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The Phantom Menace - My First Star Wars Film
The Phantom Menace is an interesting film in that the primary reasons I enjoyed it during my first viewing are no longer my favorite features of the film. My first viewing was really dominated by the spectacle — the environments (like Theed, Otoh Gunga, and Coruscant), the podrace, the duels, and the music. As I've gotten older, though, my interest has shifted to the quieter character-driven scenes, such as Anakin's goodbye to his mother, Shmi and Qui-Gon's interactions, and the friction between Qui-Gon and the Council. And Palpatine - he's a highlight. Not knowing his true identity the first time I saw the film, I dismissed him as a largely innocuous secondary character. Rewatching, though, is a treat, especially after realizing just how much of a slimy, manipulative snake he is. And there's Qui-Gon, one of my favorite Star Wars characters of all time. Not only is he played by the exceptional Liam Neeson, but he's also one of the greatest Jedi of the Old Order. Here's a man who really stands in strong contrast to the dogmatism and elitism that plagues the Jedi Council, which isolates itself in a literal ivory tower. His interactions with little Anakin were a joy to watch and his death really hit me hard, hurting all the more after viewing Revenge of the Sith and wondering what could have been. The movie itself is a nice set-up for the following films, establishing a lot of the underlying difficulties that will plague our characters — Anakin's difficulties with the Jedi, the Jedi's detachment from the lives of common people, and the Republic's inability to act (even for those facing a crisis), and so on. On its own merits, though, the film's plot, centered around the liberation of Naboo, is well-done and gives us some great insight into Padmé's character. Qui-Gon is the protagonist of this film, but it is really her story. He serves to bring the three central characters together (Obi-Wan, Padmé, and Anakin), but it is Padmé who is at her most powerful here — who proves her mettle whereas in the following films, she will increasingly have both her personal and political power torn from her. Anyway, The Phantom Menace was a wonderful introduction to the Star Wars universe. Full of life and warmth, it nonetheless has its own undercurrent of darkness. Highly recommended (through a highly subjective review).
Finally someone who actually gets it,honestly I still prefer over "the first". But it isn't Padme's story,it's Anakin's,...yeah it took a while to get to Tatooine,but the original did the exact same thing. It's not about the mettle of Padme,it's about Anakin feeling powerless with few joys and then being forced to sacrifice. the other stuff just happened,even if Qui-Gon is the protagonist.

The acting was still mostly hit and miss,darth Maul should've traded with Jar Jar for screen time,but this is mostly a good analysis,instead of all this BS complaining about "style over substance" or how it meddles with "I wasn't much different" in ESB
comment #16036 terlwyth 7th Sep 12
I think Maul was the most effective with the little screen time he got. It made him understated, mysterious, so that less of him was more. Of course, inversely the movie didn't need more Jar Jar.
comment #16037 Tuckerscreator 8th Sep 12
In terms of what I meant about it being "Padmé's story," I was thinking more of the fact that the plot of the film really revolves around her and her people's situation on Naboo. She makes several of the most important decisions in the film, after all, such as choosing to go plead her case to the Senate and then deciding to go back to retake her planet. That's not to diminish Anakin's importance in any way, but his story isn't really what drives the plot forward. It's actually something I noticed about the prequel trilogy — each of the big three characters has a film where they are the main focal point of the plot. For Padmé it is TPM, for Obi-Wan it is AOTC (Anakin and Padmé falling in love and finding Anakin's mother is important, to be sure, but it doesn't move the plot forward), and Anakin's is ROTS.

For Anakin, I get the feeling that although he is cynical and unhappy with some aspects of his situation ("I'm a person!" "I wouldn't have lasted so long if I weren't so good at fixing things" "it'd be a shame if you had to pay for me" "no one helps each other" etc.), I do think that, as a kid, he doesn't completely know better — he has no other life experience with which to compare what he's living now as a slave. So I think going off on his own to live with the Jedi for ten years does make him much more dissatisfied with life. Though, I do think that Anakin is very defensive about his worth as a human being (hence why he gets so stuck on his name, and note that Watto only ever calls him "boy") and that's also why he's constantly promoting his skills, such as podracing, because it's what he thinks gives him value.

For Darth Maul, I don't necessarily think he needed more screen time. He worked well with what he had and it helped to give him an aura of a predator — constantly stalking our heroes with a single-minded focus on their destruction. He's the most animalistic of any of the villains and, in my opinion, my viewing experience wouldn't have been enhanced with more dialogue from him

I didn't mind Jar Jar, to be honest. His antics in the final battle were really the only point where I felt he was overwhelming, but I thought his character developed some great themes about tolerance. All of the characters — the Jedi, the Gungans, and the people of Naboo — don't really seem to like him and view him as a burden. And yet, without his help, Padmé could never have freed her people and the Gungans and humans would have never have been brought together. I think he showed the importance of recognizing the value in all people and not being dismissive, even if you do find an individual annoying. You may come to rely on their help one day.
comment #16039 RedHudsonicus 8th Sep 12
I just want to comment on your last point, regarding dismissing people that you may come to rely on one day.

