Five Things About the Phantom Menace That Didn’t Suck

I’ve posted a few Phantom Menace-themed items this week in the lead up to the 3D re-release of the movie Friday, and with them, I’ve always made one point very clear, the movie sucks.

It’s old news, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to see the terribleness again in 3D, but I thought that it might be a bit too easy to bash, and there wasn’t a point to beating a dead horse into the dust.

Instead, I’m going to try and put a rare positive spin on something I can’t stand, coming up with a few things that were bright spots in an otherwise horrible mess of plot, dialogue and acting. Here they are:

1. Finally, Epic Lightsaber Battles

I appreciated the use of the lightsaber battles in the first film as avenues of character development, as Vader and Luke often spent more time talking than fighting, but there’s a time and a place for that, and sometimes you just want to see these weapons and warriors let loose.

Before it went WAY overboard in Revenge of the Sith with a stupid volcano fight that was almost a parody of itself, the Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan/Darth Maul fight was, and is, simply fantastic. The dual sided red blade swinging against the blue and green ones while Duel of the Fates blasted in the background was everything fans wanted from a lightsaber fight, and it even ended with a bit of ultra violence as Maul was chopped in half. Impressive for a PG film.

2. Darth Maul was Wicked

That leads me to my next point, where we focus on the only good villain of the entire new prequel trilogy. Don’t get me started on Grievous or Dooku. This is supposed to be a positive article. But Maul? He was amazing.

No, his character wasn’t given nearly enough screen time, and he didn’t need to be mute, but it’s hard to think of a more fearsome looking villain across any sci-fi feature. He could have been an icon, had the film itself not stunk, but he was one of the bright points of the film, and a truly malevolent bad guy.

3. Pod racing is Actually Kind of Awesome

I hated, hated little Anakin more than I’ve hated almost any other annoying little kid in a movie, and thought the plot development which made pod racing decide the entire fate of the galaxy was incredible stupid.

That said, the pod race itself was undeniably thrilling, and I even think it might be worth it to see in…dare I say it…3D. Perhaps my memories are tainted by fond memories of Star Wars Episode I Racer on N64, but even now, the race scene is pretty damn cool, regardless of the idiocy of its significance.

4. Queen Amadala’s Wardrobe was Amazing

The Phantom Menace had the uncanny ability to make seasoned actors seem awful with its atrocious script, and Natalie Portman’s Amadala was no exception.

But looking past the dialogue, you have to admit that her costume design was something to behold. No, it didn’t at all fit in with anything else in the movie, and could have been straight out of The Cell, but each costume was a masterwork of forward-thinking fashion, and the film could have benefited if perhaps everyone else in the galaxy wasn’t just wearing brown and black robes all the time.

5. Ummm…

Look, I tried, but now all that’s coming to mind is Jar Jar and trade federations and midichlorians. Though there were a few bright points, the film is undeniably terrible in many, many ways. The closest thing to a final compliment I could give it would be that at least Hayden Christensen hadn’t shown up to emote yet.

I’m skipping all three of the new films in 3D and MIGHT go see the original trilogy in the new format if I hear it’s any good. Someday, someone will make more Star Wars films, but I do pray it’s not George Lucas.


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  1. For point #5 you could have mentioned every other non-lightsaber battle (minus the scenes with Anakin in the starship). I can still enjoy watching episode 1 because I can look past all the crap in anticipation of the battle scenes. Once Darth Maul falls into that conveniently placed giant hole to the center of the planet I clock out and reminisce about all the fight scenes until the credits start to roll. That’s mostly how I get thru the other 2 movies as well.

  2. Ummm in did. I watched the movie when I was 13, the second day it showed. I wasn’t a fanboy, but liked the movies alright. Nobody I knew had seen it and, back in the day, you didn’t use the internet every single day. So I was just a teen wanting to see something awesome, with no expectations whatsoever. I felt like the target audience.

    Well, I was sorely disappointed. I hated almost everything about it, and I hated it all by myself, right in the theatre. These things you list here are alright I guess. But I’ll always see Ep1 as my first and biggest movie disappointment. And I had already watched Street Fighter. And Batman 4.

