Worth A Look: 20.48%
Pretty Bad: 15.23%
Total Crap: 23.32%
39 reviews, 718 user ratings
|Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace
A fairly strong first act, and a third act that is as exciting as any other film in the series. But the middle third seems to prove that George Lucas has surrounded himself with marketing hacks and yes-men, too afraid to point out fundamentally flawed ideas.First off, a statement: I AM a Star Wars fanatic. I have seen each film since Star Wars on opening day (yes, I'm THAT old). So it pains me to have to say anything bad about any of the films.
"Great bread...sad, sad sandwich"
But I'm also honest.
Okay, first the obvious stuff: Jar Jar is a horrible mistake. Not enough on his own to ruin it for me, but still very bad.
And I'm not annoyed simply by the inclusion of comic relief. C3P0 was essentially comic relief in the trilogy. The difference is that C3P0 was fairly well-written. Fanatics seem to be getting annoyed that so many people seem to be keying in on Jar Jar as a failure....well, folks, George is the one who made this type of sniping so easy, by including this incredibly stupid and badly-executed character.
But the movie's failings can't fall entirely on this character. The entire Gungan race is ill-conceived, and seems to be shoved into the film to allow George to create more CG effects. And this is one of the big problems. There are FAR too many elements in this film that seem to be just thrown in to show the grand scale of things, without enough storyline or character 'meat' to justify them. Very beautiful, yes, if only the film was as interesting in the second act.
Little hint, folks: if you spend a lot of time noticing how cool the effects are, there may be a problem. Effects should be a way of immersing you in a world, but then the things that happen in this world should be more exciting than the details of the set. Not so in the middle third of TPM.
My fellow fanatics at this point will be calling me a heretic: but another problem I have with this flick actually stems from my love of Star Wars.
One of the things I LOVED about the trilogy was that it was space OPERA. It was a story of mythical characters that just happened to be set in space. This will most likely be seen as nitpicking, but I was very depressed to hear the words 'laser' and 'space' included. I don't recall these in the earlier films.
The biggest problem on this front is the inclusion of the blood test for Jedis. George could have simply had the wonderful, mystical Jedis claiming that 'the Force is strong in this one', further strengthening the wonder and mystery.
Instead, they simply take a blood sample and check for the presence of Super Jedi Juice, analyzing and quantifying mystical power:
"Wow!!! The kids a 75.94 on the Jedimeter!!!" - Thanks for blowing that part of the magic for me, George.
The REAL problem is that the middle of this film actually bored me. And to break with many other reviewers, I found the pod race to be quite boring as well...high speed does not necessarily equal high excitement. The beginning got me fired up and ready, but the middle killed all that excitement for a time.
The last act was the best part of the film, and I think I've figured out why: ALL of the main characters are involved in the action, each taking major roles in the battle.
The reason this finally got me was that throughout the rest of the film, I really wasn't given a chance to care very much about any one of the characters. Once ALL the characters are involved, the sum of my blah attitudes towards them all was enough to make me care about the common goal.
Yes, he's setting up what may eventually be a grand story...does that excuse this film?
It's definitely worth seeing, not simply for the effects, but also for that neat first act and swashbuckling ending. If you step out in the middle for a potty break you won't miss much.
You'll probably enjoy it. Despite the flaws, I did like the film. My guess is, though, that it will kill a tiny bit of the magical feeling you have about the series...as it did for me.George, you have enough money now. The next film doesn't have to be a marketing pitch.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=723&reviewer=20
originally posted: 05/21/99 00:00:08
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