Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Peter T Chattaway

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

82 posts in this topic

morgan1098 wrote:

: Perhaps Frank Oz was just having a series of off days, or perhaps he just didn't care.

Actually, in the e-mail exchange that Jeff and I had back in 1998 (and which I re-read last night), I wondered if Oz had done the puppeteering on this, and Jeff said he had read somewhere that Oz just did a voice-over. Most of the websites that Google turns up seem to indicate that Oz himself did the puppeteering, though, but that could be because everyone's just assuming that he did it, I dunno.

Jeff also remarked that "younger" Yoda just meant "more like Grover", which is funny, because when I played those clips last night, my wife -- who had neither read the e-mails nor looked at my screen -- said it sounded like I was playing a clip of Grover on my laptop.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The prequels pretty much ruined Yoda. As they did so many other characters, but Yoda especially, by harping on his mannerisms too much and turning him into a giant punchline. And don't get me started on ATTACK OF THE CLONES' hyper-Yoda lightsaber fight. Blecch.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

RotS was probably the only story that actually needed to be told, and it could have been told better obviously. Have to say, though, that flying-monkey lightsaber battle Yoda was easily the most entertaining part of the middle movie for me, brief as it was.

Before the prequels, I theorized that Yoda was of a more pacifist Jedi order, but I guess not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kind of a Photoshopped mess, IMHO. But it's interesting that there's no Jar-Jar... Or Qui gon...

298115.png

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Baal_T'shuvah wrote:

: Kind of a Photoshopped mess, IMHO. But it's interesting that there's no Jar-Jar... Or Qui gon...

Or Anakin!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Baal_T'shuvah wrote:

: Kind of a Photoshopped mess, IMHO. But it's interesting that there's no Jar-Jar... Or Qui gon...

Or Anakin!

If you squint you can see him sitting in his podracer...

It's odd to me that they left out Qui-gon Jinn, since I think Liam Neeson is one of the actors who acquits himself best in Lucas's universe (the other would probably be Ian McDiarmid's Palpatine).

I'll just say I'll go see this just to see the podrace on the big screen once more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anders wrote:

: If you squint you can see him sitting in his podracer...

Bah. That's like saying if we squinted at the old X-wing or snow-speeder models, we could see the little figurine in there that was supposed to stand in for Luke. Doesn't count.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW, my latest tweet:

Remember how, in 1999, everyone hated PHANTOM MENACE but loved THE MATRIX? Tomorrow, one film returns to theatres, and the other is...where?

Under the Facebook version of that tweet, I add:

I can remember how, at the Oscars the following year, The Phantom Menace *lost* all of the awards it was nominated for to The Matrix, and this was seen by many people as a sign that the Wachowskis had captured that mythic-scifi-epic-saga thing that Lucas had lost. Nowadays, though, the Star Wars franchise keeps right on ticking, with the Clone Wars series and the 3D reissues (and this, even though so many people dislike the prequels!), while the Matrix franchise pretty much fizzled out with those back-to-back sequels almost a decade ago...

And when one friend noted that The Matrix is very much tied to the era in which it came out, whereas The Phantom Menace is "timeless" in some sense, I replied:

True... if memory serves, the film even explicitly states that Neo thought he was living at the end of the 20th century, prior to his being "woken up", right?

On the other hand, The Phantom Menace (and the other Star Wars prequels) do have their dated elements. One of the Trade Federation villains in all three prequels was named Nute Gunray after Newt Gingrich (and, less contemporarily, Ronald Reagan). And Episode III came out in the thick of the debates over the War on Terror.

Hmmm. If only Gingrich's surge in the GOP primaries hadn't been so short-lived, there might have been an article in this somewhere...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You know, oddly enough I was thinking just the other day how very...permanent...all six Star Wars movies feel. I mean, in spite of the fact that pretty much everyone I talk to hates the prequels with a passion--they're everywhere, and there's a whole generation of kids that are coming up with all six movies plus the expanded universe of the Clone Wars TV series. And as much as is wrong with the prequels, they certainly do seem to draw in the kids (ok, the marketing's a big part of it, too--but it's successful marketing).

