With The Force Awakens opening in theaters December 18th I figured it makes sense to go out of my way and review Episodes I-VI. It’s no secret the prequels are not on par with the original trilogy, but I will review them honestly for the sake of fairness. It had been a whopping 26 years since The Return of the Jedi had been released for the public and Star Wars fans across the galaxy wondered when there would be Episodes I, II, and III. With the enthusiasm high and the advancements of film making only benefiting the possible potential for such a film like a new Star Wars, people’s happiness dropped like a rock from an airplane once the denial for the films quality diminished.
It’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace but we only see that menace for a few scenes and instead we are treated to the infamous Jar Jar Binks and some other ridiculously stereotypical characters across the board. Unlike the original trilogy, there is little to no use of the classic set pieces that made Star Wars so timeless. What the audience is treated is an orgy of poor green screen effects and wooden dialogue that suffers from the lack of checks and balances for George Lucas who chose to direct all three of the prequels. The film suffers from his stubbornness to make necessary changes for the sake of the film and sadly that trend continues throughout the next two films.
Let’s talk about the shortly lived redeemable quality of The Phantom Menace, the villain, the infamous and beloved Darth Maul. One of the coolest and most evil looking villains put to film was going to be the transition for Star Wars to delve into a more maniacal and action packed sequel-prequel, but instead we are bombarded with confusing politics that still rarely make sense to most audiences and dialogue that makes soap operas look like Schindler’s List. While I have comprehended the hatred for the actor who plays young Anakin Skywalker it doesn’t excuse the ridiculous notion Anakin Skywalker was given an immaculate conception of a birth and that he was going to fall in love with a girl who’s nearly ten years older than him, but that’s for the next review.
The trilogy is fortunate enough to boast a great cast of actors, but the performances of actors come from what the director desires for the film, and clearly Lucas desired nothing more than some Swiss cheese performances from a cast that included, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Samuel L. Jackson, and Warrick Davis. The ideas for the story are so promising, but when it comes to these prequels, it begins and ends with the execution. There are far too many weird editing techniques and sub-plots that don’t circle well with the main story which has little to no screen time e.i. Darth Maul’s lackluster story-line. The Sith might be the greatest group of movie villains ever created and instead of giving gravity to their character arcs and stories, we are given Gungans and gratuitous amounts of CGI.
The Phantom Menace isnot all bad, but it definitely isn’t good either. The three redeeming qualities of this film are overshadowed by every other poor trait this film possesses. A ball dropped on fourth down is what this film is and it could have easily been a touchdown. Though it was a Star Wars film for a new audience, even the new audiences had to realize that this isn’t the standard Star Wars holds for itself. With some creative characters and cool lightsaber fights throughout, The Phantom Menace quite literally has a phantom menace. Why? Because you barely see him or learn about him. Darth Maul is the Bo Jackson of Star Wars and though he stole the show every time he was on screen, his career was cut short, no pun intended.