Thursday, March 29, 2012

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)


Attention nerds the time is here to look over the Star Wars universe, put down your glow stick.  Take it easy I like Star Wars too but episode I is a rough start for these films.  I need to put this out there first; Jar Jar Binks was awful, I’m sure many agree on that though.  Now I feel a tad relieved.  Politics abound in the control of the galactic senate as good old Senator Palpatine is already up to no good.  Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman, a fan of) is to be protected by Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his rather bland apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor).  They meet young Anakin Skywalker on Naboo where Qui-Gon decides to train him as a jedi as long as they can stop Darth Maul first. 

                The movie was satisfying enough for me overall but I would love to have seen more puppets.  The CGI was too much in comparison to what you would be accustomed to in the Star Wars movies of old.  Yoda could have been like he was back in 1980.  He had no battle scenes so I think it would of strengthened the film overall.  I am a fan of puppets so I know I am biased and proud of it!

                An actress I didn’t know ended up giving one of the best performances in the movie for her smaller role, Pernilla August.  She played Anakin Skywalker’s mother and her emotions that her son would be leaving her perhaps forever really stick with me as acting done well.  She explains that she became pregnant with no partner so she always felt her son was very special based on her instinct.  She holds back tears many times and displays a sense of strength knowing Anakin will be leaving with the jedi.  She knows he will have a better life with them and it takes everything away from her.  She knows she will be left alone as a slave but the courage in parting with her son in admirable.  She tells him not to look back as he walks away with Qui-Gon.  It was a bit heartfelt and one of the better moments of the movie.  You can’t help but feel sorry for her.

Anything interesting here?  It has that bland feeling.

                The droid army vs. the fishy people, what are they called I don’t recall, battle was very uninteresting to be quite honest.  Jar Jar Binks happened to be in it as well, cringing teeth.  I felt indifferent to a bunch of robots fighting some annoying race of underwater creatures.  Their look in CGI wasn’t very impressive either, I would have liked to see people in costume, how cool would that be?  It might have brought more compassion to at least cheer for them against the robots.  It would have been a bit gruesome but seeing some actual gore effects of a battle on the organic creatures would have helped to keep attention better, unless someone was making this film to appeal to kids, would anyone do that though?  It’s called Star Wars, war is in the franchise name, and you’d imagine the war like scenes to be well a bit horrifying perhaps?  I’m not a fan of heavy amounts of gore but it’s just so squeaky clean all the time.

                The final battle with the horn headed Sith, Darth Maul, was average at best.  He doesn’t get much screen time before that and a couple of lines nobody remembers.  Where is his back-story for crying out loud?  He looks fearsome enough to deserve one.  You are just basically told he’s the bad guy now the jedi’s must kill him no matter what.  What if in his past on his own home planet jedi’s of long ago came there to wage war against some threat they always stick their noses in and his family got murdered in the chaos?  Would he be considered the bad guy for wanting to avenge his family’s death against the jedi?  Now you say but that’s not his story, no not that, but it’s not explained so why can’t it be?  All I’m getting at is the character development wasn’t always strong enough for a world that is completely made up.  This isn’t a movie based on a true story or a comedy where in a few scenes you can relate to a character because that character is the personality of someone everyone encounters in their everyday lives.

                The death of Qui-Gon Jinn was sadly necessary to keep something flickering in my attention span during the uninteresting fight and the mixed in scenes with Queen Amidala’s building break-in.  When a jedi goes down, your heart sinks, especially if it’s the best actor in the movie.  It does provide some fuel to Obi-Wan to get instantaneous revenge on Darth Maul, at least now we have something to be interested in.  I very much liked Darth Maul getting cut into two pieces though, at last some fitting Star Wars integration.
He's too happy if you ask me.

                The young Anakin was decent but I would have liked to see a more mischievous little boy at play.  A kid with a high intellect but of a dark side nature due to the company he had to be around on that planet.  Most people know he is the eventual Darth Vader so why not bring out some of those small indications as early as his childhood?  Perhaps I’m speculating too much but the kid friendly atmosphere of the film makes me sick at some parts.  I know that was probably a tough area to be successful at since you don’t want to alienate children as they have a potential to fill seats at the theater.  I wanted more out of this film considering its Star Wars and had a legacy already.  It’s not the best of the movies in the series but its fun as a whole.  One last comment, Liam Neeson really carries this movie.
You can't blame me, I died to save this movie.

                Rating: 7 of 10


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