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
by Ryan Arthur
Pay attention: There are better movies out there, but none quite as interesting to look at.So this is the Second Coming. Right.
I did not hate this film. Not by any stretch. Nor did I slobber all over it, like some drooling fanboy/saint bernard.
This movie, like most movies, is flawed.
We join the fray as a couple of Jedis (Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor) are headed to help settle a trade dispute. They get caught up in a web of intrigue as planet Naboo is being invaded and the young Queen (Natalie Portman). The Jedi spirit her away to Tattooine, where they meet up with a young boy named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who may or may not be "the one who brings balance to the Force."
That's a brief nutshell. There's oh-so-much more, but odds are, you've already seen the film, read the screenplay, bought the toys, soiled the sheets. If you haven't, then head on down to the local Lucasplex and catch a screening.
There are many things to like and dislike here. The Phantom Menace is on track to be one of the biggest moneymakers of all time. Will it beat Titanic? Not on it's initial run, no. But after a few rereleases here and there (hey, it took the original Star Wars *5* releases to claim the top spot from E.T.), it assuredly will. But is it about the money, the bragging rights?
No, nor should it be.
Episode 1 is, as Lucas has stated, just another part of a Saturday morning serial for children. That's fine, sir. The kids in the audience I was in were mesmerized. The adults were bored to tears.
Take Liam Neeson. An accomplished actor with the chops needed to carry a film. He's given a great role. He's got the look down. But he's described as being a loose cannon - a loner, Dottie, a rebel - and you just can't see it. He's so rebellious, that he stands before the Jedi Council and tells them exactly what he wants to do.
Take Ewan McGregor. He's given the unenviable task of playing not just Obi-Wan Kenobi, but Sir Alec Guiness PLAYING Obi-Wan Kenobi. He does a fine (though pretty eerie) job with the mannerisms and the voice, but he's relegated to the background. He spends the better part of the film standing slightly behind Neeson, looking grim. Granted, the character is an apprentice with his master, but given the nature of that character (at least, what we know of the character and his future) we expect more.
What fails the film? It's not the visuals. This movie looks cool regardless of how you feel about it in the end. But the visuals only emphasize something else - how poorly this film is written. Lucas stumbles a bit with the dialogue (as Harrison Ford has said, "George, you can write this shit, but you sure can't say it."), and suffers from the same malady that afflicts James Cameron - as one critic has put it (I believe it was Rolling Stone's Peter Travers): he's may have the painter's eye, but he's got a tin ear for dialogue.
You wonder why Lucas has taken the mystique out of the Force - it's now most likely a cell thing, rather than a spiritual thing. You wonder why a child of 10 leaving his mother is so restrained. You wonder if a character whose chief trait is clumsiness really needs to be in the film at all.
And you wonder just what the second installment will be like.
Episode 1 did its job. It's got me ready to see Episode 2. Nothing more. I have no doubt that Episode 2 will be a better film, because we'll have the love story between Anakin and Amidala, and we'll have the story of the Sith Lords (let's hope they all don't get offed as easily as Darth Maul) and the Empire's rise.
But this one?
Eh. As a stand alone film, it's just not that grand. If it weren't a Star Wars movie, most people would hate it, and that's a fact.
But taken in context with the other three films, it's adequate. It makes you anxious to see the next two parts (not really conclusions, since we ultimately know how it all ends). Not deep, thought-provoking material by any means, but a pleasant diversion during a matinee.
It is just a Saturday morning serial for children, after all.Nothing I've said here will make you want to see it (again?) any more or less. Judge for yourself, not as a critic and not as a fanboy, but as a moviegoer and, most importantly, a fan of film.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=723&reviewer=7
originally posted: 06/11/99 11:37:56
|Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.