Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
September 25, 2015 2:11 PM - Subscribe

Two Jedi Knights escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to reclaim their old glory.
posted by PigheadedGnu (124 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you focus on just R2D2's story throughout the series, it's an amazing tale of robot rising above a humble every-droid existence to become one of the most important heroes of the era. If he some how turned evil, it was also mirror Anakin's story.
posted by drezdn at 2:25 PM on September 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


This was the single most disappointing experience of my life. I've had bad stuff happen, but never was there such a gap between the anticipation and the reality.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:42 PM on September 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


I failed to watch the movie in advance of this post, but I've seen it a number of times, and my undying love for the franchise refuses to let such things be easily forgotten or dismissed from memory.

I will say it up front, I actually enjoyed Phantom Menace the day I saw it, the day of it's release back in 1999. Did I love it? No, but I think it's better said that I loved parts of it. I did enjoy Obi-wan's and Qui-gon's escape from the Trade Federation ship, for example, because we were finally getting to see the Jedi for the first time that didn't consist of someone just learning to be a Jedi or who were too old or disfigured to be the Jedi of myth.

I've spent a lot of time thinking over what could have been done differently. Here's a few of my main issues:
  • Anakin is too young. Anakin the boy was created from the same premise that Lucas wanted Ewoks, he stopped seeing Star Wars as a product for everyone and saw it more as something for kids. He wanted to create a character they could identify with and pretend to pod race along through the canyons of Tatooine. Anakin should have been at the youngest 15 or so. He needed to be a teenager, if only to reduce the over the top "glee" of little Annie, and more importantly, not make his crush on Padme completely unbelievable and eye rolling. A cocky teenager dropping a terrible pick up line on a lady is far more understandable than a ten year old. So having young Anakin was just bad.P.S. Kill the Virgin birth thing. C'MON. That was completely unnecessary.
  • Jar Jar Binks. I get Jar Jar. He's supposed to fill the same funny role as C-3PO and R2-D2, but whereas much of C-3PO's humor was wrapped up in his etiquette and fussiness, Jar Jar was just clumsy, stupid and crude. He was an insulting character, and by insulting, I mean to the audience. He should have been a bit character, leading the Jedi to the Gungans, or not even existed. He serves no important role in the film and if you remove him, at worse, the Jedi never meet the Gungans. That's it. Really.
  • C-3PO. Hey, it's C-3PO!! Hurray! We love him! And look, he was built by Darth Vader! This is one of those problems. We don't need everyone to be connected! C-3PO could have been a protocol droid already in the Naboo royal household or something. That would have been more acceptable and understandable. To show off Anakin's prodigy machine skills by having him build our favorite Protocol Droid...CAUSE A PROTOCOL DROID IS JUST WHAT AN ENSLAVED WOMAN ON TATOOINE NEEDS...doesn't fly very well.
  • Midichlorians. Enough said. Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back offers this beautiful explanation of the Force as a spiritual energy that connects all living things. What we did not need is a technical explanation. No one, at any point, argued successfully on how their movie going experience was ruined because it was never explained what "strong in the Force," meant.
  • Battle Droids. Storm troopers, who actually do hit their targets (check out all the poor rebel soldiers who get killed prior to Vader's arrival in on the Tantive IV!), are scary because they at least have the appearance and act of being competent (minus the goof with the door). Battle Droids were none of these things. They were designed to be comical foot soldiers and reduced the seriousness of the Trade Federation's threat to Naboo and the Gungans. They should have been made more frightful and efficient - similar to the redesign seen in Attack of the Clones..This also leads into the final battle scene, which borrows heavily from Return of the Jedi in which we have a fight on the ground and in space. The space fight, minus again, kid Anakin, wasn't terrible, and the design of the Naboo fighters were beautiful. The fight on the ground between the Gungans and the droids was just awful. I could see where Lucas was going with it, something of an 18th or 19th century battle of formations...but it was underwhelming in execution. It should have been much bigger and probably more brutal to be something other than perfect for Saturday morning cartoons.
  • The Trade Federation. In the overall picture, I completely get what Lucas is trying to do with the Trade Federation. It's the future Emperor pushing pieces on a chess board to force the end result of him becoming Chancellor and then Emperor. I actually respect the dialogue he creates on the government of the Old Republic. Again, execution. I think Lucas could have pushed the reveal more with Palpatine being the bad guy, manipulating things. Perhaps it works better for those who don't know the Original Trilogy. But going back to the TF, first, DID NO ONE SEE THE ASIAN STEREOTYPES SCREAMING OFF THE SCREEN? That, in itself, is incredible. (we can also throw in our junk yard man, too in this area - Go home Watto, you're a stereotype!) Second, again, we have bad guys who are cowardly and pathetic. There are no similar bad guys in the Original Trilogy. We have Darth Vader, we have Tarkin, we have the might of a galactic empire. Along with the battle droids, having pathetic villains only results in lowered stakes and less concern for what's going on.
I'm running out of time, so I'll try and offer some positives, too.
  • Duel of the Fates. The fight between Darth Maul and the Jedi beautiful and the John Williams score to go with it, perfect. Williams is probably the best thing about Phantom Menace, he doesn't miss a beat in this movie or the next two.
  • World Building. This movie has beautiful world building, which unfortunately, also came at a cost of moving things along. We didn't need such a long underwater journey, which while somewhat entertaining, probably could have been reduced in time. But we did get a movie full of gorgeous scenes, cities and planets.
  • The Pod Race. This is the Trench Run of Star Wars and I think would only have been improved by an older Anakin. And again, reduce the comedy going on, which is a detraction, not a benefit. When I saw this in the theater, it was exhilarating.
  • Characters not mentioned above. For the most part, I actually enjoyed the rest of the characters in the movie, no matter the extent of some of their lack of fleshing out. I appreciated we had another strong female character in Padme, for example.
  • I'll have to return later, gosh.

posted by Atreides at 3:00 PM on September 25, 2015 [20 favorites]


Meh, sorry for the big wall o' text, I was trying to BR them up some, but apparently, my HTML skillz are weak. Lack of midichlorians, apparently. -_-
posted by Atreides at 3:02 PM on September 25, 2015


I remember walking away from this movie wondering what happened, because I had such a hard time paying attention through most of it. I hated "Anni" a lot. I hated Jar-Jar a lot. Other than that, the movie is still mostly just an empty void in my memory, even though I've seen it a few times since then.
posted by MsVader at 3:13 PM on September 25, 2015


I worked at a movie theater when this came out. The manager let us employees watch it before the first official showing because even though he came off has strict, he was secretly awesome (and he knew we needed to get it out of our system or we'd just sneak in to watch it instead of work).
When STAR WARS appears on screen for the first time, it was best when the music hit you LOUD so the projectionist cranked the sound up all the way for the first few seconds. People cheered.
posted by starman at 3:34 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I waited for this to be released to video and saw it on Christmas day. I still vividly remember how awful I found it and have caught a few minutes here and there over the years and nothing I've seen during that time has changed my opinion. It was my first solid experience of massive disappointment in film, bordering on the unbelievable. Big budget and a guaranteed audience and they came up with this? Upon reflection, and being older at the time compared to when I saw Return of the Jedi, I should have seen it coming, because though better than this film, it was still pretty bad (except the sound, the sound design of Star Wars films is incredible, and of course the visuals have been for the most part quite good).

Having seen the Christmas Special since, I came to realize that this franchise is one that has largely become the blue print for the awful science fiction shows and films that followed (I'm looking at the revised Doctor Who for an obvious example). It's as if a bunch of writers watched Star Trek TOS's The Alternative Factor, the Star Wars Christmas Special, Return of the Jedi, and all the prequels and decided that's the way to write sci-fi for film and television. Unfortunately that model still dominates.

It remains a prime example of wasted potential. I've pretty much despised Star Wars since in much the same way I can no longer recommend the BSG reboot in good conscience because although quite good initially, turned to complete nonsense, just like the Star Wars franchise. Have the same experience with bands I like that can't play live to save their lives. I rarely listen to them again.

Of course, the series and all the films remain wildly popular and really, what should one expect from mainstream drama but awfulness?
posted by juiceCake at 3:36 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember going to see this with my brother and some friends, and afterwards we went for beer and wings and were talking about the movie - and everyone was like "Yeah! I enjoyed it...didn't I? It was good right?" I think we had all gone in with such a huge expectation that we would like it, plus the adrenal rush of new Star Wars, that we wanted to see the best in it and so we convinced ourselves it was good. And then I went to see it again when it hit the cheap theaters some months later (my work life was crazy at the time, and cheap movies on a Sunday afternoon were a coping mechanism and I would watch pretty much anything) and realized the only two parts of the film I really enjoyed were the pod race and the lightsaber duel...and the duel (while awesome) would have been better if Darth Maul were an actual character.

If you focus on just R2D2's story throughout the series, it's an amazing tale of robot rising above a humble every-droid existence to become one of the most important heroes of the era.

My read on R2 at this point is that most of the time he's doing the astromech equivalent of a facepalm as he watches the general flailing about of everyone else. He's probably the most competent character of the entire series.

Although I'm kinda WTF with how droids work in the SW Universe in general - they appear to be quite intelligent, fully functional beings that are essentially slaves to the biological races, treated as disposable things that do hazardous and/or menial jobs, and yet they are acknowledged and rewarded for things like bravery. There is a lot of weird shit in SW, but the whole issue of the role of robots in that universe seems really odd to me. I know I shouldn't overthink it (overthinking Star Wars and Star Trek is my plate o'beans, I guess), but there it is.

In the overall picture, I completely get what Lucas is trying to do with the Trade Federation. It's the future Emperor pushing pieces on a chess board to force the end result of him becoming Chancellor and then Emperor. I actually respect the dialogue he creates on the government of the Old Republic

Palptine is running the Xanatos gambit essentially throughout the prequel trilogy, where whatever happens in a conflict, he wins. And I'm ok with that, it's just that I felt there was potentially a better story in showing that the Republic (and the Jedi) was a broken system of governance and that someone could game it, maybe even out of pure frustration and anger at how the system was failing to protect his home system, and that they didn't have to be a Sith lord to do so...that we come to evil, sometimes, via the best of intentions. Which is supposed to be Anakin's arc in these three movies, but I can't help thinking that showing a man who had dabbled in the Dark Side of the Force was now rising to power because of his anger at the system as it existed might be more valuable to reinforcing that arc rather than having him fully formed as Evil Sith Lord from the start.