It'll be interesting to see if the series is still a big deal ten years from now--when the first few children of the 2010s are hitting the target age.

EDIT: I say this, even as I myself have cooled considerably toward the franchise. The last time I sat down to watch A New Hope, I couldn't make it all the way through. Partly, it's because I grew up on it and know every line by heart, so one must make allowances...but I didn't recall it being such an expositiony movie. It's like every other line is devoted to explaining stuff.

Edited by NBooth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Worldwide, The Phantom Menace has been the top-grossing Star Wars film for some time; indeed, it is now on the cusp of becoming the 11th movie ever to gross over a billion dollars worldwide.

But domestically, until now, the top-grossing Star Wars film had always been the original Star Wars. As of this weekend, however, The Phantom Menace (which was the #3 film of all time in 1999, behind Titanic and Star Wars, and had since been nudged down to #7) has risen back to #4 -- and, in doing so, it has bumped the original Star Wars down to #5 for the first time since its original release in the late '70s.

(For some background on how the original Star Wars was the #1 film of all time for a few years, then slid down to #4, and then rose to #1 again for about a year, after which it began to slide down again, see an old blog post of mine here, which I wrote when The Dark Knight bumped Star Wars down to #3; since then, of course, Avatar has bumped everyone down a notch, too.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Avatar has bumped everyone down a notch, too.)

(fists raised in agony)CAMEROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!!!!!!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I actually think Ep I stands up better as the years go by; certainly compared to AotC (which I have sentimental reasons for loving, but which is still bad, bad, bad) and RotS (the first and last twenty minutes are the best Star Wars movie ever, but the middle commits the greatest sin imaginable--that of being boring).

I dunno. I think the first twenty minutes of ROTS are mighty "meh," and the last twenty have some momentum, but also have enough doses of awfulness to keep me from thinking they make it anywhere near greatness.

Not to overstate, it but after seeing Phantom Menace again in theaters, I have to say this is patently false. Even on the small screen, AOTC is significantly better. In Phantom, Ewan McGregor has nothing to do but quarrel with Qui Gon in a subdued way. Compare that to the opening scenes of AOTC, where at least there's banter. Is the dialogue bad? Sure, but McGregor is coming into his own, and actually gives a pretty good performance despite some obvious limitations.

At minute 15, we get the speeder chase. 15 minutes later, Obi Wan and Anakin have split up. The movie moves really fast compared to Phantom, and overall the result is a much 'funner' film. It's still heinously bad at parts, but at least we get lots of cool stuff throughout (Kimono, the Geosians, etc.) whereas all the cool stuff was crammed into the last half hour of Phantom (with the exception of the pod race).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Not to overstate, it but after seeing Phantom Menace again in theaters, I have to say this is patently false. Even on the small screen, AOTC is significantly better. In Phantom, Ewan McGregor has nothing to do but quarrel with Qui Gon in a subdued way. Compare that to the opening scenes of AOTC, where at least there's banter. Is the dialogue bad? Sure, but McGregor is coming into his own, and actually gives a pretty good performance despite some obvious limitations.

At minute 15, we get the speeder chase. 15 minutes later, Obi Wan and Anakin have split up. The movie moves really fast compared to Phantom, and overall the result is a much 'funner' film. It's still heinously bad at parts, but at least we get lots of cool stuff throughout (Kimono, the Geosians, etc.) whereas all the cool stuff was crammed into the last half hour of Phantom (with the exception of the pod race).

I was with you right up to the final parenthesis.

I think I still prefer AotC to TPM, notwithstanding the fact that both of them are fundamentally misconceived. For me, though, TPM is at its best on Naboo—i.e., the first and last acts—whereas on Tatooine it pretty much grinds to a halt and on Coruscant it absolutely ossifies. The pod race on Tatooine is basically dead time as far as I'm concerned.

