Star Wars Episode Seven: The Force Awakens is quickly approaching. I grew up watching the original trilogy and I was still a kid when I went to go watch the first three episodes in theatres. I loved Star Wars as a kid, but it never stuck with me. As I got older I never returned to them, even though they forever held a place in my heart. That needed to change. I certainly have not been caught up in the Star Wars mania of late, but that doesn’t mean I’m not on board. The thought of more Star Wars excites me. Which is exactly why I needed to sit down and rewatch the entire saga. So every week for the next six weeks, I will be posting a review.
I wasn’t even nine years old when The Phantom Menace hit theatres, but I remember the hype. There was a fever pitch of excitement even in my little kiddie world. There was merchandise everywhere. However, what really excited me was that there was a kid my age getting in on the action. As a kid I remember relating to Anakin and caring for him, not yet making the connection that he would one day be the creepy man in black. In the years following, it became clear that people despised not just The Phantom Menace, but all the prequels. It made me even more curious to dive further into it.
Now it’s over 15 years later and I have to admit, I can’t recall why so many people hated it. I’m planning on making an entire post on why people didn’t like the prequeals once I’ve finished all six movies, but with one movie down I’m not sure why. It was light and fun. There was some interesting commentary. It featured a willful female character who would be damned not to stand up for herself. A kid who was fierce in spite of odds and wasn’t afraid of his own feelings. menors who sought help. All of that overlyaed on top of a backdrop of troubles with politics. It featured groups of people who worked together for a common good. Most importantly it had so many characters that there was something for everything to attach to. 15 years later, while I didn’t fall in love with The Phantom Menace, I still enjoyed it.
So, I don’t completely understand the hatred, unless it spawns from people feeling a sense of entitlement that they garnered from the original trilogy. The Phantom Menace was fun. But this is a review and I want to at least address some of the elements people pose as a problem as well as something that I liked.
Jar Jar Binks
If there was any character who was completely out of his own control it was Jar Jar. He was a klutz, he wasn’t to bright, and his fate seemed to be ruled by luck either good or bad. He was a fool. Now if people don’t like Jar Jar because he was a fool then fine. There is no denying that Jar Jar as an individual was harmless and mainly a source of comic relief. Many movies have these sorts of characters, so that in itself shouldn’t be a problem. Now if you take Jar Jar as offensive because he serves as a representative of a group that is considered other, then I could see. He’s hapless and to assert that his race was nothing but that is rather a negative detriment. If you pull that as a real world analogy it is a slight. However, as you meet various other gungans it is clear that Jar Jar is a mess all of his own. The gungans have varied personalities and many of them seem more than competent. So I circle back to, if you hate that a character was brought in to be comic relief then fine. Personally, I didn’t find many of his high jinks amusing, but I felt bad for his string of bad luck. I certainly didn’t hate him, even if I could have done without.
There are a lot of people who hate that the ability to use the force was explained through the use of mitochlorians. A subatomic living force within every person. Those with more use the force while those who have less presumably never know the better. From my understanding a lot of people think that the explanation was stupid. While I will give them that it could be considered unnecessary, throwing in reason to explain the inexplicable, I was not bothered. I quite like that it was included. It gave reason to why some people are capable of things like this and some aren’t. It doesn’t make these people any less “special” but it makes them have some reason for it. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the chosen one trope unless there’s a reason behind it. Mitochlorians may not have been what many people wanted to hear, but even so they can just forget it if they so please.
It had been a long time since I had seen Star Wars. I remembered very little. The one thing I did remember clearly was the pod racing. Something about it when I was a kid must have just stuck with me. As I watched the pod racing now, I found that it was just as entertainng, but I couldn’t help but pick apart who the pseudo chariot racing didn’t always make sense. The pod racing took up a large chunk of the movie. When you really think about it, there reallly wasn’t a whole lot of a point. We spent forever on Tatooine as they tried to get parts. While it did give us time to get to know Anakin, it really did nothing for the plot. It was a giant detour that was largely unnecessary in the movie. Even still, I’m kind of glad it was there because it did leave an impression.
Overall, I quite enjoyed The Phantom Menace. It was by no means a masterpiece. The number of times I laughed unintentionally was far too high, but I had fun. And thus, I think The Phantom Menace did what it was supposed to. I was supposed to have fun. It was supposed to evoke a sense of wonder and it did. There were things that could have been tightened and more focused, but I enjoyed what I received. I know I’m sure to insight rage in hardcore fans who will see my enjoyment as blasphemy, but I could care less.