On the Way to Episode VII: The Phantom Menace

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Check out the rest of this series:
- Attack of the Clones

As I get ready to go to "The Force Awakens", I decided to watch all 6 previous Star Wars movies in 'order.' Here are my thoughts on 'The Phantom Menace."

First off, my kids love it. They love Jar Jar, they love Anakin. (I think they may feel differently when he slaughters a bunch of children in the Jedi Temple.)

In Many Ways, It's Really Terrible
I often find myself defending Episode I. It's not that it's a good movie or that I love it, but I think some of the criticisms are ridiculous. I will not accept the following criticisms:

  • The dialogue is cheesy. Yes it is. And so was the dialogue in the original trilogy. A Star Destroyer commander says this as the Rebel ships flee Hoth in "Empire Strikes Back": "Good. It's our first catch of the day." You just forget how bad the dialogue was because you love the movies so much.
  • The political system is dumb. Stop it. It's an over-the-top space opera, not a Tom Clancy novel.
  • The Jedi seem like bumbling idiots. Yes, and that makes perfect sense. The Jedi were going to lose to Palpatine. If they were completely competent, that would not be believable. The Jedi Order needed to be flawed and blind to Palpatine's machinations. 

But there are plenty of valid criticisms. Those include (but are not limited to):

  • Jar Jar Binks. No, he is not a Sith Lord. He's just a terrible character who talks like the Olsen twins when they toddlers on "Full House."
  • There's no main character. Who's story is this? Anakin and Padme? They're hardly in the first act. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon? I don't know, and that's a story telling problem.
  • Fart and poop jokes. It started in "Return of the Jedi" and it kept going here.
  • Too much CGI. I love CGI, but throughout the prequels, Lucas & Co. did not use enough practical effects. And the CGI of 1999 wasn't good enough to do that yet. 
  • Metachlorians

There are Some Things That Rock in Episode I

  • Seeing Jedis in action. The opening sequence when we get to see a young apprentice Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon take down some droids and almost melt down a blast door. Awesome.
  • Podracing. If you ignore the obnoxious announcers and the voice acting, the scene provides spectacular action.
  •  The battle with Darth Maul. I get there are walkways without rails. I realize the layout of the building makes no sense. And it's still one of the best scenes in any of the Star Wars movies, a perfect blend of action and music.
  • The music. John Williams could have mailed this in and collected his paycheck. He did not.
  • Qui-Gon. Liam Neeson is good as a rebellious Jedi. He and Ewan McGreoger turn in performances as good as anything in the original trilogy.

I know. Some of you hate Episode I with a burning hatred. You hate Mace Windu. You hate that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon went through the ocean repeating the same scene twice. You hate that George Lucas disappointed you.

But it's not a terrible movie, just a mediocre one. Unfortunately for most Star Wars fans, that was enough of a crime for it to become one of the most ridiculed films in geekdom.