'The Phantom Menace' Turns 15: Every Moment That Made 'Star Wars' Fans Die Inside
Unlike Matthew McConaughey's acting, Star Wars: Episode 1 doesn't get better with age. It's not the worst of the money-grabbing prequels (I'm looking at you, Episode 2), but it laid the groundwork for a truly horrendous trilogy. Rewatching it as an adult is just as painful as it was when I was 8, proving that my parents raised me on a steady diet of the original trilogy and cynicism. I also despise any situation that forces Liam Neeson to have long hair, and I have since I was young. It's just not a good look on him.
Of course there are thousands of other Solophiles and New Hope cultists who hate The Phantom Menace with equal or greater fervor who will rue its fifteenth anniversary with greater ire than I can muster. But this hatred could lead to some very exciting hate-watching, which will of course end with a marathon of the original trilogy. So if you are a Star Wars superfan who's going to rewatch Darth Vader's stiffly-performed origin story, you will need to keep an eye out for all of the moments that make The Phantom Menace so enraging. They might make you question your stance on whether George Lucas should be allowed extend the franchise even further.
Harrison Ford isn't in it
I know this is obvious, but almost every movie is made better with a dose of Harrison Ford. His ruggedness and gruff sense of humor can ground any script, and he's as cute as a teacup pig in a sweater set. Even though the plot would have to include some serious twists allow Harrison in, it might have been worth it. Then again, he did star in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, so it would have been a gamble.
Jar Jar Binks
I didn't want to dwell on Jar Jar when I rewatched Star Wars 1, but the movie forces your eyes to sit through almost two and a half hours of his obnoxiousness. This is the movie where viewers to sit painfully by while Jar Jar does his vaguely racist accent when talking to his family. We also have to listen to Jar Jar's apologies and "so rudes" while trying to enjoy the world's least exciting plot development.
Plenty of great work has already been done on Jar Jar's status as a racist stereotype and the generally awful race politics of the Star Wars universe, so I'll just restate the obvious--giving aliens "accents" and "cultures" that create caricatures of groups of human beings is wrong. Whether you think Jar Jar is an affront or just obnoxious, you have to admit that Lucas got lazy when he wrote him into the script.
I remembered that Anakin is obnoxious when he grows up and falls in love with Padme, but I had forgotten how obnoxious he was as a little kid. He sounds like he's delivering lines for a parent-friendly commercial, and his default express is a smizing pout. I don't like Anakin, from childhood to Vaderdom, and perhaps that's a good thing.
This is a problem with all sci-fi "prequel" series made years after the original films: the filmmaking technology gets better, but the technology in the film has to look older than the original movies. Since the original Star Wars was a revolution in special effects, it would seem logical for George Lucas to try to be as true to the original movie magic as possible. But of course, Lucas was more interested in being flashy than being true to himself, so we got spaceships, droids, and blasters that look like they were created 50 years after The Empire Strikes Back.
Also, R2D2 and C3PO's relationship seems a little thin in this installment. Lucas, you either have to recapture the magic of their bromance or leave them out of the film.
I know the Leia was occasionally obnoxious in the original trilogy. Her constant flirting-then-fighting with Hans and her spoiled brat personality could get grating, especially if you're 3 hours into a straight-through Star Wars marathon. But even if Leia was occasionally annoying, her character beats Queen Amidala/Padme any day. Nathalie Portman is stiff, her lines are cliche, and her action scenes are too little, too late. I judged her for taking the role back in 1999, and I'm still judging her today.
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