The Phantom Menace (SPOILERS)

Jar Jar Binks, one of the most annoying characters I've ever seen in a movie

Written by William Denton

I think it's time the list took on the new Star Wars movie. I bet 4 out of 5 subscribers would count themselves big Star Wars fans and 2/3 of the subscribers have seen The Phantom Menace. I caught it last night, and thought it was a letdown. I hadn't let myself in for much hype -- I'd avoided all trailers, teasers, articles, clips, and so on beforehand, and just had my own anticipation to go on -- and I didn't expect the best movie ever made, but I did hope for more. Here are a few thoughts.

There were a number of things I didn't like. First, needless complicated piffle like midichlorians, virgin births and prophecies. There's talk in the newsgroups that the microbes will figure in the upcoming cloning (as in the Clone Wars), but who cares? A poor rationalization like that is more suitable for Star Trek. Virgin births? Virgin births! Why toss something like that in and then forget about it? Surely there are better ways to account for the lack of a father or lack of knowledge of him. And this prophecy thing is hokey. Every time I hear about a prophecy now (except for DS9) I think about David Eddings' two series of stunningly awful fantasy, and I want to run away.

And then there's Jar Jar Binks, one of the most annoying characters I've ever seen in a movie. That entire race of his was stupid, and I could barely understand a word any of them said. The top guy was done by Brian Blessed, who's a fine actor (he was the ghost in Branagh's Hamlet, and Augustus in that BBC production of I, Claudius), but even he was annoying. Why an entire race of creatures speaks pidgin English, I don't know. I hope Darth someone blows up their planet real good.

The first thing that clued me in that the movie wouldn't be all I hoped for was the opening shot of the pan down from the field of stars. In the previous movies, this is followed by an incredibly immense starship going by. In A New Hope, I remember thinking that this ship was the most immense thing I had ever seen in my entire life. It went on and on and on and never seemed to stop. There'd never been an opening shot like it. In this movie, we get the opening title and the scrolling exposition (which was great to see) and then some piddly little ship pulling in around some planet. Big deal.

The thing that disappointed me most, though, was the lack of weight. The movie didn't have enough depth and power, aside from a few scenes, to show how immensely powerful and important these people will be. I know it's just Episode 1, mostly set-up, but even a sketch of future events that's mostly laying groundwork should be able to get across that these are giants we're seeing. They should carry the entire weight of the three middle movies behind them, because while those events haven't happened yet, we know they will. Perhaps it's better so say they should be pushing the weight of those events ahead of them as they press forward into the grim future. I hope that Episode 2 settles into place and the characters start to come into their own. Having an adult Anakin will be a big help here.

There were some dumb bits, like Anakin destroying the space station; anything involving Gungans; and Shmi Skywalker remaining behind so she can be saved, or found dead, later. There were some good bits, like the duel between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul (although I must say I've seen swordfights filmed much better); John Williams' score; the way all the events were set up by Senator Palpatine so he can become Chancellor; and the enormous Senate chamber. But the best part of the whole movie lasted less than ten seconds and was probably missed by most people: the final sound in the movie, after all the credits have rolled by, is the sound of Darth Vader breathing in, out, in and out.

Thoughts? Flames? Opinions? Surely there are many Star Wars geeks out there ready to debate this.

ObSRH: If things go as planned, expect to hear some exciting news in a little while. *wink*