Star Wars - Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace

By: Karl Stern (@dragonkingkarl, @wiwcool, karl@whenitwascool.com)

A story of politics, trade disputes, and bad hair.

A story of politics, trade disputes, and bad hair.

I did a bad thing.

For no really good or apparent reason, I went back and watched Star Wars - Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace.  

Actually, I did have a legitimate reason.  With Star Wars Rogue One coming out later this year I did my usual multi-month run up to the new movie by watching the ones before it so I can see the story in chronological order.  

This time is going to be a little weird because I'm going to have to stop with Star Wars - Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith, then watch Star Wars Rogue One, before continuing on.  But this time I am also adding Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon series into the mix as well.  But enough of that.  On to the show.

This is, by far and away, my least favorite movie in the entire Star Wars franchise.  There is very little about this movie I find redeeming.  Instead of giving a point by point break down (you know you've all seen it more than you wanted to) I'll just give you the good, the bad, and the ugly of Star Wars - Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace.

The Good

  • The Jedi.  Ewan McGregor has always been my favorite thing about the prequels.  He grows into the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi during the three movie series and is leaps and bounds above everyone else by Revenge of the Sith.  Liam Neeson is also very good in this movie except for his ridiculous hair.  It's kind of a shame that the Star Wars movies didn't get more Qui-Gon.
  • Darth Maul.  I'm amazed that Darth Maul doesn't have more of a cult following than he does.  If you really think about it, Darth Maul is the best Sith apprentice in the whole series.  All the others are either very old or very busted up.  Darth Maul is all karate kickin', double-lightsaber slinging, mean looking Sith.  I know he was eventually brought back in the Clone Wars but it's a shame he didn't live to fight again in the next live action movie instead of giving us old guy Dracula.
Their greatest jedi ability is overcoming a mullet and a rat tail.

Their greatest jedi ability is overcoming a mullet and a rat tail.

One of the few redeeming qualities of this abomination of a movie is the menacing sith - darth maul

One of the few redeeming qualities of this abomination of a movie is the menacing sith - darth maul

And that about covers that.  I know you might argue "What about the pod race!" and I would concede that if it wasn't so darn stupid in concept that the execution of it was pretty wizard.

The Bad

  • The Story.  The story is boring.  Trade disputes and politics.  The Queen Padmae Amidala (played by Natalie Portman who peaks in this movie and gets significantly worse from here forward) has no freaking idea how to govern.  She's manipulated by... well, everyone.  And she is some weird age.  Like she ends up with little orphan Ani in the next movie who is like a ten year old kid here, yet she is AN ELECTED QUEEN so just overlook the pedophilia I guess.  It's just awkward and silly.
  • The dialog. This is a huge problem that plagues these prequels where they have to wiki-splain (my word) everything.  "What are midi-chlorians?" "Well, Wikipedia says..."  Again, awkward.
  • Yoda.  Yoda ends up being pretty awesome by the next movie but in the Phantom Menace he doesn't have a clue what's going on.  Pretty much every scene he is in he's confused by something.  I guess he grows into wise old Yoda.
Hmmm... think on this I will.

Hmmm... think on this I will.

The Ugly

  • Anakin Freakin' Skywalker.  Dear lord is this character horrible.  "Are you an angel?" Whoever wrote that line needs a gut kick and a Stone Cold Stunner.  I can't even complain about Jake Lloyd who played Anakin, I can't imagine any human actor getting over this dud of a role.
  • Jar Jar Binks.  This unholy racist abomination has been the scorn of the Star Wars fandom ever since.  Comedy relief?  No.  Unnecessary stupidity?  Oh yes.
  • The Immaculate Conception.  Wait what?  Yes, Anakin Skywalker is Jesus.  He was born without a father.  Gut kick.  Stunner.
  • Darth Vader built C3-PO.  Who thought this was a good idea?  Seriously? Why did the Star Wars story need this?  Why did Darth Vader forget this?  Why was this remotely necessary?  This always angers me to no end.
Someone's idea of a good idea.  Meesa thinks not.

Someone's idea of a good idea.  Meesa thinks not.

OH thank the maker! ... groan.

OH thank the maker! ... groan.

just call me angel of the morning blah blah... One of these people is an elected queen of an entire planet and one of them is a 10 year old slave kid.  they end up having a baby.  fact.

just call me angel of the morning blah blah... One of these people is an elected queen of an entire planet and one of them is a 10 year old slave kid.  they end up having a baby.  fact.

Finally, one last observation about the Star Wars series in general.  There is something everyone needs to realize about the entire (now 8 movie about to be 9) series.

The real bad guy in the movies is not The Emperor.  The real bad guy is not Darth Vader.  The real bad guy of the film series is...

R2-D2

Yes, R2-D2 is the real criminal of the whole Star Wars story.  He knew about every single bit of this from beginning to end and never told anyone.  He never let Luke Skywalker know in a New Hope.  He and Obi-Wan Kenobi colluded into keeping everyone in the dark in a New Hope and set a course of warfare that cost thousands of lives in the galaxy. He never let C3-PO in on the fact that Darth Vader built him (C3-PO's mind had been wiped.  R2-D2's was not).  He let a brother and sister kiss and never let on nothing.  He knew WAY before Luke Skywalker or Maury Povich who the father was.  Never chirped a word.

Every single time characters stood around talking about who was who, or what to do... R2-D2 sat there chirping and if he had thumbs, he would be manically twiddling them.

Meet the real Phantom menace.  This guy watched another guy kiss his own sister and never passed along that info.  "She's beautiful!"  "Chirp. chirp."

Meet the real Phantom menace.  This guy watched another guy kiss his own sister and never passed along that info.  "She's beautiful!"  "Chirp. chirp."