  3. For all the shit the movie gets, its the one that hit enough of a balance between CGI backgrounds and actual sets for stuff to still feel like a live action movie, not some animated feature, which the two other prequel movies felt like.

    I would’ve put Qui-Gon Jinn as number five honestly. Even though he makes some stupid choices in the movie, Liam Neeson made a pretty noble Jedi master, so when he bites it at the end, you felt as bad as when Liam Neeson bites it in any other movie

  4. well…kill me but I think Episode 2 was worse than 1…when I saw it back 1999 I kinda liked it (yeah, i was 12). And nowadays…well…there are way crappier films made

  5. Darth Maul was/is an awful, shallow villain who only “looks cool.” If that’s what you’re saying, OK. We can agree. But he was not hateable, evil in any tangible way, fleshed out or backstoried at all. Dooku and Grevious are no better, but I’d argue they’re no worse than Maul.

  6. Ok, I’m going to be hated for this, butI hate all this prequel bashing. They werent as good as the original, but these movies werernt all that awful.
    Jar Jar Binks=Ewoks
    Crappy Diologue in all 6 movies
    And the acting, other than Harrison Ford, what other actors came out of the original three?

    The prequels would have rocked if they had done 3 things
    1. Not make the prequels one giant origin story. Who cares how C3P0 was made. We don’t need to know what the force actually is either

    2. Have central characters throughout out the story. Luke, Leia, Had = Anakin, Obi, Padme (and maybe Mace Windu :)) That’s the proplem with the characters, instead of some solid character development, they just threw a whole bunch of jedi at us.

    3. Instead of having a bunch of shitty bad guys, just give us Darth Maul throughout the movies, like Darth Vader. There would have been a constant battle between the protaganists and antagonist It would made for better poster, Half Vader/Maul pictures. And it would actually make an awesome transition of villains. From the fighter (darth maul) to the evil ruler (Darth Vader)

  7. @Barretstrife. I think anyone will agree with all three of your suggestions. But they aren’t in the movies, and are all fatal mistakes. I think Ep1 isn’t totally awful, but it carried huge expections. For me, it’s a 5.5 out of 10. Ep2 was the real stinker, 4 out of 10. And I liked Ep3 for some reason, i think it’s a solid 7 despite all the loose ends.

  8. Darth Maul was a very boring and emotionless bad guy. There was nothing to him accept that he was a good acrobatic fighter. Those kind of baddies really suck. You don’t care if they live or die.

    The Saber battle at the end was cool and well choreographed and everything .. but it lacked any emotion whatsoever. It just seemed way to practiced with flashy and unnecessary sword movements. There was no emotion at all:

    Dude shows up. Oh! Might as well fight him because he’s Sith! A Flashy fight ensues that really doesn’t invoke any emotion other than it looks neat.

    As for the pod racing, that was pretty silly and over the top. Maybe if I didn’t hate the actor who played Anakin so much, I’d of cared a little more.

    I also read a review the there were some really bad 3D moments that made it worse.. I think it was on aintitcoolnews

    Of course, these are all my own personal feelings towards it, so whatever 🙂

  9. I have to totally disagree with the huge, epic lightsaber battles being a positive in my opinion. The light saber went from a story telling tool, showing how out classed Luke was to Darth Vader, how difficult it was for him to even stand up to him, to a distraction tool, hoping to over shadow the boring plot, terrible dialogue, and retarded character actions.

    I hate to keep plugging these guys but Red Letter Media does a fantastic job of pointing out major film making problems with the films from the perspective of actual film makers. They put into clear words some of the most frustrating characteristics of Lucas’ directing and writing style.

    Star Wars is arguably the most frustrating set of films for me to watch because they could have been so much better by doing some really simple things that every filmmaker should do.

  10. Greivous and Maul should both have been binned together, along with every element of the Star Wars marketing universe that wasn’t a film featuring Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford

    Maul wasn’t a character, he was a prop. Greivous would have been improved if he had been.

