Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Imagine it is Christmas morning and, after months of wanting, begging and lusting after a toy, it is finally in your grubby little hands.  You open the package and start playing with it, but almost immediately something is off.  The toy isn’t working like you imagined, many of the parts don’t work and it really isn't much fun to play with.  But you have thought about this moment so long and dreamed of how it would be that you can’t and won’t admit it isn’t what you hoped.  So no matter the toy’s flaws you are going to play with it and continue playing with it for a long time while ignoring the fact that it isn’t really what you wanted.  Now imagine it isn’t Christmas but May 1999 and the toy is actually Star Wars Episode I, the only movie that I can think of that gave its viewers Stockholm Syndrome.

Darth Maul looked cool, too bad he was only in about 5 minutes of the film.

Now that over a decade has passed since the movie was released most fans and non-fans of the Star Wars saga can easily admit that The Phantom Menace was not well made or even an enjoyable film.  Rants have been written, bitching has commenced and whole stand-up routines have been performed on how the prequels sucked.  It has become cool to bash the films and hold the original movies on an even higher pedestal.  Although I believe that there is not much difference in quality from the original trilogy to the new trilogy, the prequels are judged harsher than they should be because they weren’t what people were hoping for.

This is not to say that Episode I was a good movie but that the people unjustly massacred it: The Phantom Menace is a BAAAADDD film.  It is slow, filled with horrible characters (many them boring or racist) plot points that no one wanted to see and wooden performance after wooden performance.  The only high points were the music, certain action scenes and Liam Neeson.  The Phantom Menace is the only Star Wars film I don’t own and when I watched it again after so many years I did so with an open mind and heart hoping that I had been too hard on the film, which sadly wasn’t the case.

The face of the future ruler of the galaxy.

The reason I thought I might have been too hard on the film was because I thought I was punishing the film for not what it was but for not being what I WANTED it to be.  It was 16 years from Jedi to Menace and that gives people a LOT of time to dream, hope and fantasize about what a new Star Wars movie could be.  Every big fan of the franchise had different hopes about the films.  Some people might have wanted it to be really dark and heavy like Empire, other people maybe were hoping for a lot of action set during the Clone Wars and others might have wanted it to be fun like the original movie.  We all had hopes and most of us probably already created the movie in their head a few times so when Phantom Menace did not live up to those dreams and expectations no one knew how to react. I mentioned in my Jedi piece for 30 Years at the Top that I thought Jedi was actually where Star Wars started to take a dip, but many people didn’t feel the same way and they were expecting to be blown away by a new Star Wars.   When this didn’t happen people couldn’t or wouldn’t face facts.

One bad-ass Jedi.

Everyone did what he or she thought they were supposed to do.  We relived the fanaticism of the first film and went to see the movie again and again and again.  We talked about the good (Darth Maul was kind of cool and the lightsaber fight at the end was awesome) and ignored the bad.  We pretended to love it and willed ourselves to make the movie over $400 million dollars in the United States alone.  We were that kid at Christmas, playing with the toy even though it wasn’t what we wanted or hoped.

1999 the year that Phantom Menace was released was one of the best years for film in my opinion.  Such great films such at The Matrix, Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, Being John Malkovich, Toy Story 2, Magnolia, Iron Giant and Three Kings were all released and all much better than the Star Wars film, but none of them grossed nearly as much because they didn’t have over 20 years of good will built up.  We lived in denial for almost a year until as a fan base we tried to get into the movie on video, where it was right next to the original trilogy.  I like to think that this is when we woke up for our self induced break from reality was when it was on the same field as the original movies, when we could pop in the tape of Episode I and compare it to Episode IV, V or even VI. This is when, like in The Emperor Who had No Clothes, that we realized something was not right.

The most hated character in the Star Wars Universe.

George Lucas is blamed for “destroying our childhood” and is turned into a villain for making three films that are quite popular with the younger generation.  While I agree that he did not make good films, there is a whole legion of young fans that love this film and all the prequels.  Maybe Lucas did not ruin our childhood, maybe watching Phantom Menace just made us realize that you can’t go back to the childhood.  The world changes, tastes are different and the movie that you wanted to see made in 1985 is not the movie that should be made in 1999. Maybe I am reading too much into a very shallow movie and the real reason it is so hated now is because it is just a bad movie. To me, The Phantom Menace will be a great example of a film that was not popular because of the movie but because of what we wanted the movie to be.

Posted by Ryan

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. How is Jar-Jar the most hated character? He’s no goddamn Chewbacca.

  2. Don’t talk badly of Chewie. All men want to be Chewie and all women want to be with Chewie. He is on the opposite side of the scale as Jar Jar.

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