on July 13, 2004
To quote the famous lines by Apollo Creed from Rocky III, "You lost for all the wrong reasons, you lost your edge. Eye of the tiger, man!"
A good analogy when you think of it...
When Lucas made the first trilogy he was a relativly unknown up-and-comming writer/director full of desire and well, "hunger" to make his mark. That drive lead to the masterpieces of pop culture we know as ANH and ESB. By ROTJ his edge was already waning but thankfully it was the last one... or so we thought.
By the time TPM came out he lost it completely and produced a quite mediocre if at best ordinary film. Living like a king for the past 20+ years made him not "hungry and full of desire" but fat and content. He lost his edge.
Peter Jackson's LOTR Trilogy is so much better than Lucas' last 2 efforts for this same reason. Jackson has the "eye of the tiger"!
Lucas HAS to get his edge back. Most agree AOTC is better than TPM but not by much. Will episode 3 prove that Lucas got it back??
If only reality played out like the fantasy of Rocky III and Lucas brings home a REAL winner....
on May 25, 2004
after seeing the first two star war movies i was naturally excited when return of the jedi was released. it was a dissapointment.
the ewok thing reeked of the next merchandising line, the actors were visually tired of making the movies and it showed in their performances, lucas and team both copped out and extended the soap opera quality by revealing lea to be lukes sister (you cant let one of the heroes go away without the girl, so we'll make the girl luke's long lost sister) and the whole conversion of vader seemed phony.
star wars and the even better empire were great fun, but return seemed to show the idea had been played out.
i was one of the few who was not excited when it was announced that a prequal trilogy was coming.
this film proved my misgivings were correct.
what makes the first 2 star wars movies nicely balanced is the presence of han solo. luke is a bit too sullen, too religious, too serious. the fun errol flynn like han solo balances this out.
but the prequals are star wars without a han type at all. its all luke; religiousley serious and a bit bland.
that said the movie does have a few decent moments, most notably the ben hur like race and the wwf type (and way too brief)darth maul.
in retrospect i recall pauline kael's review of star wars and she warned that this was a bad new trend in hollywood.
she lamented the slickness, the empty headed, overblown fx.
in many ways i agree with her. but, i also know that the first two movies, like his american grafitti, were indeed fun.
perhaps lucas had kael in mind when he made this but if he did, he certainly approached it from the least interesting angle that was in the first.
this movie is as pressed and clean as lukes white coat, it needs the dirt and roughness of han's vest
or, perhaps its just been too long since he actually directed a movie, but regardless, i havent seen the second prequal and wont bother to.
i'll cherish the memory of star wars and empire strikes back
on April 21, 2004
Why was this movie even made? It contributed little plot development to the Star Wars universe. Lucas could have taken all the important stuff in Phantom and added an extra half hour to Attack of the Clones instead. That way we would have been spared the lacking plot, the throw-away characters, and the bad acting.
The plot was really lacking. It is a nice, Sunday-afternoon kind of movie, but that isn't what a Star Wars movie is supposed to be. This movie was great for the kiddies, especially with Jake Lloyd's whining, Jar Jar's antics and the droids, but it left the adult audience disappointed and unsatisfied. There was a lot of action, but no real suspense or complexity. Even the attempts at misdirection were thinly veiled.
Three characters stood out an throw-aways: Qui-Gon, Darth Maul, and Aurra Sing. Out of the three, Qui-Gon got the most mileage as the driving force behind a majority of the movie's plot. I understand why Qui-Gon was used the way he was, but that doesn't mean it was the only or the best way to further that aspect of the story. Darth Maul, who was a nice mysterious villain, was painfully underused and dispatched rather easily. This limited the impact he could have had on the story. As for Aurra Sing, there was a lot of press about her prior to the release, but I can't remember if she made the final cut of the movie.
The acting, or lack there of, spoke for itself. While Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid and Liam Neeson were great; they were over shadowed by the poor acting of Jake Lloyd and the incessant banter of Jar Jar.
