Thursday, January 20, 2011

Star Wars 1 the Phantom Menace - detailed review

I watched the Phantom Menace again the other night; it's not one I've watched often. On occasion I pop in the DVD and get as far as the opening scrawl before coming to my senses and putting something else on; this time I persevered.

I now realise what I've been saving myself from each time I hit the eject button; this film is even worse than I remember. Those who respond to the negative criticism this film garnered often state that it wasn't shot for adults raised on the 'original' series, it was shot for those approaching it for the first time - the kids. They're wrong.

Look at all the references to the original set that's been added in. Either this is a nod to all the fanboys to geek out over or George Lucas wouldn't know subtle foreshadowing if it smacked him on the back of the head with a 2 by 4. They just appear out of thin air conjured as non sequiturs in the mouths of the actors. Actually looking at the original series I'll allow the option that Lucas just can't write this stuff then and has just gotten worse since.

Therefore the crowning point of 'not for kids' is the actual story - A long time ago in a galaxy far far away a planet had trouble filing in its tax returns and was subject to an audit that resulted in debates in the senate and a vote of no confidence in the chancellor. Okay not quite, but is anyone going to tell me that this is the layout you want to present to someone coming to this series for the first time? Not for kids!

The only way this can be deemed of interest is because it sets out the causes for the story in the original three which you have to know of before you watch it. Ergo - for the fans. Despite this try to pretend you know nothing of the Star Wars universe and you're left with huge amounts of WTH non-explanations that blows the responders out of the water.

So why is it so bad. I'll skip the initial premise and I'll even try to justify the existence of trade routes in space (because that's how the hyperjump calculations are set). It's difficult to skip over the trade blockade of a ring around the equator of the planet in a universe where space craft seem to be able to just take-off from anywhere though. However here's the bit that tells us Lucas shouldn't take any more tips from Mel Gibson - the first shot of the boo-hiss bad guys and they're speaking Engrish and dressed in kimono type robes - just give them slanty eyes too why don't you. Oh but it's a film for the kids and funny accents are funny.

But what's this the baddies are worried because the two visitors are Jedi - oh no.... what's a Jedi? Apparently someone who talks about bad feelings and can hold their breath for a long time. Seriously we had a full explanation of both what a Jedi is and what they did as well as an explanation of the Force in episode 4 - in this, purportedly, the first episode we get nada (no midichlorians does not count). They also have laser swords and telekinesis and can run very fast. Oh and check out both Liam Neeson's expression and the swelling music as he tries to cut through the bulkhead doors - yes apparently sticking your laser sword into steel requires great concentration and skill.

Having taken exception to their attempted murders in such a clumsy way - fill a room with poison gas and then send in some droids to "finish them off". Just leave the room sealed for a couple of hours. Do you need it that desperately, does Cath in Accounting have it booked for a 2 o'clock meeting or something? Ahem anyway they leave the orbiting ship in a droid carrier. Which either means that Jedi don't need to breath (which contradicts the poisoned room),  they bothered to create an atmosphere in a ship that contains droids that don't need to breath, or they managed to find both a ship that contains breathing creatures and an area they could do so without being caught.

A landing and much running away from the transport vehicles who seem to be clearing a space in a forest. At this point if you thought the Engrish boo-hiss baddies were an oversight we're introduced to Jar-Jar Binks and his comedy accent as well as his brain the size of a pea. Hello strangers let me take you to the hidden city of my people while this invasion is going on. I'm sure you're trustworthy having saved my life by rescuing me from that slow-moving transport vehicle that would have just knocked me to the ground and hovered over me causing me no serious injury whatsoever.

Meetings ensue at which point we see Liam Neeson waggle his hand and get the boss (voiced by a seriously under-utilised Brian Blessed) to repeat what he says. So Jedi are into mind-manipulation; remind me are these supposed to be the good guys? Incidentally we're told explicitly in II and IV and implicitly in VI that this mind trick only works with the weak-minded. Yep the Boss of the Gungans is officially weak-minded - nice.

