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.’
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.
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 of 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). Offered 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!