Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
June 27, 1999
I did enjoy it highly for it's action, excitement, scores of alien beings and fantastics visuals. And yes, the lightsaber duel. The Character development does indeed leave something to be desired, but here are three reasons why it didn't bother me:
- I don't recall Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill giving great method performances in the previous trilogy, so why expect it of Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor? They all play their parts exactly as written. And they do it well I think. Particularly McGregor who captures the esscence of a young Alec Guinness.
- Their characters are being set up for what (we hope) to be the better two movies of the prequel trilogy. So it is only to assume that the character development will occur in the later episodes; when the courtship of Anakin and Queen Amidala (Portman) brings about the birth of the twins Leia and Luke; when the falling out occurs between Obi-Wan and Anakin; And when The Emperor turns Anakin into his apprentice, Darth Vader.
- Jar-Jar Binks, almost universally reviled as the worst character in the entire series, is not really that bad. Yes, the accent is a little grating. But his movements are astonishing, and his comic slap-shtick is perfect for the little ones. Hell, I even chuckled a bit and heard some adults in the theater chuckle as well.
All of these do add up to a triumph of visuals over substance, and I see why some were disappointed. But this movie was clearly made to capture and captivate the child inside us, and I was most certainly not unhappy with the result. The pod race and the double-bladed lightsaber of Darth Maul are enough to make me feel as giddy as a kid of 10. Each movie in the series is different in it's own way and are judged on their own merits, rather than the saga as a whole. Judge this on it's own merits and try to forget the other chapters. You will be better off for it. To paraphrase e.e. Cummings, "It's a hell of a universe. Let's go!"