Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace ★★★½

Wipe them out. All of them.

I will never for the life of me completely understand why so many people love to hate the prequel trilogy. Sure, they pale in comparison to the original trilogy, and it has quite a few issues, but in the end it's nothing but fantastic fun. Sure, "everyone's ninth favorite Gungan" Jar-Jar Binks feels like the worst and most unnecessary addition to any franchise since Schumacher put nipples on the bat-suit, but at least The Phantom Menace has some awesome redeeming qualities. Not to mention that it was literally a staple of my childhood.

Now, there are a few things in this film that completely save it from being an unmitigated disaster: Liam Neeson, the Pod Race, and "Duel of the Fates." Even the worst live action Star Wars film has superior sound effects and visual qualities that hallmark the best parts of any Star Wars film. The biggest problem with this film, of course, was Jar-Jar Binks. Like really, am I the only one who actually doesn't mind young Anakin? He's a kid, not Ben Kingsley. He's not supposed to deliver a fantastic performance because he is a kid who is being thrown into a new life and environment. And who doesn't like that pod race? The sound effects are superb, especially when listening with a 5.1 surround sound system. John Williams, as always, delivers to the max. His powerful orchestral score booms throughout this film, adding the perfect tension and just the right atmospheres to each scene. Even the worst parts are tolerable with his music, and he is what makes Star Wars what it is.

The biggest problem with the prequel trilogy is that it delved way too deeply into the politics of the galactic republic. This was much more capitalized in Attack of the (Drones), but it definitely is present in this first film. Lucas was trying too hard to set up the political situation present in the original trilogy, and I feel like he got a little carried away with what may have originally been meant to be a simple subplot. Still, it's definitely a problem with the prequels, and it prevents any of them from reaching the glory of the original two films.

I can see why some people dislike the prequels, especially this one. Some of the characters are subtly racist emulations of foreign cultures, and they come off a rather stupid and unnecessary. Fortunately, these characters don't bear a huge presence in the films, focusing more on the heroic Jedi and the dark Sith Lords, as they should. This definitely isn't the worst of the post-Return of the Jedi Star Wars films, but it does have its problems. For me, this film made up a significant piece of my childhood, so I always have held a special place in my heart for it. The prequels aren't as inherently awful to me as people like to think they are, and I commend George Lucas for at least attempting to make a decent backstory for the hero of the original trilogy. It's fun while it lasts, and always brings back great childhood memories for me.

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