Anyways, my point is that I think there might have been a very good story in just showing that the Republic was broken - not through nefarious means and orchestrated conflicts, but just because people aren't always paying attention to what's going on and because of bureaucratic inertia and so on; that evil grows when we aren't looking and will take advantage of (rather than necessarily cause) conflicts and problems elsewhere to advance.

Blah. Did I mention I overthink this stuff?
posted by nubs at 3:43 PM on September 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


While TPM is flawed, and some of those flaws are pretty bad, I genuinely like this movie and I think Artoo's introductory scene and Duel of the Fates (the music and the lightsaber fight it accompanies) are as good as anything else in the cinematic Star Wars universe. The pro forma shitting on the prequels in general and this movie in particular that happens in every discussion of Star Wars movies anywhere on the internet is tiresome as hell.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:46 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure why an honest opinion is "pro forma." All I can say is: I honestly think this movie is terrible. It's okay if you disagree, but I'm not saying I dislike TPM to fit with the cool kids, I genuinely think it sucks.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:05 PM on September 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


I remember going into the theater so high on the prospect of new Star Wars that it wasn't until they arrived on Naboo that I realized this movie really sucked. The scene where they're underwater, with the big fish, that was when it finally clicked in my head: Oh shit, this is not good. Like, really, really not good. Until then it almost was like I was drunk and just couldn't focus. I kept thinking it was all going to get good, at any moment. But it never got good at all.

The Red Letter Media guy really called it when he said that this film has no protagonist. Really, who is the main character? Nobody fits, or even comes close. It's just a bunch of people flying around doing stuff.

The funny thing is, when you look at Lucas' early drafts for the original trilogy, they read a lot like this stuff. Lots of dry debates about trade and characters with names that sound like little kid words for going to the bathroom. (Not that the characters in the original trilogy didn't have silly names, but Han Solo is no Count Dooku.) It's like Lucas figured out how to make Star Wars movies, then a few decades went by and he forgot absolutely everything and went back to the kind of crap he cut from those original drafts. I know some people say Marcia Lucas was the secret genius behind the original trilogy. I don't know if that's so, but The Phantom Menace sucks in exactly the way that Lucas' drafts for the original trilogy suck.

There is a lot of weird shit in SW, but the whole issue of the role of robots in that universe seems really odd to me.

I think they are regarded the same way that white people regarded slaves, back in the day. Mostly they are seen as "lesser" beings and worked to death, but their masters can have affection for them. If a slave saved his master's life, he might get some sort of commendation for it. Some particularly enlightened souls might regard them as equals who are unfairly oppressed, but those people would be a tiny minority.

DID NO ONE SEE THE ASIAN STEREOTYPES SCREAMING OFF THE SCREEN?

I remember turning to my girlfriend in the theater and whispering "Mojo Jojo" in a Mojo voice. Cracked her up.

There's a lot of stuff in TPM that got through because everybody figured Lucas was the Star Wars genius and if he said it had to be like this, he had to be right. But he was so not right.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:52 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


There's a point at which joking about how you won't let your kids watch it or whatever takes on the character of ritual denunciation. It reminds me of the Bill-Gates-is-evil jokes from the 90s; yes, there are legitimate complaints to be made about the thing in question, but the hyperbolic statements about its awfulness rarely add much to a discussion. But this is a perfectly appropriate place to say whatever you feel about TPM, I guess, so having said my bit I'll drop the metacommentary.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:57 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I get what you mean, and "ritual denunciation" is a great way to describe how people pile on the Matrix sequels or Heroes or other flawed things that just weren't nearly as awful as the endless hate would suggest.

But The Phantom Menace is spectacularly crappy. Nothing about it works, other than the effects. People went into it primed to love it, grinning like idiots, and then it was just bafflingly, aggressively crappy.

There's nobody to care about, the dialogue is the shits, the actors are awful (and many of them have proven they can act quite well elsewhere), the attempts at humor are anemic when they're not childish poo poo jokes. And then to top it all off, it's full of racial caricatures!

The two follow-ups are significantly better, even if they aren't so hot either. I'd call TPM a D- (saved from being an F purely by the visuals), Attack of the Clones a C+ and Revenge of the Sith a B-. I'm not big on schadenfreude and I don't typically join in when everybody gathers in a circle to piss on a movie. But in the case of TPM I'm happy to join the pissing party.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:13 PM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Okay, one thing I liked... the Princess' final operations. Correct me if I'm wrong, but she sent fighters to blow up the Droid Army control ship, a ground force to attack the Droid Army head-on, and she herself took some ninjas into the palace to capture the heads of the Trade Federation.

Only one of those plans had to work.

FINALLY, a hero who understands risk management!
posted by Mogur at 5:24 PM on September 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


While I almost completely agree with Atreides on this movie's faults, and I hit the wall at the same time Ursula Hitler did (seriously, a bigger fish? Deus ex piscina?), I'll disagree on one point.

Jar Jar. Everyone complains about Jar jar destroying the movie. But he doesn't, really. Jar Jar's voice, however... that's what is terrible. If you re-voiced that character, it would go a long way toward redeeming the character. I'm not sure what accent or voice I'd use instead, but anything would be an improvement.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:26 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am a big fan of some of the fanedits of the Prequels that have been released in recent years. The versions of the series I have queued in my HTPC are my preferred fanedits of the Prequels (plus the DeEspecialized Original Trilogy.) The Blurays can stay on the bookshelf where they belong.

Except for TPM. There is no fanedit of TPM that repairs (or papers over) its problems (obviously that is only my opinion, but it seems to be an uncontroversial one in the fanedit community.) I have memories of watching TPM, but ancient memories they will remain. (Distance makes the heart grow... more forgiving?)

The most damning issue with TPM is that there is *no* need to watch this movie to get an enjoyable and complete Prequel experience to the original trilogy. If you enter the series via Attack of the Clones (or via a modified Machete Order, skipping TPM), you are able to pickup almost all of the details you need to understand what is going on. Anakin is already a teenager struggling with his desires and ambitions. The age gap with Padme makes more sense and is less ... creepy. And when we do run across Senator Jar Jar, he is much less offensive and effusive.
posted by insert.witticism.here at 5:32 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Totally agree about Jar Jar's voice. He's an awful character, but he is the only presence onscreen who feels even slightly alive and without him the movie is just people saying dull things at each other in monotones. As truly awful as he is, he's probably the best character in the film. This racially offensive Gilligan is kind of the only character in the film, really.

I keep feeling like I'm straying into hyperbole with this stuff, but then I think it over and realize, nope, this movie really is just that bad. It's MST3K-level bad. (I see the Rifftrax guys actually did a commentary track for it. I'll have to check that out soon.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:36 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


So having young Anakin was just bad.P.S. Kill the Virgin birth thing. C'MON. That was completely unnecessary.

I dunno, that led to one of my favorite small moments in the final season of Stargate SG-1. Vala's asking the group if they know of any cases of immaculate conception, (as she appears to have had one). The group looks at each other, uncertain of how to broach the topic of Jesus, but Teal'c pipes up with, "Yes. Darth Vader." Vala asks, "How'd that turn out?"

I about died.

People went into it primed to love it, grinning like idiots, and then it was just bafflingly, aggressively crappy.

This. I have never been a Star Wars guy - when the other boys were arguing about Star Trek vs. Star Wars at school, I'd grudgingly side with Trek and be sorry none of them knew who Doctor Who was. Ah, life before the Internet...

That said, there's a huge group of people for whom Star Wars was their formative experience with science fiction, the thing they really identify with*. It's a cultural phenomenon in a way that BSG or Lost or Heroes could never hope to be.

Worse, there isn't actually all that much of it, not on the big screen with the budget and Lucas at the helm. I mean, if you don't like a Trek movie, wait a couple years. TOS alone had as many movies as Star Wars did, and that's discounting all the TV and spinoffs. When TPM sucked as badly as it did, it was a huge blow to these folks - it wasn't just bad, it was also a sign of the apocalypse about the odds of any future movies being any good.

That's why, whenever people really get their hate on for the prequels, I assume it's completely sincere.

(* Seriously, I once spent a whole evening helping a girl dressed up like Boba Fett get around a con one time. Star Wars is a lifestyle choice for many people, and almost all the ones I know were furious with TPM.)
posted by mordax at 5:48 PM on September 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ah man, this movie. Not much I can say here that hasn't been said above. Although this is without a doubt the least of the six feature films so far, I feel like there are some redeeming qualities to it. I also feel that some of the less well-developed ideas here were subsequently salvaged by the Expanded Universe works surrounding the prequels.

For instance, I thought the Clone Wars animated series went a long way towards rehabilitating Jar Jar as a legitimate hero in a Star Wars setting, largely by 1) using him sparingly in only a handful of episodes, 2) downplaying the more unfortunately stereotypical elements in his dialect and body movements, and 3) playing towards the character's strengths by reframing his bumbling haplessness as a kind of meta-instinctual danger-avoidance system, in the vein of Buster Keaton or Jackie Chan.

One of the early great episodes of Clone Wars (which is not only better than the prequels, but a genuinely great Star Wars cartoon) has Jar Jar sent with Padme on a diplomatic mission that turns sour when Padme gets captured by Separatist forces. Jar Jar gets tangled up in one of Anakin's spare robes while hiding in a supply closet, and is mistaken for Padme's personal Jedi bodyguard, which puts him on the run from roving squads of battle droids. Over the course of the episode, he goes from being terrified and hysterical to handily beating the droids by displaying excellent situational awareness and making friends with the Separatists' moat monster. The arc doesn't violate Jar Jar's character concept as laid down in E1, but ends up as a more skillful implementation of it.

The whole show is kind of that way; the creators are keenly aware of what worked and what didn't in the prequels, and shaped their story to address those merits and flaws in interesting ways.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:35 PM on September 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


By way of context, I think I've seen the original trilogy a couple of times and the prequels once.

Just finished watching this (I ended up getting the Blu-ray box set) and found myself enjoying the experience of watching the film. I don't think this film would probably ever cross my mind again if it wasn't connected to Star Wars (which probably qualifies it as a bad film).

Almost all the characters were horrible or completely forgettable. I thought Palpatine was pretty interesting and well done.

The settings were gorgeous and immersive. The SFX were almost universally excellent; a few spots really stood out to me. The music (especially the fight scenes) was also stand out.

FYI, Wikipedia has the budget at $115 million; almost twice that of the Matrix (of the same year).

There is a commentary by George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt, Rob Coleman, John Knoll, Dennis Muren and Scott Squires on the bonus disc for TPM; anyone have experience with it? Worth another rewatch before Episode II?
posted by PigheadedGnu at 7:14 PM on September 25, 2015


For this film had lots of problems: plot, character (lack), etc.

