Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace Movie Review

Dec 9, 2015
the phantom menace review
In celebration of the release of the new 'Star Wars' movie this December 17, we look back the previous installments of the franchise leading up to 'The Force Awakens', the seventh installment of the saga. To read our coverage click here.
the phantom menace review
Right off the opening crawl of 'The Phantom Menace', we already knew something's not right about this movie. "Trade federation...", "...taxation of trade routes..." uhmmm, is this 'Star Wars' we are actually watching here, or a political taxation movie which happens to be set on the universe. What this franchise has established is a classic good vs evil fairy tale. Put in the trade federation and the senate council members in the mix, and you have a long way to go my friend. 
the phantom menace review
You can argue that diversity and establishing multiple genres in the 'Star Wars'-verse is a very welcome addition, do almost anything about it given its massive scale. But what 'The Phantom Menace' has done is a confused mix between politics, sci-fi and fun adventure fare. Although it expanded the realm of this franchise by introducing new planets and back-drops, the expansion simply didn't work because the execution wasn't good enough. The filmmakers desperately wants to go beyond what's already named that they forgot to give life on these new places, and it ended up being unnecessary. 
the phantom menace review
Without comparing it to the gravitas of the original trilogy and seeing it stand on its own, there's still plenty of problems to deal with in this film. I could go on for hours just for the flaws, but I must address how messed up the characters are here. Pitch me a description of the new characters here without stating their profession/ role in the movie. I dare you to give 3 things that'll illustrate Queen Amidala and probably fill nothing. The sad truth about 'The Phantom Menace' is how life-less and bland its characters are. There's barely any charisma or joy given by the actors (who shockingly happened to be fantastic ones). Screwing all of the characters is a dangerous thing, because what more you can probably do to fix the whole film if you can't do the people who drive the story right?! 
the phantom menace review
It is also not a story of somebody. The question of who's the main character wasn't debatable because there's barely anyone here. Definitely not Qui-Gon Jin and Obi-Wan because their functions best serve as a supporting role. Not Queen Amidala since she barely has nothing to do with the over-all scheme aside from professing her monotone charm. Even Anakin Skywalker, who is needed in the movie not until the 45-minute mark. 
the phantom menace review
The performances by the actors were barely good, and I think the over-reliance of CGI background rather than using real sets has something to do with it. Acting in front of a blue or green screen is really hard for someone to pull-out emotion because there's no tangible prop to release with, and the real location is nothing but a blank wallpaper waiting to be processed by a computer effects team. Which makes sense since one of the non-live character (and i'm being serious here) Jar Jar Binks was the only one given the opportunity to showcase multiple emotions more than Obi-Wan's whining chops.
the phantom menace review
Lightsaber duels are big staples for a 'Star Wars' movie, but under what circumstance can you possibly screw it up?! Never gonna deny, the choreography of the lightsaber fights in 'The Phantom Menace' is pretty spot-on, and the acrobats are fast-paced. Darth Maul's end-to-end lightsaber looks cool, and his encounter with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon was glorious. But too much coolness without substance make the finished product ended up being pretentious and all-over the place. The lack of emotion and power is obvious in these acrobatic fight sequences. Looking back at Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader's lightsaber fight in 'Return of the Jedi', you can easily sense evil lurking Luke internally and he is slowly tempting in the dark side with all the hate he had with his father. In the climactic showdown with between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, there's nothing much to offer aside from showing how impressive and well-prepared the stunts are. Even Darth Maul killing Qui-Gon ended up being tension-less due to it being choreography-heavy.
the phantom menace review
Old characters from the original trilogy reprises their roles here, including Yoda, R2-D2, C3PO and Jabba the Hut. The inclusion of Yoda here makes sense although the story can move without his presence, but the latter characters makes absolute no sense at all, and are lay-out only for the purpose of fan-service... and an offensive excuse to launch new commercial toys for kids, because in this world we are living in, more characters mean more cash to shove in. Heck, Jabba The Hut was used primarily for in-store promotion with Pizza Hut at one point. 
the phantom menace review
What makes 'The Phantom Menace' such a universally-despised movie is the fact that it has nothing to do with the over-all plot of the prequel trilogy. It wasn't until its sequel where we get to the main point: Anakin Skywalker slowly becoming Darth Vader. Another reason is that everyone put their trust on George Lucas, who in some ways are expected to not mess up the franchise he created. What Lucas made in the first 'Star Wars' movie was a cultural achievement, and it's almost impossible to screw up with a visionary talent like his here. Going in 'The Phantom Menace' is like being in a relationship wherein promises are made, only to end up realizing those promises are nothing near the actuality of expectations. 

The geek rates it 2/10!

P.S.: George Lucas, we still have faith in you but WHAT THE ACTUAL F$#K ARE MIDI-CHLORIANS?!?!

NEXT: Attack of the Clones
the phantom menace review

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