It’s Star Wars Day! May the Fourth be with you, everyone! There’s the positivity, now here’s the negativity: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Yes, the one everyone hates. Now the thing is, I hadn't seen it in a while, so I couldn't really remembered why I disliked it so much. After a recent re-watch, this is why you should hit-stop on The Phantom Menace.
The Phantom Menace's story is so weak. From the start, you feel like you've missed something, which is probably the worst crime a prequel – something that is supposed to give you added information to an existing story – can do. The story doesn’t have any structure, the script is fluffy and it takes an age to get anywhere. Admittedly, it starts off fairly strongly, but then it suffers from a massive dip for about half an hour, when Jar Jar Binks comes in (I'll come on to that), then it starts to get fairly interesting when you meet Anakin (which should have happened far earlier, may I add), even though it is terribly childish and very PG. And then we’re given all the political nonsense that is mind-numbingly dull.
That brings me onto the characters. My god, the characters. I genuinely think a six-year old could have developed more mature characters than Lucas managed. Take a look back: think of all the memorable characters from the original trilogy – Yoda, Darth Vader, Luke, Han, Leia – the list is endless. The Phantom Menace has two interesting characters purely because we know who they are from the original trilogy. The others are all very dull or extremely annoying. Yes, annoying… Who could I mean by that? Oh yes, JAR JAR BINKS. What was Lucas thinking bringing in Jar Jar Binks?! Everything about him makes me want to scream, and watching it again, he really has no role in the film. If you take him out, the only thing that would have changed is that it would have been a less annoying film! It’s clearly a marketing tool by Lucas, and that is about as cynical as it gets.
Fair enough if Lucas wanted to make a kid's movie, it’s an odd decision, but fair enough. He can do what he wants, but it’s not even a good children’s film. Good children's movies form a proper subset of good movies - simply because adults have access to all childhood emotions and desires, but not vice versa. So, in one sense a "kid's movie" is just a movie that can be understood and appreciated by children (as well as adults). Is this a kid's movie in that sense? Maybe. But it's also a kid's movie in the bad sense: it's deeply witless, and inexperienced children might - I say, MIGHT - fail to notice just how witless it is. Children may - I say, MAY - ignore the fact that Jar Jar Binks is a deeply irritating non-character because he is all colour and movement and he speaks funny. Is this really all Lucas wanted to do?
The film is only of any worth due to the nostalgia. Some of the references and the characters you see are pretty much worth watching the film alone, but that's not the point. George Lucas should have taken a lot more care with this film. He had made such a brilliant original trilogy, but that gives him no right to cash in on a bad film which, ultimately, he did.