The cast does their best, but even they seem lost in CGI-world, or in the folds of their voluminous robes. Young Jake Lloyd is terrible, but as a child actor, he's not asked to carry any scenes except the pod race, which is for the best.
It's a movie of 'what if?' they had done things differently, with a different director and some plot rearrangements. We can only wonder...