on February 11, 2007
Okay this is old now I know, but re-watched it the second time.
Overall - better then I remembered and worse all at once, the DVD had some awesome special features though.
Summary: that start of the Star Wars series. Don't think I need to sumarize this one. See Anikin Skywalker as a kid, see young Obi-Wan, see Jar-Jar and a pod race.
The good: the effects are awesome. It's Star Wars, sure it's not the best Star Wars but it's still better then 90% of the movies that come out. Darth Maul rocks. Young Obi-Wan is awesome. The pod race is pretty cool. Seeing Corusant for the first time was sweet. The battles are great.
The bad: Darth Maul dies too easily (now not as easy as Dukoo or General Grevious). The pod race is cool but long. Kids can't act and Anakin is no exception. The budding love between Amidala and Anakin is creepy. Jar-Jar annoyed me. I much prefered 3P0 for comedic releif. He wouldn't have been that bad if they didn't have to slip him into every scene.
The ugly: Midicloriens and the virgin birth of Darth Vader. WTF?!? I can overlook Jar-Jar, but not the scientific explanation for The Force. Why not leave it mystical like it was. Why not leave every viewer with that faint hope that The Force does exist and if they just try enough they can use it. Why rationalize it. Argh I hated that, and still do and always will.
Overall: worth seeing if you are a Star Wars fan. There was no way in hell no matter how good it could have been that it would live up to the original series. Some people will love it, some will hate it, but its still Star Wars and it's still a good time.
on March 12, 2003
I think people have to take stock of the obvious: that this movie is a real blast and unending fun... if you're ten years old or less. I was ten years old when Star Wars came out. I loved it. I was obsessed with it, as was every other male kid in my class. We spent all our time drawing tie fighters and x wings. We couldn't get enough of it. Now, Episode One is out and my two older children love it. They are four and two. I must admit that there is a certain nostalgic, time-warp savor in seeing my four year old son walking around in a Star Wars T shirt. And for him and his two year old brother, Episode One is fantastic. So for me to say that the movie is terrible and the characters are wooden and the accents are arbitrary and fly-by-night, that Liam Neeson should be publicly horse whipped just for being Liam Neeson, that whoever heard of a 6 year old kid making intricate carvings, much less flying a space buggy... all this is not to the point. It would be like trying to inhabit a doll house and complaining that the cups and saucers are so frigging small.
on June 17, 2002
The Phantom Menace is indeed a cinematic achievement. What other movie can you think of that can make accomplished actors like Liam Neeson, Ewan MacGregor, Natalie Portman, and Samuel L. Jackson appear to be abysmal? What other film (or trilogy) can you name that borrows so heavily from other sources (2001, Star Trek, Tolkien, Wagner, Kurosawa, Ben Hur) and has its creator still brazenly defending its originality? What other picture has been so overly hyped for its supposedly staggering special effects and yet those same effects are cartoonish and blatantly unrealistic?
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the previous 3 movies (as a child). And, for all of its delusions of grandeur, Phantom does work very well as a children's movie. The characters are amazingly two-dimensional, and the one seemingly ambiguous character is obviously the evil emperor of the previous movies. There's a Satan/Frankenstein hybrid named Darth something-or-other who tries to fill the Vader void, but hopelessly fails. Maybe he needed to have that Nazi helmet thing going..
The Thing-Fish character, Jar-Jar Binks is (as everyone knows) so annoying that I'm not going to waste my time or yours by going into it. The young man who played Anakin really needed some instruction. Considering that there were so many capable adults involved with this thing that were awful, it's silly and needlessly cruel to criticize Jake Lloyd's callow performance. Hell, Haley Joel Osment would have stalled with such poor direction.
I recently rented this leviathan the other night, just to see if it really is as bad as I remember it. Indeed, it's worse. Even John Williams' score lacks the Wagnerian passion of the previous movies. Personally, I don't believe the original Star Wars movies are THAT good (Empire is by far the best of the 3), but at least they're good fun. 2001 is, for me, immaculate science fiction. As remarked upon by many people, Phantom is truly a movie for children. I'm prepared for the zillion "not-helpful" votes that will rake against me, but many of the hard-core fans of these movies display a very childish devotion to this cinematic franchise. Whereas once children strove to emulate adults, these puerile people are adults who desire to be children.
