Star Wars Week: The Phantom Menace – The Only Good Prequel

When I brought up to my boyfriend that I wanted to do a marathon of the Star Wars movies before the new film came out, his first reaction was ‘In what order?’ I responded with ‘Chronological order — that way we can get the crappy films out of the way and end with the good ones.’

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JUST LOOK AT HIM

The general consensus is that the prequel films of the Star Wars universe suck. Really, people just don’t like Hayden Christenson as Anakin Skywalker. But for my pre-teen self, he was what made me watch the movie because oh my lord I thought he was cute. Sure, his acting was abysmal, but how could you not fall in love with that adorable face?

However, I get ahead of myself.

Rewatching the prequels, I have come to a conclusion: The Phantom Menace is by far the best of the three. Sure, Jar-Jar is the most annoying in this one out of all of them, but the fight scenes and characters are some of the best. Liam Neeson shines as Qui-Gon Jinn (but how could he not? His characters are always epic), Ewan McGreggor IS Obi-Wan, and unknown Ray Park kills it (literally) as the menace the films title alludes to.

As for strong female characters, Padme takes the cake in this film. Whereas later on she become the damsel Anakin must constantly protect (for the most part anyways), in this film she puts the men to shame. She makes her own choices, stands up for herself, and is a hell of a shot. She singlehandedly orchestrates a huge infiltration of the ‘bad guy lair,’ and kicks some major behind. Unfortunately there aren’t any other female characters (aside from a few female Jedi that pop across the screen every now and then), but at least Padme can hold her own in the world of men.

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Unfortunately, this film is far from perfect. Aside from the lack of female characters, some of the acting is quite laughable, and general motivations of the characters can at times be unclear. However, if you find yourself feeling like you want to fast-forward through this film, DO NOT SKIP THE POD RACING OR THE DARTH MAUL BATTLE.
For the love of God, someone needed to teach little Anakin to act. But the epicness Podraceof the pod race might just make up for that. The look of the pods, the race itself, really puts you in the place of the racers, and that’s really saying something since this film was made in 1999 when CGI was nowhere near as good as it is now.

And the Darth Maul fight. EPIC. Ray Park was ‘contacted by stunt coordinator Nick Gillard to audition for George Lucas’ prequel Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999). darth-maul-vs-obi-wan-oOffered the job by producer Rick McCallum, Park was given the creative freedom to develop his choreography by an impressed Lucas, and was soon gaining the confidence to develop his role to the best of his abilities,’ (IMDB), so basically, Park is ACTUALLY DARTH MAUL. Although the two deaths don’t really make sense fight-choreography-wise, the fights themselves are something to beheld.

The costumes are also out of this world. You really cannot talk about Star Wars and not mention the costumes (…or is that just because I was a costume design major…). The Jedis in tans, the Sith in blacks, Padme in just some of the most epic outfits that have ever been created…the fantasy and reality are grounded in what each character is wearing.

So, all in all, an enjoyable movie. Flaws? Yup. Awesome parts? You bet. Go on, start your own marathon — and get pumped for The Force Awakens!

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2 thoughts on “Star Wars Week: The Phantom Menace – The Only Good Prequel

  1. It’s interesting.

    Out of the prequels, this is the one that is most expendable. All of the important characters introduced in this one are reintroduced in EPII. The conflict is removed from the conflict of II and III, and only serves to set up some minor villains in the other films (and of course is important for The Clone Wars TV show).

    The acting is certainly weakest in this film. I attribute that to heavy Green-Screening and a weak script, since most of the cast are proven actors. The dialogue feels stilted and lacks the humor and depth instantly introduced in EPII and EPIII. But it also lacks a Romance arc, which serves the film well, since the romance between Anakin and Padmé is the weakest part of the other two prequels (and it’s not that the romance itself is a bad story; it’s great in The Clone Wars, but the movies just don’t carry strong enough scripts to sell us on it). The film isn’t as heavy-handed as the later too, and Anakin is more likeable than he was as a creepy stalker guy in his 20s.

    But much of the plot lacks sense or at least tightness – for example, they have an “always a bigger fish” scene followed by the same scene playing out almost identically a few minutes later. The whole travel through the Planet Core seems like filler. Palpatine’s plot is weakest in this film, since it’s unclear what he’s actually trying to do. If he wants to become Chancellor, he NEEDS to Queen to escape Naboo. But so many elements fall to chance, and he has his apprentice, Maul, try to capture her as well – what would be the point in that? I know he’s got a bit of Xanatos-type gambit at his hand, willing to play multiple possible results to his advantage, but it really seems like he’s working against himself. The only good explanation I’ve seen is if Jar Jar is also a Sith Lord, but that (hopefully joking theory) breaks down from a number of issues presented by other canon media (the comics, television shows, and novels).

    Who the main character is is also in question. If it’s Obi-Wan, he shouldn’t be sitting out for a good third of the movie while they’re on Tattoine. If it’s Anakin, he’s introduced too late into the film; he’s missed the first act. If it’s Qui-Gon, well, he’s not the one who changes – everyone else around him changes because of his actions and death. But he’s the mentor-figure, and it’s hard to argue him as the real hero. Padmé is a good choice from what we have; she’s in the film from about the same mark as Luke is in EPIV, and stays a main character through the rest of the film, but she doesn’t change either, nor does she change anyone around her. She’s even less of a central hero than Marty McFly in Back to the Future (who doesn’t seem to have any real character arc, but at least has a physical struggle and changes some of the people around him).

    I really like parts of this film. And when watching these films in conjunction with The Clone Wars, they’re not as bad as I remembered. They really weren’t nearly as bad. But I’m not sure I’d say that “The Phantom Menace” is the best of them.

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