Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)

The Adventures of Anakin and Binks: Space Adventurers!

The Phantom Menace crushed me. Behold, my tale of woe and betrayal.

The original Star Wars trilogy contains three of my favorite movies of all time. Fortunately, they happened to have been created during a time when special effects were not the whizz-bang computer-generated affairs of today, George Lucas was not able to afford bathing in hundred-dollar bills, and movie studios weren’t at all sure about the idea of a swashbuckling space adventure. This forced Lucas to make a series of films vastly different from what he originally had in mind – gone were the high-budget script elements and the certainty of sequels, replaced by gritty realistic worlds and a script that slapped the cream of Lucas’ ideas together, for what he thought might be his first and last shot at this. Unfortunately, his creative vision was unstifled and unedited when he got twenty years older and started to make the Star Wars prequels.

The real hell of it all is, The Phantom Menace has a lot going for it. The visual and audio effects were tremendous, the cast featured a few rather big names who performed excellently, and the action sequences were a lot of fun. There were just two little things that got in the way: Jake Lloyd and the script.

Darth Vader’s childhood was portrayed by the worst child actor I’ve ever seen in a movie of similar budget. And the script called for a universe quite unlike the swashbuckling realism of the original movies by ushering in a fleet of chrome-plated starships, huge armies of stick-thin robots and a character named Jar Jar Binks. The dialogue itself is pretty forgettable, as well, but to personify all the problems in the script I will just refer to Jar Jar himself. A computer-generated character, flashy and technically impressive, yet completely out of place and given the role of a retarded bipedal sea monkey.

Now, these two problems? When I see The Phantom Menace, they completely overshadow everything that is good and enjoyable in the movie. In the background, there are oh-so-pretty vistas, an exciting race, an incredible duel, and vaguely familiar faces set in the part of Star Wars that we’d never been able to see before. But in the foreground there is our main character Anakin, poisoning every frame he’s in. And there are the glaring, usually boggling, issues of the entire script. I can barely see behind those problems to see the parts that look cool and interesting to me.

Did I expect Lucas to set pen to paper and come up with an exact duplicate of the original Star Wars trilogy? No, but I admit that I hoped for something LIKE that. This Prequel is simply so alien and childish, so unquotable in comparison to what I grew up loving… I can’t see around my problems with it. Neither could a lot of other people.

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