Star Wars Rewind: The Phantom Menace

Who would’ve thought one of the most hyped up movies in cinema history would have divided so many people? Apparently no one, as when this film came out people went nuts! They couldn’t wait to see what was in store for them. It got so big it became a media phenomenon even before it was released. So how did it turn out? Let’s begin by looking at the story.

Courtesy of Lucasfilms.

It starts with Jedi Qui-gon-Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi traveling to Naboo to negotiate with the Trade Federation to end their blockade. Their mission is to rescue Queen Padme Amidala and bring her back to the Republic to sort out this predicament. Along the way they come across poop jokes with Jar Jar Binks, and pod racing with Anakin Skywalker. Qui-gon discovers that Anakin is strong with the Force, and may be the prophesized “Chosen One” who will destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force. We eventually reach Coruscant and meet Palpatine (secretly Darth Sidious), whose plan is to get elected Chancellor and become the new head of the Republic. Palpatine who is secretly manipulating the crisis sends his apprentice Darth Maul to track down our heroes and force Amidala to sign the treaty. When the Republic is unable to help, this forces our heroes to band together and take back Naboo by force. 

When this film came out, many freaked! They couldn’t believe that one of their beloved franchises took such a drastic turn, telling stories revolving around long political talks in large CGI rooms. The question is, were those fans right. Let’s analyze our opinions in what does and doesn’t work. One element that everyone points to is the acting. The acting in this film feels like this one note that everyone seems to follow. We can’t blame them, as the way this movie was filmed was unlike most films at the time. This was one of the first films to have incorporated CGI to such a high degree. Almost everything from the backgrounds, to the sets, even some characters were incorporated using this new technology.  We can imagine it must have been a challenge for a lot of the people involved. The technology seems a tad dated today, but George Lucas was ahead of the game. It must have been difficult for the actors to work in front of a green screen without an idea of what they were looking at.

 When compared with the original trilogy: The expectations were through the roof. It was almost an impossible task. How can you compare the fresh original trilogy with its surprise endings with the prequels where you know what generally is going to happen? It’s blatantly obvious who the villain is. No one is trying to hide it. You know who is not in the original trilogy and, therefore, likely know who will live and who will die in the end. The plot can be hard to follow, as it focuses on political talks that take up a good portion of the movie. While the trade war does feel complicated, conflicts such as this form the backbone of a lot of Lucas’s stories. Unlike most people in our generation, we were shown the original movies before the prequels. We understand that there are people who have mixed opinions on the film and its direction. Which is interesting when we watched them grow up and rewatch these films from a different point of view.

Despite all the criticism, there are some great aspects to this film. The CG provides a lot of creative landscapes and sequences. The worlds seem more grand in size and scale than the original trilogy. Not only that but the lightsaber choreography is a lot better, too. The duel with Darth Maul at the end feels like a full on battle. It looks amazing even to this day. It’s also scored by John Williams legendary “Duel of the Fates” theme, which is so epic we listened to it after watching the movie. Looking back on it from both a fan and writer’s perspective, it is interesting to see Lucas’s vision come to life without any interference. One of the most interesting aspects of this film may be the fan reaction.

The fact that millions of people waited for days in line and tried to convince themselves that it was the biggest film ever is astounding. It is fascinating to compare the positive reviews from the time of the film’s release with many fans’ impressions today. It is interesting to speculate how the actors might have done with the story if Lucas could use today’s technology to film it. We may never know what Lucas had intended when he made his choices, but it’s interesting to research and speculate. Overall, we’re glad Lucas got his vision made. After all, Star Wars is his creation. Ever since the original trilogy, we wanted to see what stories he had to tell. This film proves that no work of art is perfect and that when new technology is used, you run the risk that it may become a bit outdated as the technology develops. With that said if you do enjoy this movie, Great! Your opinion is your opinion and don’t let anyone take that away from you. For us, while it may have been an enjoyable stand alone, for many of the reasons we state above it didn’t feel as if the movie reached the level of the original trilogy.


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