FilmFan’s review published on Letterboxd:
"THE ABILITY TO SPEAK DOES NOT MAKE YOU INTELLIGENT."
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - Spoiler Review
Anakin Skywalker, a young slave strong with the Force, is discovered on Tatooine. Meanwhile, the evil Sith have returned, enacting their plot for revenge against the Jedi.
Now that we are past the original trilogy (which all three of them are mostly well liked or loved), this is where Star Wars gets divisive. As we venture into the prequels and sequels territory, there is certainly going to be argument. This is one where that will happen for sure. The Phantom Menace for many people was an awesome more modern version of star wars with tons of cooler characters and jokes, and for others it was a disappointing childish dumpster fire that was insulting to the original trilogy. There has been a large debate over if this is a good movie or not, and today I will settle it. Here is what I think about Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
The best thing about The Phantom Menace is it builds on the world of Star Wars. It goes deeper into the past of this franchise and shows what the galaxy was like before the Galactic Civil War. We get to learn more about the mythology and see more locations, more gadgets, so many new additions that the world of Star Wars feels infinitely bigger after watching it. This is kind of the film that launched the franchise into having this big complex lore, and you have to give it credit for sort of inventing what this franchise is now. We also get to learn more about the political side of Star Wars and while I think those sequences could have been executed much better, it is interesting to learn about that side of this world. We get to see the Jedi Council as well and look at what the real Jedi were like back in their time. You get to see so much of what was heard about, and make it come to life. This film is just so good at expanding Star Wars way beyond what it was before, for better and for worse.
There are people a part of the cast that are quite good too and I enjoy everyone in their roles. Ewan McGregor is actually a pretty good choice for a younger Obi-Wan. I think he does a great job here. Liam Neeson is also fantastic as Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi Wan's Master. I've of course gained a bit of an appreciation for Liam Neeson after spending like all of february watching his Set of Skills thrillers and you get to see him play that character as always and as a Jedi here. There are a few other good picks (and some bad ones) and that is about it for that.
We also get to see Star Wars with more modern technology and we get much better sequences effects wise. Not all of it looks great but some of it does and it is exciting to see these bigger planets, with bigger landscapes, and much grander battles and what not. The scope and scale was always larger for this franchise but it wasn't fully executed until now. Now we get to see, the real world of Star Wars with updated technology. We get to see a better version of George's vision, for better or for worse once again.
There are some very good sequences in this film too. The lightsaber duel with Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Maul has received criticism for being too choreographed and looking too much like a dance. For me, I think it is a great duel in which it is two jedi who know the deal and are doing what they do best and going along in a good old fashioned duel, knowing all the moves and exactly what to do. It comes off as one of the better duels in the franchise to me because of that. The podracing scene is also really great and an exciting sequence to throw in one of the slower sections of the movie. The actual sequences with the droids and what not are also really good and unpopular opinion, I like the final space battle. It isn't great or anything but it is an entertaining fight. George Lucas isn't a fantastic writer but he is great at directing great sci-fi action sequences.
You also gotta talk about the great score from John Williams. I think he is my favorite composer and all of his Star Wars scores (except for one) are great. This one is no exception. In this one it is more bombastic and action oriented while also incorporating some choir music in and it adds a different flavor to the score. Duel of the Fates is one of the iconic tracks in the franchise and is probably my favorite from this film. No matter what you think of this movie, you can at least admit the score is good.
I really love this franchise and I find it pretty easy to enjoy this film and appreciate it for what it does right. With that being said, I dislike a lot about this movie.
One thing here is that I wish this had better connective glue to the rest of the trilogy. Anakin is younger so he cant start his romance with Padme. Obi Wan and anakin don't interact enough to setup their friendship throughout the trilogy. This film is so standalone compared to the other two and both feels super connected and really not connected to those two at the same time. The clone wars didn't start until the next film and so the next film was kind of doomed to fail because it had to do way more than it should have had to. This is in the mixed because it still feels like a proper introduction and thematic beginning to the prequel trilogy... but it doesn't? Wtf? Can't think of another time i've felt so weird about an aspect about a film.
The biggest thing is all of the weird choices that were made for telling this story. One of the obvious things is Jar Jar Binks and the gungans. They serve no purpose to the story other than to give a giant CGI War at the end and you could easily take them out of the film without changing much. Their section to introduce them goes on way too long and I really hate everything about how these characters talk and their style of their humor. ESPECIALLY JAR JAR. They are so childish and they feel so out of place in this franchise. I wouldn't be this upset about the gungans though if we didn't have to spend THE WHOLE MOVIE with the most annoying one...
Also the stereotypes are SO BAD.
Also, the pacing is not very good. It starts off at a very fast pace but then it slows down so much as we get to tatooine. We go so incredibly fast to so incredibly slow. The pacing eventually pickes up again after about 30 minutes and then slows down again once we get to coruscant and all of the trade talk. It also then finally picks up again for the final battle. So to break it down, we go fast fast fast. slow slow slow slow slow slow, fast fast, slow slow slow slow slow slow, fast fast fast... what. The way this film is cut together you have overly fast and overly slow parts all over the place and it just feels odd.
Moving on from that, the Midichlorians are introduced as a scientific explanation for the force. This isn't inherently a bad idea, I don't really mind them as much and find them as stupid..... until you put it in the context of the franchise. In the original trilogy everything that was cool about the force was how it was this mystical energy and was sort of magic like. It was inspired by a lot of ancient mythology and was one of the most interesting things about this world. When you take away the magical side of it and make it a scientific thing and with video game power levels, it becomes a lot less interesting.
There are just so many weird choices, from making anakin a little boy, to adding weird 5 year old level slapstick and fart jokes in a star wars movie. It is hard to not be frustrated by this movie.
CONCLUSION / FINAL VERDICT:
The Phantom Menace is not a bad movie per say. I like a ton about how it adds more to the world and reinvents the way we look at the franchise. It makes so many big risks and a lot of them pay off, but a lot of them don't. There are so many weird things about this movie that don't make any sense or feel totally out of place. There is so much to get annoyed by inside of this film and so it is one of the more disappointing star wars films when the highs are so high and the lows are so low. It is very difficult to rate this film but for now I will say I do enjoy it and do recommend it I guess, but I can see myself lowering my score just a little bit.
FOR FANS ONLY