Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (PG)
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This is the first film, chronologically, in the Star Wars saga, but it's the fourth to be released. It came out in 1999, twenty-two years after the series began with Episode IV, and sixteen years after the last movie in the original trilogy, Episode VI. It's also the only movie I can recall having actually seen twice in theaters (not just the only Star Wars movie, but any movie). This is not because it was good. It's because I went to see it once with an old friend shortly before I moved away from my home state, and then once with a new friend after I moved to another state. I must say... I've been a Star Wars fan since I was a kid, and I spent many years waiting for George Lucas to make his long-promised prequel trilogy. In fact, I'd say it was probably the thing I was most looking forward to in life (certainly one of the things I was most looking forward to). And then, when it finally came out, I was pretty excited to see it. But um... it wasn't as good as the original trilogy. In fact, many fans of the franchise hated it, with a passion. I didn't hate it. It had its problems, but I didn't hate it. I actually kind of liked it. But that, in itself, is a pretty big disappointment when you've spent all those years waiting for something, especially a new entry in a franchise you love. In spite of my disappointment, I've often felt the need to defend the movie. (I remember, for example, hearing Randal list a bunch of complaints in an episode of Clerks: The Animated Series, and I felt like I could reasonably dispute most or all of those complaints.)
On the other hand, there are surely some newer fans of the franchise who think the prequel trilogy is better than the original trilogy, and those people are just plain wrong. OMG, are they wrong. I mean, entertainment is usually a matter of opinion, so there's no right or wrong, but this is one of the few instances where it's possible to have a wrong opinion. If you like the prequels more than the originals... it cannot be overstressed just how wrong you are. ...But having said that, I again feel the need to dial it back a notch and reiterate that a lot of Star Wars fans are... well, not necessarily wrong to hate the movie, but still, they're wrong to think it would be wrong for anyone else (like me) to not hate the movie. I will say this: the movie would have been better with less CGI. George Lucas seems to think CGI ships and creatures and whatever look more realistic than the models and things used for special effects in the original (pre-Special Edition) trilogy, but I think he's wrong. I think CGI looks way less realistic. My main complaint about the prequels is that they suck at character development. The original trilogy had a totally epic story, but it wouldn't have worked so well without awesome characters. And while the prequels may look epic, they are sorely lacking in the awesome character department.
There may be some question as to whether one should watch this movie first, or fourth, if you've never seen the series. Machete order would suggest skipping it entirely, while a different order would suggest watching it third. I'm a 4-5-6-1-2-3 kinda guy, but I do think an excellent case can be made for 4-5-1-2-3-6. In any event, I intend to watch it again someday, whenever I get around to buying it on DVD. Until then, I don't remember it well enough to write a review. Meanwhile, I'd like to recommend you watch Fanboys. Oh, and before I forget, I also wanted to say that I like the title, "The Phantom Menace." I think I've heard (or read) some criticism of the title, but I don't exactly remember. But I do think it's nicely evocative of the kind of old school adventure serials that inspired Lucas to create Star Wars in the first place. And I think it's actually fairly apt. (It's also possible I hear or read some praise of the title, rather than criticism. I do wish my memory didn't suck so bad.) And... I also wanted to mention that I love Duel of the Fates, one of the musical themes that John Williams composed for this movie. I also love The Saga Begins, a Weird Al Yankovic song that parodies the film (or, to be more accurate, it summarizes the plot pretty faithfully, but still manages to be really funny without exactly making fun of the movie... at least in my estimation), to the tune of Don McLean's "American Pie."
Note for when I get around to rewatching the movie and writing a review: There's a character in this movie named Palpatine. We had seen an older version of him in the original trilogy (mainly Episode VI), but he was never actually named in those movies. Of course, fans of the franchise have known what the character's name was from other sources since the 1970s, so... hearing the younger version's name in this movie is kind of spoilery. (But perhaps that's only true if you knew the name already, and I guess one doesn't have to assume that every viewer will know it.) But something I definitely want to keep an eye on is a thing I read on the page about machete order: "We simply don't know or care who Anakin's father is, and the subtle implication that it's Palpatine is gone." I was like, WTF? I so do not remember any such implication, from when I watched this movie. Like, at all. And I doubt I'll notice it even if I'm specifically looking for it. (But then again, my memory sucks, and it's possible next time I watch the movie I'll be like "Oh yeah, I forgot about that.)
Well, already this page is longer than some of my movie reviews, and I haven't really even started it yet. The page is basically a placeholder, at this point. But oh wells.