And as much as I want to pile on, I choose to remember some of the more entertaining moments:

- Qui-gon & Obi-wan & Darth Maul lightsaber battle was bad ass.
- Pod race while a rip off of Ben Hur was still lots of fun.
- The various cities and worlds that we were exposed to. It was fun to see more of the Star Wars universe open up.

I've rewatched it only a few times since its original theatrical release and while it still largely sinks, there are moments when I am genuinely entertained.
posted by Fizz at 7:26 PM on September 25, 2015


but the hyperbolic statements about its awfulness rarely add much to a discussion...

Hyperbolic statements? Which thread is that?
posted by juiceCake at 7:38 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember seeing the Matrix later the same year and liking it only a little bit, but feeling sad to realize that it was by far the more interesting and creative sci-fi movie. If TPM had actually been the first movie in a series nobody would have remembered it six weeks after release.
posted by skewed at 8:03 PM on September 25, 2015


Anakin should have been at the youngest 15 or so.

Heck, make him 25. He should be a promising young officer roughly the same age as Obi Wan and we should just jump right into the Clone Wars after the credits end. Basically dump the whole first film and half of the second since nothing interesting happened.
posted by octothorpe at 9:01 PM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've said this before, but will repeat it here:

I always thought Lucas got C3PO & R2D2's origins completely backwards. The protocol droid was the property of the Queen, and Anakin in the junkyard re-builds an R2 unit (to help him fix things) which somehow seems to be imbued with the force.
posted by fings at 9:45 PM on September 25, 2015 [24 favorites]


Not enough JarJar.

ducks.
posted by el io at 1:10 AM on September 26, 2015


This movie is so clearly burned into my memory. I saw it at the cinerama, in seattle. The theater people camped out in front of. To the point that the grocery store and deli across the street named a sandwich the darth vader, around the attack of the clones days.

The energy in there was fucking palpable. I've been to really, really good concerts/live shows that had less anticipation beforehand and less energy even at their absolute apex. When the first note of the theme song played(at fucking deafening volume, on what was likely at the time the best theater sound system in the world because paul allen had just dumped $10^3 into it) the reaction was like this. I think someone probably barfed. It was like the screaming at the beatles concerts or something.

And while it in no way lived up to that and the entire audience lost that turgid erection... the thing is, i kind of liked it. Was young Anakin dumb and annoying? Yea. Was jar jar epically awful and completely unnecessary, and possibly even kind of racist? Yea. But people forget not all that much happens in this one. The pod racing and space fight sequences were arguably better at being something like Tron: Legacy than that movie was. The soundtrack is still excellent(which was noted above). A lot of the visual exposition of the environment and the action sequences in general even when it's just the ships landing and taking off and such are awesome. You could probably edit the movie down to just that stuff as a sort of demo reel and it would have gotten 10,000 upvotes on reddit and millions of youtube views.

What i'm saying is i didn't hate it. I was 9 years old, and i was the perfect age for how stupid it was.

I probably haven't watched it, even in part, since before modern smartphones existed. Not sure if i'll ever watch it again. But yea, i enjoyed it despite it's flaws and stupid(and at that point, i had seen the original trilogy on vhs probably 100 times)


Also, if you delete this movie from history, Star Wars Episode I: Racer never would have existed. And that's legitimately one of the best movie franchise video games, and even one of the best games in general ever made. I can STILL pile friends on the couch if i bust that cart out.

Hyperbolic statements? Which thread is that?

Not this thread, but saying you ever liked this movie at all, or even that it has any redeeming qualities is the nerd equivalent of being a holocaust denier. I cant believe how pissed off i've seen people get -and not even people old enough to have seen the original movies in theaters, people like 30 or under-, when i suggest that i kinda like it. It immediately becomes an ad hom/character assassination thing with maximum snark along the lines of "yea, when you were 12".

People have written essays about how it's a war crime in completely earnest, and started many a flame war. Even saying stuff like the "positive points" listed in the third post is the kind of thing i've seen start an all out shitfest.
posted by emptythought at 2:37 AM on September 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Basically dump the whole first film and half of the second since nothing interesting happened.

Machete order!
posted by Itaxpica at 5:33 AM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Clone Wars (like A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back) is what you get when you take Lucas's ideas and framework, and pass it through an editor. The prequels (and most of Return of the Jedi) are unfiltered Lucas.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 6:05 AM on September 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


While the next two prequel films were a little bit better (well, maybe not Attack of the Clones. I really, really dislike it) I do think there is something to be said about how much it helps to have so much of it shot on real sets in real locations. The other two films felt so weightless to me compared to this one due to an excess of blue screen shooting.
posted by aldurtregi at 7:19 AM on September 26, 2015


I know some people say Marcia Lucas was the secret genius behind the original trilogy. I don't know if that's so, but The Phantom Menace sucks in exactly the way that Lucas' drafts for the original trilogy suck.

She deserves a lot of credit along with Gary Kurtz who produced Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back (but not Jedi). Lucas is one of those people who has a ton of great ideas and as many terrible ideas and a complete inability to distinguish between the two sets.
posted by octothorpe at 11:01 AM on September 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I was 11 when this movie came out and I thought Padme Amidala was the most BADASS thing ever! She was a great precursor to Princess Leia, and - everything else about Star Wars prequels aside - having a character who was a girl who spent the majority of the movie doing interesting things and leading battles with badass hair and not wearing a bikini was great! I borrowed my 5 year old brother's Padme action figure (and one of the round rolling droid gun tower things) and we very happily played Star Wars together.

Also, waiting for the trailer to load and watching it over and over is one of my clearest 90s internet memories. "Wipe them out. All of them" in a teeny, pixelated box...
posted by ChuraChura at 11:17 AM on September 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Also, waiting for the trailer to load and watching it over and over is one of my clearest 90s internet memories.

For me, it was the exclusive world premiere airing that it got on Fox News' morning show. Wake up for my opening shift at Blockbuster, surfing channels while I eat breakfast, and they announce that they'll be airing it at 9am.

Crap. That's when I'm supposed to be at the store. Call assistant manager who was also working the opening shift. "Listen, I'm going to be 15 minutes late, I can't explain now, but when I show up, you will understand. Also, have the overhead TVs warmed up, it'll be important."

Trailer airs, I get it on VHS, gun the car to get to the store, slap the tape in. He had us watch it 3 times in a row before he would let me fetch the returns bin from outside to actually do any work.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:53 AM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The frustrating thing about TPM is that it could have been good.
There's a lot of good in there, but it desperately needs and editor and it really shows.
So many pointless scenes (the fish scenes?), so much dialogue that needed tweaking (I'll try spinning, that's a good trick!) and concepts which were actively bad (midichlorians).
I think it shows that the real hero of New Hope and Empire was the editor. The person in the room who can successfully say no to George.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 12:26 PM on September 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I always thought Lucas got C3PO & R2D2's origins completely backwards. The protocol droid was the property of the Queen, and Anakin in the junkyard re-builds an R2 unit (to help him fix things) which somehow seems to be imbued with the force.

While it does make more sense from a story-telling perspective. I like to picture Anakin as one of those kids that desperately wants to build a robot. He keeps looking through catalogs and saving up any money he finds. None of them are ever in his price range until an old protocol droid kit shows up on the Tatooine Craigslist. Anakin settles for it, because it's all he can afford. His mom asks him what they're going to do with a protocol droid and he just sighs.
posted by drezdn at 12:32 PM on September 26, 2015


C-3PO. Hey, it's C-3PO!! Hurray! We love him! And look, he was built by Darth Vader! This is one of those problems. We don't need everyone to be connected!

Yeah honestly, beyond the writing and the acting and the midichlorions and EVERYTHING, this is my absolute #1 biggest problem with the prequels: By making sure that as many characters from the original trilogy show up (not just the droids, but Chewy, and Jabba, and etc.), the prequels end up making the Star Wars universe feel very, very small. The original films feel like an adventure undertaken by a bunch of people who accidentally happen across one another and end up having to work together out of sheer necessity against an enormous overwhelming galactic power; once you find out that everyone is related, or their parents were friends, or the same two robots were already involved in everything else important that happened in the galaxy, it beings to seem like the galaxy is really only populated by maybe 57 characters at most.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:02 PM on September 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


While the next two prequel films were a little bit better (well, maybe not Attack of the Clones. I really, really dislike it)

I'm with you. If you forced me to pick between TPM and AotC as the only two viewing choices, I'd watch TPM. TPM is a deeply flawed film, but you can see the elements of a good movie there, just not realized. AotC is...well, I'll save my thoughts for that discussion.
posted by nubs at 1:05 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


"It's like poetry...they rhyme."
posted by Chrysostom at 1:52 PM on September 26, 2015


I've seen this movie exactly once, in the theater, the week it opened. What exactly happened in it, I couldn't say.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:28 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't fathom preferring TPM to AOTC. The characters in AOTC are still fairly bland, but just by having a little oomph and conflict they are much, much more interesting than the waxworks who populate TPM. There's more zing in AOTC's attempted assassination scene (where the shapeshifter girl puts the killer bug thing in Padme's room) than in the entirety of TPM. AOTC feels like Lucas had listened to the endless criticism of TPM and attempted (with middling success) to fix things. TeenDarth slaughtering the Sandpeople should have been more dramatic than it was, but even as it stands it's vastly more compelling that the pod race or whatever.

People talk about how cool the big lightsaber battle was in TPM, but to me the big problem there was that I did not give a crap about those characters. The lightsaber fights in the original trilogy didn't have all the jumping around and stuff, but they mattered because you cared about the characters. Vader and Obi Wan squaring off in A New Hope is so much more badass than their fight at the end of ROTS, even though the actual fighting was much more slow and deliberate.

I wouldn't have minded seeing the characters from the original trilogy in the prequels, except Lucas made them so dull that it kind of ruined them for me and now when I see the original trilogy it gives me bad prequel flashbacks. Yoda became a real bore in the prequels, and it kind of ruins him for me now. Boba Fett has zero mystery now. I can't even look at Darth Vader now without thinking about Hayden Whosis under the mask.

I am pleased that the millennials don't seem to be big champions of the prequels. If today's young people were swooning around about Darth Maul and stuff, I couldn't cope. We're really in for it in 2020 or so though, when the Frozen generation comes of age. Frozen is their Star Wars, and that mediocre-ish kid movie is going to haunt us for the rest of our lives.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:33 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


There is a commentary by George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt, Rob Coleman, John Knoll, Dennis Muren and Scott Squires on the bonus disc for TPM; anyone have experience with it? Worth another rewatch before Episode II?