I more enjoy the highlights of the first act—the visit to the Gungan city, Boss Nass, the journey to the planet core ("There's always a bigger fish" and all), the Naboo capital (Theed or whatever it's called), Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan easily taking out battle droids, protecting Amidala and so forth. At least it feels epic in a way that the pod race doesn't, to me. The attempt to out-Ben Hur Ben Hur was an epic miscalculation. What makes the chariot race in Ben-Hur thrilling is the personalities and the emotional stakes, and Lucas completely fails to establish anything comparable. Pudu!

Edited by SDG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For me, though, TPM is at its best on Naboo—i.e., the first and last acts—whereas on Tatooine it pretty much grinds to a halt and on Coruscant it absolutely ossifies. The pod race on Tatooine is basically dead time as far as I'm concerned.

I think Naboo is one of the few unqualified successes in the Prequel Trilogy, and the fact that it figures so heavily in TPM is a point in the movie's favor. Naboo--unlike Geonosis, Kamino, or any of the other planets in either trilogy--feels more real, somehow. Other planets are "the bug planet" or "the desert planet"--Naboo is Naboo (or the Italian planet, I guess).

I more enjoy the highlights of the first act—the visit to the Gungan city, Boss Nass, the journey to the planet core ("There's always a bigger fish" and all), the Naboo capital (Theed or whatever it's called), Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan easily taking out battle droids, protecting Amidala and so forth. At least it feels epic in a way that the pod race doesn't, to me.

Yep. I read an article somewhere talking about how bizarre Phantom Menace feels now, with its slow build up and the way it postpones the really big action stuff until the end.It's not slow--it's methodical, which gives everything that happens in the first third or so much more weight than the speeder chase in AotC.

Edited by NBooth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The pod race on Tatooine is basically dead time as far as I'm concerned. ...

I more enjoy the highlights of the first act—the visit to the Gungan city, Boss Nass, the journey to the planet core ("There's always a bigger fish" and all), the Naboo capital (Theed or whatever it's called), Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan easily taking out battle droids, protecting Amidala and so forth. At least it feels epic in a way that the pod race doesn't, to me. The attempt to out-Ben Hur Ben Hur was an epic miscalculation. What makes the chariot race in Ben-Hur thrilling is the personalities and the emotional stakes, and Lucas completely fails to establish anything comparable. Pudu!

As a non-Star Wars geek (only saw the first two films, only the first more than once) and a man who cannot abide Lucas's writing, my not giving a crap about the characters was a given. So ONLY the chariot race works, because only it even had the superficial adrenaline thrills to temporarily jolt me awake.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As a non-Star Wars geek (only saw the first two films, only the first more than once) and a man who cannot abide Lucas's writing, my not giving a crap about the characters was a given. So ONLY the chariot race works, because only it even had the superficial adrenaline thrills to temporarily jolt me awake.

Characters aside, the pod race is dead wood because it doesn't feel like anything's at stake or progressing. Oo oo, here it is in a tweetable sound bite: The spectacle on Naboo at least feels like the stuff of epic; the Tatooine stuff, including the pod race, feels like the stuff of video games.

Edited by SDG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is, I think, a fundamental miscalculation in the use of a child character (as Lucas does here) as an "audience identification character" for children in the audience. I think that the adult heros in stories like this ARE the identification characters for children, in that they are aspirational characters: adult role models, the sort of people the children aspire to be when they grow up. The addition of a child character who is also supposed to be an audience identification character muddies and confuses things, leaving the movie without any obvious center. The original Star Wars clearly had Luke Skywalker as the identification character and the movie was his story. The Phantom Menace is nobody's story.

Edited by bowen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not to overstate, it but after seeing Phantom Menace again in theaters, I have to say this is patently false. Even on the small screen, AOTC is significantly better. In Phantom, Ewan McGregor has nothing to do but quarrel with Qui Gon in a subdued way. Compare that to the opening scenes of AOTC, where at least there's banter. Is the dialogue bad? Sure, but McGregor is coming into his own, and actually gives a pretty good performance despite some obvious limitations.

At minute 15, we get the speeder chase. 15 minutes later, Obi Wan and Anakin have split up. The movie moves really fast compared to Phantom, and overall the result is a much 'funner' film. It's still heinously bad at parts, but at least we get lots of cool stuff throughout (Kimono, the Geosians, etc.) whereas all the cool stuff was crammed into the last half hour of Phantom (with the exception of the pod race).

