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Star Wars: The Phantom Menace critiques

As unbelievable as it may seem, I think I actually like The Phantom Menace best of all the prequel movies. Maybe it was just because it was first. Maybe it's because Anakin wasn't old enough to subject us to horrible romance dialogue (I'll take "Yippee!" over some of that other trite any day). Or maybe it's because despite the flaws (mentioned below), there were actually things to enjoy in this movie. A cool pod-race sequence, a Jedi character that isn't totally inept or loathesome, and a three-pronged action climax. That's not to say that this was a good movie. No, it's more like saying "Which would you rather eat, this bowl of peas, this bag of nails, or this delicious rubbing alcohol?" Yeah. I'll take the disgusting peas, thank you.

But anyway, let us get on with the near thirty critiques of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

  • 1) The opening scroll. I find it hard to believe at times that the guy who actually renders this is doing so and finds it to be good copy. The first two paragraphs are not only boring (taxation of trade routes?!), but don't even make any sense. So, because people want to tax trade routes, these trade federation people want to blockade some small backwater planet? How exactly is this going to solve the dispute?

  • 2) "Commanded to reach a settlement"? The Jedi "are here to force a settlement"? What kind of ambassadorial duties are these? These sorts of statements make the "jedi ambassadors" sound like thugs with baseball bats threatening to break knees if things aren't going the "right way".

  • 3) Early in this movie, sometimes it feels like you're watching a Pokemon episode, advertising for toys. "Battle Droids!" "Droidikas!" "They have shield generators!" "Droidikas!" "Gotta catch 'em all!"

  • 4) This movie had already gotten off to a rough start with trade boycotts and Nemodians (the lamest bad guys ever put on film, and I've watched Roger Corman movies). Then you see Jar-Jar. With the exception of being the link between the Naboo and the Gungans, his presence in most scenes is *completely* unnecessary. In fact, if it wouldn't screw up the sound track, I would edit him out of the Tatooine and Coruscant sequences entirely. Basically, all him being there does is turn this from a Star Wars movie into a bad Nickelodeon flick.

  • 5) The whole "planet core" sequence. Aside from having to listen to more of Jar-Jar's blathering, this sequence also involves giant, unbelievable fish that apparently love the taste of heavy metals! Also, one looks like godzilla of the sea. That sort of body structure is pointless for living under the sea...have you ever tried to walk at the bottom of a pool? It's fucking hard! Why would any fish have legs?!

  • 6) Qui-gon knocks Jar-Jar out. While I am on all accounts 100% behind the action of using the Vulcan nerve pinch on Jar-Jar, it goes against Qui-Gon's whole reason for bringing Jar-Jar along, as navigator. Ten seconds after knocking out their supposed guide, Qui-gon is pointing out directions for Obi-wan like he's a native.

  • 7) So everyone else is getting sent to concentration camps, but apparently the trade federation thought it made more sense to leave a group of 30 pilots, sitting cross legged like a first grade class at story time, staring at their ships in the hanger under a light guard. How convenient!

  • 8) Who taught droids to be sarcastic? The droid that talks to Qui-Gon about "taking these people to Coruscant" is down right saucy. "Coruscant, uh, does not compute, uh, er, you're under arrest!" Yeah. Very droid-like.

  • 9) As I watch the Trade Federation expend a lot of effort to shoot down this escaping ship, it got me wondering. How could this blockade possibly be legal? "You can't fly through here, or we'll kill you." Last time I checked, threatening was almost never legal in civilized areas. Also, space is three-dimensional. It would take a shit-ton of ships to completely blockade a planet.

  • 10) R2-D2 gets a 30-second scene honoring him for doing his job (you know, repairing the ship in battle), and Chewie doesn't get a medal at the end of New Hope? That's bullshit! Also, why does the fake queen send Padme (the real queen) to clean R2? Shouldn't the real queen be there to "advise" on all the other things they're talking about at their council meeting? I know. That's just Keira telling Natalie "I am totally prettier than you bitch"

  • 11) "The sun doing murder to meesa skin". Then why is Jar-Jar going out on Tatooine? Why doesn't he stay on the ship? What could he POSSIBLY be contributing to the mission?!

  • 12) So, do they really think they can fool the Jedi with this whole fake queen nonsense? I mean, they're JEDI! Why don't they just give up the charade when they're all alone with the Jedi on the ship? And Panaka goes through with this whole "The queen wants to send a handmaiden" gig. It's silly.

