10 Good Things About The Phantom Menace

Posted on 20 May 2014 by Mike-EL

On the 15th Anniversary of Star Wars: Episode One-The Phantom Menace´╗┐, Mike-EL lists 10 good things he liked about the movie!

I’ll never forget the day I saw The Phantom Menace for the first time. The most anticipated movie of my life, and possibly in the history of cinema (what other film opened as a sequel to the most popular TRILOGY in film, let alone a single movie). The United States lost more money from people taking sick days on May 19, 1999 than any other day on record. It was that big a deal.

Born in 1977, I first saw Star Wars on TV, followed by Return of the Jedi in the theatre (what about Empire? I saw it eventually on cable or VHS. It was much later on that I came to realize it was the best of the trilogy).

16 years after Jedi premiered, we were finally treated to a new chapter of Star Wars. Sure, there were a few red flags (the new scenes added to the Special Editions were horrendous; Lucas had jettisoned all of his collaborators and was writing this one himself), but we had our hopes up. Surely no one could have anticipated just how bad this film would be.

The best way to describe my feelings upon waking up the next morning on June 20 was the day that follows the death of a loved one: in the first seconds of your morning you hope that it was all just a bad dream. But no…it actually happened. The most successful independent filmmaker in the world, a man with enough money to hire the best writers, the best actors, to make a movie outside the scrutiny of the cookie-cutter corporate system of Hollywood, a man who could do virtually anythinghe wanted to do, somehow made a confusing, childish, anti-climatic, undramatic, unfunny, unsuspenseful pile of Bantha fodder.

My disappointment began with the first shot (the tiny ship looked like something out of Babylon 5; Star Wars deserves the massive scale introduced with A New Hope‘s Star Destroyer). My hopes dropped again at the reading of the second line (“Yes sir!”). When Obi-Wan Kenobi lowers his hood and says the fanboy pandering line “I’ve got a bad feeling about this!” I knew we were all doomed.

And it only got worse from there.

There is probably no flaw that hasn’t been addressed about The Phantom Menace (and if there is, it was uncovered by Red Letter Media), so I will take this opportunity to try to say 10 good things about the movie. Is it a ‘good’ movie”? Not quite. But by much lower standards than those applied to the original trilogy, it is certainly an enjoyable kid’s film, in the vein of the Flash Gordon serials that inspired Lucas in the first place.

I would say that The Phantom Menace is the movie George Lucas would have made back in 1977 if he didn’t have Producer Gary Kurtz, screenwriters Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, plus a whole team of collaborators and crew people to bounce his ideas off of, or to offer their own ideas as well.

The Phantom Menace is 100% Lucas, take it or leave it. Most people leave it; I, on the other hand, saw the film two additional times in theatres–despite hating it–then continued to watch it again after Attack of the Clones was released (another story). After about the ninth screening, I started to appreciate some of the strengths the film had (all good films have bad parts; all bad films have good parts). I admit I did struggle a bit with this list, but I’m sure I could even come up with a few more. Enjoy!

10 Good Things About The Phantom Menace by Mike-EL

1. Ian McDiarmid’s acting (Senator Palpatine)
2. Jake Lloyd’s acting (spontaneous and lively)
3. the terrain in the pod race (I thought it was a real desert until recently)
4. Darth Maul’s ‘Mussolini’ stance upon being introduced by Sidious
5. Queen Amidala’s introduction, including the ‘flute’ sound FX stolen from Flash Gordon
6. Queen Amidala’s wardrobe
7. Queen Amidala’s face (played by Natalie Portman)
8. the part where Obi-Wan tells them not to respond to the transmission (the only time in the movie a Jedi does something smart; but actually its only because Qui-Gon told him too)
9. Mace Windu’s reclined pose while sitting on the Jedi Council
10. Anakin’s sneer at Mace Windu after he finds out he will not be trained as a Jedi

There. 10 good things. Not bad considering it was the biggest cinematic disappointment of my life.

About Mike-EL

Mike-EL is a Co-Producer and Founder of the Comic Book Syndicate TV series. He is an independent filmmaker, professional videographer and holds a PhD in Superhero Fun.