Guru Review: 'The Phantom Menace'
With the release of THE LAST JEDI, a lot of people have asked for my review of the film. It was then that it occurred to me I haven't released my official review for any of the Star Wars films. So, I will start with EPISODE I and give my official review of each movie. There will be major spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen the film.
EPISODE I is a very lighthearted film, and one of the more humorous movies of the Star Wars saga. For those who watched the Original Trilogy first, the comedy is not like that in the first three Star Wars films. We get a lot of slapstick comedy, especially in the form of Jar Jar Binks.
This isn't a bad thing, though. Even the Original Trilogy had plenty of humor, but it's no doubt the Prequel Trilogy, and THE PHANTOM MENACE in particular, included more upbeat and funny moments than its predecessor.
THE PHANTOM MENACE is responsible for introducing us to a few iconic Star Wars characters, and showing us some iconic moments. One of those icons, is the character Darth Maul.
There is no doubt in my mind that Darth Maul is probably one of the most iconic Prequel Trilogy characters. Mind you, this is a character who has about 15 minutes of screen time, in a film that has a run time of 136 minutes. This also leads to one of the few complaints I have on the film. I would have certainly given Darth Maul more of a presence in this film. It's easy for me to say that in hindsight, though. I must admit, it does works well for the movie to keep his presence to a minimum. Helps keep a sense of mystery around Maul.
One of the many iconic moments in Star Wars is the podrace from EPISODE I.
It was a brilliant showcase of visual effects. As always, Star Wars leads the pack when it comes to pushing the limits of technology. Sadly, with time, sometimes these limits can be obvious when comparing them to modern day effects. Keep in mind this film came out in 1999. Most of the CGI in this film still looks amazing to this day, but there are some moments where digital effect is obvious digital effect. This isn't a knock to the movie, though, since every film that uses CGI will face this same issue. To this day, I do not know how THE PHANTOM MENACE lost to THE MATRIX for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
Speaking of things that don't age well. My biggest problem with THE PHANTOM MENACE was the Yoda puppet from the theatrical version. This is no longer an issue now that Yoda has been updated to CG in the final version of the film.
I thank the Force everyday for Lucas making this change. I don't want to take anything away from the people who created the puppet. They put their love into it, but it just felt out of place to me.
Let's turn our attention to the actual story and plot. The film is a set up to a larger story. It can be slow at times, since it has to provide the audience with exposition and it has to set up the story that follows. Yes, there is a lot of in-universe political talk, but to me this is just lore building. It helps me understand the type of world our characters live in. People wanted to see the Jedi and the Republic in its glory days, and we got that with this film. But that means seeing them during boring times (when trade disputes are the type of troubles Jedi have to deal with not war). This also helps the viewer understand why it is a difficult transition for the Jedi to all of a sudden become generals in a galaxy wide war.
The acting in EPISODE I is just as good and bad as the Original Trilogy. None of the actors/actresses in any of the Trilogies are going to win Oscars for their Star Wars performances, let's be honest. I don't watch any of the Star Wars film and think, "wow these folks should win an Oscar." I still love them all to death, though.
Overall, EPISODE I gets a 96 out of 100. That's a grade "A" in my book. It's a very family friendly episode, that might upset the serious adult types who want a dark and gritty film. Watch THE PHANTOM MENACE on DVD and Blu-Ray or digital.