However, judging the Phantom Menace by these standards isn't entirely fair. By far the most important legacy of these Star Wars movies is the marketing ploys and techniques that has made the SW movies the biggest things since sliced bread. With the Obi-Wan bathrobes, Darth Vader toy lightsabers, Wookie spaying kit, Luke undergarments, Jar-Jar Binks greatest reggae hits CDs, Han Solo's 12-Step Book on Isolation Therapy, Slave Leia pinups, etc etc, as well as around 2 thousand different versions of these films on video, the Star Wars creator's true talent is for milking the drone-like adherents of his intergalactic Empire. I feel like throwing my battered old Star Wars VHS tapes into the nearest Yoda trash can.
on June 18, 2004
This was a nice way to begin the Star Wars Saga. Immediatly, we are introduced to Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn and of course our main hero, Obi-Wan Kenobi. The film takes off from the Federation Control ship to the awesome Pod Race and then on to the final battle on the planet Naboo. This film is action packed and worthy of being called a Star Wars movie. The characters are well set up for Attack of the Clones and gives us a whole new look on Star Wars. Best Scene: The Three Way duel between Darth Maul, Jinn, and Kenobi is a Star Wars fans dream!
"We'll watch your future with great interest!"
- Chancellor Palpatine to Anakin Skywalker
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 June 29, 2004
I was one of the only people in the world who did not see "The Phantom Menace" in theaters, and instead waited until it came out on video and all the hype had died down. Perhaps this was why I did not see it as a monumental disappointment, since I didn't watch it believing it was going to be the best movie of the year. This is one of the most bashed films of modern times, and I don't think it deserves all of its negative publicity. Ironically, for how bad everyone says it is, Lucas still got what he wanted out of the movie- it's still the highest grossing post-"Titanic" film (though "Shrek 2" is closing fast, and "Spider-Man 2" may reach it also), and was the third-highest grossing film of the 1990's when adjusted for inflation.
I see "The Phantom Menace" as simply an entertaining adventure. It has a criminally slow first half, but some of the scenes in its second half are truly spectacular, such as the pod race and the Darth Maul fight. Everyone says how bad the acting is, but I found most of the actors passable- only Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker irritated me. The special effects are incredible for the most part, and the final space battle leaves you breathless.
Of course, "The Phantom Menace" is not a great movie by any means. Darth Maul was criminally underdeveloped, and the Trade Federation bad guys were dull and lifeless. Whenever Jake Lloyd appeared on the screen, I wondered if I was watching a dumb kids movie. Overall, "The Phantom Menace" simply cannot compare with "The Empire Strikes Back". Then, of course, there's the immortal Jar Jar Binks. If Episode III has a chance of being as successful as the original "Star Wars" films, it will feature Jar Jar's slow and painful death, perhaps replayed over and over again in a flashback.
In the end, "The Phantom Menace" is just a couple hours of good entertainment, neither as bad nor as good as many claim it is. I actually slightly prefer "The Phantom Menace" to "Attack of the Clones", which was boring and too serious for its own good. However, there may be some nostalglia factor there- I miss the days of 1999, when everything was going great and the world had nothing better to do than freak out over the new "Star Wars" movie.
on June 29, 2004
This movie gets a lot of criticism and I understand why: Childish humor, the annoying Jar Jar Binks, and the prevalence of dull dialoque among some not so great actors (e.g., Nathalie Portman (even though she's not bad to look at!), Captain Panaka (why did Lucas even consider him! etc) and even some good actors (Liam Neeson & Ewan McGregor). Despite all that, I think the movie is a fun, fast-paced film that introduces a lot of the aspects that will occur in the sequels. The special effects are notable, but are overwhelming at times. I like the new advancements, but not to the point where the film cannot mesh with the original trilogy. Contrary to many, I think the pod race would have been better if it were shorter. The film definately excels more in the FX department than in the substance department, but really that's what the sequels are for....This film serves to grab your attention and introduce you to the Star Wars universe. Many criticize the plot, but I found the plot no less developed than other SW films. Aside from some of the criticisms, I really appreciate the new different look to the film with more colors, grandiose vistas and flowing designs, and really find the subtle references to future films really thoughtful. Although the film is not as good as the originals (which part of me would rather that it not be as good), the movie is entertaining, fun to watch and definately worthy of the Star Wars title......
on June 23, 2004
Jedi master Qui-Gonn Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), encounter young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) while aiding Queen Amidala's (Nathalie Portman) attempt to break a crippling trade blockade on her planet. They take the future Darth Vader under their wing, setting the stage for future tragedy. Clearly, the universe is about to be plunged into war.
