Escape to the Movies: The Phantom Menace 13 Years Later

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So Bob of all people wants us to look at this one movie divorced from all context and based on its merits.

I'm not sure if that's irony, hypocrisy, or just devil's advocate at this point.

The funny thing is, I agree with him on a lot of points. I didn't think it was that bad a movie. My experience was not forever tarnished. It wasn't the end of the world and yes, some of the movie was really fun. I even went into Episode III cautiously optimistic and managed to enjoy it. Was it what I pictured in my youth? No. Was it as epic as it could have been? No. But did I enjoy it?


It's kind of weird to say that, after the vapid Episode 1 and forgettable Episode 2. It's a bad sign when I don't even remember large chunks of a movie.

But I disagree on the points he asked us to critique the movie on. Colourful setpieces don't do it for me. Or rather, they're not enough when a movie is pretty bad. Yes, I said it wasn't that bad, but the conditional there is "that." And yes, it's better than some other action movies. It's not the worst movie ever, or even the worst prequel (though it seems Bob and I disagree one why).

Also, after his "words for Nerds" bit and the like, I'm kinda disheartened to see him beat the dead horse of the "entitlement" claim. This may not be aimed at my lot, who don't think this movie is the worst thing ever committed to film, but I still find it to be ridiculous.

Finally, the enjoyability of the third Batman film will depend on whether or not you're a sociopath looking for a new meme or someone seriously interested in the continued arc.

Excuse me while I reminisce while working towards my point. I saw the original trilogy on video in the nineties, as part of a school project in Year 6 as I recall. The project was part of a semester long work involving a number of small projects; such as writing a script for an "deleted" scene, making a model of a space ship from the movie, a few other things, and then the conclusion: everyone dressing up as a character from the movie and delivering a speech and interview (Darth Vader, of course). Before Star Wars had just been a thing my best friend ranted on about a lot throughout primary school. I indulged him by including characters like CP-03, R2-B2 and Bobby Fett in our games, and accidently offended him by getting their names wrong repeatedly. We weren't the type to watch movies in our playtime though, so I never saw them myself until we watched them in class. I really, really took to it. I even saved up to buy a Darth Vader voice changing mask for my character speech. 90% of my Christmas presents that same year were carrying the Star Wars logo, including the 3 video box set which was watched religiously.

And (OT now) luckily for a brand new fan, the brand new Star Wars movie was just a year or so away! I took my younger brother along with me and we both enjoyed it, leaving the cinema very happy kids. I think that and the next two events sum up what the problems with that movie were. The first thing that happened was... nothing. I never went back the the movies to see it again. A relative gave me the video for a birthday; I think it was put on once and then gathered dust ever since. To this day that might have been the only other time I've seen it. I hadn't grown out of Star Wars. I was still playing "X-Wing vs TIE Fighter" and the Age of Empires engine Star Wars RTS at the same time, and watching the originals on the odd occasion. I just liked and then forgot the movie all at once.

The second thing that happened was I began using the internet more, at the same time AOTC was coming out. "Oh cool, new Star Wars movie coming out" I'd post. "TPM sucked" was the overwhelming response. Unable to really remember TPM, and without a video player at this point to watch it again on (or the motivation to try), I found myself wondering if I had really remembered it right, began questioning my own judgement about it and finally decided that I must have been too young to notice the flaws and I too began overestimating it's terrible-ishness.

So there's my experience with the Menace. As a young fan it was an enjoyable but forgettable movie, with my memory of it eventually corrupted by the bile of the internet. I have a feeling that if every other fan was in my boat, (ie. the original 3 were released just a few years before TPM) they too would have been able to leave their seat saying "Well that wasn't something I'll go out of my way to watch again, but those laser sword fights sure looked cool."

Reading a What if at the forums I think part of the reason really die hard Star Wars fans were ticked with TPM as it didn't match the original plan before the EU basically messed things up.

Originally Anakin was to be a star fighter pilot *before* Obi-Wan even met him and the Clone Wars were supposed to have been going going on for generations with corrupt Senators lining their pockets for the war and the people so war weary that they would listen to anyone that had a plan to stop the wars. In steps Palpatine who in banishing the Jedi and declaring Empire ends the war and begins 10 years of peace...until people get tired of the way that is going and the rebellion starts up.

I honestly don't know what is so bad about the prequels to star wars. I am 20 so the phantom menace came out when i was... 8. I don't even remember it coming out. I remember first seeing star wars prequels first then the later episodes and to be honest i was a bit turned off by the sudden drop in quality between episode 3 and 4. I barely noticed jarjar when i first saw it and i did not get the boba references in any episode.

After some contemplation, I came to the conclusion that Moviebob might be brushing the subject off a little too quickly in his appeal to "just let go".

So Episode 1 is a bad/mediocre movie? Yeah.
It's not the anti-christ of movies? On its own, no, but it's the kind of movie that hurts films in general because it's not only BAD, but massively lucrative. We have Star Wars to thank for the original Transformers after all (when the toy-merchandising turned out to be extremely profitable, but I'm getting ahead of myself here) and those in turn have lead to the abysmal, racist, and insulting Michael Bay Transformers movies, surprise surprise, rebooted after Star Wars made its mint.

