Sunday, November 15, 2015

Journey To The Force Awakens - The Phantom Menace Review


Title: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Distributor: Lucasfilm (20th Century Fox)
Director: George Lucas
Writer(s): George Lucas  
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Ray Park  
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for sci-fi action/violence.
Running Time: 136 min
Synopsis: 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.

What Others Are Saying? 

Rotten Tomatoes: 57% "Fresh", Top Critics: 42% "Fresh", Audience: 60% "Liked It"

Metacritic: Critics: 51 out of 100, Users: 5.9 out of 10
MRQE: 67 out of 100

My Review

Preface: In the next few weeks I'm going to create my own "Journey To The Force Awakens." I'm going to do this by writing reviews to all the Star Wars films, leading up to Episode VII. I got the inspiration from Collider Video. This past week Collider Video put together their own commentary video on The Phantom Menace. They plan on doing the same for each of the Star Wars films, tackling one film per week.  I'm going to follow Collider Video's commentaries with my reviews. I plan on having the reviews up a few days after their video goes up on YouTube. It's now time to geek out on Star Wars. 

Source Material: Original story by George Lucas 

Entertaining Value:

  • Action Elements: Action is a pivotal part of the Star Wars fantasy. For me, some of the most exciting parts of Star Wars is the lightsaber battles. One of the greatest positives of the prequels is lightsaber battles. Not only are they cool but they are poetic like in a dancing way.  
  • Comedy Elements: Lucas thought the best type of humor of the prequel trilogy was kid joke like poop and fart jokes.
  • Dramatic Elements: Anytime there was a dramatic moment, it was usually ruined with a poop or fart joke. 
  • Sci-Fi / Fantasy Elements: Star Wars draws inspiration from both Sci-Fi and Fantasy. The prequels lost a lot of those elements. The prequels were lacking in the adventuring aspect of the original trilogy. Lucas focused more on war in the prequels, not the dramatic parts but the political and boring parts.  
Cinematic Value:
  • Acting and Dialogue: 6: Liam Neeson was by far the best actor in this film. He seemed to put his all into the character of Qui-Gon Jinn. Talk about giving a great performance on a badly written script. After Liam, I would praise bothEwan McGregor and Natalie Portman. Both of them were relatively newcomers. Ewan McGregor was known for indie film, most notability Trainspotting. While Portman was a fairly young actress, with only four or five films prior to Star Wars. The only other actor with less experience on set was Jake Lloyd. From my understanding, there were better actors to fulfill the role of young Anakin, but Jake had the innocent child spirit that Lucas was looking for. In my opinion, Anakin would have function better as a character if he was slightly older like 12 or 13. The veterans showcased good performance, except for Samuel L. Jackson. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't up to par to what I was expecting out of Sam Jackson.             
  • Cinematography: 7: The camera work and lighting were good in the film. To be honest its one of the stronger aspects of the film. I praised the action above and apart of that is well shoot action sequences.     
  • Direction: 6: The frist job of a director should be getting the best performance out of your actors as possible. Second is tell a good story. George isn't the best at getting good performance out of his actors. This film shows that flaw more than his other films. Even the storytelling was weak in this film, which is where Lucas usually shines at. I guess you can't be 100% all the time.   
  • Editing: 6: In general, there were quite a bit of long drawn out parts, case and point the pod racing sequence. That sequence takes up a good chunk of the film. I believe that sequence takes nearly 15 minutes. It was a cool 15 minutes, especially in my teenage mind, but the race felt repetitive. I felt the film could have been tighter on the editing front.      
  • Screenplay: 3: George Lucas created this immersive space opera in the original trilogy. He had a universe with a great fiction and mythology. What does he do with this awesome mythology? He trashes it by over-explaining. For example, The Force. In Star Wars: A New Hope, Obi-Was defines, The Force, as an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together. In this film, Lucas changes the Force by making it "ruled" by midi-chlorians. Basically, the Force become a genetic trait rather than a cosmic force. The second major change Lucas made was lowering the target audience. The script became riddled with humor made for a much younger audience, as in poop and fart jokes. There were so many of these types of jokes that it sometimes ruined a scene that could have been very emotional. This mentally spawned the worst character ever written for Star Wars, Jar Jar Binks. In general, I'm fine with a clumsy comic relief character, but that type of humor doesn't fit the humor established in the original trilogy. Even Jar Jar's speech patterns were childish and annoying.  If you edit out Jar Jar like a fan has done, the film increase in quality because Jar Jar doesn't add anything to the story.   
  • Sound and Music: 10:  Frist and foremost the score from John Williams is great as usual. For me, the piece of music that stands out the most, in my head, is the Duel of the Fates. You know, the music that plays during the Darth Maul, Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan fight. I want to draw attention to Ben Burtt's sound design. If nothing else, rewatch the pod racing scene. Each and every pod racer has it own unique sound. Even the sounds of the race in of its self is awesome.
  • VFX: 10: For 1999 the visual effect were revolutionary. George Lucas is more or less the father of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). He was pushing CGI technology of that time to the max. Oddly enough the CGI holds up today, granted CGI today is damn awesome. I have to note that I personally like the character design in this film. I may not like the characters themselves but how they looked on screen was good.  
Overall: 6: As a Star Wars film The Phantom Menace failed to deliver. As a film, in general, it wasn't any better, but there are quite a few redeeming qualities. I personally don't hate the prequel films. I have accepted them as Star Wars canon and can get some enjoyment out of them. At the same time, I can really recommend them. Out of all the Star Wars films, The Phantom Menace would be the one I suggest skipping.     

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