I was with you right up to the final parenthesis.

I think I still prefer AotC to TPM, notwithstanding the fact that both of them are fundamentally misconceived. For me, though, TPM is at its best on Naboo—i.e., the first and last acts—whereas on Tatooine it pretty much grinds to a halt and on Coruscant it absolutely ossifies. The pod race on Tatooine is basically dead time as far as I'm concerned.

I more enjoy the highlights of the first act—the visit to the Gungan city, Boss Nass, the journey to the planet core ("There's always a bigger fish" and all), the Naboo capital (Theed or whatever it's called), Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan easily taking out battle droids, protecting Amidala and so forth. At least it feels epic in a way that the pod race doesn't, to me. The attempt to out-Ben Hur Ben Hur was an epic miscalculation. What makes the chariot race in Ben-Hur thrilling is the personalities and the emotional stakes, and Lucas completely fails to establish anything comparable. Pudu!

I wouldn't disagree with that, per se. When it comes down to it, I just don't find much of anything to like in Phantom. Seeing it in 3D, the visit to the Gungan city was stunning. But that's, what, a couple of minutes? The set design is excellent, as are the visual effects (in a slightly outdated way), but the film itself is pretty much crap from start to finish. The best parts of the movie are purely incidental - like getting to look around the Queen's palace when the trade viceroys are talking to Sidious.

In AotC, I find that I can actually enjoy the film. Moments like Obi Wan landing on Geonosis capture what I think Lucas wants to capture - that sense of thrill. These movies are, after all, based on Flash Gordon, and the second film does a much better job capturing that fun (if corny) quality than Phantom.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a non-Star Wars geek (only saw the first two films, only the first more than once) and a man who cannot abide Lucas's writing, my not giving a crap about the characters was a given. So ONLY the chariot race works, because only it even had the superficial adrenaline thrills to temporarily jolt me awake.

Characters aside, the pod race is dead wood because it doesn't feel like anything's at stake or progressing. Oo oo, here it is in a tweetable sound bite: The spectacle on Naboo at least feels like the stuff of epic; the Tatooine stuff, including the pod race, feels like the stuff of video games.

Sure ... but it succeeds at being a video game. #65characterstogo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There is, I think, a fundamental miscalculation in the use of a child character (as Lucas does here) as an "audience identification character" for children in the audience. I think that the adult heros in stories like this ARE the identification characters for children, in that they are aspirational characters: adult role models, the sort of people the children aspire to be when they grow up. The addition of a child character who is also supposed to be audience identification characters muddies and confuses things, leaving the movie without any obvious center. The original Star Wars clearly had Luke Skywalker as the identification character and the movie was his story. The Phantom Menace is nobody's story.

::bow::

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When it comes down to it, I just don't find much of anything to like in Phantom.

I think that the adult heros in stories like this ARE the identification characters for children, in that they are aspirational characters: adult role models, the sort of people the children aspire to be when they grow up.

Horribly written lazy dialogue, a CGI'd Planet Naboo, Jar Jar Binks/racial stereotype, baby Anakin, some alien/Jewish stereotype slave owner, force mumbo jumbo about the "chosen one," pod races ... bleh. There's one thing and one thing only the kids I saw this with years ago talked about, constantly remembered and acted out afterwards, and that's the light saber duel at the climax. The identification characters are the Jedi Knights with the light sabers fighting against Darth Maul.

Edited by Persiflage

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When it comes down to it, I just don't find much of anything to like in Phantom.

I think that the adult heros in stories like this ARE the identification characters for children, in that they are aspirational characters: adult role models, the sort of people the children aspire to be when they grow up.

Horribly written lazy dialogue, a CGI'd Planet Naboo, Jar Jar Binks/racial stereotype, baby Anakin, some alien/Jewish stereotype slave owner, force mumbo jumbo about the "chosen one," pod races ... bleh. There's one thing and one thing only the kids I saw this with years ago talked about, constantly remembered and acted out afterwards, and that's the light saber duel at the climax. The identification characters are the Jedi Knights with the light sabers fighting against Darth Maul.