So, about the oft-touted "You're a nostalgic snob, grow up" argument (a variant of which Bob uses here):
We wanted the Star Wars prequels to be just like the original movies solely so we could escape from adulthood? I can see the appeal of that argument. It's easy to summarily accuse, condemn and dismiss anyone who prefers the originals to the prequels as being purely nostalgic/retro. The fan rage for the prequels was legendary even before the whole Plinkett debacle.

Of course, I can name other beloved movies that had crippling/hated sequels (Highlander 2, anyone?) that didn't generate this degree of contempt. You can say it's just because of scale (Highlander isn't exactly well-known to the public at large), and to a degree that's part of my point: the original Star Wars films weren't merely a popular movie trilogy, they created and CHANGED our culture.

Fast-forward 20 years from the originals, and we finally get a chance to not only relive that culture (here's where it's easy to insert that appeal to nostalgia), but to EXPAND upon it; to close the circle. There were three movies left undone after all.

And what did the prequels do? They failed utterly to contribute anything of worth to that culture, and instead cashed in on it FIRST.

To me, the prequels aren't merely mediocre/bad movies (they are in a vacuum), but a symbol of what is wrong with movies today: Nostalgia exploitation.
They represent a rich, hateful old man who doesn't give a fuck about his film-craft (after whining ceaselessly for years about the state of the studio-system and becoming one of the biggest hypocrites in memory) exploiting a huge fanbase for *incredible* sums of cash. BILLIONS IN PROFITS. I do NOT exaggerate on that last point; Lucas himself is worth over 3 billion at this very moment and he wasn't the only one getting paid.

All the comic book and novel tie-ins that set up competent plot-lines that get summarily dismissed or contradicted in the actual films. The megatons of toys. The gobs upon gobs of video games. The promotional stunts.
It positively DWARFS any other franchise I know of in scale.

That is the true nature of Star Wars; the real culture it represents, and a point many are quick to make and summarily dismiss in favor of ripping the movies a new one, when it is in fact, the heart of the problem. (and it is here I disagree with the "Plinkett thesis", who also dismissed this problem with a wave of his hand).

George Lucas knew he had to make an appeal to fans of his old movies and inserted references to them all over the place. The pandering took precedence over any quality but the most superficial (CGI and choreography). Just think of how many superfluous elements were inserted into Episode II and III for the sake of either nostalgia or toy-inspiration. Go ahead and watch them again, and take a note every time you see something you've seen as a toy or part of a promotion, be it a scene, character, or object.
You'll see what I mean very quickly.

See, it's not that Lucas doesn't "get" fans. Oh, he understands them perfectly. And he knows how to piss them off; to manipulate them. Star Wars is an invincible marketing franchise at this point and Lucas knows it. He doesn't even have to try; that's why he green-lit remaking the PREQUELS in 3D.

And in retrospect, this is why these movies are so damned boring and unappealing to me; it has less to do with the detachment of nostalgia and dreaming of better years behind me (like I said in my previous post, I found Ep 1 BORING, not reviling or insulting) and more to do with how much extraneous crap is forced into the MOVIES solely for the sake of rampant merchandising.

To be honest, that realization makes me angry because it means I got played; exploited.
It's a positive affirmation that enjoying a series should mean nothing to me now, because otherwise, all I am is some puppet to an obscenely rich filmmaker pulling the strings. It makes me angry that I contributed to the problem because as I've seen from OTHER movies and franchises (Transformers, Twatlight, GI Joe, Fantastic Four, Smurfs, etc), it's mostly like going to get worse from here.

Franchising potential alone should not excuse a movie for sucking, but it's going to get them green-lit anyway, and Star Wars lead the charge.

Me personally, as much as I dislike the Star Wars prequels, I was more then happy to simply ignore them and pretend that they don't exist like most bad sequels. However, what really gets under my skin, are the special editions of the original trilogy (episodes IV, V and VI) It's bad enough that a movie that already was good to be completely ruined but it's even worse that the unedited versions aren't even for sale.

I agree. The prequel Star Wars movies actually do get progressively worse. Episode III being the very bottom of the barrel. Episode I had some good moments when you take out Jar-jar, Skywalker, pod racing, and the Gungans. The Jedi stuff wasn't all that bad and the lightsaber fight with Darth Maul was amazing. However, Episode III was deplorable. It was written in a week, and it shows.

Also, Yoda should never bounce around like a beach ball. That is just all Mighty Mouse antics right there.

I would argue that the prequel trilogy just isn't that great from any stand point. In fact, I would argue, that acting in the star wars movies is just a bit not that great anyway. What really pisses me off about George Lucas is that he continues to change the first three films and makes the theatrical release inaccessible. Short of pirating copies that people have brought over from VHS into the digital world, one cannot find a theatrical cut of the film. Frankly, I don't care that Lucas doesn't like the theatrical cut, I want the cut of the films I grew up with and love. Han shot first, Jabba the Hut doesn't show up until the 3rd film, and Vader definitely doesn't scream "Nooo" when he sees Luke getting attacked with force lightning.

This gave me perspective Bob. Thanks.

Movie Bob, its been 13 years.. trust me we know by now that Star Wars Episode 1 and 2 aren't bad. The problem is that they are whole heartedly mediocre. This is Starwars for godsake. Mediocre and Star Wars do not belong together. Stupid plot, annoying comic relief, shoveled in unconvincing romance, & not much of interest happens. I said it before but I think everyone would be better off by skipping the first 2 episodes and going straight to Episode 3, which actually feels like a Star Wars movie.

There was a good parody recently that highlights some flaws:

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