This is, on its own, a pretty good character development point. It shows how Qui-Gon is more compassionate; his focus on the "living Force" tells us in dialogue, but this really demonstrates the point. But instead of Jar Jar developing as a character, he continues to be a bumbling fool and coward in the final battle, only winning by accidents and clumsiness. What's more, in Attack of the Clones, he brings the issue of the army up to a vote, something Padme had been fighting against. Jar Jar turns out to be completely counterproductive and ultimately aids Palpatine in seizing power.

So instead of driving home a lesson about treating beings based on what they might have to offer as people rather than on initial appearances, Lucas just created one of the most idiotic and hated characters in cinema. It's just one of the things that made this movie painful for me.
comment #16053 JobanGrayskull 10th Sep 12
Quite right, Joban Grayskull. I've often wondered why Lucas had Jar-Jar basically instigate the entire Palpatine power situation. It really doesn't make much sense.

I never understood why the Trade Federation was blockading Naboo in the first place, or why one would try to blockade an entire planet, but yeah...
comment #16056 longstreth 10th Sep 12
@Joban Grayskull

I don't think the point was to develop Jar Jar as a character, necessarily — it was to show that everyone has value, even if it isn't readily apparent. Without Jar Jar, Padmé would have never known about the Gungan army and they would have never found the Gungans to ask for their help. Likewise, I do think it reflects well on Jar Jar that, despite the fact that he's clearly afraid, he stands with his people and fights. Does he make a mess of it? Sure. And his antics are a bit overwhelming, but I do think that people don't credit him enough for standing with his comrades despite being frightened. In regards to Attack of the Clones, though, you're right that Jar Jar is counterproductive and ultimately aids in the formation of the Empire. But that is a rather prominent theme in the prequel trilogy — people making poor decisions that eventually end up costing them when manipulated by Palpatine. Padmé, Anakin, and the Jedi all fall victim to this.

Plus, I think Palpatine using Jar Jar is meant to demonstrate that, initially, there were some pure and benign motives in handing over power to the Chancellor's office — Jar Jar was simply trying to live up to Padmé's presence in the Senate and protect the Republic. But he ended up making a critical error.

@longstreth

It's mentioned in the opening scroll why the Trade Federation blockades Naboo. They are protesting the taxation of trade routes in the outlying systems and have made a pact with Darth Sidious to advance their trade franchise with the understanding that they will invade Naboo. He makes it rather clear to them (and the audience) that he has great influence in the Senate when he informs Gunray that he has the Senate bogged down in procedure.
comment #16057 RedHudsonicus 10th Sep 12
I suppose you're right in general, I never really thought about some of those scenes that way. I still think the prequel trilogy could have been written and executed much better, to really make those themes stand out, but it's true that they are at least there however unpolished they may be.

I'm not one of those people that hates the prequel trilogy outright, mind you. I quite enjoyed them on first viewing, and in general I still do, although I've come to like Aot C far less than I first did. I just find it a little hard to pick up on some of the finer details because the overall production doesn't make those details pop. As you said, this story followed Padme as she matured into an actual leader, but on-screen Padme was a pretty flat character. I see the intention in the progression of the movie, but it doesn't really come to life. But this is something I attribute mostly to direction and writing, which George Lucas didn't pull off as effectively as, for example, Irvin Kershner did.
comment #16075 JobanGrayskull 11th Sep 12
@Joban Grayskull

I understand your preference for making the themes stand out a bit more. I, however, think I would have found it a bit...oversaturating to try to make every theme extremely prominent, personally. There are some that are really driven home, such as the notion that the biggest threat to democracy always comes from the inside ("so this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause") and the notion that fear is what drives people to the Dark Side. Themes embodied in characters (such as Jar-Jar for instance), though, I've noticed tend to be more subtle. But still, it's pretty subjective in the end.

You're certainly not along in your increased dissatisfaction for AOTC, for example. I've seen it listed as worse than TPM quite often, but for me, it's my second-favorite Star Wars film. And in regards to Padmé, she's one of my favorite characters — certainly not as feisty or outspoken as Leia, but I like her more reserved, quiet character. I think she is well-developed and is given a three-dimensional personality and a pretty solid arc. But I must admit that I also prefer the prequels to films such as Empire Strikes Back which, while a wondrous and outstanding film in its own right (and one of my favorites to boot), didn't touch me emotionally on the same level as the prequel films. So we can agree to disagree in regards to Lucas and Kershner.

Hence the note: highly recommended but on a highly subjective review
comment #16091 RedHudsonicus 11th Sep 12
  • edit: along should read "alone"
comment #16092 RedHudsonicus 11th Sep 12
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