A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 65 – Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace – May 4th, 2010

Okay, so, it’s May 4th. And I was informed by several places that May 4th is Star Wars Day. “May the fourth be with you.” Get it? I’m a sucker for a good pun. My family has pun-offs every holiday dinner. So I asked on twitter and on my LJ if we should abandon our plans to watch South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut tonight in favor of starting our week+ of Star Wars movies. And the answer was yes. Yes we should. Now, this means we’ll be doing Episode I tonight, and then the rest of the prequel trilogy, and then the original trilogy, and then the two Ewok movies. So, eight days. Week+. Like a sandwich made of bacon in the middle, but with a soggy bun on the bottom and cheese on top instead of bun. Fuzzy cheese.

There is so much wrong with this movie. So very much wrong. And the saddest part is that it could have been so awesome. It had such potential, and then Lucas decided to make it a kids’ movie and that was like the first domino of fail. No subtitling meant more opportunities for horrific accents that don’t just border on racial stereotyping, they march boldly into it. “Kid-friendly” comic relief meant Jar Jar. But why the hell would you make a movie targeted towards kids (and no, I won’t argue about this – I firmly believe it was meant to attract not only the original fanbase but their kids and grandkids – and the marketing done at the time did not contradict this) and then make the majority of the plot so damn boring? Trade disputes? Political maneuvering? And then they went and tried to explain the Force with Midichlorians. SIGH. Sure, Lucas, suck all the fun out of it.

Now, let’s talk potential. Queen in exile/hiding? Sure, that works. Beautiful planet about to be ravaged by heartless oppressors and their mechanical army? Okay! Ruthless and mysterious enemy and his snarly and dangerous henchman? Bring. It. On. Hell, even the podrace is fun to watch if you ignore the commentator and don’t mind how long it takes. If only it fit into the movie cohesively! More potential? The cast! Ewan MacGregor! Liam Neeson! Natalie Portman! Brian Fucking Blessed! Poor wasted Brian Blessed! And if you don’t know Brian Blessed, I highly recommend looking him up, because he is awesome like no other. And poor wasted Terence Stamp. Man, I weep for him. I want more Terence Stamp in this movie. And they didn’t even let Ray Park use his own voice. He is my favorite thing about this entire movie and they dubbed over his few vocalizations. Why? With all the other hideous accents in here, they couldn’t stand his voice? Seriously?

Okay, I got off track. I was saying, this movie had such potential. No, there was no way it was ever going to live up to the original movies or surpass them, but it could have come close and it didn’t. It missed the mark in so many ways. It’s not just the offensive accents or the bizarre patchwork plot or trying to figure out why Naboo has an elected sixteen year old queen. It’s everything. If you can ignore Jar Jar and the Trade Federation and turn off your brain, the movie does have some fun parts. I mentioned the pod race. And Darth Maul (okay, I admit, I have one of the double-bladed lightsaber toys). And the visuals are lovely. There are bits and pieces and moments, so it’s watchable-ish. We saw it twice in the theater, but now I’m struggling to explain why. I know I wanted to enjoy it so very much. I wanted it to be better than it was. I tried to defend it to people. With more viewings and time, however, I just can’t keep it up. You’re probably better off buying the RiffTrax for it, watching the Robot Chicken parody sketches, or, if you want a D&D take on Episode I and much of Episode II, reading Darths & Droids. I highly recommend Darths & Droids. It’s my personal meta canon.

I can’t give this movie the “it stinks!” tag. It’s really really really tempting, but I can’t. I’m reserving it for when I can come up with one or less redeeming feature, and this movie has a couple (including a Wilhelm), so it’s saved by a small margin. But I’m not making any promises for tomorrow and Thursday.

May 4, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

May 4, 2010

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

May the Fourth be with you. The date dictates that today is the start of Star Wars week for us. Which we embark upon with mixed feelings. Clearly Star Wars was a great movie (the first one – later to be known as Episode IV) and I look forward to watching it and Empire Strikes Back again. But I do not look forward to this movie. I would rather have put it off a little while longer. But the internets have spoken, and we must review Episode I today.

Amanda and I debated long and hard about whether we were going to tag our reviews for this movie with the much-dreaded and almost never-used “It Stinks” tag. Ultimately we decided not to… but it was a close thing. Her argument is that we should reserve that tag for movies that are irredeemably bad and offer no entertainment whatsoever. And by the narrowest of margins I agreed that this movie is not ALL bad. It’s only mostly bad.

A lot of the problem with the movie for me lies in that sense of betrayal from when I went to see it in the theater. After about fifteen years and more hype than you can imagine here was a chance to see a new Star Wars movie in the theater and I had unbelievably high expectations. Unattainable expectations. I saw it twice in the theaters, and I maintain to this day that the second viewing was simply because I couldn’t believe how awful the movie was. I wanted to see if it grew on me with a second viewing. It did not. Indeed I would say that with every viewing I like it less.

Much has already been written about why this movie is such a profound disappointment. The racism involved in the accents given to the aliens. The use of excessive comic relief during battle scenes. (Between Jar Jar and Anakin there is more slapstick in the final battle than in the first three movies combined.) And of course Jar Jar Binks himself: one of the most universally hated characters ever created. But although I do hate all those things, what I hate most is how this movie single-handedly destroyed the Star Wars franchise. It took a series of movies I quite enjoyed full of swashbuckling space action and made them into a laughing stock.

I’ll never again have that joyous anticipation for a new Star Wars movie. Instead if there ever were a new movie it would stir in my gut a kind of dread. What more from my childhood can Lucas destroy?

At least there’s still A New Hope to look forward to. I just have to get through the next two of these prequels.

May 4, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment