Rewatch: Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace


Released: 5/19/1999

With one week to go until Episode VII, it is time to rewatch the first six Star Wars in episode order.  One, to get psyched, and two, to remember what happened – it has been 10 years since the last Star Wars was released.  I prepared myself for the awfulness that is Jar Jar Binks.  What I didn’t prepare for was all the other little things that were wrong with the first prequel to one of the best trilogies of all time.

I have seen people come up with alternative versions of Phantom Menace that were superior to what was actually produced (Google it, I’m sure you’ll find something better.)  I even like the theory that Jar Jar was supposed to be the Sith apprentice in future movies but got scratched because everyone hated him so much.  In some scenes there is absolutely some validity to the theory – until you watch all the other awful scenes with him.

First, how the hell did technology devolve in the roughly 25 years galactic years that the Star Wars saga takes place?  All the ships have force fields in Episode I – I’ll double check when I get to A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, but nothing has a force field until Return of the Jedi (the fully operational Death Star).  Droids are more advanced in Phantom than anything in Episodes IV-VI.  Everything is sleeker and more futuristic looking thanks to advances in CGI in our timeline.

Second, one word: “midichlorians.”  When this originally came out, I didn’t have much of a problem with it.  On the rewatch – yes, this is definitely a problem.  A) Why do we need a physical entity to explain the Force (we didn’t before).  Eastern philosophy subscribes to a life force (better known as the scrabble word “Qi.”)  “The Force” was always good enough, no need to add extra mumbo jumbo.  B) The whole spontaneous birth thing [Note: It is not the immaculate conception – that means born free of sin.  /Sunday school] just made me roll my eyes (Merry Christmas, by the way.)  The fact that Anakin has a midichlorian count that is off the chart is useless.  You might as well say he has high testosterone – it has just as much meaning to the story.

Third, C-3PO is built by Anakin Skywalker.  It’s just another thing I’ll have to watch for in Episodes IV-VI, if Vader ever comes across C-3PO, because surely he would recognize the droid that he built.  Off hand, I can’t remember when he does see him.

A minor complaint – the age difference between Natalie Portman (Queen Amidala) and Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker) is 8 years, which makes their pending romance a little icky when Anakin is 9 years old.  Though in canon Amidala is only 4 years older than Anakin.  Portman was probably too old to play Amidala – she didn’t come across as 14 at all.

The Phantom Menace wasn’t all bad – Senator Palpatine’s Xanatos Gambit was brilliant.  Darth Maul might be the best villain in the entire series.  This brings us to one of my axioms – if you are rooting for the bad guys, it probably isn’t a very good movie.  Now, I wasn’t outright rooting for them, but they are definitely the best thing about this flawed script.  [Also, are we certain that Palpatine is the bad guy?  I don’t recall if we are told why the Empire is bad in Episodes IV-VI – we just take it on faith that the rebels are good and the Empire is bad.  I’ll double check when we get there.]

Up Next: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.  By far the worst movie in the saga.  May the Force be with me, I’m going to need all the help I can get to get through it.

WWYT Rating: 5.5

IMDB Rating: 6.5


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