The best part of the movie was the way it looked. ILM did a masterful job with the special effects. The ships were cool and the scenery was beautiful. Even though "the look" is very important to the Star Wars universe, it's bad when then special effects stand out more than the plot.
on March 22, 2004
That 'The Phantom Menace' was a bit of a letdown isn't exactly news to anyone. What I think is surprising, however, is the lasting impact this half-baked prequel has had on the collective psyche of fans and followers alike. It was all renewed for me while watching the new Simpsons episode last night which, out of left field, spent about 15 minutes making fun of 'Cosmic Wars,' 'Jim Jam Bongs' and their midget-like creator, a faux Lucas. Bart and Lisa even go so far as to break in to the fake Lucas' workplace to convey their criticism of his lackluster work. Obviously some sort of catharsis for some Simpsons writers, the episode simply showed that what many of us suspected from the onset is now likely to prove true: The Phantom Menace will always be the ugly stepchild in the Star Wars family. One had hoped that over time, with reflection and further perspective, this film could have aged somewhat gracefully and it, warts and all, could have been accepted. Doesn't seem likely now, since it just serves to embody all the frantic CGI ugliness and consumerism that severely damaged Return of the Jedi, Attack of the Clones, and the horrid revisionist 'Special Edition' originals. The cure for this malady is the word 'no', which should be applied liberally in Lucas' brainstorming sessions. Here are some of the many Phantom Menace errors that could have been corrected with such a simple phrase:
Anakin is Jesus.
The Force is not mystical so much as derived from tiny little parasites.
Physical comedy works best when telegraphed several minutes in advance.
Amphibian sidekicks work best when used on desert planets.
Ships and technology from a previous decade are far more advanced than in later years, and all somehow magically vanish.
Queens/princesses are elected.
Assassins are always confused when a Queen and handmaiden switch places (this happens AGAIN in Attack of the Clones)
Goofy droid soldiers are more compelling than armored stormtroopers.
It is important to indoctrinate 6 year olds to the films rather than appease their decrepit 25 year old forebears. This means more shiny things; less plot, dialogue, and acting.
To all of these things, history appears to be serving up a resounding 'No.'
on March 6, 2004
Here we go again with the usual stick up for Lucas or say it for what it was, a clunker. Natalie Portman didn't seem to take this movie seriously as well along with ep. II, thinking SW was just a step in her career along with her Harvard education. A wasted opportunity which Depp took advantage of in POC. Way to go Lucas, it takes a producer/director who doesn't care or know how to make a quality film to let this performance slide. At least Jake Lloyd had some idea what he wanted to do for his role even inexperienced as he was. Same with Hayden Christensen. Even Elijah Wood auditioned a homemade videotape to Jackson doing a skit with his friends about LOTR. Samuel Jackson as miscast as he is, would have worked better than Liam Neeson who admittedly was embarassed just as he knew his role was his retirement bit. Alec Guinness knew it was nonsense and knew Lucas couldn't direct, but he tutored Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford among others with his professional experience into still putting on a real show. The actors' earnest teamwork in ANH was what made the movie and made fans of us all. While LOTR will be remembered, and not just because of the 17 Oscar wins and astounding efx with many efx you don't even know were efx, the SW prequel will be remembered mainly for the infamous Jar-Jar and Portman's beautiful smiles(admittedly she looks a diamond). McGregor did the best he could with the almost nonexistent scraps of a script and role that he got. Portman is already quoted as saying they tried to do better in filming Ep. III. Apology acknowledged but let's wait and see if Lucas finds some directoral talent somewhere inside himself than the others around him.
Even the OT is in danger of fading into obscurity with the weakness of Ewokked ROTJ, and Lucas' refusal to release the original versions, not the ruined special editions where the Death Star(s) has a ST:TheNextGeneration looking explosion and Greedo shoots first. In retrospect, one must suspect the origins of the story of ANH. It is biographical fact Lucas researched Tolkien and LOTR in the months before he came up with the script. That the prequels have had such an uninnovative story, one wonders where Lucas' 9 movie story he boasted about in 1980 exists? The documentaries on starwars.com revealed Lucas was trying to come up with a story for the PM(the challenge of coming up with a story was what the documentary title was.. wonder if it's even on any of the DVD's now or hastily erased) only after he had completed the special editions in 1997(and made us buy yet another efx-enhanced editon and seeing only the special editions in the theaters) while Jackson and crew worked on the script and model sets 5 years before principle filming even started for LOTR. Is it a coincidence we all had to wait so long for sequels yet PM just comes before FOTR? The production for LOTR was already known; Lucas didn't have much time. Finally, interesting in the week before the Oscars, AP news reports the OT , unfortunately special-edition only, was finally coming to DVD. Desperation for more profits? Riding on coattails of a real superior trilogy? Whatever. Interesting how the PM showed opposite the coronation of LOTR at the Oscars on network TV as well. Well, to be fair, an extra star for the things that were done right, mainly the stunt director's lightsabre choreagraphy, stunt work and Ray Park's successful stealing of the movie with his Sith scowl.
