In light of the upcoming premier of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Echo’s own intergalactic pundits Samuel John Swoap and Zachary Y Armet will review the six movies, one a week until Awakens is released. This week, we start before the very beginning, with the prequel The Phantom Menace.
The Star Wars Saga brings an epic of the likes of Homer and Vergil to the silver screen. Unfortunately, these great works of poetry have low points, and The Phantom Menace sinks to the lowest of the low. If the Star Wars movies were podracers, The Phantom Menace is the one racer whose pod failed to start and exploded at the beginning of the race. The characters in this movie are okay at best. Fans may enjoy seeing a young Obi-Wan Kenobi, but many of the new characters were either underdeveloped or absurdly annoying. Darth Maul, the main villain of the movie, had so much potential to be a kickass Sith Assassin. Instead he had a single line of dialogue and a cool lightsaber staff that wowed fans for the solid five-minute duel. Star Wars fans universally loathe Jar Jar Binks as the worst character of the series. Binks failed in his role as a comic relief that made fans cringe at his scatterbrained bumbling. Also, his inability to advance the plot of the movie makes his presence feel unnecessary and awkward.
Lucas formulated the original trilogy with a simple, yet powerful concept: a gang of heroes using a variety of skills to crush unprecedented odds. The original three movies may not have been realistic, but that made them so spectacular. No longer merely likable protagonists, Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Threepio, Artoo, and Lando become heroes who inspire awe and love. The prequels focus less on the story of good vs. evil and more on the universe and its lore, a decision that left many key characters severely undeveloped. Instead of keeping the camera focused on the protagonist, Lucas decided to zoom out and give fans a lesson about the politics of the galaxy. This decision made the awesome Star Wars universe into a textbook. By using subtle references, Lucas showed the political oppression from the Empire, but, instead of maintaining his subtly, Lucas blatantly tells the viewer all about the corruption of the Old Republic. Where a few lines of careful dialogue would suffice, Lucas spends precious time on parliamentary debates that have little relevance to the main characters.
Perhaps the most crushing blow to the original Star Wars trilogy was the introduction of midi-chlorians into the narrative. Lucas originally introduced The Force as an “ancient religion,” not some specific quantity of microscopic beings in one’s blood. The Force was supposed to be something that anyone can access it if they put their minds to it. Lucas destroyed this democratizing nature of the Force by turning it into a hereditary birthright. Oddly enough, The Phantom Menace also depicts a great Force moment: Qui-Gon Jinn meditating mid-duel with Maul. The Force should be about meditation and controlling emotions, not a genetic trait. The biological nature of the Force shattered our childhood dreams of moving objects with my mind. Nothing betrayed me more than George Lucas’s idea to turn the Force from something that every child can aspire to into an inherited birthright.
John Williams returned for an encore of his success in the original theme music. Menace has one of the most iconic tracks of the saga, “Duel of the Fates”, ranking with “Imperial March” in terms of sheer thrill factor. “Duel of the Fates” pumps adrenaline into the veins, perfectly matching the four tense battles, all of which are happening simultaneously: the Gungans fighting the Federation’s land army, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn dueling Darth Maul, Warrior-Queen Amidala leading an attempt to capture Federation leadership, and Naboo’s brave fleet engaged in combat with the Federation fleet hundreds of times its size.
High Points: Darth Maul’s Lightsaber, Young Obi-Wan, John Williams
Low Points: Midichlorians, Jar Jar Binks, Poorly Developed Story
Summary: 1 out of 5 Gungans
About the Authors:
Sam Swoap enjoys sipping Lagavulin scotch and smoking Cuban cigars while listening to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. He has also been seen playing with Tonka Trucks.
Zach Armet is the ruthless, unicameral dictator of several Central Asian countries, all of which he won the rights to in a high stakes poker game in Monaco. He spends his Sundays sipping Earl Grey while he reads the latest Martha Stewart Living.