  11. Best thing Episode 1 did in my opinion is open up an avenue for everything that happened chronologically before it (in terms of the EU). In terms of just video games, it’s part of the reason KotOR, SW:TOR, and even The Force Unleashed exist. And just about every book/comic book that’s come out of that era of the universe has been pure amazing. Darth Bane, one of the more fleshed out Sith Lords in the Star Wars universe, though mentioned by Lucas in passing, has now become one of my favorite characters in any SW medium. There’s just so much good that came out of the film, regardless of how good or bad it was.

  12. Before the film came out I was excited by clips of the fight between the jedi and darth maul.

    Then I saw the actual thing and it was mostly just the two jedi ganging up on darth maul and the way they used their light sabers was more like swinging baseball bats around than anything.

    Ray Park had some good moves as Darth Maul although since then he’s come out in a lot of films doing practically the exact same moves that it’s almost become cliche. But he was the only thing in the SWEP1 fights that made them watchable… the whole fight rode on him making everyone look good.

  13. Ugh, this yet again!
    has it become kinda cool to typically bag on the more recent star wars films?
    is it a nerd thing im not aware of?

    No its not.
    I get that nostalgia comes into play with the 3 first films, ok, awesome you loved it when you were a kid. good for you.
    But, it’s 19 years later and things are going to change. graphic wise, and over al story plot wise.
    star wars movies have never been known for their AMAZING story plot, yes their good, REAL good. but amazing? no.
    Mr. Lucas can do whatever he wants with his films, deal with it.

    and im a HUGE fucking star wars fan.
    im also an adult and not a pissy nerd.

  14. Anyone hate hearing people diss this film?
    I saw it as a kid and very much liked it, I thought this article was actually going to be positive but it’s just following the overused whining meme associated with the film.

  15. I think I’m one of the few people on the Internet who doesn’t hate TPM with a burning passion (I give it a 6/10), possibly because I don’t hate Jar Jar Binks either (the first time I heard about all the vitriol against him I was completely flummoxed). Is he a good character? No. Is he annoying? Yes. But I don’t think he’s THAT terrible (then again, I don’t think the ewoks are that terrible, so what do I know, right?).

  16. Of all the damned movies that get remakes why can’t we just call in a do over on these. I’m calling you out George, get back in there and don’t come back out till you get it right. Might as well since Spider-man didn’t even wait to reboot.

  17. This entire list is Invalid, because you titled it “Five things about Phantom Menace that don’t Suck” and then showed a picture of Jar Jar. The entry may not have been about him, but that is the equivalent of titling an article “5 reason WWII didn’t suck, and then ending it with an entry showing Hitler, and then saying, “At least we didn’t get nuked.” Poor choice man.

  18. Red letter media ended this entire discussion a lonnnnnng time ago with their epic reviews of each movie. The reviews are quite lengthy but after watching them I realized things about the prequels that I hadn’t before, and I already didn’t care for them. There’s so much wrong with the prequel trilogy that whatever small things it gets right isn’t nearly enough to make up for it. They’re bad movies with shiny sparkly things in them. Oh, and to say the lightsaber battles were epic? Really? That’s what you hang your hat on? They were…energetic, but they had no feeling of weight or impact or consequence. Ugh. They were terrible.

  19. I’m not sure which movie you were watching but the Pod Racing was horrible. It was simply a boring maneuver to show Anakin as a a capable human being and get him off of the planet without violence.

    That said, the Star Wars Episode I Pod Racing game for N64 was amazingly good and the arcade version was also a ton of fun.

  20. there are literally too many CRAP movies to count that are worse than Ep. 1, so harping on the saaaaaame ‘ol saaaame ‘ol just makes you look boring. you should just get together w/ all the other countless & lame people regurgitating the same annoyances and make a masterpiece symphony about dilsliking one little movie that’s worlds better than countless other movies that suuuuucked.

    for one, to say it was worse than Street Fighter (the new one AND the old) as well as D.O.A., Masters of the Universe, Green Lantern, ETC is just laughably pathetic.

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