I have never been a SW fan, outside of the movies. I find it ponderous and full of itself, a mish-mash of sorcery and deep canon of the kind that never appealed to me. Even to a twelve-year-old (my friends were all big into Star Wars merch and the EU), the plot of the EU was running on fumes, recycling old plots and images decades after the events of Jedi. Aside from a few comics I liked (Shadows of the Empire, and Dark Empire was actually not too bad ^_^) it seemed to be repeating the same Anakin/Luke arc ad nauseum. The video games don't help, reusing the same old Cloud City textures.... Basically, I think the EU did a disservice to the variety of the original trilogy. Which is why everyone looks so fondly on Episode One. For all the script's faults, at least we get to see something different. Some places are familiar, like the Trade Federation warship (intentionally patterned on a future Star Destroyer) and Tattooine, but overall this is the riskiest of the prequels. The later movies were an endless parade of caverns! Blegh! Unfortunately, if Episode One has a leg up on scenery, Episodes 2 & 3 had better characterization. I'm a plot guy, and I can tell you that The Phantom Menace is...nothing. Build-up for better things in the future. The first chapter of a miniseries. Chancellor Velorum ends up being the most sympathetic character in the movie, and he's just a pencil-pusher! You might say Shmee and Anakin are relatable and even tragic—but Lucas is queasy about inserting slaves into a family film, so the Skywalkers look like they're on siesta at Disneyland. In fact it's so inoffensive I find it oddly offensive. There is very little camaraderie or charm to these prequel characters. Secondly, I think Lucas missed a trick with Anakin's age. I always envisioned Obi-Wan and Anakin as near-contemporaries. Instead of a good man, a family man who turned bad, Anakin is a spoiled kid who couldn't handle a taste of power. As a film in its own right, Episode One is fun but unmemorable. As a Star Wars movie, the whole story could probably be consolidated into Episode Two and not lose much.
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