Wednesday, May 21, 2003


A Film Review of "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace"

Copyright 2001 Glenn Walker

George Lucas doesn’t need any money. He has more money than any of us paeans could spend in our entire lifetimes. He doesn’t have ex-wives or gambling debts or any drug habits. So money is not a motivation. Why did he make this movie?

Other than the infamous Moulin Rouge (notably the absolute worst film ever made), this is the worst movie of the year 2001. This is a year rife with cheap productions, schlocky horror movies, teen sex comedies and stuffy independent films – all the crap that usually sucks – and this, the opening chapter of the most acclaimed sci-fi movie franchise of all time, takes the suck award by a light year.

That is not to say that all of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace is all bad. There are bits that are impressive. The opening sequence is amazing and shows us what real Jedis can do as opposed to the self-taught like Luke Skywalker. Jedis should not be messed with – they are cool. With this fact checked at the start it’s just sad that the flick goes downhill from here.

The matte paintings of the exotic locales are impressive as is the wonderful pod race both taking advantage of the financial miracle that is the CGI of Lucasfilm and Industrial Light and Magic. The problem is if I wanted this alone I could have bought a picture or a video game.

The cast is serviceable. No one shines but nor do they embarrass themselves. With the effort that Lucas supposedly put forth in the casting process one might think we’d get better actors or at least better performances from the actors we got. All involved are capable of much better though.

The major problem with a prequel is that your audience knows where you’re going. There are no surprises. At that point it’s the job of the director to create surprises… the problem here is that the surprises are pulled out of his ass. Star Wars was made in 1976 and supposedly George Lucas has had the concept since 1969. So why does Episode 1 feel like it was written over a drunken weekend last month? Lucas ignores continuity established in the Star Wars trilogy and even on occasion seems to make stuff up. Hello??

The story is see through from the beginning. Anyone who didn’t know where this mess was going immediately probably also didn’t know Amidala and Padme were the same person. Don’t get me started on Annigan Skywalker. No father? So he’s the messiah? Hmmm, so who do you think is going to win the pod race? The evil cheating racer or the messiah? Groan. And I never want to hear the word ‘midichlorians’ again!

And speaking of cheating, what Jedi voluntarily participates in lying, stealing and gambling? Aren’t these supposed to be the good guys?? Why didn’t Darth Vader recognize R2D2 and C3PO in the original movie? He did, after all, create C3PO. It all just makes my head hurt.

Alien voices. I have to wonder if Lucas is a closet racist when confronted with the alien voices. With such a creative mind and unlimited technology at his disposal why do the aliens sound like bad 1930s impressions of Fu Manchu and Steppin Fetchit?? What is that about?

I have come to the conclusion that the real ‘phantom menace’ here is George Lucas himself. He is too greedy for his own good in doing more Star Wars movies when no script exists superior enough to match what has gone before and has no respect for his fans. For some sick reason he has seen fit to sabotage his own creation.

All I know for sure is that if I ever run into George Lucas on the street, I’m going to punch him in the mouth and demand my eight bucks back.

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