I've never sat down and listened to them. I do know that Rich McCallum has always come across as the perfect Yes Man to George Lucas in every documentary or making of or production of featurette I've watched. I wouldn't expect to learn a lot of surprising things or find it that entertaining, but that's me just speculating.

One thing I have noticed and I'd be interested in hearing from others on their experience, but Millennials tend to be a bit more kind on prequels, and TPM, for example. I have a friend who had only really seen or remembered seeing the Prequel Trilogy and hadn't seen the Original Trilogy. He didn't quite understand why I was so vehemently opinionated on them. (He also has a really big crush on Padme, STILL).

As a funny anecdote, I was going over my issues with TPM in my carpool ride a couple weeks ago when one of the riders, also a Millennial, asked, "This is personal, isn't it?"

I do think "Duel of the Fates," played a big role in why the lightsaber duel at the end is well received in general. The music video for it, which I joined others in watching over and over, upheld a lot of the expectations of everyone waiting to see the movie. Even when the overall movie failed to do so, the music didn't let us down.

Per Darth Maul, I've been thinking about him since yesterday. A lot of Darth Vader's initial appeal was his mysteriousness and frightening intimidation. I think Maul was kind of intended to follow this same pattern, be intriguing and frightening. The problem, which is like an echo in this conversation, was execution. I believe his character design was quite well done, as was the physical work of his actor. But, he was either used too much in the first half of the film or not enough. There was a balance that just wasn't met. I know that his fight with Qui-Gon on Tatooine was a bit longer or something before it was cut for the theatrical release, but it might have been improved had it been a longer fight or even more obvious that perhaps Qui-Gon was actually outmatched by the Sith. This would have setup a higher stake to the Jedi's decision to fight him at the conclusion.

Here's a controversial statement. Perhaps Padme is the true protagonist of TPM. We are introduced to her almost at the very beginning and she's forced to leave her home on a journey to accomplish a mission, which fails, but results in her taking a heroic leadership position to free her people. She goes from appearing to be relatively weak and ineffectual to a legit warrior. This is only blurred by the large focus on the Jedi and their actions.

(For what it's worth, the Red Letter Media critiques are pretty good, but oddly laced with misogynistic humor that's completely unnecessary. It resulted in me dropping them.)

Another issue, and this one also sprinkles itself into Attack of the Clones, is that in the Prequel Trilogy, is something that doesn't happen in the Original Trilogy. It's dropping very obvious tropes from other genres or real world equivalents that aren't far enough separated from our own. The latter is harder to define, but I'm reminded of the announcers at the pod race. They seemed superfluous and conveyed info that could have been offered by already established characters.

Ugh, I was once a super major Star Wars fan. The type of guy who watched the Original Trilogy over and over and over, who participated in forum based roleplaying and read the Star Wars encyclopedia cover to cover again and again. I actually can enjoy TPM when I don't listen to the critical voice inside, but I do feel bad with my figurative boiling over of issues and problems. I'm actually more upset about Lucas' meddling with the Original Trilogy than the flaws I see in The Phantom Menace, but they're just easier to point out and complain.
posted by Atreides at 6:14 PM on September 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


This film really is an argument for everything being Naboo's fault.


Stupid Naboobs.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:12 PM on September 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, the Red Letter Media critiques are pretty good, but oddly laced with misogynistic humor that's completely unnecessary. It resulted in me dropping them.

Yeah. I think the RLM film critiques are excellent, and some of the non-misogynist stuff is funny. But I have become very uncomfortable with the misogynistic "humor."

For what it's worth, the RLM guys seem to have dialed that stuff back a good bit. Still not cool, though.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:13 PM on September 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


We're really in for it in 2020 or so though, when the Frozen generation comes of age. Frozen is their Star Wars, and that mediocre-ish kid movie is going to haunt us for the rest of our lives.

I still hold out hope that Guardians of the Galaxy or even the MCU in general has imprinted itself into that slot instead.


====================

I think Maul was kind of intended to follow this same pattern, be intriguing and frightening. The problem, which is like an echo in this conversation, was execution.

Yeah, he was executed by Obi Wan about two movies too soon.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:50 AM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the ways I amuse myself is by writing fan fiction in my head. Often, I do different page-one rewrites of this particular movie on long bus rides.

Here are the broad strokes of my imaginary version:

Slow pan along the corridors of a jedi temple on a peaceful planet, which is built into a spire of rock above an pastoral landscape. We see the youngest performing basic exercises, then we pan through different phases in jedi training. The disrepair of the temple gives us a sense of the age and stasis of the jedi order. At the top of the spire, Yoda is giving Kenobi his first mission. Yoda hints that things are less stable than they seem, and he has seen turmoil to come within the force.

Scenes as Kenobi readies his ship call back to the scene of the two suns in a new hope; we understand that he is leaving everything he's ever known.

He refuels on Tatooine. The next day, he finds a stowaway. It's Anakin. He asks not to be taken back. We get a sense of Anakin's desperate boredom, and how they're opposites: Kenobi has been trained from childhood to be calm, to be in control, to be centered - but he's nervous to be abroad for the first time. Anakin is more energetic, desperate to be out in the world, instantly talented at everything. Kenobi recognizes some of himself in Anakin, but still begins to take him back. But! They're attacked. Kenobi refuses to let Anakin help, but as a desperate measure lets him pilot. Anakin effortlessly, gleefully pilots through an asteroid field and destroys the attackers, except for our sith antagonist, who we get a glimpse of. We gets shots of Kenobi's shocked face as he realizes Anakin's enormous force sensitivity.

On naboo, Kenobi tells Anakin to stay on the ship as he goes to meet the princess. Anakin leaves and wanders through the seedy underbelly of the port, clearly loving being in a new place. We get some of the Cantina vibe, but Anakin is fierier than Luke; where as Luke seemed intimidated by the cantina, here Anakin seems to be finding his element.

Anakin sees a girl his age trying to find information about some particular sith attack, and he watches as she gets in over her head. She's led to meet someone, and Anakin recognizes the pilot who tried to take them down on the way. She's threatened, and he steps in to rescue her. The sith pulls out a lightsaber, and together they manage to collapse a corridor and escape.

Meanwhile, the princess is nowhere to be found. Recently, out of frustration, she has escaped her handlers and attempted to solve problems on her own. Kenobi force traces her, and he and the royal guard burst in on Anakin and Padme having a clearly very good time together at a blaster range. Anakin is shocked to learn who she is as they're torn away from each other.

Anyway, that's Act I. There's more. It's fun to think about because there's so much potential there; its such a rich universe. Star wars is about grit, about weirdness, about mythic stories and big, archetypical personalities. We don't get that in the prequels. People have praised the visuals, and it's not the CGI that's the problem necessarily, it's the polish and the cleanliness. Even Tatooine isn't gritty enough, weird enough. Star Wars works because everyone you see seems like they are constantly having adventures. Not so much, in the prequels.
posted by Rinku at 2:01 AM on September 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yeah, he was executed by Obi Wan about two movies too soon.

That's probably why he survived (and they gave him mechanical legs) outside the movies.
posted by drezdn at 5:01 AM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Red Letter Media guy really called it when he said that this film has no protagonist. Really, who is the main character? Nobody fits, or even comes close. It's just a bunch of people flying around doing stuff.

This exactly is my primary problem with the movie. There's no hint of character growth or development, and most of the interactions look like cheesy sitcom scenes. Cute little boy says a thing; adults smile and exchange glances! And now, another scene!

The kid who played Anakin was criticized a lot for his wooden acting, but McGregor, Portman, and Neeson are all great actors, and they are equally boring in this movie. If Lucas can make Ewan McGregor still and unnatural, then an ordinary actor has no chance at all of being engaging.

Plus, argh, midichlorians. In addition to midichlorians ruining the the mystery and majesty of the Force, it also makes Jedi-hood the province of a select chosen few. In the OT, the Force was all around us, and it seemed like anyone could learn to tap into the Force with the right mindset and some training. Sure, maybe some were more likely candidates than others, but belief in the Force was a "hokey religion" that anyone could join. Now, it is a highly deterministic science. You either have the midichlorians or you don't. I saw Star Wars (back when it was only Star Wars, not subtitled episode anything) in the theater when I was five. My grandfather took me. I spent the rest of the summer trying to make his ashtray move with the power of the Force. I thought if I cleared my mind and believed strongly enough, maybe I could do it.

My kids never try that. The Force is nothing to them. It's a superpower some special people have that they don't. If they ever do play "using the force" it's be like when they play "slinging webs" or "flying"--a nice bit of imaginative fun but not a thing they believe could really happen. I blame midiclorians for that. The move from mysticism to science killed the fun.

(And if you are going to make the Force dependent on midiclorians, why isn't someone mass-producing them to inject into soldiers? They have perfected cloning technology, for crying out loud! Can you imagine the emperor with an army of hyped up super soldiers with midiclorians counts that are off the charts? Good thing he follows the rules and sticks with that "there are always two, a master and an apprentice" thing or he'd be unstoppable. Dammit, Lucas, if you are going to have unlimited power dependent upon some biological thingumbob in a world that has super advanced biological science, think a little about the obvious implications of that.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:29 AM on September 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


That's probably why he survived (and they gave him mechanical legs) outside the movies.

In my favorite instance of post- Ep. 1 Maul from the EU/Legends material he actually has regular legs and not the mechanical ones. While Resurrection was published in the nominally non-canon "Star Wars Tales" comic from their "Infinities" line, individual stories or story elements were eligible for being nominated into the canon, and this story was one that they came out and said "yeah, this really happened." Which I personally, always thought was awesome because while on the surface it's the standard comic book fare of "take these two characters who never interacted and make them fight," it's done in such a way that it brings wonderful insights into not just the characters of Maul, Vader, and Palpatine, but also a peek into just what the Sith are capable of in their mastery of the Darkside.

But then the mouse hits the reset button on most everything and says "those stories you care about? we don't want to be shackled down by them, so don't expect to hear anything about them again." Clone Wars did make the cut, so I guess I'll have to get around to watching it some time, to see if Mechanical Legged Maul's appearance there was as enjoyable as Resurrection was.
posted by radwolf76 at 8:57 AM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Red Letter Media guy really called it when he said that this film has no protagonist.

