Worth A Look: 20.48%
Just Average: 14.71%
Pretty Crappy: 15.23%
39 reviews, 718 user ratings
|Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace
Five months after the fact, and the cinematic abortion known as 'The Phantom Menace' continues to haunt me--more traumatizing than when the department-store Santa told me there was no God, more disappointing than the dim shadow between Sharon Stone's legs in 'Basic Instinct,' TPM was an experience it'll likely take me years to recover from. I should forward my psychiatrist bills straight to George Lucas.The 'Episode I' phenomenon I experienced first-hand, working at a theater at the time it opened, and it's something I'll never forget, no matter how many psychoactive substances I try to wash the memories away with.
"I wept for 2 weeks. Then the meds kicked in."
Fans camped out the night before tickets went on sell and again before the first screenings. There was electricity in the air, it was contagious, like a feeling of mass hysteria--except in a good way because nobody was being raped, beaten or lynched. This was an EVENT! Very few movies spark that reaction in people, a feeling that they're going to be taken someplace and shown things they've never quite experienced before.
Come a few minutes past midnight, May 19, as I cleaned a pile of trash the overenthusiastic crowd had inadvertently strewn into the lobby, I suddenly heard the Star Wars theme blast throughout the theater and the sound of an entire audience erupting in ecstatic, orgasmic approval. I got goose bumps. I was witness to cinematic history.
Before seeing the movie for myself, I was exposed to various people's mixed reactions. All my fellow employees who'd seen it loved it, which was promising, but it was being maligned in the press. The most ominous omen was when someone waiting in line dismissed the movie's critics by saying that Star Wars fans don't care about plot or characters, they just wanna see "what new special effects George Lucas has to show us." His friends agreed. WHAT?! Were these people for real? Did they sit around watching A New Hope exclaiming, "Lookit! 'Nother rocket ship blewd up! It done blewd up good! Me likum fire, fire pur-dee!" Surely, I told myself, these people weren't true Star Wars fans.
A week after its release I plunked down my four matinee dollars (movie-theater employees weren't allowed passes till eight weeks after its release--as far as I know the only movie EVER to include such a provision) and entered the theater full of hope. I had lowered my expectations a notch, but was still hoping for some good solid entertainment, at LEAST four dollars worth....
I should have snuck in.
It started promising enough. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn certainly knew how to kick ass Jedi-style. So far so good (even if the Trade Federation reps sounded like they were being dubbed by Woody Allen ala 'What's Up, Tiger Lily'--hey, maybe Lucas INTENDED it to be funny[?]). Then the Jedi landed on Naboo and hooked up with Roger Rabbit-on-crack.... Two hours later children throughout the theater could be heard asking, "Mommy? Daddy? Why is that weird, ugly man in the back-row crying?" Sure enough I'd been reduced to weeping and incoherent blubbering, and believe me these were no tears of joy.
How to express my disappointment? I didn't hate the movie; I WAS entertained by it. The FX were incredible (the depiction of Coruscant is almost exactly how I imagined the world of Trantor in Isaac Asimov's 'Foundation' series), and parts of the movie were almost good. Definitely worth at least two of the four dollars I paid--well, maybe a dollar fiddy.
The plot: what the fuck was it about? It felt like a story taken over by footnotes with all the essential action taking place peripherally. Are we really supposed to give a frick about the Trade Federation taking over Naboo? Queen Amidala spends half the movie lamenting on how she needs to save her people. WHAT PEOPLE? Nobody lived on this entire planet except the Queen and her servants and military--and those oh-so-wacky Jamaican duck-frogs.
And really, the bulk of the plot--their trip to Coruscant (and layover on Tatooine)--has nothing to do with the beginning and end. They come back to Naboo and fight the Trade Federation with the same resources they had before they left, with the exception of Anakin Skywalker. So really the bulk of this movie is just a lame-ass excuse to introduce Darth Vader as a nauseatingly adorable moppet (though a muppet or a sock-puppet would have been preferable to this unkosher little ham). And there was nothing believable about this kid piloting a fighter and *accidentally* destroying the droid's power reactor. His life was never in any danger, he was whoopin' and hollering like he was playing some goddamned video game--hell, most kids ACTUALLY playing Star Wars games react with more intensity than this Jake Lloyd did. Just fucking awful!
Jar Jar Binks--I think enough has been said about how much this CGI abomination ruined every scene it was in. No, I take that back, I don't think enough bad things can EVER be said about this character. And I don't think nearly enough has been said about what an offensive black caricature he was. I don't care if the person who voiced Jar Jar WAS black, he still sounded like a Jamaican crackhead as seen through the eyes of a Klansman. The scene that still makes me cringe just thinking about it is when Qui-Gon talks the frog-leader into letting Jar Jar guide them through the planet's core and Jar Jar, suddenly sounding like Flavor Flav on helium, says: "Count mesa outta dis! Better dead here, den deader in da core...Yee guds, whata mesa sayin?! Yo, word to your mutha!" I half expected him to start getting "jiggy" with it. The only thing he was missing was a pair of sunglasses, like that Poochie character they tried adding to Itchy & Scratchy on the Simpsons.
