STAR WARS GALACTIC CONQUEST REVIEW: Our first stop in this growing franchise is the first prequel, “Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace,” which stars Liam Neeson (Taken, The Grey), Ewan McGregor (Jack the Giant Slayer, Son of a Gun), Natalie Portman (Thor, V for Vendetta), Jake Lloyd (Jingle All the Way, Madison), Ian McDiarmid (Sleepy Hollow , Utopia [TV series]), Ray Park (X-Men, G.I. Joe: Retaliation), Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction), Pernilla August (Daybreak, Drabet), Ahmed Best (Mother and Child, Open Window), Anthony Daniels (Droids [TV series], I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle), Kenny Baker (Sleeping Beauty , Mona Lisa), Frank Oz (Inside Out, Sesame Street [TV series]), and Terence Stamp (Yes Man, The Adjustment Bureau). It is written and directed by George Lucas (American Graffiti, Raiders of the Lost Ark). The film takes place many years before “Star Wars,” as a Jedi master named Qui-Gon Jinn (Neeson) and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) try to get to the bottom of a problem that involves the evil Trade Federation blocking any imports or exports to Naboo. It is just another issue that the Republic has to deal with, but after dealing with this point of interest head on, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan begin to think that there may be something even more evil on the rise. All of this sends them to Tatooine, where they encounter a boy that seems to be “the chosen one” of an old prophecy where the one is supposed to bring balance and peace to the Force. The boy’s name is Anakin Skywalker (Lloyd).
The Force is….rather odd with this one. “Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace” is a film that I actually had a lot of respect for growing up, believe it or not. When I was a much younger kid, I had never really witnessed a Star Wars movie and it took until the screening of “Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith” for me to actually bask in the amazement that is Star Wars (it was also the only Star Wars movie that I have ever seen in theaters so far). Sure, I probably saw the other entries before then, but I don’t remember. The only memory I had of seeing the other movies was after my parents picked up all of the films on the DVD widescreen editions long ago (back in 2007 I believe). When I first watched them, I loved all of them and the universe. But since then I haven’t seen any of them, and although I vaguely remember what happens in each do to the internet’s reminding, I haven’t really got to break down the movies in a more adult mentality. So, enough with the rambling and onto the real question: was this movie as good as I remember? No. There are certain aspects to it that I very much appreciate still (Darth Maul, anyone?), but in its entirety, this film is a let down of what I used to know. When talking about the plot, there is really nothing to work with. I mean, there’s an issue, but it’s more of an issue that is dealt within the Republic than it is a grand adventure with Jedi. Just reading the opening, rolling title card made me bored. It’s a film about settling a trade dispute! If I wanted to see something like that, I would try my hand at actual politics or maybe get into a series that deals with those matters. It’s not the worst story however, mainly because of my love for Star Wars and how I am willing to sit through anything that is in that universe (unless it is complete garbage). The writing isn’t trash, but it is just beyond boring. Two hours and sixteen minutes of a movie where eighty-five percent of it is a group of people sitting, or standing, talking about trade issues isn’t going to keep my interest. The only saving grace of this movie is the tales of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi and their dealings with a young Anakin Skywalker. I remember how Qui-Gon used to be my favorite Jedi of the Star Wars universe and after watching this movie again, I will still say that he is an awesome and wise character and with Liam Neeson portraying him it was even better. Obi-Wan is also portrayed well, and I find Ewan McGregor to be a respectable actor. Everyone did okay overall in terms of acting, but it’s the script that destroys their performances. Like I said, it wasn’t that bad, but there were many lines that I scoffed at, especially the ones where George Lucas tried to pull off a joke that didn’t land. Speaking of jokes, let’s talk about Jar Jar Binks (Best), the most hated character in the galaxy. Before when I watched this as a younger kid, I didn’t mind Jar Jar. I thought he was odd-looking, but funny. Then again, I was around eight when I watched him. Now, I understand the common masses. I don’t find Jar Jar to be the worst character ever, but I find him to be the most confusing writing choices of George Lucas. He originally envisioned a Goofy-like character to take the stress off of the boring matters, which I can understand, but the fact that it ended up being Jar Jar is where I get lost in the dust. His jokes aren’t funny and almost all of the time I don’t understand a thing he says. Looking at the subtitles I am still confused because they spell his words in the way he pronounces them, which are incredibly illiterate and jumbled. Very few of his physical humor can be likable, but emphasis on a few. Whenever he isn’t annoying he is mainly expendable or bearable. Part of that not-caring mentality has to do with the little kid inside of me that used to find this character fun. I seem to be all over the place here, but let’s roll with it. Onto to next main character I will discuss is Anakin Skywalker who is played by Jake Lloyd, otherwise known as that kid from “Jingle All the Way.” I don’t know how I missed it before, but this kid’s performance is flat. I felt no sense of emotion with him. Whenever he is in peril, he has a straight face. Whenever he is happy, he has a straight face. There is probably one moment where he expressed some sort of sadness, but I can’t remember when. What inclined George Lucas to choose him is a mystery. Heck, why he chose to revamp this series in this form is a mystery to me. Overall, Jake Lloyd is enough of an actor to sit through, but he is extremely hollow. Now, let’s get to the final character I will mention: Darth Maul (Park). The poster-Sith that everyone anticipated for who only got fifteen minutes of screen time in total. This guy is just epic. Simple as that. I don’t know why, but whenever he battled Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan at the end, I got chills: literally. The battle was fantastic and was choreographed masterly. It was the best part of the whole film and is a boost to this movie’s score. Everything about him is great and that’s all I will write. Off topic of characters and story, any solid pros would definitely include the music. You can’t have a Star Wars flick without John Williams. I mean, this movie was nominated for three Oscars (I know, I was confused too), two of which where for the music. The guy is a genius and his music gets stuck in my head. That’s where part of my chills came from in that Darth Maul fight. Lastly, a part pro/part con is the special effects. Some of you may be wondering, “part pro? The special effects stunk!” Well, although that may have been true when it first aired compared to now, I watched this film on the widescreen edition DVDs and apparently they seemed to have updated the special effects so, they may not be that amazing, but they hold up…for now. Granted, there are definitely bad CGI moments in this film, but as a whole, it wasn’t that bad in terms of the updated version. What I do not understand is the scrapping of traditional puppetry for, although an old practice, it still holds up for many years. When it comes to all cons, I pretty much explained them throughout. I hope this was a sufficient review for there was a lot to cover. In the end, I thought this movie was a disappointment compared to what I remember as a young child. It’s okay for what it is, but it is definitely not a B-rate film either. I guess the term I am shooting for is manageable. Either way, no matter how many times I watch a Star Wars marathon, I will always view this one. FINAL SCORE: 73%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: