Like the original trilogy, this movie’s been discussed to death to the point where it’s not worth talking about the behind the scenes information. It’s also well-known that a lot of people consider this the worst of the Star Wars movies. Personally I think episode 2 is worse, but it seems like which one you dislike more depends on your perception of Jar Jar Binks. Regardless of which one you think is worse though, or whether you like this movie or not, it’s a total mess.
Yet despite all the criticism thrown at this movie, there do exist Star Wars Prequel defenders. I don’t feel like looking them up, but they’re not hard to find if you’re curious. The prequels have been discussed to death, and thanks to people like Mr. Plinkett, I really don’t have much to add. These next three posts will be fairly short compared to pretty much any other movie related blog post I’ve uploaded in a long time.
So here are my general thoughts on the movie. I don’t hate it like a lot of people do, and that could be partly because of nostalgia. But it is a mess. There are too many characters, with no clear lead character. The climactic battle is divided into four different smaller fights, each with a different tone, and you really only care about one of them. Well, maybe two. And while this movie still uses a lot of sets and practical effects (unlike the other two prequels), the CGI in this movie really hasn’t aged well. And the Jedi are so overpowered in most of the action scenes that there’s no real tension. The action often feels cartoonish.
This was the first Star Wars movie I watched in theaters (I was 11 when it first came out), and I enjoyed it at the time. Even now, I can still think of some things I like about the movie. While overly long, the pod race is kind of fun. The lightsaber battle, while not carrying any emotional weight until Qui Gon dies, is intense and creative. John Williams gives this movie one of the franchise’s better soundtracks. The sound design is also thoroughly impressive. And Ewan McGregor was a brilliant choice for a young Obi Wan, as the other two movies would prove.
I also don’t hate Jar Jar Binks. I don’t find him funny like I used to. I just find him mildly annoying when he starts hogging up the screen or his comedy goes overboard. I also must say, I feel sorry for a lot of people involved with this. I feel sorry for Jake Lloyd, whose life was basically ruined by this movie and all the teasing he’s received since. He was only 10 years old or so when he filmed The Phantom Menace, and he did exactly what George Lucas asked of him. And as this interview shows, the aftermath permanently turned him off of acting and even negatively affected his thoughts on the Star Wars franchise. What happened to him wasn’t the least bit fair.
I also feel sorry for the actor behind Jar Jar Binks. Thankfully his career didn’t seem to be affected too much, but he actually put a lot of heart into his performance. Jar Jar Binks’s reception really hurt his feelings. Here’s a fascinating interview with him as well. Watch for the ending.
But most importantly, I feel sorry for George Lucas. People often forget that this was the first movie he directed since the original Star Wars. He involved himself with the production on the other two original movies, and a number of other projects, but he took a 20+ year break from directing. Of course he was going to be a bit rusty. Yet he wanted to finish his vision his way, and I don’t blame him for that. The thing about George Lucas, the way I see him, is that he’s full of brilliant ideas. There are great story ideas in this movie. He just needs the right people in the right positions of power to tell him no on certain things. He got that with the original trilogy, but he didn’t get that here.
He was just trying to complete his vision for the Star Wars saga, and sure, he made a movie that isn’t all that great, but he fans tore him apart for it. They took the criticism way too far, as fandoms often do.
Anyway, I have posted about all of the Prequels on this blog before, where I tried to come up with ideas to improve the movies. I don’t agree with everything in these posts anymore, but I’m still kind of proud of these posts. Here’s my Phantom Menace entry if you’re interested.
Next up is Attack of the Clones, which until The Last Jedi, was the longest Star Wars movie yet. Then it’s Revenge of the Sith, then the Clone Wars animated movie, and two mystery posts before we get to The Force Awakens. I won’t be telling you what those are until after Revenge of the Sith. It’s more fun to keep it mysterious that way.