The Phantom Menace

TL;DR: Revisiting an objectively bad movie did not improve the movie.

I tell this story often because 1) it’s funny to me and 2) it’s about someone I viscerally hate, an embezzler and saboteur who destroyed a company of mine. So, on the occasion of my re-watching The Phantom Menace for our Star Wars ranking podcast episode, allow me to tell it again:

It’s 1999 and we’re starting to see sneak peak trailers for a movie no one has heard about. The only way to see a whole trailer is to go to whatisthematrix.com, our first foray into internet viral marketing. Two of my friends and I are very excited about seeing this movie, whatever it is, while a fourth – not a friend, let’s call him a coworker even though it turned out all he was working on was stealing our IP and fraudulently billing our clients for his time — turns to us and says, “There’s only one movie coming out in 1999: The Phantom Menace.”

The Matrix, of course, turned out to be a masterpiece and TPM turned out to be a mess.

Anyway, I haven’t seen TPM since that first time in the theater (from which I emerged fully dumbfounded and calling into question my love of Star Wars in its entirety) and with the Star Wars ranking episode looming on the horizon, I decided to give it a second chance, you know, just in case.

I can’t bear to write an entire post about this experience so I’m just going to include my live notes after the jump:

The first word I noticed in the crawl was “Taxation”

There’s something about Liam Neeson’s unconcerned nonchelance that sucks the tension out of every scene he’s in.
And Ewen McGregor is just doing bad acting probably because of the awful dialogue and direction he’s been given.

Oh no, it’s Jar Jar
His minstrel nature isn’t even buried in a shallow grave, it’s right there on top.

There’s so much colonial supremacy in this whole thing
From the Caribbean patois to the “naboo think they brains so big” it’s just 1930s colonialism in fluorescent lights and flowing robes

These adventures are less adventurous because the Jedi are never worried.

I mean, why is Jar Jar so freaked out by the sea monsters? This is where he lives.

The trade federation is rife with anti-Asian slander. I mean, my God, these characters could have come out of a 1930s “Yellow Peril” movie.

The bot soldiers “Roger Roger” are too comedic to be taken seriously

The Jedi interacting with the CGI bots is not impressive
They often aren’t looking in the right place
Many actors doing plain line readings like they were caught rehearsing and Lucas said, “Good enough. Moving on.”

Seeing how lame this is, it seems kind of silly so many Canonites built their whole personalities on this stuff

“How wude?” Really?

R2 has to plug something back in. That’s his super power. The other droids got shot before they could plug something back in

The hyperdrive is leaking ????

I would slap a Jedi for being so superior. Thank God later iterations toned them down from what is basically a living embodiment of Evangelical smiles

Darth Maul’s introduction reminds me of actual 1930s serials.

The shout out to R2 feels very forced

You must trust my judgment on this without reason – Qui Gon over and over

Yeah, even Natalie Portman in her prime can’t sink these putts. She just reading lines to a blank screen and we feel it

The word “Master” gets used a lot in SW

Probably shouldn’t have chosen someone famous like Portman if they wanted her identity as Amedalia to be a secret

Indigenous Tribes! The Great White Hunter must be next.

Jar Jar never seems to be physically present in the scene. The FX were not strong enough for the worlds first (and worst) fully CG character

I’m a pilot you know (such bad Lucas dialog)

Liam walking through the junkyard has all the reality of Roger Rabbit

Jake did fine considering what he was given to work with and his age but it’s really one sour note after another. You would think no one would ever be able to play Anakin Skywalker worse, but… you know what’s coming in the next movie.

All of this seems like a “humorous” side trip from an “On The Road” movie. I guess Jar Jar is Bob Hope and Qui Gon is Bing Crosby? Not sure. I think I just tortured a metaphor.

Really, 3PO? Why was it necessary to further complicate the retcons by throwing the droids in with Anakin’s origin story?

Ugh, soooo slooooow
so many tiny scenes that could have been covered with dialogue

Even Natalie Portman sounds like reading lines
The conversation around the dinner table during the sand storm is so bad

Liam Neeson I’m sure knows how lucky he is to die early in the series

There was no father? Holy shit that’s awful. I forgot about that.

I’m 45 mins into this movie and we’ve covered 5m of information
You could literally just edit Jar Jar out of the movie and lose nothing

Lucas was really reaching with the SFX beyond what was capable at the time

Midi chlorians. Sigh.

We went from a Republic Serial to a Christ gone wrong story real quick.

A camel pulling a hovercraft? If you have power to float don’t you have power to move forward?

The whole pod race thing, is this necessary? And so much of it? The introductions go on for 5 minutes

Who lets an 8yo rive a race car?

If Jabba is a Hutt what is the junkyard dealer?

Was Lucas thinking all of this is spectacle and would be filling on its own? It doesn’t have anything to do with the story. Here:

Obi-Wan: Who’s that?

Qui-Gon: This is Anakin. He’s very adept with the Force. I thought I’d bring him to the council to be tested.

OW: He’s too old.

Qui-Gon: We’ll let the council decide that.

There’s I just saved you an HOUR of shifting uncomfortably in your seat.

Pod racing is basically an SNES video game

Sebulba yells “poo doo” when he crashes. That’s the extent of the effort they put into the alien language

“It’s so wonderful Ani you’ve brought hope to those who don’t have any” That is some awful writing

“I freed your son. You… not so much”

Does Gui Gon’s ship not have any guns? I mean, blast the shit out of Maul and save a life.

“The prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the force?” I’ve never heard a line from Samuel L. Jackson fall flat before

For a Republic they sure have a lot of royalty and “Master” talk

The dialogue is all short declarative statements. “They will not go along with you this time. If you followed the code you would be on the council. I will do what I must.” It’s all text. There is literally no subtext in this movie.

I’m an hour and a half into this abomination and still have 45 mins to go.

Oh for a movie that’s not about the chosen one
How many Ones are there? Maybe it’s the one true bunch?

Woof, the Gungan are just dripping with racism

They brought Anakin an 8yo boy on an infiltration mission?

The choral notes when the Jedi fight starts are a bit much

The queen and her guards riding the cable guns up to the window looks very 3 stooges

So Lucas really intended to have Larry Moe & Curly level comedy relief in the middle of this massive battle?

Obi Wan having to wait in the sally port while Qui-Gon gets killed is probably the only good scene in this movie, but it’s very good.

Wait, this is a kid’s movie!

Maybe not. Obi just cut a man in half

Ugh with the chosen one again

Oh no the viceroy lost his trade franchise! Whatever that means.

Padiwan learner? I thought Padiwan meant “apprentice”

Jesus, they burn Qui Gon’s body right there in the open. What does that smell like?

Wow, this movie is only 2:15 long? I feel like I’ve been trapped in it for days

And now that it’s “over” there’s only ten more minutes to go.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.