|Title:||Star Wars: The Phantom Menace|
|02.25.17||Blu-ray|| Molly and I are playing through the early Lego Star Wars games and it has us in a mood to watch the series again. It's been long enough and I've been looking for an excuse to watch these Despecialized Editions that I got. The only downside is that we figured it'd be better to go through the prequels first (lest we may give up halfway through otherwise). So what'd I think of episode 1 with ~17 years of added perspective?|
Whoa. Has it been longer now since Episode 1 came out than the time between Return of the Jedi and Phantom Menace? I don't really want to think about that...
So, I actually liked this a bit more than expected. Maybe it's just knowing what to expect, maybe it's having the distance to see the good and separate it from the bad... who knows. Here's a list of things that I liked:
-John Williams killed it with that Duel of the Fates. To take a score as already beloved as Star Wars and add something that feels like it fits while simultaneously bringing in something fresh and new must've been quite a task, and I think he really nailed it. The Darth Maul fight scene has about 30 seconds of actual cool fight footage, but the music makes it feel like an actual good scene with tension and everything.
-All the Naboo and early-republic design; both costume and art or whatever you call the ships and weapons and stuff. Maybe it's the mastering on this Blu-Ray but the CG feels less fuzzy than I remember it being and straight up... the amount of interesting design on display here is super impressive. I think if I have to pick the absolute best trait of all of the Star Wars universe, it'd be the ship design. I mean it's no wonder that it spawned a whole generation of boys raised on playing with the toys of these great things like X-Wing fighters and Millenium Falcons and Star Destroyers. While nothing in this movie is quite so nameable and toy-worthy as in the original trilogy, it still displays a new yet fitting part of this galaxy full of different culture and design.
-And in more of a general note, I feel like George Lucas deserves massive credit for coming up with all this stuff. I'm sure on this one he had an army of geeks raised on Star Wars grateful for the chance to add their hard work to the world but it still all starts with Lucas' imagination and a lot of this stuff is pretty cool.
So that's the good. I'm not really going to list out everything that I didn't like this time around. That's a long list. The performances suffer, the dialogue's poor, the editing is uneven and stilted, we watch pod racing for like 20 minutes even though it baaarely has anything to do with anything, Jar Jar feels like he's trying to appeal to 6 year olds but then we get treated to a lot of boring scenes talking about trade blockades and senate bureaucracy, etc. etc. etc. Instead I'll just mention a few things that stood out for me this time:
-Those accents. The Trade Federation dudes and the Gungans. Why are they not speaking some completely different gibberish of a language. It's not like anyone ever complained that Chewbacca's grunts aren't linguistically sound. I think the Gungan language bothers me the most because you could say that the Trade Federation dudes have their own language but they prefer to speak in English (or "common") with their accent (which pretty much everyone else does through all 6 movies) but this weird half-jamaican patois Gungan weirdness is really stupid and bothersome and sounds irritating and is like half the reason why Jar Jar is so grating.
-the randomness still really really bothers me. Anakin hits a button and wins the battle. Ugh. I feel like I read somewhere - it either came from Pixar or... I think it was Pixar - where you could get someone into trouble through luck but not out of it. It makes total sense to me. 85% of Hitchcock's movies involved some innocent guy getting into trouble through no fault of his own... but 0% of Hitchcock's movies have him get out of it just as unwittingly. It feels cheap when that happens. Case in point right here.
So that's that. We'll see how the next five goes.
|04.09.11||DVD|| I'm playing through Lego Clone Wars right now and it's a really fun game. It's made me want to catch up on the TV show and movie that I never saw, so while those are enqueued, I realized that Molly had only vague memories of all the Star Wars movies so all the ships and characters are completely lost on her. So we had to start at the beginning.|
It's weird how the original trilogy seems like three distinct movies to me but the prequels seem like one big one. I guess knowing how the trilogy progresses forgives some of the initial disappointment of Phantom Menace, but watching it again now makes the multiple fatal flaws so evident.
There's trying to make it a kid's movie but having a plot convoluted enough for some adults not to understand, there's introducing perhaps the most badass evil character in all of cinema since Darth Vader then killing him off in a really really lame fight sequence, and there's even showing the jedi in their heyday but excluding them from every major action piece in the movie (i'm not counting the duel with Darth Maul because it's just too painful to consider effective. Lots of awkward jumps and waiting with maybe 20 seconds of actual saber fighting, much of which is Maul doing sideways cartwheels and Liam Neeson trying his best), but really what it all comes down to is that George Lucas is not a good writer or director.
It's funny to see that Molly liked Jake Lloyd, mostly because of his pie face when he doesn't have to talk. She also thought that Ewan MacGregor was a horrible actor. It sort of made me realize that everyone is terrible here. Natalie Portman, Liam neeson, everyone. Sam Jackson is the only one with any kind of comfort on screen but that's just because he's doing his own thing. So it's sort of like when the whole class fails a test: it says more about the teacher than the students. The dialogue is horrific. Luckily, the design is top notch and it was fun to see everything that we've been playing in Lego form on the screen.
So yeah, still bad, but I was able to pick out elements and contexts that made it surprisingly bearable.