Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

I've decided to go back through the entire Star Wars series (all six, new and old), and take a close look at what made some of these movies so fantastic, and others so...problematic.

Unfortunately, The Phantom Menace falls under the second category. I find it incredibly difficult to mess up Star Wars...we've got Jedi with lightsabers, really cool looking space ships, bizarre creatures from thousands of worlds, exotic locals of various planets and solar systems, and not to mention the story how did they manage to ruin a sure shot movie?

 Insert Jar-Jar Binks and the Gungans.

As far as I'm concerned, The Phantom Menace would have been a great Star Wars contribution if it weren't for Mr. Binks and the moronic Gungans. This ridiculous race single-handedly managed to ruin an entire movie.

For one, Jar Jar himself is characterized as a fool. Just listen to the way he talks, and sadly the entire degenerate race of Gungans talk as Jar Jar does. And how does he talk? Like a fool, a half-wit. I guess George Lucas was willing to sacrifice every adult and teenage Star Wars fan's love for the series for the sake of fourth grade fart humor...which is what Jar Jar amounts to...(sigh).

I found myself over and over mumbling angrily during the movie, "Kill it! Somebody please! Put it out of its misery!" My wife elbowed me a few times, but then I think she began to side with me as the buffoon continued to ruin Star Wars.

As I watched, I asked myself...Why on earth did Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi ask the creature for help?  Surely their Jedi wisdom would have warned them that this was a foolish creature in desperate need of a quick lightsaber swipe to the neck...

Again and again the Jedi take Jar Jar along when they should have--at the very least--left him behind.

Then to make matters worse, during the climactic battle scene, we have Jar Jar, the prince of fools, doing all sorts of stupid, klutzy things and gibbering like a brainless salamander, and then what happens!?! All his foolishness amounts, not to his desired demise, but to him helping win the war. As the flappy-eared caricature stumbles over droid parts in a dance of uncoordinated buffoonery, he accidentally kills approaching droids by haphazardly discharging their weapons, thereby saving his own life (to my utter frustration). And then, again, when he should have been crushed to death by bouncing blue energy balls which he accidentally unloosens, he winds up, instead, knocking out large droid fighting vessels (and he of course survives).

The entire race of Gungans should have stayed in the swamp. Jar Jar was not an exception to his race, he seemed to be the rule. The Gungan King was a blathering nonsensical being who acted like a child. He even spit raspberries into the air when he was excited.

In conclusion, the movie was great, except for Jar Jar and the Gungans. I know I don't stand alone in this conviction. The massive number of anti-Jar Jar websites is a testimony to that. It seems Jar Jar annoyed just about everyone...except for the elementary aged audience.


KM Wilsher said...

Here, here.

I turned 10 May of 1977. After church my friend Mikey and I went to see a new movie called Star Wars. Mikey was always more hip to popular culture than I, so he had been anticipating this movie. I really had no idea what to expect.

In 1977, Star Wars was the closest thing to the Harry Potter phenomenon of this decade. 99% of conversations around school consisted of, “I’ve seen it 9 times, how many times have you seen Star Wars?” We did not have benefit of video, so there was no waiting for it to come out and own it. We had to catch it in the theater as many times as possible before it was gone, forever for all we knew.

22 years later I took my nephew, then 7, to Episode I bragging all the way to our seats of the 3 story screen theater about the Star Wars glory days.

I have to say that when Ja Ja first appeared I belched, but I held on and gave him a chance because I did not endear to the Ewoks right away either.

Sad to say, though the Ewoks warmed my heart, I never did endear to Jar Jar or his kind. I never fell in love with any of the episodes released in the last 11 years as fondly as the first three. The actors, Yoda, the stories, they all left me a little dry. After all those years!

Don’t get me wrong. I am forever a Star Wars fan -- it started that wonderful day in May of 1977.
But I agree, BB!

Brandon said...

Hey KM :)

I too will always be a Star Wars fan, however, of the three newere movies, only Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith was worthy to go alongside the the older three.
Loved your Star Wars story! That's true about no movie rentals...once it was in the theater back then, that was all you had...