Yeah, for all of the unnecessary and off-putting serial killer schtick, the RLM reviews have this movie's flaws down perfectly. I think it's like 30 or 40 minutes into the review that they even mention Jar Jar, because yeah, Jar Jar is a problem, but he is not the problem with the film -- not even close. From start to finish, the movie is completely ill conceived; no protagonist, almost no likable/interesting characters, unbelievably complicated bad guy plotting that is often counter-productive to the bad guy's actual goals, etc.

I first saw this movie the week it premiered. I had just started my first software engineering internship, and literally the entire department (probably 100 people) were going as a group. I was invited along because hey, teambuilding, and we're all Star Wars nerds, right? Everyone was unbelievably excited.

I had just met most of these people (very nice people who I later really enjoyed working with), and I swear to god, it was like our first real interaction was that I got to be standing there as they witnessed a loved one die in front of them. The mood afterwards was positively funereal.
posted by tocts at 6:08 PM on September 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm surprised there hasn't been more mention of the acting - or dearth of it. The lines certainly don't deliver themselves, in fact that's a gross understatement; it takes real finesse to deliver those stilted clunkers, standing in front of a green screen, no less.

But. Ewan Macgregor is the only one in this film - and in rare company amongst the prequels with only McDiarmind or however you spell it, and maaaaaybe Frank Oz - who is able to clamber over Lucas' appalling dialogue with even a soupcon of dignity remaining. Actors who have displayed, if not depth, at least basic competence before - Portman, Neeson, many of the Australian actors - are just destroyed attempting to deliver the script. Portman comes off terribly, as does Neeson, I feel. Christensen isn't in this movie, and I think he's a genuinely bad actor, but he was great in Shattered Glass and remains the thesbianite nadir of the series.
posted by smoke at 4:25 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Star Wars had pretty bad dialog too which is presumably why they hired Kasdan for Empire and Jedi. I wish that he could have hired him, Darabont, Sayles or even Carrie Fisher to fix-up the dialog to sound like something that humans would say.
posted by octothorpe at 7:11 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thus Harrison Ford's famous comment to Lucas: "George, you can type this shit, but you can't say it!"
posted by Chrysostom at 8:01 AM on September 28, 2015


I'm not going to discuss my many problems with this movie, which have been painstaking detailed by others all over the Internet, but I wanted to add that the Millennials seem to be very forgiving of the prequel trilogy and often cite the Clone Wars cartoon series as mitigating factor.

Here is my problem with that: If a movie trilogy is so bad that it needs a 6 season cartoon series (among other things) to retcon all the horrible choices and inconsistencies into something more palatable, it's probably pretty terrible.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:07 AM on September 28, 2015


In addition to midichlorians ruining the the mystery and majesty of the Force, it also makes Jedi-hood the province of a select chosen few. In the OT, the Force was all around us, and it seemed like anyone could learn to tap into the Force with the right mindset and some training.

I think that's giving the problems with the Hero's Journey - and I say that as a devoted acolyte - a huge pass. Star Wars has always had the problem with 99.9999% of the world being cannon fodder and a small number of anointed divine birth folks driving things and being the ones who have the right to power. Star Wars has been on trial for this and you have folks like Brin saying
George Lucas, who has been given everything by modernity, who has been treated fantastically by modernity, and who has spent the last 20 years relentlessly pissing in modernity’s face, preaching Romantic claptrap about how demigods and mystic warriors are better than democracy. He never once shows the Republic ever functioning at all, at any level, in any way. And for those who think that this wasn’t deliberate, he told The New York Times in an interview that he despised democracy and he considers the best form of government to be a benign dictatorship … and strongly hinted that someone like him would probably make the cut.
I don't think you can put that on midichlorians. Star Wars always had The One with a desperation backup of there is another. But mysterious birth was always part of the game.
posted by phearlez at 8:50 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


There is definitely room for discussion on the role The Clone Wars has played in rehabilitating the Prequel Trilogy. I'll wait until Attack of the Clones to do so, myself, as it's set after that movie, but before Revenge of the Sith.

I didn't personally address the acting above, but I concur with most of what's been said about it.

I don't think you can put that on midichlorians. Star Wars always had The One with a desperation backup of there is another. But mysterious birth was always part of the game.

Naboo is kind of a mishmash of this. You have a queen with quite encompassing powers, but...she's somehow democratically elected (Because it makes sense to elect teenagers to be your world's leader - I know, I know, they're supposed to have gone to some Queen School. Argh.) It's a term limited popularly selected by election dictator.

Though, perhaps it isn't a long held view, at all, as our heroes in the Original Trilogy are fighting expressly for a democratic form of government.

Here's the Lucas interview with the New York Times, relevant section quoted:
SCHELL. Do you think that one reason "Star Wars" works is that, having so defoliated our real world of heroes, we need to project our yearnings for heroism into an unreal world?

LUCAS. Movies have a big voice, and what we filmmakers have to do is to set a good example. There's nothing wrong with that. The story being told in "Star Wars" is about heroes who have the ideals that we as a society would like people to possess. It's a terrible thing to say, but there's a certain part of society that would like everybody to be cynical. But at the same time, another segment of society needs to have heroes -- to have somebody of whom they can say: "This is the kind of person that we should aspire to be."

SCHELL. Where are we going to get such models?

LUCAS. Society creates them. That's why society builds statues.

SCHELL. But, if I follow your logic, you're saying that we are now incapable of resisting putting feet of clay on these statues.

LUCAS. The United States, especially the media, is eating its own tail. The media has a way of leveling everything in its path, which is not good for a society. There's no respect for the office of the Presidency. Not that we need a king, but there's a reason why kings built large palaces, sat on thrones and wore rubies all over. There's a whole social need for that, not to oppress the masses, but to impress the masses and make them proud and allow them to feel good about their culture, their government and their ruler so that they are left feeling that a ruler has the right to rule over them, so that they feel good rather than disgusted about being ruled. In the past, the media basically worked for the state and was there to build the culture. Now, obviously, in some cases it got used in a wrong way and you ended up with the whole balance of power out of whack. But there's probably no better form of government than a good despot.

SCHELL. And, in a sense, is that what you're trying to be here at Lucasfilm?

LUCAS. Possibly. Yeah, at least in my little kingdom. But I rule at the will of the people who work for me.

SCHELL. But let's say you have a leader who's only pretty good and does some shady things. Do you think that the media should be more discreet about investigating and looking into what he is doing? Basically, do you think certain things should be off limits in order to maintain the heroism of a leader?

LUCAS. Yeah, I do. I think that the media should look at the situation in the larger sense -- at what is necessary for the culture as a whole rather than exposing and tearing everything down all the time. That will not bode well for people's confidence in the institution. After all, a society only works on faith. If you lose that faith, then your society will crumble and it will be hard to get a consensus on anything.

SCHELL. But isn't that a slippery slope, one that quickly leads to what we have seen in countries like the Soviet Union and China, where in the name of positive role models it becomes unacceptable to criticize the leaders or the country?

LUCAS. That's sort of why I say a benevolent despot is the ideal ruler. He can actually get things done. The idea that power corrupts is very true and it's a big human who can get past that.

SCHELL. Confucius said that the good ruler should rule so that the citizens bend before his moral suasion like rice seedlings before a breeze.

LUCAS. You try to keep people from being used or abused and listen to their grievances and try to do what is fair. Some people get upset because they want everything. Some people feel that they deserve to have everything, even though there's no reason for it. They just feel it's their right. That's one of the problems of a democracy. You get these individual voices that are very loud, and very dysfunctional. And if you cater to those voices, you end up with a very dysfunctional society.

I'm reminded of the scene in PM when Padme finally gets to the Senate to seek help and we have the situation where her request for instant assistance is immediately tied down by bureaucratic nonsense by representatives of the Trade Federation. We are shown a dysfunctional body with a dysfunctional society, though ironically, as we know, the solution of an benevolent despot that the Senate ends up voting for turns out to be the very worse thing.
posted by Atreides at 9:06 AM on September 28, 2015


You have a queen with quite encompassing powers, but...she's somehow democratically elected (Because it makes sense to elect teenagers to be your world's leader - I know, I know, they're supposed to have gone to some Queen School. Argh.) It's a term limited popularly selected by election dictator.

Well, there have been elective monarchies in the real world.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:16 AM on September 28, 2015


That's sort of why I say a benevolent despot is the ideal ruler. He can actually get things done. The idea that power corrupts is very true and it's a big human who can get past that.

Wow. I'd like George to give us some examples of his successful benevolent despots, who weren't corrupted (outside of himself /hamburger). And how do we get rid of these benevolent despots when their time is up?

And, of course, what is fascinating in this is that during the creation of Eps IV and V, he had people around him who pushed back and made changes and he couldn't be a dictator...Whereas I recall seeing a clip of something that was behind the scenes of the making of Ep I (it was likely part of the RLM stuff), where George walks out of his office and says "Here it is! I just finished the script for EP I!" And everyone claps politely and that's it.
posted by nubs at 9:16 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


And how do we get rid of these benevolent despots when their time is up?

They abdicate when the payout from The Mouse is big enough.
posted by phearlez at 9:19 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's always a bigger fish "benevolent despot" is what I'm hearing you say.
posted by nubs at 9:25 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


nubs: " I'd like George to give us some examples of his successful benevolent despots, who weren't corrupted (outside of himself /hamburger). And how do we get rid of these benevolent despots when their time is up?"

There was Cincinnatus. But a) He was hardly an unalloyed good; and b) it's instructive that you have to look 2500 years for an example.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:37 AM on September 28, 2015


And how do we get rid of these benevolent despots when their time is up?

Have their right-hand man throw them down the nearest bottomless pit, of course.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:48 AM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


(You cannot blame the prequels on Millenials, that is ridiculous! George Lucas is very much a grownup, and my parents paid for my tickets. And theirs.)
posted by ChuraChura at 10:01 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


We are shown a dysfunctional body with a dysfunctional society, though ironically, as we know, the solution of an benevolent despot that the Senate ends up voting for turns out to be the very worse thing.

One failing on the part of Lucas in TPM, though, is that we're really not shown the dysfunction -- at least, not enough to really make it work for the plot.

Palpatine's whole plan is to create a crisis of confidence in the leadership of the Republic, get himself appointed Chancellor, and then exploit that position for greater power. In broad strokes, that's a reasonable plot. However, so much of how it works on the screen is dependent on details of the Republic, of Chancellor Valorum's style of leadership, of the details of the specific issues being driven by the Trade Federation, etc, which we are never given real insight into. The end result is that all of the dysfunction of the Republic is hand waving. It's like Lucas had the equivalent of Star Trek's "TECH" notation in the script (i.e. "insert technobabble here"), except his script says "POLITICS".