The state-of-the-art special effects provide plenty to look at, but otherwise there is little to recommend this film. The roles are underdeveloped with the result that the cast, which is packed with fine actors, come across as dull because they have nothing to do. I realize that this film is not primarily about characterization, but just think back to the main characters of the original trilogy--Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia--and how much fun it was to watch them interact. Was that because Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher are better actors than anyone in "Phantom Menace?" No, it's because those characters had some fire in them. The characters in this movie just seem to be rushing from scene to scene.
When you've got the resources that writer-director George Lucas has to produce a bang-up action flick, you can pretty much guarantee a certain level of satisfaction if you just let the story build its momentum and stay out of its way. A film with great special effects that just allows itself to be spectacular without derailing itself can pretty much count on getting at least 4 stars from me. However, just as he did with the Ewoks in "Return of the Jedi," Lucas has introduced a character and a race so annoying that I groaned inwardly every time they appeared on screen. I haven't seen "Attack of the Clones" yet, but the prospect of having Jar Jar Binks and the Gunguns inflicted on me again doesn't make me feel any sense of urgency to do so.
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 May 6, 2004
The most eagerly-awaited prequel in movie history, "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" carried so many false hopes into theatres many were bound to be disappointed. But the problem isn't with the movie itself, which is first-rate. There were just too many people who had their own ideas of what the first new Star Wars film in nearly a generation should be like for creator George Lucas to possibly satisfy. Sadly, those persons' negative reviews have somewhat marred an otherwise phenomenal blockbuster, which by any well-reasoned definition is a highly worthy extension of the beloved Star Wars mythos.
Even the film's critics agree that this movie looks spectacular. Lucas spared no expense in the set design and special effects, and the result is simply magical. From the iconic architecture of the planet Naboo to the wastes of Tatooine and the cold reaches of space, everything shimmers with life and you almost feel like you could walk right into the story yourself. Beyond that, the story itself is excellent and in line with the familiar Star Wars formula of good vs. evil on an interplanetary scale. Likewise, the cast is terrific and does a tremendous job. Liam Neeson is an commanding Qui-Gon Jinn who dominates every scene he is in, and Ewan McGregor is also excellent as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi just growing into his full power but clearly destined to be one of the greatest Jedi of all. Natalie Portman's Padme is appealing and believable, and Jake Lloyd is surprisingly effective as the ill-fated Anakin Skywalker. Ian McDiarmid lends a sinister air as the shadowy Senator Palpatine, whose suave elegance barely conceals his true dark nature.
Yes, there is Jar Jar Binks, and while Jar Jar does occasionally strike a funny note he is more often annoying. And young Mr. Lloyd does have to utter some rather painful lines from time to time. But these minor flaws hardly hinder the overall drama, which is quite strong. Particularly moving is Anakin's final dialogue with his mother, when he stands at the crossroads of his destiny and realizes that once he chooses which path to take, he can never look back. Of course there is also the famous pod race, a deadly race against fate that shoots across the Tatooine desert like lightning. The masterful extended climax (divided amongst no less than four different battles)is incredibly exciting. Here young Anakin foreshadows Luke Skywalker's later Death Star heroics, and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan face the diabolical Darth Maul in an incredible display of lightsaber wizardry.
No review of this film would be complete without mention of John Williams's usual fantastic score. The soundtrack is magnificent, one of the most thrilling any movie has ever had, and it should've been used a bit more liberally in "Attack of the Clones."
Not only is the movie great, but the DVD is something special too. There are tons of special features that are sure to enhance what should be an already awesome viewing experience.
Overall, most of the negative press this movie got was undeserved. The characters are strong, the action unceasing, and the final product is nothing less than sensational. If it's not quite as good as the original Star Wars films, "The Phantom Menace" nonetheless recaptures the spirit of those immortal movies and opens a brand new door to wonder and fantasy. Don't be afraid...come on in!