In Defence Of The Phantom Menace

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I’m going to get a lot of flack for this but please hear me out on this. Today I purchased a copy of Rogue One on DVD, but instead of popping it in the DVD player I decided to do the whole Star Wars saga, not including the cartoons and godawful Ewok movies. As this years Star Wars Day (May the Fourth get it) falls on election day (where I will be working harder than Jabba The Hutt’s roll on deodorant) on went the Phantom Menace and even before I got off the start menu, I was thinking how much I hate Jar Jar Binks.

And that was the problem, I was judging the whole film on this one annoying character. The story is actually pretty interesting, an unseen faction pursuing a political agenda through a war, which makes it sort of like House Of Cards in space, and this helps to flesh out the Star Wars universe. At times it does seem like BBC Parliament is covering the Galactic Senate, but again that goes a long way towards fleshing out the scope of this universe.

The action and effects serve in typical sci-fi style but my major qualm is that this supposedly takes place some 30 years before A New Hope, but the ships and weapons look more advanced and a lot sleeker, I know this is down to the advances in CGI and film technology, but from my point of view it would be like seeing a mobile phone in a film set in the 1960’s so that does tick me off a little, but is something I can live with. The pod race sequence is something that I have fond memories of from my childhood, not to mention the battle scene/ space battle/ light sabre three duel at the end.

Now on to the characters, we get a young Obi-Wan and his mentor Qui-Gon Jinn (played by able actors Ewan McGreggor and Liam Neeson respectively) who each portray a Jedi Knight acting as ambassador’s and later bodyguards and whilst their characterisation is a little 2 dimensional, you don’t really need to know more, because the films focus is on little Anakin Skywalker and Natalie Portman’s Queen Amidala. One missed opportunity however was Darth Maul, this bad dude could fight, and looked mean as all hell and whilst Ray Park’s fighting prowess really was put to good use, it just seems such a waste to have killed him off in the way he was (I can see why he was reincarnated in various spin off media).

But then it just comes back to Jar Jar Binks (and in fairness every other Gungan) from the voice and speech patterns to the overall clumsiness, to the just plain being stupid, Jar Jar is someone that you are automatically going to dislike, you are going to hate him and really just love to do it. Which makes it a little bit of a fitting end that you can pretty much lay every bad thing in the Star Wars universe at his feet thanks to his creating the Empire and all.

Whilst it is definitely the week point of the saga as a whole it still holds up as a film, I just think that it had to live up to the original trilogy and that was why it was judged so harshly, how could anything live up to those three films, and this is why I think the new films have it somewhat easier, as after the prequel trilogy the bar was set relatively low, thus giving the new films the appearance of excellence.

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