Chris said...

I agree with you about Jar Jar. The gungans always annoyed me. A few years back when the Lego Star Wars game came out, I refused to play as him. lol

I have to say, though, Darth Maul was a very cool villain. When the second lightsaber came out of his hilt, I said "COOL!" so loud my mom started.

I didn't like Episode Two at all... Long and boring with cookie-cutter characters. But Episode Three is my favorite out of all of them--old and new. Anakin's character arc had me glued to the theater chair for the whole movie.

Looking forward to the other reviews... :)

Mike Lynch said...

Okay, it's my turn to chime in. I too saw the original Star Wars back in 1977 and became a die-hard almost instanteously (I still have my program from the movie). It was fun and like nothing I had ever seen before. The comic relief provided by C-3PO and R2-D2 gave an extra dimension in the movie that made it all the more enjoyable. But one of the reasons they are still beloved today is that they were smart characters. R2-D2 had loyalty and bravery incorporated into him. C-3PO was a bit on the whinny side, but when he was in a tough jam, he would pull it together and do the right thing. They never did buffoonish things, rather, their humor was based on the love-hate relationship between the two.

Jar-Jar, on the other hand, was in the movie for one reason--keep the childre in the audience entertained. His job was to provide comic relief, nothing more. He didn't advance the plot, provided no crucial information, nor resolved any major conflicts in the story. Yes, he helped with the battle at the end of the movie despite himself, but there were several thousand other Gungans around too who were much more heroic.

As to my problems with the Phantom Menace, I could go on and on. But two in particular really stand out to me. Number one, when Kui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Jar-Jar are going through the core of the planet, and all those scary looking fish are trying to eat their ship, Kui-Gon assures the terrified Jar-Jar,not to worry, that it will be alright. He even makes a joke about there always being a bigger fish to eat the smaller ones. My reaction was not to take that scene seriously--all the tension had been deflated. What should have been a terrifying, at the edge of your seat moment in the movie, became a dull experience because Jedi masters don't let their negative emotions get the better of them. Lucas held true to the code of the Jedi, but in doing so, sapped all the excitement out of a scene that should have been very exciting.

Problem number two--Jake Lloyd. I once saw a behind the scenes making of the movie, and how much effort Lucas went to finding his young Darth Vader. He has been known to screen actors for months before settling on his cast. This cute kid was a terrible choice. He was too young for the part, too blonde, too southern California, and lacked any passion or pathos for the part. I even heard that the crew on the set even referred to him as Mannequin Skywalker, which I think isn't too far from the truth.

Like I said, I could go on and on. The only redeeming quality about the movie is that it started up the franchise again. Number two wasn't too bad, but at least it got us to Revenge of the Jedi. Hey 4 out of six isn't bad.

Mike Lynch said...

Whoops, I meant Revenge of the Sith.

Brandon said...

I share your thoughts exactly the second movie--stiff character lines galore! You'll see in my review of episode two...
And I agree Episode three was worthy to fall alongside the three older movies. It alone was quality of the new movies.

I totally felt the same way about the ocean core scene with the jedi...their lack of concern was completley unrealistic--heck, their concerned in other dangerous situations!

logankstewart said...

I agree completely. Darth Maul was so awesome, and the pods were cool, but Jar Jar was horrible. And I thought Jake Lloyd's acting was awful, too.

I hope you review all of the films.

I am a huge STAR WARS geek. I got the Clone Wars Season 1 for Christmas, but I've not had time to watch it yet. I thought the Clone Wars film was okay, though.

Anyway, great post. And I completely support you here.

Brandon said...

I value your support :) Down with Jar Jar.

Mike Lynch said...

At least Lucas realized his mistake by the time he got to Star Wars II (or at least heard all the complaints from fans about Jar Jar). I think he was in the movie for all of 2 seconds.

Brandon said...

I thought the same thing...I wonder how many cuts to his character they made after the Episode one aftermath.

Mike Lynch said...

Let's call him and find out.