on March 1, 2004
The film must be all of five years old now, but it hasn't aged well. At best it reminds us of a time when there was a booming economy and plenty of willingness to experiment with computer animation and over-the-top costumes. At worst, it shows off the side effects that nostalgia for a 1977 film creates in a movie produced more than twenty years later. Yoda and Jabba were ridiculous-looking puppets in their time, and look even more plastic in Phantom Menace. Red grease paint and horns are too juvenille for an "evil" character, even to a pre-teen. Child actors with embarrassing line delivery are juxtaposed with seasoned professionals who really could have done better. Entire digital landscapes were created from a computer paintbrush, so why'd you have to make them look just like the Hagia Sophia? We are treated to a five-minute scene in a fascinating galactic Senate chamber before a white-haired fellow mumbles some nonsense about a "strong" Chancellor, and we cut back to more antics with Jar-Jar. "Comical" battle scenes and "funny" explosions accidentally triggered by young Anakin rankle our hides in a post 9/11 world. There is no point at which this movie is not fighting for air. Natalie Portman once hoped that her role in these movies would not overshadow her future medical career and said she didn't know what she'd do if patients started calling her "Dr. Amidala". Natalie...keep your day job.
on February 5, 2004
After a long, long wait, many of us finally got to jump into theatres and watch the beginning of a fantastic tale about good and evil.
The film suddenly starts with master Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his younger apprentice, the up and coming Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). They are sent by the Senate to negotiate with the Trade Federation, on board one of their many battle ships that illegally surrounds the Naboo system. The Jedi are distracted as a group of delegates and Vice Roys ploy a plot. I thought that there would be some slick looking villans in vests and gear. Instead, we have three human sized guppies with robes that Hugh Hefner would love and head dresses that look worse than Burger King paper party crowns. They order the Jedi to be killed.
Right after I realized who the Trade Federation leaders were, my stomach began to turn in frustration. The worry sat in quick.
Their assasins are an armed group of popsicle stick-limbed droids that say hardly anything than, "Roger-roger!" and who's rusty voices are in serious need of WD-40. These guys are the enemy? Our two lightsaber wielding Jedi slice and dice them better than a 'Ginsu' can chop celery, and make their way down to the planet that's already been invaded. Their run in with a clumsy reptillian-man named Jar-Jar (and a jar head he is) starts to water this film down quickly. There's no big threatening villans, no eerie mystery, only characters that are paper thin and a story that's got too much to deal with at once.
They find the captured Queen Amidala (a bland Natalie Portman) and take her (with two tag teams of hand maidens) to space, and after an outboard R2-D2 (what's he doing in this???) saves their cruiser's shields from a Federation ship's barrage of lasers, they make their emergency escape to Tatooine.
The title is still something everyone wonders about, and I gave the movie the benefit of doubt that he's a soon to be. So, on with the show.
Anakin Skywalker, is discovered. A slave to a gang of Hutts, him and his mother, along with nearly completed C3-P0 (oh, brother) help the outlanders win their needed parts in a pod race that's better than Days Of Thunder! Anakin is only freed, but encouraged by his mother to go and seek out a life with the Jedi.
The emotional impact or character development is pushed aside by fancy creature spottings and errand-like tasks that everybody is doing from the beginning. You don't get to know anybody at all, and the actors (minus a lame Portman and tin can Jake Lloyd) really try their best at a script that gives them 'a job to do'. The animation and effects are truly spectacular. With an Oscar nod again for that department, they keep up their 'Ind. Light And Magic' legacy.
Then there's the Phantom Menace. "Phantom" is right. Except for the last half hour, you don't see or hear him, minus a minute here, and a minute there. Worthy of the movie's title? No way. He does pack a whollop in a sabre duel with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan that can rival all three of the original trilogy's sabre fights COMBINED, with great choreography that was much needed before. The Jedi council is so underused, and Yoda goes from a wise yet funny little green eared Jedi to a grouch on a chair. On the other hand, Watto, the small grumpy swindler who runs the parts shop, is a blue winged creature with a hairy nosed trunk. He is the funny one, not Jar-Jar, and talks like he comes from an Italian pasta place. I do find McGregor to be a well played and placed dead ringer for a young Obi-Wan, so kudos to George Lucas there.
All of the humour, filmmakers stying and magic that built the original episodes are lost in this boring entry that was suppose to introduce us to their world with depth, and not just push them into view.