We get vague notions of "trade dispute" and "bureaucracy", but mostly off-screen machinations because Lucas for some reason thinks that keeping Darth Sidius's identity secret actually matters (as if anybody watching doesn't already know who he is). And because it does such a bad job of giving the story any real direction, it becomes the rotten core around which almost all of the problems with the movie revolve, each impacted in its own way by the complete failure of the central plot to make any sense or provide various characters any real motivation.
posted by tocts at 10:39 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of the enduring mysteries for me about TPM is whether Lucas intended Palpatine=Sidious to be obvious to the audience or as a surprise revealed only in...RotS, I guess? On the one hand, the name "Palpatine" has been around since the novelization of Star Wars, which was actually published in 1976. On the other hand, it's never mentioned in the dialog or credits of RotJ. Did Lucas expect that people who had seen the OT wouldn't recognize Palpatine for who we was? What about new audience members (ill-advisedly) watching the films in episode order?

I remember thinking at the time that because Palpatine=Sidious was so obvious and yet apparently being treated as a secret by the films, that Lucas was going to pull a fast one and have Sidious turn out to be a secret clone of Palpatine, who was innocently working for peace and stability in the Galaxy until Sidious murders him and declares himself Emperor. Alas, Lucas isn't that subtle.
posted by The Tensor at 12:22 PM on September 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


One thing about RotJ that is undeniable is the skill with which it switched between three pitched battles, where everything had to work completely correctly in order for Our Heroes to win. Millennium Falcon vs. Death Star Mk 2, Ewoks vs. Stormtroopers, and Luke vs. The Emperor—Jedi did a fantastic job of cutting back and forth. The only thing I've seen since with excellent editing between multiple scenes like that was the climax of Inception, and even then it didn't cut back and forth so much as cut in a predetermined order.

TPM tries to one-up Jedi by switching between FOUR battles, one of them completely CGI. (Is that a two-up?) So we have Jar Jar vs. Droid Army, Padme vs. Nute Gunray, Jedi vs. Maul, and R2/Anakin vs. Trade Federation's round-ish flagship. But (I have a bad feeling about this...) it doesn't work, because Our Heroes's victories seem unearned, and there are very few pacing changes. These things are related!

I'll grant you that the Duel of the Fates was cool. It had the only moment of subtlety in the four-battle sequence—Maul's back-and-forth stalking versus the meditation of the Jedi. But remember RotJ? There were real moments. Remember the mourning of the Ewok who tried to get his buddy up after being knocked down, only to find that his buddy had perished? Remember the close-up of Luke as he struggled with his traitorous thoughts? Hell, remember Han and Leia switching their dialogue from Empire? "I love you!" "I know!"

Filmmakers earn those moments—breaks from "action-packed thrill rides"—from real characters the audience cares about, and those characters just aren't in Episode I. TPM is big and dumb and stupid about nearly everything.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:16 PM on September 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


Filmmakers earn those moments

This is an astute observation, and particularly when looking at the finale of TPM.

Anakin's part of the finale is the most obviously unearned. Beyond the fact that the movie does very little to actually make us like him as a character, he quite literally ends up in the battle by accident, and through it all he shows no real understanding of what's going on or what the stakes are. It is utterly baffling that anyone thought this would be engaging.

The Gungan battle, as well, falls into this trap -- the main (unlikable) POV character bumbles through it and accidentally succeeds through random chance, and we're supposed to find that somehow thrilling or interesting?

The whole deal with Amidala and her crew storming the palace goes this direction too. Throughout the movie, Amidala is basically a half-formed character (and good lord does the unnecessary Amidala / Padme switcheroo make that even more confusing and make her motivations even more vague). Suddenly at the end, she grabs some blasters and scales some palace walls because ... I mean, who knows why, there's never really a clear indication of what effect taking control of a handful of higher ups in the palace is going to do against a droid army that is controlled by orbital command posts. She needed something to do, so out with the blasters and grapples to try to evoke memories of earlier, better movies.

And that leaves us with The Duel of the Fates. What can I say that hasn't been said? It's a neat fight scene, but mostly feels like a choreographed dance number. The part that's supposed to be the most shocking, the most impactful (the death of Qui-Gon) ends up being fairly "meh", because he's been a boring non-entity in the film for most of it*. I will totally give Ewan MacGregor the only props for an actor in the movie, because I really do think he's trying and sometimes succeeding, but Liam Neeson is absolutely sleepwalking through the whole film, leaving the audience with nothing to work with except MacGregor's angry reaction. That's not enough to make it really work.

So, yeah. The whole thing is unearned. Basically every part of the movie that Lucas is clearly intending to have the audience go "oh my god!" or "wow!" ends up being "... ok?".

* Also, WTF Obi-Wan, have you forgotten how to do the speed running you just did like 1.5 hours ago in the film??
posted by tocts at 6:17 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


el io: “Not enough JarJar.”
"Mesa all sparkly glowy!"
posted by ob1quixote at 9:27 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like this movie. Yes, even Anakin and Jar-Jar. As I've said before, the phrase, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…." allows me access to my inner 7-year-old. That's how you have to approach these movies because if you look at them with the critical eyes of an adult you'll miss the point entirely. Sure they're not a nuanced take on the realities of power and heroism, but they're not supposed to be. They're fairy tales.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:21 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


ob1quixote, maybe some people went to the theater in 1999 expecting a dark, more grown up Star Wars. I don't think most people were. Whatever else the original trilogy was, it was also just plain fun. There were stakes. Han and Leia were quippy, R2 and C-3PO were genuinely adorable and Luke was such a great audience identification figure that hundreds if not thousands of films in the decades since have been trying to hit those same character beats. (Luke basically goes from Dorothy Gale to a ninja space wizard, and that's an arc that's hard to top!)

It's not that you're not allowed to enjoy TPM. People can enjoy whatever damn thing they like. But this "it's all for kids and you adults just aren't looking at it right" stuff is the same line Lucas has been pushing for years now. Pardon me for being rude, but I think it's bunkum. Bunkum and twaddle! The original films were great fun for kids and adults. The prequels were... fun for you and somebody else somewhere, presumably.

In this case, I fear your username is all too appropriate. You are tilting at the windmills of critical consensus and popular opinion.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:57 PM on September 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


At least it did inspire this, so it's not all bad.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:20 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Pardon me for being rude, but I think it's bunkum. Bunkum and twaddle!

Hey now, let's watch our language!

That's how you have to approach these movies because if you look at them with the critical eyes of an adult you'll miss the point entirely. Sure they're not a nuanced take on the realities of power and heroism, but they're not supposed to be. They're fairy tales.

I accept this approach to The Phantom Menace, because to a similar level, I can also enjoy PM by turning off my inner criticisms. To a degree, one could view PM as something more akin to a picture book where the words are not necessarily as important as the images on the pages. Cause, as we've all agreed upon, PM does have some gorgeous images to look at.

But, I don't think it's applicable across the Original Trilogy. Those three movies stand out because they can sustain the leveling of criticism from an adult perspective. Between the time of their release and the premiere of PM, the scope of sustainable criticism shrank. Arguably, Attack of the Clones and particularly Revenge of the Sith, they shed much of the illusion of appealing more to one's inner seven year old (there's an inner 13 year old writing all this by the way), as they tackled darker issues such as romantic love and massacring an entire tribe of people. In RoTS, we symbolically see the idea of a film made for children slaughtered by our hero killing the Younglings. Age of Innocence, it's over.
posted by Atreides at 7:10 AM on September 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Arguably, Attack of the Clones and particularly Revenge of the Sith, they shed much of the illusion of appealing more to one's inner seven year old

Completely agreed. I think that the notion that any of the prequels are just for kids is shaky even in The Phantom Menace; the main plot revolves a complicated and poorly explained bit of political maneuvering that would be a total snorefest for kids even if it wasn't so badly done, and a lot of the non-fighting Jedi stuff is similarly way out of place in a kids movie. But, in AotC/RotS, it goes from shaky to downright unworkable. Those movies get very, very dark. I'm not even sure at what age I would consider RotS appropriate for kids, but it's definitely nowhere near the 6 or 7 years old that I think can easily be done with all of the original trilogy.
posted by tocts at 7:59 AM on September 29, 2015


will totally give Ewan MacGregor the only props for an actor in the movie, because I really do think he's trying and sometimes succeeding, but Liam Neeson is absolutely sleepwalking through the whole film, leaving the audience with nothing to work with except MacGregor's angry reaction.

This ties into the fundamental problem, mentioned above, about there not being a clear main character of the movie. Obi-Wan is the closest thing we get, for two reasons: 1. Ewan MacGregor really does seem to be trying very hard, reaching for the magic of Star Wars that lies beyond the script (and the magic lies pretty much beyond all the scripts). 2. Obi-Wan is the only character in the movie the audience can relate to.

The second point is a big problem, because the only reason we can relate to Obi-Wan is because we are familiar with him. We've never heard of Qui-Gon before; Anakin we know, but as Darth Vader, one of the all-time best modern film villains and our interest in him is in seeing his descent to that - there's no possibility of emotional investment in an arc we've already seen end; and C3P0 and R2D2 never really change much - they are the constant characters of the films, but they never really grow or develop. Padme has potential, but I found her to be under-developed in TPM. Jar-Jar is an insult.

So, in TPM, the audience latches onto Obi-Wan because there is no one else, and they do so simply because he is familiar. Not a great reason to be the main character of the film; it isn't earned, just happens.

I'm not even sure at what age I would consider RotS appropriate for kids, but it's definitely nowhere near the 6 or 7 years old that I think can easily be done with all of the original trilogy.

I haven't let my ten year old watch it yet, though he has happily seen and re-seen every other film. It's dark, it's scary, and given that he has some learning issues, I don't want him seeing the violence. I'm introducing him to Star Trek instead - slower, thoughtful, more structured. If that makes sense.
posted by nubs at 9:31 AM on September 29, 2015


Having Darth Vader kill children in RotS made Anakin's redemption in RotJ a bit harder to swallow. Obi-Wan's line in ANH was simply "he helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights," which could have been as little as "Oh, yeah, the Jedi are amassed on this planet and the passcode for the shield generator is '1-2-3-4-5,' now's your chance, Palps.'"

But this post is about TPM, so let me just say that I found the podrace dragged on a little too long. Terrific sound design, though.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:30 AM on September 29, 2015


Man, this movie... in spring of 1999 I was in the middle of a pretty intense project with a small, close-knit team of fellow web dev nerds, and there was basically never any question of whether we were all going to go see The Phantom Menace together on opening night. There was a team-building aspect for sure, but mostly we were the prime demographic; Gen-xers who grew up with the original trilogy and Kenner action figures.

