Tuesday, July 21, 2015


"Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (1999)
Directed by George Lucas

   I am going to do something right now that many would not dare. I am going to defend "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace". Before I open this potential can of worms, let me share my opinion of what a Star Wars film is intended to be. My theory is that they are films with a young audience in mind. As far back as "A New Hope", George Lucas made action figures for this franchise. This is back in the seventies, when adult toy collectors weren't a thing yet. When you offered toys, you actually meant them to be for children. There were no action figures for "The Godfather", that was a film for adults. "Star Wars" was for the kids. I also think that "The Phantom Menace" was not meant for grown-ups either. I think George still thinks of his outer space films as movies for kids.
   Back in 1999, many of the people who saw "The Phantom Menace" for the first time were actual children. Have you ever had a conversation about a film with a six year old? Spoiler alert: it won't be very intellectual. Kids don't always have the most discerning taste. What does that mean, exactly? That means that kids back in 1999, actually liked Jar Jar Binks. If people are nostalgic about their childhood, there must be a whole generation that not only likes "The Phantom Menace", but even prefer it to any of the films in the original trilogy. This may sting, but don't let it.
   Why are we so hard on "The Phantom Menace"? Is it as bad as people think? As a member of the generation that grew up with the original trilogy, I do NOT hate this movie. Any time I see something in it that I dislike, I remind myself of two things:
1. This film was not made for me. As I established earlier, I believe it was made for someone much younger than me.
2. George Lucas made "Star Wars" when he was a young man. He made "The Phantom Menace" as a middle aged man. Not all film makers get better with age.
   Although I think this film is somewhat flawed, it's still fun. Here are some things that I like about it:

Darth Maul: He is scary looking, his double-sided light saber is bad-ass and he fights like a possessed ballerina.
Qui-Gon Jinn: This Jedi elder is much more physical than Obi-Wan in "A New Hope". He's inspirational. He delivers my favorite line, "There's always a bigger fish."
The Pod Race: Parts of it, like the two headed commentator make me cringe, but the race itself is exciting and the podracers look cool.
Subulba: The cheating podracer pilot that walks with his hands. I love this creep.
Watto: The junk dealer: "What? You think you're some kind of Jedi, waving your hand around like that?" This guy is funny. What a great voice!
"Duel of the Fates": Music Composer John Williams hits a home run with this theme. This music roars epicness!
Darth Maul vs Qui-Gon & Obi-Wan: Amazing light saber duel! My favorite moment in this scene is seeing what each participant does the moment that they are all forced to take a break.
The eager pacing of Darth Maul, the tension of Obi-Wan and the Zen-like calm of Qui-Gon.
   These things are more than enough to qualify "The Phantom Menace" as not only a movie that I enjoy, but one that I think people should lighten up on. If it's been a while since you have watched it, why not give it a second chance? Who knows, if you didn't like it before, maybe you'll hate it just a little bit less this time.

(Artwork by Isaac Keith Martinez)

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