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February 18, 2012


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Saw Phantom Menace in 3D today (I saw it three times when it came out but hadn't seen it since), and I can't say it aged well (though the teenage girl sitting near me who spent much of the film texting - including during the Darth Maul lightsaber fight, by far the film's best scene - certainly reminded me that I was watching the film in the year 2012).

It definitely has its strong suits -- Darth Maul, that final sword fight, Neeson and McGregor's performances, the Williams score, the effects and design -- but it's by far my least favorite of all six films. In this viewing it felt three hours long (and though the 3D conversion was pretty good by the standards of that technology, it still seemed to result in a dimmer, less colorful image, and image is most of what Phantom Menace has going for it), and both Jake Lloyd and Darth Maul were even worse than I'd remembered. I don't blame Lloyd -- he was a child, ferchrissake, it was the director's responsibility to get a good performance out of him, and it's hard to imagine a director with more artistic and financial control over a film than Lucas had over the Star Wars prequels -- but Jar-Jar is utterly unforgivable. Besides the arguable racial caricature, he is simply one of the most irritating characters in any film, Star Wars or not, a whiny coward who is given an obscene amount of screen time.

I don't understand the hate for Attack of the Clones. It's not as consistent as Revenge of the Sith (which I think is ultimately crippled by the Christensen-Portman relationship -- it's hard to base a romantic tragedy on a relationship so utterly flat and unengaging) but it has some of the coolest scenes in all the prequels, especially Obi-Wan's visit to the clone planet, and that shot of the young Boba with his father's severed helmet/head.

Today, however, I did see a genuinely amazing and magical film -- The Secret World of Arrietty.

Dan Coyle

The Clone Wars animated movie may have bombed in theaters, but the Cartoon Network series based on it is fairly successful.

Owain Wilson

I saw the trailer for The Phantom Menace 3D in the cinema a few months ago, and was sharply reminded of how utterly boring this film is.

Even the trailer itself seems to be making a wry comment on this. The voice over guy bellows "EXCITEMENT!" and then we cut to a shot of the Jedi Council!


When I wrote that Darth Maul was worse than I'd remembered, obviously I meant Jar-Jar Binks. Jeez.


Bettencourt: that shot of Boba Fett w/ Jango's head is phenomenal. It's moments like that which allow me to suffer through Lucas poor decision-making.

And the whole Obi-Wan subplot of Clones is great, even more noir atmosphere than Empire.

Account Deleted

@Peter Scott: "My biggest frustration with the prequels is that Lucas didn't make them for me. I grew up on the original trilogy, but he made these new films for kids."

Here is the faulty premise that grown up Star Wars fans base all their disillusionment with Lucas on. What they have forgotten, or just don't seem to realise, is that the original trilogy was made for kids too.

"The fans grow up. The films don't." - George Lucas.


Who do we dislike more right now, J-J or LexG? :-)


Lucas's argument that the Star Wars movies are for kids gets him so far. As a kid, I had no problem with the Ewoks, whereas once I grew up, I understood why everyone else hated them. And then I liked introducing my kids to a new trilogy, but there was Jar Jar and midichlorians and the virgin birth and the fart jokes and the wooden acting and the cheesy dialogue and the two-headed race announcer and every time a new character appeared or had his name said, there was a pause for the audience to applaud...

I remember Terence Stamp saying he agreed to do the movie so he could act with Natalie Portman but she wasn't on set that day, so he had to act off a broomstick.

But this is what Lucas has become and has been for a long time. This is the guy who fought for years and years to have Indiana Jones fight aliens. My personal wish is that he'd let someone else independently do their own trilogy at some other corner of his galaxy and just use ILM for the effects and such.

D Cairns

This is the thing: if it's a kid's movie, why is it about a trade dispute?


@D Cairns: This is the thing: if it's a kid's movie, why is it about a trade dispute?

Ever try to teach kids to share?


No kidding. Here's the second line of the opening crawl:

"The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute."

Wow, way to start an epic adventure, George. Really puts one in the mood.


The NYTimes had a rather enlightening article about Lucas a few weeks ago ("George Lucas is Ready to Roll the Credits") where he explained his vision for RED TAILS as being purposely naive. This is obviously carried over from his involvement with, well, nearly everything that he has ever made (arguments for THX-1138 can go either way, I guess). He honestly believes that "There’s no reason why that idealism, that kind of naïveté, can’t still exist."

The problem I think most people have with the newer STAR WARS films is not that they are like this, but that they are like this AND still badly told stories. There may be parts that could be touted as so-called Great Cinema, but the story is still dumb.
It is not as Joseph Campbell-like rigid or even Saturday-morning serial cookie cutter-ish as the originals to simply be coherent enough to hold my (or my fanatical inner child's) attention.
I know it's old hat to bring up these arguments again, but that's what we all do everytime these things are re-released, right?

Peter Scott

@Markj74: I suppose I could have qualified that. Sure, the originals are made primarily for kids, but they don't talk down to them either. The drama and the characters is still adult. In the prequels, everything short of Anakin's self-destruction at the end of the final film is juvenile. And even Anakin's descent to darkness, with his off-screen slaughter of "younglings" is still very PG.

George can make that comment to cover his butt, but he's still leaving his directorial ass hanging out in the wind.

Account Deleted

@D Cairns: The trade dispute is engineered by Palpatine to allow his political takeover of the Senate. I'd actually applaud Lucas for dealing with 'political' elements in a 'kids' film. These plot points date all the way back to the 'Journal of the Whills' introduction to the 1977 novelisation of the original 'Star Wars': "Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic." Those massive organs of commerce obviously became the Trade Federation and Banking Clans of the prequels.


Yes, all children's films could benefit from more political content. I, for one, would like to know more backstory on the elections for the Mayor of Munchkinland.

Joe Gross

"The abject failure of the animated Star Wars, however, is heartening, because it suggests that there IS a limit to how bad something with the words "Star Wars" on it can get, before people stop paying for it."

I am kinda confused by this. Do you mean the cartoon "The Clone Wars?" Cuz that thing has been on for four seasons and is embraced by the 4-7 year old set the nation over.

Josh Z

@Joe, he's referring to the animated Clone Wars movie that was released to theaters in 2008, prior to the series starting on cable. It was essentially the show's pilot episode, but Lucas thought it was strong enough to play as a feature film on its own.

He was wrong. The movie was terrible, and deservedly bombed at the box office.

I've been told that the TV show itself got better, but after suffering through that movie, I have no desire to find out for myself. If even a single episode has Capote the Effeminate Hutt in it, I will never, ever watch.

Account Deleted

@jbryant: Anyone familiar with the original Star Wars films should not be at all surprised about the mention of trade routes to outlying star systems. Mos Eisley itself is a spaceport.

Joe Gross

Ah. Understood. Sorry for the confusion.

(I wrote this thing ten years ago about the new movies. http://web.archive.org/web/20021220164627/http://www.austin360.com/aas/xlent/051602/16cover.html

But, yeah, the final sword fight is great and yeah, the grace note of Liam Nissen praying between the shields was the one glimmer of The Sort of Movie I Wanted Episode One To Be.)

Joe Gross

Neeson, sorry.


Umm Mos Eisley wasn't exactly a bastion of above board trade.

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