Mediocrity at its finest
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999): Two Jedi Knights escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to reclaim their old glory.
Welcome to Star Wars week! For the next wonderful week, we will be taking a look at each of the Star Wars films. However, we will be taking a look at them in the famed "machete" order, reviewing Episode IV, V, then II, III, and finally VI. While this order does officially cut out Episode I, I didn't want to leave this film out in the cold, so I decided to review it first then go into the Machete Order. Ready? Let's go Star Wars!
.......Even though Episode I should be cut out of the franchise all together. Ok. We all know that this film is the weakest of the franchise, but I'm going to review this film as if I have no idea what's going to happen next in the franchise. Each film will be reviewed as it's own entity, and hopefully that will make for at least a somewhat unbiased review of the film. Because there's little doubt that I love this franchise. Anyway, let's get to reviewing, shall we? Oh and spoilers for these first six Star Wars reviews. I'm not going to hide what happens in these, BUT I WILL HAVE A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW OF EPISODE VII I PROMISE. Oh ya. Episode I
Star Wars: Episode I is an interesting film. It's gripping and exhilarating at the best of times, and borderline unwatchable at the worst of times. Moments like the pod race, and the entire third act are an absolute blast, with so many great elements coming together at once. The music in these sections is great. The editing is fantastic. The cinematography is wonderful. And the acting is great. Except when we cut to young Anakin Skywalker, but we'll get to that later. But then there's the rest of the film. This film could've been great. But it falls flat on its face throughout most of the 136 minute film because of some absolutely AWFUL writing. I mean holy CRAP is the writing in this film bad. George Lucas can do action sequences really well, but then he realizes he has another 2 hours of film to shoot and doesn't know what to do. But even in the action sequences, you never really feel like anyone is in danger. You never are on the edge of your seat wondering if Anakin is actually going to lose the pod race simply because the stakes were set too high before the race and there's still 90 minutes of film left. What we got with Star Wars: Episode I was a not animated kids film. And that's fine! There are a lot of kids films out there that appeal to every generation. However Episode I is not one of those. The film goes from 0-100 just in the opening montage and thus as a result you never really get invested with the characters.
However this film isn't all bad. For one, the Darth Maul/Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon lightsaber duel was easily the best part of the film, and there you absolutely felt a lot of emotions. The conclusion of that fight was the only point of the entire film where I felt real actual emotion. And the score over that sequence was breathtaking. (Overall franchise note: John Williams' Duel of Fates used over that fight is my favorite music from the entire franchise with the exception of The Asteroid Field sequence from Episode V.) In that sequence, the film showed true greatness. But then the film just had to cut to the stupid as hell Gungan sequence. And the terribly hard-to-buy sequence with the Queen. The other great moment, as I said earlier, was the pod race. This was a truly exhilarating sequence, even though again I never really felt any sort of emotion or suspense as to who would win. It was just a really really fun sequence. The sets were also fantastic. The sets are realistic and clearly an excruciating attention to detail was paid to them. But these incredibly well-done sequences were surrounded by so much fluff. And too much Jar Jar Binks.
The acting was another strong piece of the film. Liam Neeson, easily the most recognizable star in the film at its release, shines as Qui-Gon Jinn, and a young Ewan McGregor also shined as Obi-Wan. Natalie Portman was great, Ian McDiarmid was excellent, and even a young Keira Knightley is in this. There was just one problem. And this problem just happened to be the main character of the whole damn film. I'm not gonna sugarcoat it. Jake Lloyd is absolutely TERRIBLE as Anakin Skywalker. I can't even imagine how many actors were screened for this role, but I have a feeling that eventually George Lucas just said "F**k it! Let's just cast the next guy who walks in here!" And it was like the water boy or something. Because how anyone could think that this guy was the right choice for this character is beyond me. He's. Just. Bad. Now, to his credit he got some pretty awful lines he had to recite, but even when he wasn't reading awful dialogue he was really struggling to create an identity with this character. Oh well. Ultimately, this film could've been a good film, but awful writing, silly fluff scenes, and the entire Gungan story line keep it from that. Whatever, George Lucas. On to the next one.
The Critique: The definition of average, Episode I shines at points but is held back by too much to make it a truly worthy installment in this franchise.
The Recommendation: Why even do this? We've all seen it. Watch these films in the Machete Order. Moving on.
Rewatchability: Only when you feel like watching the whole franchise.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average.
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