I'll bridle at Naboo, but can't really deny the rest (though the "force mumbo jumbo" is really no worse than it is in A New Hope, really--nor is the difference between "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers" and "I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war" really all that great). My own feeling, though, is that TPM's world generally coheres within itself far better than the scatter-shot approach of the other two prequels.

But yeah. All the kids cared--care--cared about was the fight scene.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

bowen wrote:

: There is, I think, a fundamental miscalculation in the use of a child character (as Lucas does here) as an "audience identification character" for children in the audience. I think that the adult heros in stories like this ARE the identification characters for children, in that they are aspirational characters: adult role models, the sort of people the children aspire to be when they grow up. The addition of a child character who is also supposed to be an audience identification character muddies and confuses things, leaving the movie without any obvious center. The original Star Wars clearly had Luke Skywalker as the identification character and the movie was his story. The Phantom Menace is nobody's story.

That's a pretty succinct distillation of Red Letter Media's 70-minute video essay on this film. (See, e.g., 1:55-6:50 in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxKtZmQgxrI, or 8:10-9:00 in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOlG4T1S2lU.) :)

NBooth wrote:

: I'll bridle at Naboo, but can't really deny the rest (though the "force mumbo jumbo" is really no worse than it is in A New Hope, really--nor is the difference between "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers" and "I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war" really all that great).

Oh, you're going to have to find a better example than THAT to persuade me that the original trilogy is just as bad as the prequels. I've always liked that "tighten your grip" line, going back to when I was a kid. But I do concede that the STAGING of that scene is just as, um, stiff or whatever as some of the scenes in the prequels.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
: I'll bridle at Naboo, but can't really deny the rest (though the "force mumbo jumbo" is really no worse than it is in A New Hope, really--nor is the difference between "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers" and "I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war" really all that great).

Oh, you're going to have to find a better example than THAT to persuade me that the original trilogy is just as bad as the prequels. I've always liked that "tighten your grip" line, going back to when I was a kid. But I do concede that the STAGING of that scene is just as, um, stiff or whatever as some of the scenes in the prequels.

What Peter said.

It's a strange comparison, but on the face of it, the line from A New Hope is at least vivid and pictoral, and gestures toward a valid insight about the limits of totalitarian force and the dynamics of resistance, or something. The line from The Phantom Menace is merely exposition at its most wooden and functional.

Beyond that, the New Hope scene is far more dramatic. Leia is a prisoner who has just been condemned to death, boldly defying the man who just condemned her. She's allowed to be expressive, and shows some attitude. We admire her spunk, and want to know what Tarkin's reaction will be.

Amidala is merely engaged in the first of the prequel trilogy's endless committee meetings. The stilted court manner was a dumb idea, and it makes a bad line worse by ensuring that the actress doesn't sell it with emotion. And it's the last line in the scene, because nobody cares what anyone else thinks of what Amidala has just said.

So I think the difference is pretty striking, actually.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

NBooth wrote:

: I'll bridle at Naboo, but can't really deny the rest (though the "force mumbo jumbo" is really no worse than it is in A New Hope, really--nor is the difference between "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers" and "I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war" really all that great).

Oh, you're going to have to find a better example than THAT to persuade me that the original trilogy is just as bad as the prequels. I've always liked that "tighten your grip" line, going back to when I was a kid. But I do concede that the STAGING of that scene is just as, um, stiff or whatever as some of the scenes in the prequels.

I didn't say it was just as bad--just that the difference wasn't all that great. But I'll admit it was a less-than-ideal choice. Far better would have been contrasting the "Force is what gives a Jedi his power" speech with Qui-Gon's midichlorian speech. Guinness sells his speech as much as he can, but it's nothing but an immense slab of exposition. And, honestly, last time I watched A New Hope, all I could think was how much explaining everyone does. The Prequels may be worse in this regard--indeed, they are--but they're on a similar wavelength.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0