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Movie Review: Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

By Mike Everleth ⋅ May 19, 1999

First off, unlike my general style of reviewing, I think this time around I’m going to include more film information than I normally do. So, for those of you who haven’t seen the most hyped film of the millenium and don’t want to have any of it ruined for you, click off this page right now. The last thing I want to do is tell people to NOT read my web page, but I’m too polite for my own good and personally I hate when people ruin movies for me.

Tuesday night Holly and I are sitting around her apartment with nothing really to do and, due to the inclement weather and our blah moods, not motivated to go into the city. We had talked the week earlier why hadn’t we gotten advance tickets to see STAR WARS. I was excited to see the movie, but I’ve never planned that far ahead to see any film and the concept seems kind of frivolous to me. I’ll see the movie when I see the movie. Who cares?

But, for kicks, I suggested we walk up to the theater in Holly’s Queens neighborhood and check to see if the line is around the block for the special midnight screening, it being the day before the movie was technically supposed to open. When we got there, we were both surprised to see that there was no line. Well, there was a line, but it was just for the regular ten o’clock movies. Kinda puzzled, we asked the ticket booth if STAR WARS was sold out and the girl behind the window told us no, so we bought two tickets.

Since it was too early to just hang around, we found a donut shop/diner in which to kill some time. Holly got a lemon filled and I had a yummy Boston crème and we both had some coffee to keep us awake since we figured the movie would go past 3 AM. Luckily, I’m still unemployed and Holly hadn’t gotten another temp assignment yet so that’s why we were both able to stay out to all hours of the night. I felt like a lazy shit, but what’re ya gonna do? This was STAR WARS.

To make sure we got a good seat, we did end up going back to the theater for an hour and a half before showtime. Forced to stand behind a conglomeration of moronic teenagers (“Here’s the future brain surgeons of America,” I whispered in Holly’s ear), I told Holly that since the movie was being shown on two screens we better make sure we sat in the one in which these kids were not. When we were finally let in, all the dolts ran to the first screen so we took off for the further theater down the hall. However, once we got settled in our seats, of course all the loud, obnoxious brain surgeons ran in and occupied the last two rows. We were stuck.

But I gots to say that when the movie eventually started, the kids clammed up. It was shocking. No “Yo, yo, yo, where’s Luke?” or “Yoda’s in da house!” or “Gimme another beer”. They didn’t make a peep, except to hoot and laugh when the rest of the audience did. I’ll never harshly judge teenagers ever again. George Lucas, though, I’m not gonna trust.

Yeah, it kinda blew, but how could it not? What both Holly and I found extremely lacking was any sense of conflict. Most of the characters got along really well, which is antithetical of what made the original movies so much fun. Luke, Han and Leia were all at each other’s throats, particularly in the first film. The only minor confrontation occurred when Yoda warned of Annakin Skywalker’s potential for great danger in the future. But shit, we already knew that. And all Liam Neeson did was say, “Well, I think he’s the Chosen One.” Ooh, how brave and daring of Liam. Wouldn’t it have been cool to see Liam in a lightsaber duel with Yoda or something?

And Obie Wan seemed like a total wuss. “Yes, Master”, “No, Master”, “I don’t think that’s the right course of action, Master, but I’ll do it anyway and I won’t say a bad word about you or anything or exhibit any kind of personality whatsoever even though STAR WARS fans have been wondering what I was like as a young man for the past 15 years. Instead, I’ll become the third banana behind you and that incredibly annoying Jar Jar character that nobody knows or cares who he is and he’ll have no personality either, but he’ll get more screentime than me even though he’s only a computer-generated character and has no relation to the STAR WARS mythology whatsoever.”

All I can think of, and excuse Lucas for, is that he hasn’t written or directed a film since the original STAR WARS movie over twenty years ago. He’s not a fierce young man with an outlandish idea this time out. He’s a comfortable middle-aged guy with nothing to lose. THE PHANTOM MENACE had no passion or energy. It’s like Lucas made the movie because it’s what he was expected to do. Did he make this film because he had a burning, unquenchable desire to continue his saga? Or did he only make it because he could do cool special effects like have certain characters be only computer-generated? Methinks the latter is true.

Holly and I were both very excited going in to see the film. That’s almost all we talked about the three hours between when we purchased our tickets and when the movie started. But when it was over, it was just like we had seen another movie. It didn’t have to be the most awesome film I’ve ever seen, but it could at least have been compelling or involving or even remotely interesting.

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