Great effects, shallow script writing, and uninvolved moviemaking are all that 'Phantom Menace' gives. The force, is not with this one.
on January 25, 2004
Sigh. It's not like there weren't some shaky moments in the original Star Wars, or in Return of the Jedi for that matter. But there was also some great character acting by Ford and Fisher, and a solid core of gonzo SF/fantasy narrative values. Oh yeah, and freaking DARTH VADER.
(As for Empire Strikes Back, please, it's a virtually flawless piece of popular storytelling. The winner and still champ.)
This movie is clunky and soulless. I have no idea what Lucas was doing with himself b/w 1983 and 1999. Sure, there's breathtaking CGI all over the place. But the content is kiddified, stupid and sterile. What's with the fart jokes? With the asinine wise-cracking sportscaster creature during the pod race? (What a dreadful lapse of tone.) With the dweeby little generic 9-year-old cherub whom, please remember, we're supposed to believe is THE LORD OF THE SITH as a tadpole?
The only thing that actually stands out about The Phantom Movie as an individual statement is the execrable Jar Jar. Lucas must have had some very personal psychic itch to scratch by inflicting that shuffling, jabbering Gungan atrocity on his millions of fans. I shan't even speculate on the underlying love-hate relationship it attests.
Natalie Portman is hot when she's not done up in "royal" regalia like a freaking Chinese New Year Parade float. I probably would have given this movie 1 star otherwise. Portman hotness and Ewan MacGregor's essential coolness (buried here under much wack dialogue, my young padawan) barely nudge it up to 2-star territory.
I don't care about the fancy DVD features. Unless one of the features is a clickable link that plays an actual Star Wars movie like Empire, they aren't going to salvage this fiasco.
In fact, I hereby overrule Lucas and declare this hash of a toy commercial to be non-canon. None of this actually happened, Star Wars fans. The movies still start with "A New Hope."
It is so ordered.
on January 21, 2004
Ive waited 20+ years for this piece of crap?
Theres just way too many flaws here. Lucas's directing skills is one of them.
When i first saw this movie i felt a shiver and goosebumps all over my body. The title started scrolling and you started to read the story ............ The NEW star wars story and thats about the height of it all. 2 hours later i wanted 2 hours of my life back.
I gave this movie 2 stars for a couple reasons.
1. its a star wars movie (had it not been it would have gotten 1)
2. I cant go into the negitives.
What went wrong you ask? Well heres a small list of pros and cons.......
-Its a star wars movie.
-This is a Star Wars movie? Wake me up im having a nightmare.
-Terrable dialog. I mean seriously, its about equivillent to that of a ninja turtles or pokemon episode. George also did a wonderful job of using the words "bantha fodder" about 10 times.
-Bad actors. Very few of the actors actually sounded convincing.
-Horrific character interaction. I never got the sence that others mattered to one another. Unlike the first trilogy which managed to do that perfectly.
-Jar Jar. I love childrens characters and movies, From the lion king to ice age. And i can understand what lucas wanted to do with jar jar, the problem is he went completely off the deep end in creating this character. I guess he wanted to make the most annoying, wacky, ignorant character he possably could and in the process alienated anyone over 12.
-An overall lack of attention to what really mattered. I think lucas was so involved with what he "could" do with the visual effects he never asked himself what he should use it for. Insted he decided to use effects in the movie to cover up all the errors he made, and theres alot.
-Lucas should have written all three scripts togeather.
If he would have done this, he would have realized that the first episodes time should not have been spent on pod racing and medaclorians. This has basicly screwed the rest of the series.
Well im not going to go on with the cons, i think you get my drift.
I will save you some time though and do an episode 2 review really quick.
-Terrable love story. I'm a man, thus enclined to dislike love stories, however i can tolerate them to a point as long as they are good. This was not. It seemed like he wanted to take an episode of a day time soap and throw it in. That didnt work.
on December 11, 2003
I was extreamly excited when the film was announced. I remembered the first three and was looking forward to this!
A big disappointment! George now seems to think that if we wow them with special effects then the story line does not matter. This film proved him wrong.
I don't subscribe to the "hey how does technology look better then the first three films" since a great story line will smash a beautiful film.
The characters had awsome potential! JarJar the exception of course.
I found young Anakin a little too great and thought the emaculate conception idea was a little trite. And I felt the queen seemed to be comming on to Anakin rather then "Aren't you cute" response.
The best part of the whole film was the the light saber fight between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon.
George gave a great villian and then killed him off!
The film failed due to the poor story line. George tried to wow people with the race which was long and looked interesting but he it took away from the story line.
I hoped the next installment would recover but it doesnt.
The DVD itself has some nice stuff added but unless you are a real fan of the genra, you might avoid it.