The quickest way to the city is through the centre of the planet... so you're telling me that the invading droid army landed on the other side of the planet from their main objective?

Meanwhile the Engrish bad guys are after the Queen (go Monarchy!) to sign a treaty justifying everything the bad guys are doing - are you keeping up kids isn't this thrilling? Natalie Portman in the part shows us she's been watching Kate Winslet in "Elizabeth" or simply that Lucas thinks that we won't understand she's a Queen unless she puts on this silly accent. Of course all this is undermined when we later discover the Queen is an elected official. So the entire 'human' population voted for a 14-year old girl as their supreme leader. Either she ran unopposed or she's been reading "The Jong-Il guide to democracy".

Here come the Jedi to save the day and off they fly in the shiny, shiny spaceship straight at the encircling ring of the blockade rather than oo flying straight 'up' from one of the poles. At this point we're introduced to R2-D2 and the seriously callous regard everyone has for autonomous droid life. Consider if rather than droids it had been human engineers scrabbling over the hull to fix the shields and being shot off and a VIP declared "We're loosing engineers, fast!", but hey not to worry they're just droids with their own personalities etc. who cares?

Huzzah the shield's up and through the blockade, but oh no the Hyperdrive is leaking. Leaking into what? On the Shuttle and the Space Station they have to give a good hard push to anything they want to get rid off otherwise it'll either stay put or just start to encircle the craft. Got a leak, just send out the droid on a tether to suck up the fuel. Sure it could be an internal leak, but what caused that - a laser shot ricochetting into the space ship?

Time to head to Tatooine (fan-boy cheer). 'We'll land on the outskirts so as not to draw attention' says Neeson. Yes because it seems none of these planets have any sort of traffic control or radar system and strangers parking off centre and then walking in is way less suspicious than just landing in the same way as everyone else does.

Into town goes Neeson, R2 and the Queen insists that one of her handmaidens joins them, hey she looks kind of familiar don't you think? Oh my gosh it's the Queen in disguise. Yep because in a wretched hive of scum and villainy dealing in the slave trade no-one's going to bother with a 14-year old girl unless they knew she was important.

As luck would have it they walk into the only trading station that has the parts they require - blah blah blah your money's no good here. Cue the mystical Jesus bible allusions and the let's set up the video game by having young Anakin win a pod race. Neeson takes a blood sample of Anakin without parental consent and elicits a huge groan from every fanboy in existence by declaring the mystical Force is nothing but specialised bacteria.

Big surprise Anakin wins the race. On the way back to the ship they're attacked by a bad guy who Neeson thinks might be a Sith... a what? Again no explanation.

They arrive at the capital planet do the chit chat that sets up the vote of no confidence in the Chancellor and we meet the Jedi Council for the first time - which seems to consist of a group of people sitting cross-legged on futons all looking at Master Yoda to tell them what to think. No seriously look at the number of times Yoda makes an 'executive decision' throughout the first three films. As an aside this also blows the reveal of Episode V out of the water.

Neeson tells the council that Anakin might be a 'vergence'[sp?] again a what? The person who might bring balance to the Force. Oh is the Force unbalanced didn't know that, in what way exactly? Oh okay don't bother telling us. Despite this and his high test scores Yoda decides that Anakin is too old to be taught; so hey I don't know let's just chuck this potentially powerful kid out onto the streets; if he's lucky maybe the Council will spring for the fare to send him back home?

Boring stuff in the Senate and the Queen decides she needs to go back to Naboo, despite the fact that she's the key 'piece' required to legitimise the invasion. So back they go and Jar-Jar leads them to the Top Secret hiding place of his race. The handmaiden decoy who is playing the part of the Queen tries negotiations and is interrupted by the real Queen playing handmaiden who reveals her true identity. For no apparent reason. A plan is determined.

Using their new friends as cannon-fodder tactical distraction the Queen will lead a crack troop into the palace through the secret tunnels she displays on the big holographic map to every person who happens to be scurrying around. The objective is to capture the Lead Engrish baddie whom they are hoping is in the throne room.... and if he's not? Then the Gunguns get wiped out and the Queen captured and forced to sign the treaty, no big loss.