We couldn't get midnight tickets, so we wound up going to a 3 AM show at the Fox theater in Westwood Village, Los Angeles. Like some of the others above, I remember the crazy energy and electricity in that theater before the film started, and then the palpable collective disappointment by the time Jar Jar shows up. It has its moments, but just misses so many of its marks (as already described by everyone above.) The sky was getting light when we left the theater, which was the icing on the cake; we hadn't merely stayed out late to watch this thing, we had literally stayed up all night.

The only other time I can remember being so let down walking out of a movie theater was at the end of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls... a film that was a fairly fun ride, but could have been so much more. My reaction to both of those films was "You had how many years to work on this since the last one, and that's the best you could come up with?"
posted by usonian at 1:01 PM on September 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Usonian, you're the second person (after tocts) to describe an experience of going to see the premiere with tech industry co-workers partly as a team-building exercise, only for everybody to emerge gutted. Perhaps this was a widespread phenomenon. It makes me wonder if the stock market suffered a blip the day after the premiere, as everybody staggered into work late and spent the afternoon glumly staring off into space.

I realized there is one more movie that disappointed me in a similar way to TPM: Michael Moore's Canadian Bacon. I had seen Roger & Me and Moore's TV shows and stuff, and it had all been informative and entertaining. Canadian Bacon was his first fictional film, and somehow it never occurred to me that a documentary and a fictional film are different things requiring different skills. Ten minutes into Canadian Bacon, I'd learned my lesson. It was a mess of a movie, a whole bunch of beloved stars doing their best with a smug, preachy, dreadfully unfunny and truly amateurish script. It didn't break my heart the way TPM did, but it was a similar experience of, "This is gonna be great... Wait, is this not great..? This is not great... This is so not great... Holy shit, this is awful... How is this so awful?"
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:20 PM on September 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


I can recommend watching The Phantom Edit if you can get your hands on it. It doesn't turn The Phantom Menace into a great film but it does knock off some rough edges.

The version I have as an alternate audio track/commentary where the editor goes into great detail on why the original film seemed so pedestrian, going as far as to detail all the small 5 second cuts he made to nearly every scene to keep things moving.
posted by AndrewStephens at 12:47 PM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


will totally give Ewan MacGregor the only props for an actor in the movie

I thought MacGregor was too tied down by having to fit to the accent, it stripped his voice of too much of the ability to add expression. If I was going to say any actor really delivered I would say Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine. Otherwise, a massive waste of talent. A lamppost could have done Terence Stamp's job.
posted by biffa at 7:17 AM on October 9, 2015


Ewan MacGregor was definitely trying hard because he was definitely into it. One of the on-set stories I remember from the filming of the phantom menace was that Liam Neeson stormed off set because MacGregor wouldn't stop making the lightsaber noises during the choreographed fight scenes.
posted by TwoWordReview at 12:47 PM on October 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


I saw Star Wars in the theater over a dozen times when it came out. I was 13. People always say fans my age don't like the prequels because they're kids movies and we're not kids anymore, but that's ridiculous and they're just bad movies. Let's compare the opening crawls of Star Wars and The Phantom Menace. Here's Star Wars:
It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy...
OK, civil war, hidden base, Death Star, stolen plans. Pretty simple. And here's The Phantom Menace:
Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.

Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo.

While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict....
Let's see: taxation, trade routes, blockages, congressional debates. Yep, kids love that stuff!
posted by kirkaracha at 6:33 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


While the next two prequel films were a little bit better (well, maybe not Attack of the Clones. I really, really dislike it) I do think there is something to be said about how much it helps to have so much of it shot on real sets in real locations. The other two films felt so weightless to me compared to this one due to an excess of blue screen shooting.

Sorry, I'm way too late for this thread. But I revisited a lot of scenes from these films recently, and I've come to the conclusion that TPM is really the best of the 3. It looks like a film for theaters that someone actually storyboarded, selected the shots for, lit, and edited. I am COMPLETELY ignoring the actual content here, just the film's generic structure and qualities. It's really strikingly better than the latter two. Maybe that's 100% due to less green-screen?

One thing that's really odd about all three movies: nobody ever seems to move with any urgency when you'd think they would. When Obi-wan and the rest are going into the ship's hold after Liam Neeson narrowly escapes Darth Maul in TPM, they seem like they're maybe a little concerned about him? But it's not exactly a mad dash. Two films later when Anakin and Obi-Wan enter the chamber to rescue the chancellor, they're almost dawdling. Nobody ever seems to be in a hurry.
posted by selfnoise at 4:00 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing that's really odd about all three movies: nobody ever seems to move with any urgency when you'd think they would.

I think this is very heavily influenced by the decision to use green/blue screen compositing so much. If you haven't seen behind the scenes footage, there were a lot of scenes of characters filmed basically in empty green or blue rooms, with maybe one or two key props actually physically there. This creates a couple of problems for the film.

For one thing, that lack of physicality makes it very difficult for the actors and director to come up with good solutions to framing and blocking shots. In a real place, they could use the space to their advantage and find good places to put the camera, good ways for actors to enter/exit, etc. When it's all gonna be handled in post production, though, all you can really do is kinda try to act like you're somewhere based on broad descriptions and assume the CG people will handle the rest.

For another thing, I think in some cases they literally could not have people running around full speed because they had only so much green screen to work with. They definitely did have some bigger green screen sets (some even with some large-scale physical set pieces for more important details). However, a lot of shots were just relatively small, empty green screen sets; I'm remembering, for example, a behind the scenes shot of Mace Windu jumping up over something, and it's literally shot in a fairly small green room with just a green box he's jumping over. If he moved any quicker, he'd be off the set, so instead he kinda half jogs / ambles. I think this is the reason behind a lot of the weird walk-and-talk shot/reverse shot stuff, as well as the slow jogs instead of real running and urgency.
posted by tocts at 3:47 AM on October 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


A lot of actors have complained that working with green screen and zero sets or props makes it hard to feel natural in the scene. (During the shooting of the Hobbit movies, Ian McKellen reportedly broke down in tears and said, "THIS IS NOT ACTING!") So that lack of urgency could also come from the actors having nothing to focus on so their performances lack passion.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:18 PM on October 26, 2015


The Jar Jar Theory
posted by rhizome at 1:40 PM on November 4, 2015


NOPE.
posted by Atreides at 10:21 AM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Incidentally I know Annikin says "laser sword" in this film, but does anyone say lightsaber?

Actually hold on, there's a script somewhere probably..

Ah, as I suspected. Lightsaber is mentioned twice in the script, neither time in dialogue, Laser sword 11 times, once in dialogue.

Maybe Lucas was trying to get laser sword into the vernacular right from the start.
He allegedly never liked the term lightsaber.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:10 PM on November 5, 2015




Hey, the novelization for Manos: Hands of Fate might explain all the things the movie does not, too, but Manos is still a terrible movie.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:58 AM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had a number of questions about the movie that my decidedly non-star wars obsessed sister knew after we saw it because she had read the novelization on a lark.
posted by Atreides at 3:54 PM on November 8, 2015


Manos: The Novelization seems ripe for a Kickstarter.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:49 AM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Doesn't Really Get What It Means To Be A Star Wars Movie,” Germain Lussier, io9, 12 November 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 4:25 PM on November 12, 2015


I'd love to see Disney do a remake of the three prequels, but leave the plot and all the characters the same.

They can recast and redesign, and also change the story telling and everything (and miss out some bits here and there), so it's a completely different retelling, but leaving the actual structural story in place.

It would be fascinating to see the worlds finest director and writers and crew take on the challenge of, "Do this, but good"

Like, what bits could you entirely skip?
What could you invent to fill gaps without disrupting the story?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:12 AM on November 13, 2015


I think there's definitely a compelling story there, and one which should contain some exciting tweaks to our expectations -- the Jedi, whom we expect to be all-around awesome and eternally wise based on the original trilogy, are actually stodgy and out of touch and impose weird rules on the love lives of their disciples, just for example. So our hero seems very sympathetic when he thinks the Jedi Council is stodgy and out of touch, and we root for him to carve a new path. But the tragedy of the situation pits him against his best friend and mentor, and he has to choose between what's supposed to be Venerable and the Old Way and his best friend and mentor on the one hand -- and what seems right and wise as well as the woman he loves on the other hand.

Lucas of course fucked all of this up in the telling, but I contend that the bones of the story are good.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:08 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Manos: The Novelization seems ripe for a Kickstarter.

Someone get Alan Dean Foster on the phone.
posted by drezdn at 7:58 AM on November 13, 2015


Hadn't thought about ADF for years but it looks like he's still actively writing movie novelizations including the last two Star Treks and the new Star Wars.
posted by octothorpe at 8:37 AM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sure he appreciates the novelizations as a steady paycheck, but I enjoyed some of ADF's original work, and wish he had more time for it.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:50 AM on November 13, 2015


but I enjoyed some of ADF's original work,

I did too.
posted by drezdn at 9:08 AM on November 13, 2015


So, my earlier comments were largely from memory or from clips. However, I just re-watched this (so that I could have it fresh in my memory for the latest season of Star Wars Minute). Something was really glaring in this rewatch to me:

I cannot figure out if Lucas did this on purpose, but the opening of the movie is incredibly damning of the role of the Jedi in the Republic. Yeah, Qui-Gon claims this is a trade dispute that they're going to mediate, but holy shit are there red flags all over the place. If you actually read the opening crawl, and look at how the Trade Federation reacts to the news that a Jedi is nearby, it is very hard not to conclude that Valorum's supposed ambassadors have no intention of negotiating.

Obi-Wan may not even be aware of it (padawan that he is), but I think there's a very plausible read of the opening that says that the Jedi have been sent by Chancellor Valorum as a not-so-veiled threat. He's literally telling the Trade Federation, cut the shit, or these two are going to kill and/or mind control every last motherfucker on your ship (not necessarily in that order). Worse, the Jedi (or at least Qui-Gon) are on board with this.

Less than 15 minutes into the film, the Jedi have already been re-cast (on purpose or not) away from the defenders of the Old Republic for a thousand generations, into the Old Republic's shock troops.

