This file was generated 2002-09-03 03:17 GMT. This movie's information hasn't changed since 2001-08-23.
Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> July 1999 >> Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
What can I say at this point, two months after the release of the movie, that hasn't already been said better by every other critic? You may not find a single original opinion in this piece, although I assure you I haven't read any other opinions in a while, so I'm not intentionally lifting anyone else's. I have no delusions of being a better or more insightful writer than any of them, but yet I must add fresh content to my site, so write I will.
There is something wonderful about slipping into the Star Wars universe. The set and costume designs don't seem dated today. The famous "long, long time ago" still feels futuristic in many ways. To my knowledge, there's very little in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, or Return of the Jedi that ties them to any particular part of the twentieth century. The little humor present is generated by C3PO being uppity, Harrison Ford being sarcastic, and maybe the Ewoks. All of these are timeless. In fact, everything in those three is timeless. That's part of their appeal!
Why is it, then that The Phantom Menace feels compelled to have so many references to the present? I found myself distracted by almost every line out of Jake Lloyd's mouth and the parodies of sportscasters. Although I can't put my finger on it, there's a certain class, even in the crass Han Solo in the earlier installments, that's missing here. The biggest sign that the movie is not confident about being memorable down the line is the inclusion of a fart joke. I realize that this is 1999, and South Park is full of them, but this is Star Wars! This is supposed to be a cut above! Did George Lucas sense the boredom in the script, for old and young alike, and decide to punch it up in the most base way possible?
Quick! What's the most discussed topic about the new movie? Jar Jar! The rogue Gungan has inspired Internet domains calling for his death. What's the big deal? Barring his awful voice and dialect, I hated Jar Jar because he never advanced the plot except by accident. I would've been more charitable towards his presence if he did anything right intentionally at some point in the movie. My tolerance for serendipity like this is dangerously low. As it is, he eats up screen time, which is already dangerously copious, and does so in a way that deviates too far from the tone of the rest of the movie. Oddly, I liked Boss Nass, the chief Gungan. The same dialect was much easier to tolerate when wrapped around Brian Blessed's voice.