Ah but there's a extra plan take out the central droid control station and all the droid army will deactivate. WTH! How does that work? From the rest of the film we see the Engrish baddies giving orders verbally to droid commanders, so it's not a case of direct control. We get to see them activate the droids, so presumably they can be deactivated to, but logically this is like turning your TV on using the remote and expecting it to turn off if you take the batteries out of it. All it would mean is that the droids couldn't be turned off, and that more couldn't be turned on. Unless they need to receive some constant signal to remain active, in which case jam the signal.

Anyway fighting, stupidity, failure and success as Anakin single handedly destroys the station while at the same time proving that some child actors are good and some are very, very bad. Am I the only one who winced at all the "Oops" etc. that he did while flying?

Droid army defeated and a victory parade (which mimics the one at the end of Episode IV) in which the Boss Gungan is given a sparkly sphere by the Queen - yay!

And that's it - dire. The worst and dullest episode of the Star Wars series and the one supposed to usher in a new legion of fans.

Oh and again wait until the end to hear the Darth Vader breathing, which makes no sense if you haven't seen the other three.


Anonymous said...

PARADE of men (Jane's Addiction)

Another feature which the Gods offer as a clue is very foreboading and ominous. Mt. Zion is a mountain to the north of Diablo (the eye of The Beast) and one which has a working quarry at its base. Consistant with the decay we experience in society, Mt. Zion is being eaten away, slowly stripped of its resources, until one day paradise will be gone forever.

7 billion in 2011. Only 1 billion in 1800 and 2 billion in 1900.
Population explosion is a clue::::The gods are sending everyone back for The End.
There must be some purgatory-like place. Or individual. Like an animal.
Now the gods have sent everyone back to try for one final time to fix their problems and ascend into heaven. Avoiding an animal would have been a big positive because those thrust into this decayed enviornment have less of a chance than those who enjoyed the god's generosity of a slowly decaying enviornment with frightening clues, like the Depression, World at War, the Holocaust, etc.
Anything that can get the poeple frightened and praying is a good. thing. Contentment never motivated anyone.

As we approach the Apocalypse the gods are removing "wrath of god" material from xtian dogma.
As we see wickedness spread throughout the country, like preditory behavior, godlessness, social changes, etc, using cable TV and the spread of "Californication" as justification, they changed xtianity, appropriatly with Catholicism first.
xtianity has changed radically in the 20th century, and everyone should be mindful of the way it was, because the people are in a process of slipping out of god's favor into a state of Damnation, from which the vast majority will never survive.
They used to scare people and make them too afraid to make mistakes. Now people aren't afraid of anything and don't think twice about doing something wicked and evil which will hurt their chances.

If people only understood the importance of good parents. You won't be going anywhere without them. And it won't happen unless you are one first.

Whimsical management=Unstable pathology:::
*2006 Hawaii-Jewelry
*Chile-crappy fruit
I'm sure you got some excuse. Just like Mustang Ranch.
You've compromised your integrity so hard you no longer deserve the label "gods".

The gods used the Italians to ruin life in the 20th century.
The gods used the Italians to ruin life in A.D..
"The West Bank, where the end of the world will begin."
And they were reincarnated into the ghetto to be punished as crack babies and in drive-by shootings, ironically poetic justice for inflicting these horrors on their hated enemies.
On their brothers.

We saw it with Mustang Ranch as well:::The gods just manufactured the tactic of the Holocaust to accomplish the goals they planned.
I am of the opinion the gods would have interviened in its absence, illustrating their claims of being good, and established "old world" dictatorship control at the dawn of mankind's mass moral deterioration. Purely speculation, I conceed, and a total waste of time which distracts from important work we are all responsible for, but even without the Holocaust the gods would have manufactured something that would allow them to manage their culpability and justify their lack of divine intervention. After all, we all abide by their chronology.