After just finishing the first episode of the Star Wars saga, The Phantom Menace, I do notice the step down in quality from the original trilogy of films. Unfortunately for this film, it has gained the reputation of being the worst in the franchise and is notorious for how bad people think it is. When I was younger I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about, probably because I found Jar Jar Binks funnier than he actually was, but now the cracks seem to have appeared. Although, there are 1000s of online reviews moaning about the poor quality of this film , so I’m going to take side with the minority. However, difficult it may be, I’m going to dissect the positive aspects of this infamously bad film.
I think one of the main issues that people have with the film is the slightly dull plot. The originals had us running around the galaxy, evading evil and sweeping up beautiful Princesses for good measure. The Phantom Menace is full of extended dialogue about trade routes and general politics, which doesn’t sound good compared with the previous instalments. In a perfect world the action could continue, but we need to remember the aim of the first three episodes. Ultimately, we are looking into the origins of Darth Vader. We couldn’t be thrown straight into another conquest of good vs evil, if evil hasn’t presented itself yet. And although the Trade Federation discussing plans isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, the course of events lead us to liberate the future Sith Lord from Tatooine, as well as setting him on same course of Padme. The rest of the film is padding for this main story, we should just be grateful for the war scenes and a glimpse of a new Sith Lord.
That’s one point that needs to be highlighted, we finally get an impressive war scene. The Droid Army’s assault on Naboo as well as the Gungan’s attack are the first true war scenes we witness in the Star Wars universe. As the CGI as improvised vastly we get to see the Droid Army constructed and fighting on a battlefield. We have seen numerous space assaults and Death Star destructions, so it had to be time to get onto a proper battlefield and fight! Admittedly, a lot of the fight is dictated by the actions of Jar Jar but there’s plenty to enjoy with blue orbs melting Droid tanks and Droids alike.
I think the continuity between Phantom Menace has to be treated as a form of relief for many Star Wars fans. With many aspects of the film being off-key, at least George Lucas made a point of showing us how the film fits within the same cinematic universe. It could have been done a bit more imaginatively than dropping us back on Tatooine and showing us the same characters that inhabited there last time, but still we get to revisit a weird and wonderful city, that (short of a Cantina Band) takes us back to the same feeling of the original films.
So if we look past all the dislike for Phantom Menace there is a few things we need to be thankful for. The one thing that cannot be excused is the quick dispatch of the ridiculously cool Darth Maul. He is given less than 10% screen time and although he kills Liam Neeson, he had so much potential as a future Sith Lord. It’s a real shame the wielder of the double-ended lightsaber had to crash and burn so easily. But overall, arguably a lower standard of film, but an essential one none the less. What did you think of Phantom Menace, can you find any good points from this film?