  • 13) "We'll try one of the smaller dealers". So, if Watto is one of the smaller dealers, and he decides to not take credits (and be strong-minded against the whole jedi mind-trick thing), why don't they go to one of the larger dealers? Unless Watto really is the only one with the part (as he claims), which would be just as unlikely. The one small dealer they decide to go to is the only one that has the part? Oh, right, it was the force. I keep forgetting. That's always the answer. The force was guiding them.

  • 14) What exactly does Shmi do for Watto, that he would need to have her as a slave? She seems to be a stay at home mom for Anakin. I guess that would explain further why he wasn't too hesitant to sell her after Anakin left.

  • 15) Obi-wan tells the Nabooians not to send a transmission so that they can't be traced. We'll assume they listened, otherwise, why even show the scene? Then the next scene, apparently, Darth Maul had done some sort of trace. If it was as simple as that, then why did we just waste all that screen time talking about messages and not sending responses?

  • 16) The idea of exploding slaves is pretty stupid. If slaves are so valuable ("No pod is worth two slaves!"), why would you just blow them up if they tried to escape? That seems expensive to you. At least Anakin has a sense of humor about it. "If you try to escape they blow...you...up...BOOM!" Ah, good times, being an exploding slave.

  • 17) Obi-wan "We could be stuck here a very long time". Haha, you see, it's funny, because he *does* get stuck on Tatooine for a very long time. Oh Lucas, you're such a card! It actually is a somewhat subtle line, but it's delivered so heavy handedly.

  • 18) Anakin tells Padme he's been a pilot "all (his) life". He's like, 9. How much flying has he done up to this point? What, did he fly out of the womb in some sort of speeder?

  • 19) What are those Sand People shooting that causes that one racer's engine to break apart like that? With that kind of reaction, you'd expect the missed shots to be more telling.

  • 20) I may not watch NASCAR, but how is it that when Anakin is behind, he catches up to Zebulba so easily, but when they're even or Anakin is in the lead, he can't equally increase the distance between them? Is this some sort of tortise and the hare type thing? If so....lame.

  • 21) Why does Zebulba's pod break into pieces, but none of those pieces remain attached to Anakin's pod? I've watched this movie like 20 times and I still haven't figured out exactly what happens there.

  • 22) "This path has been placed before you," Shmi says. Who talks like that? Seriously?!

  • 23) "I tried to free your mother," Qui Gon says. Man, he didn't try very hard. He's a Jedi, you don't think he could have taken Watto? Although, Watto does have a cane...

  • 24) So Queen Admidala, an apparent visitor to the senate proceedings, can just straight up call for a Vote of No Confidence in the Chancellor? If that's the case, it seems like that sort of thing would be happening every week in the senate.

  • 25) What is it with characters in Star Wars movies getting promoted to General just for being there? "First" Lando, now, more grievously, Jar-Jar. Has Jar-Jar showed any knack for leadership or strategy whatsoever? *lowers head in shame*

  • 26) Apparently, those big tanks are only driven by one droid, because when Jar-Jar (accidentally) kills the one that's investigating Jar-Jar's presence, the whole tank crashes. Come to think of it, if he's the only droid in there, how was he driving it while checking out Jar-Jar...with his feet? Maybe a more plausible explanation, with the continual human tendencies of these "battle" droids, is that the droid driving was the best friend of the one who got killed, and he lost his focus and crashed. Yeah, that's it.

  • 27) Speaking of accidentally killing droids, this big three-pronged climax would be a lot better if so much of the success didn't come from a comedy of errors (Jar-Jar's antics, Anakin's "piloting", etc.).

  • 28) And speaking of useless battle droids, never, at any point in this movie, do those battle droids seem like much of a threat to anybody. In the big final shot of the battle in the hills, do you see too many (or any) Gungan bodies out there? Weakest battle droids ever.

  • 29) So the Trade Federation imprisons and kills many of the Naboo, and their "punishment" is apparently that they now have to explain themselves to the senate, and they lose their trade franchise? Wha? "Maybe even you guys could say you're sorry. But only if you mean it!!" And we know nothing serious happens, because that dumb-ass Nemodian guy is back to get killed by Anakin in Ep3 (finally).