(On a separate note, oh my god did I not fully remember how bad listening to a whole movie of Jar-Jar is. And holy shit does the Anakin / Shmee stuff really make the events in Ep II and Ep III with regards to Anakin never coming back and saving his mom like a million times worse. He promises her he'll come back and free her. It is practically the only majorly sympathetic thing he does, and then he 100% fails to ever follow up on that).
posted by tocts at 6:56 PM on December 2, 2015


I think that interpretation of Valorum's (reminds me of Prince Valium, ahem) decision to send the Jedi really rests on how you interpret "settle." Here's the crawl:
Turmoil has engulfed the
Galactic Republic. The taxation
of trade routes to outlying star
systems is in dispute.

Hoping to resolve the matter
with a blockade of deadly
battleships, the greedy Trade
Federation has stopped all
shipping to the small planet
of Naboo.

While the Congress of the
Republic endlessly debates
this alarming chain of events,
the Supreme Chancellor has
secretly dispatched two Jedi
Knights, the guardians of
peace and justice in the
galaxy, to settle the conflict....
Given that the opening crawl immediately paints the Trade Federation as greedy, using deadly ships, and emphasizing that Naboo is a 'small' planet, I think it was Lucas' intent to make them the bad guys from the start. The fact that they immediately try and murder the Jedi, doesn't ring of innocent self-defense, but the acts of criminals responding to law enforcement showing up to end their on going crime. That said, there are definitely ethical issues about the Jedi Mind Trick, and I wonder if the Jedi developed a rule/code around when and how it should be employed.
posted by Atreides at 6:47 AM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


You're not wrong, and I'm sorta only half-serious about it. However, I would point out that Qui-Gon basically jokes that the negotiations will be short because the Trade Federation are cowards*. Additionally, when the Trade Federation finds out the ambassadors are Jedi, their first reaction isn't to attempt to kill them (it's Sidious/Palpatine who orders them to do that). No, the Trade Federation's first reaction is to freak out and declare that the blockade is doomed. One of them literally says something to the effect of "we can't withstand them".

It's possible that the Trade Federation freak-out is because the Jedi are renowned negotiators par excellence. It's also possible it's because Valorum just sent two mind-controlling telekinetics with laser swords to Nute Gunray's ship and is demanding that he sit down in the same room with them.

* In the "Jedi As Thugs" reading of the opening, I have to assume Qui-Gon's intended opening offer to the Trade Federation was going to be to silently place his lightsaber hilt on the table between them, and then just stare at them.
posted by tocts at 7:18 AM on December 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Never attribute to [Jedi] malice that which can be attributed to [authorial] incompetence.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:26 AM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I could see that being Qui-Gon's opening offer. Either Valorum's decision to send two Jedi was a paltry one based on the lack of Jedi or demand for secrecy OR it's just one Jedi with a lightsaber and the innate understanding that he or she exists as the upholder of justice in the galaxy and cannot act in error.
posted by Atreides at 7:52 AM on December 3, 2015


"You can have my answer now, if you like. My final offer is this: nothing."
posted by Chrysostom at 8:36 AM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Remember when this came out it had such damning reviews and the fact that I lived a long way from a cinema meant I never saw it on the big screen. I ended up borrowing it from my local libraries video section for the princely some of one pound sterling... and of course I felt ripped off (bdum tish)

I'm not entirely sure I've seen the whole thing all the way through since... but I given it another go as a start to watching all the films as I think there's something Star Wars related happening later this month. You might have seen something about it on the internet?

Anyway it's not aged well. A lot of the acting is just as dull and flat as I remember and the characterization very lacking. The horrifically racist aliens haven't got any less racist. The plot is full of holes and not great. Jar Jar is just beyond annoying when he's not incomprehensible. Anakin equally annoying and his relationship with Padme is creep factor ten.

The vfx have not aged at all well, especially where live action characters are interacting with cgi ones and cgi backgrounds.

Also some of the editing is terrible... making many of the action scenes less impressive than the could be (I particularly liked the bit where one of the commentators in the podrace described something happening before it actually happened)

Still, done now - on to Clones.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:11 PM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


We have started our runup to episode 7 (17th Dec here in Oz). I watched episode 1 from the viewpoint of the "Jar Jar" theory and as a result, I enjoyed it far more than I did on previous, "straight" viewings.

The protagonist? Qui Gon. Unfortunately Lucas' writing skills weren't up to the task of making him interesting.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 9:22 PM on December 7, 2015




So, I am finally now starting to listen to the latest Star Wars Minute episodes (they're only a couple weeks in). One thing that I love is that they often bring in information about earlier scripts. Apparently, in the later drafts (pre-shooting script, but far along in the process), Qui-Gon's involvement was a lot more limited. From the opening all the way to Coruscant, it was just Obi-Wan, and it wasn't until he got back to the Jedi Council that Qui-Gon (his master) started to take an active role.

It's too bad, because I think this would save so much of the problem of the Obi-Wan / Anakin story arc. With Qui-Gon as Anakin's primary sponsor, nothing about Obi-Wan and Anakin's supposed later friendship makes any damned sense. Obi-Wan doesn't choose Anakin, doesn't want Anakin, and only ever trains him because Qui-Gon's dying request was that he do so. But, a Phantom Menace where Obi-Wan is young and brash and unsupervised, where he's the one choosing to take risks and he's the one who befriends the young Anakin ... it's hard to understate how much better Ep I could have been, and how much better a footing Ep II would have had to work with if that had been the case.
posted by tocts at 7:24 AM on December 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Agreed. Lucas needed a mature Jedi to drive, as Obi-Wan was too young. Qui Gon drives the action, which frees Obi-Wan to pick up Anakin's thread. Obi-Wan then has motivation to push to graduate to full Jedi, so that he can apprentice Anakin. Instant improvement to the story, automatic drama, and more in line with old Obi-Wan's version. As for Qui Gon and not Yoda being Obi-Wan's master, we can accept "Yoda, who instructed me" as simply being a reference to Yoda's tuition of the "younglings".
posted by Autumn Leaf at 4:34 PM on December 8, 2015


the "Jedi As Thugs" reading of the opening

I don't remember where I read it but the idea has been presented that part of what Palpatine is doing politically to destabilize the Republic is deploying the traditionally-peace-keeping Jedi as shock troops, more or less.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:24 PM on December 8, 2015


Watched the 'making of' doc and rewatched the Plinkett thing (which brings out terrible stuff that I'd kinda missed or was too stunned to notice on actually watching the film)... and now I've got the Phantom them as a recurring earworm. God damn you, Lucas! God damn you to hell!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:31 AM on December 11, 2015


Microscopic analysis and/or retconning of the prequels to try and justify the bad plots, bad writing and bad direction makes me a little bit crazy. I know that Star Wars was George Lucas' baby and that when the prequels were made he was in full-on multi-million dollar auteur mode, but that doesn't make any of them coherent no matter how hard people try to rationalize the plots or characters' actions in them.

I can't find the comment (I think it was here on MetaFilter) but somebody observed that like most creative types, George Lucas has good ideas and bad ideas... but he seems to lack the ability to distinguish between them. (Thanks for that link, Just this guy, y'know - That documentary has stuck with me all these years, both the way nobody ever meaningfully challenges any of Lucas' ideas or demands during the entire production, and that "Oh shit" look of dawning horror on Rick McCallum's face after watching the rough cut at 55:43.)
posted by usonian at 9:21 AM on December 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


but the idea has been presented that part of what Palpatine is doing politically to destabilize the Republic is deploying the traditionally-peace-keeping Jedi as shock troops, more or less

I've been mulling over that idea, but here's what doesn't work for me: At no point are the Jedi presented as anything other than fighters. Sure, they were sent to be "Ambassadors" in the opening of TPM, but what evidence do we have that they have any diplomatic skills at all? They appear to be a militant order - one dedicated to defense, but still equipped and prepared to fight rather than negotiate. When they do try to negotiate, they tend to rely on mind tricks to get the outcome they favour.

They more I think about it, the more I conclude that the Jedi were the method the Republic was choosing to keep everything in line; that sending them to negotiate was a thinly veiled threat to whoever they were talking with.
posted by nubs at 10:52 AM on December 11, 2015


Microscopic analysis and/or retconning of the prequels to try and justify the bad plots, bad writing and bad direction makes me a little bit crazy. I know that Star Wars was George Lucas' baby and that when the prequels were made he was in full-on multi-million dollar auteur mode, but that doesn't make any of them coherent no matter how hard people try to rationalize the plots or characters' actions in them.

There's a hell of a lot of world-building in the prequels; while much of it came off poorly in terms of how it was worked into the plot to advance the Anakin Skywalker storyline, there's plenty of meat there that isn't fankwanked invention or apologetics. As somebody who likes Star Wars, I'd rather enjoy what I can from the prequels rather than engage in permanent regret and vituperation over their very existence.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:18 AM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The maddening thing about PM and the prequels is that there's some pretty good stuff in there. I love a lot of the visuals and there are some great action sequences but they're surrounded by so much bad stuff that it's hard to remember the good stuff.
posted by octothorpe at 11:19 AM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess I'd describe myself as resigned to the fact of the prequels, not regret. There are some moments and bits of material that are good, but overall I feel like the films are not quite done, in the sense that I feel like we're seeing a draft version of the story that needs more editing, polish, and work.
posted by nubs at 12:14 PM on December 11, 2015


Maybe they could fix up the prequels and release some Special Editions?
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:18 PM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe we could just fanwank that the story of the prequels is being told to us by a droid with a some bad sectors in their memory unit.
posted by nubs at 12:31 PM on December 11, 2015


It's the Young Readers' Abridged Adaptation of the Journal of the Whills
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:54 PM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe we could just fanwank that the story of the prequels is being told to us by a droid with a some bad sectors in their memory unit.

That would be Star Wars: Droid Tales. (IT'S REAL.)

It would make a dang lot more sense for special editions to be made that fixed the errors between the Original Trilogy and the Prequels, if we respect the material from its chronological release and not its canonical chronology. I would BUY those in a heart beat. Release them as a set for over $100 with theatrical editions and I'm sold.
posted by Atreides at 2:54 PM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


WELL, ACTUALLY:
The events surrounding the life of several members of the Skywalker family were recorded in the Journal by a Keeper of the Whills, after an interview with the Astromech droid R2-D2 one hundred years after the Battle of Endor.
Always Google your own references, kids. You never know what you might learn!
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:25 PM on December 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am watching this right now and this is literally the worst movie ever made. I actually can't think of a single worse film, not Manos Hands of Fate, not Showgirls, not even Jack and Jill. This move is straight up garbage. Hot dogshit. I'm not even lolling, I actually feel like I'm dissociating - this is so bad.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 11:22 PM on December 15, 2015


Just wait until you see Episode II.
posted by entropicamericana at 5:49 AM on December 16, 2015 [5 favorites]






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