On my breaks I'd go into TPM and pray that this time--JUST MAYBE THIS TIME--Qui-Gon would have the sense of mind to jump over Jar Jar and let him get run over by the hover-tank-thingy. (Any animal with so poor a sense of self-preservation really deserves to be killed--Qui-Gon was disrupting natural selection!) "Please God," I'd think to myself, "let it happen this time. Oh dear God please!" Of course I was deluding myself, but a person's entitled to dream aren't they?
But probably the most offensive part of this movie was that it totally squandered the acting talents of Samuel L. Jackson. (Not to mention Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Terence Stamp and Oskar Schindler.) Not only that, but he was BAD in the movie. This is the only movie I've ever seen Sam Jackson give a bad performance in! I can understand why he wanted to be in the movie--who wouldn't?--but still, you'd think they'd have given him better lines than "That is the clue we need to unravel this mystery of the Sith." Good God!
They SHOULD HAVE cast Sam Jackson as Darth Maul--he would have been a hundred times scarier than that gymnastics wuss in the KISS make-up. Hell, Sam Jackson is terrifying reading Biblical text. Of course it's simply unnatural for Sam Jackson not be able to swear like a motherfucker, so they could have invented fictional swear words for him, like, "I'm gonna stick my lightsaber so far up your lucass you'll be shitting blood for a week, you hippie cocksucker!" Er, well, you get the idea.
Here's a random list of the rest of my complaints:
-- There was no real sense of adventure or fun. Everyone, with the notable exception of Har Har, was dour and serious. It was like a pretentious, badly-acted Swedish film with special effects.
-- No sex! I'm not saying I wanted to see Yoda trying to hump R2D2's leg or nothin' (well, okay, maybe I would, but hey that's just me!), but apparently sex doesn't even exist in Lucas' universe--witness the ridiculously Biblical notion of Anakin's "immaculate conception." We better get to see Anakin and Queen Amidala doing the bump-and-grind in Episode II or I'm gonna be superpissed!
-- Why'd they have to introduce Darth Vader at the bland age of nine? If Lucas really wanted to show us the dark side bubbling beneath the surface, he should have made Anakin an awkward thirteen-year-old. Everyone knows that the true root of evil isn't found in Elementary School, but in Junior High!
-- All the human extras in the Pod Race scene looked like rejects from 'Road Warrior' rip-offs!
-- And what was up with that little green guy? He looked like a reject from the original Cantina scene!
-- The two-headed ESPN sports-announcer said 'Now that's gotta hurt' and started rotating its heads "jiggy"-style!!
-- The Jedi Council. Boring! All they do is sit in a circle and mutter Lucas' inane dialogue!
-- Queen Amidala. Boring! It can't be easy to be the fourteen-year-old Queen of an entire planet, even if the only occupants of the planet are your servants and some Jamaican frogs. All Natalie Portman did was pout and look unhappy. C'mon--even Queens (and especially queens) like to get down and disco sometimes!
-- Obi-Wan Kenobi. Boring! Even the very promising prospect of witnessing his Jedi initiation trial is completely glossed over. Ewan McGregor deserves better than to stand in the background looking alternately bemused and confused.
-- The Sith! Who are they? More info please! Why is Lucas saving all the good stuff for the next two movies? Throw us a bone, man!
-- Qui-Gon and Darth Maul are both killed at the end! Are we supposed to care? Qui-Way-Gon was way too hippieish (not to mention one-dimensional, like all the characters) to feel sympathy for, and Darth Maul was in the movie for all of three frickin minutes, and his two lines were "Yes Master."
-- Merchandising! The only items missing were Annakin Skywalker birth-control pills, Qui-Jin tai-chi instructional videos, and Jar Jar Binks suicide kits.
-- Originality! Everything is based on the viewer's knowledge of the first trilogy. Can you imagine having never seen the first trilogy and then watching TPM? You'd be like, 'What the hell is this crap? Is any of this supposed to make sense?' Granted, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were also based on the assumption that the viewer had seen the original Star Wars, but Menace is the first of the PREQUALS! It's the very first chapter in this story! And so, call me crazy for thinking so, but shouldn't TPM have had a complete and satisfying story on its own individual merits?
I could go on but (sniffle, whimper) it's too damn depressing. For some of the things I didn't cover, read PhlooG and OZ's reviews.
OMIGOD, WHY DIDN'T THEY CONSULT *ME* BEFORE MAKING THIS MOVIE!!?I may be emotionally scarred for life. Lucas, you bastard, you'll be hearing from my attorneys!
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=723&reviewer=177
originally posted: 10/23/99 11:24:39
|Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.