So I admit it, when I was assigned to write a review of Star Wars: Episode I, I did a half-cringe half-giggle. I was anxious to relive a bit of my childhood, while also realizing just how stupid this money machine really is and was. I sat at my computer, turned down my fluorescent dorm-room lights, made a bag of popcorn and prepared myself for a feast of poorly conceived creatures and even more poorly conceived plot twists.
Five minutes in, there was some exposition about taxing and federations that actually kind of made sense. Thirty minutes in, I’ve been introduced to some sort of silly swamp creature with an endearing one-liner (“How rude!”), a couple Jedis played by some action movie studs (Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor) and a princess who wears just enough weird looking make-up to almost hide how hot Natalie Portman is.
Here’s the kicker. Almost two hours into The Phantom Menace, and I was legitimately struggling to find a reason people hate this movie. I understand the Godfather 3 effect, but come on. I hate to break it to you 30-somethings who’ve made your livings in high-brow coffee shops talking about which is drawn out more; the pod-racer scene in Episode I or Jake Lloyd’s entire career (little Anakin managed to make enough money to quit acting before puberty, starring in Jingle All The Way as well as a few episodes of ER to go along with hisStar Wars fame.) But guess what? This movie isn’t that bad
In fact, there is at least a 68 percent chance I’ll go see it in 3-D when it’s released on Feb. 10. Call me nostalgic or stupid or even someone with poor taste in movies. (Side note: I have great taste in movies.) I don’t care. This film takes me back to a day when I was eight-years-old and the world was still buzzing in anticipation for George Lucas’ next masterpiece. That’s what this movie really represented – a buzz. People focus too much on how that buzz maybe didn’t live up to any of the expectations, but I was too young to realize the flaws. Pod-racers looked so damn cool. And is that a TWO-SIDED LIGHTSABER?!
This movie brought me back to a time when my parents had me watchEpisodes IV, V and VI to prepare for a couple hours in a movie theatre crowded with Skywalker lookalikes.
Let’s not focus on how stupid Darth Maul looks or the fact that they chose to base the title and movie’s poster around a character that speaks less than 10 words. Normally, I hate money machines. Really, I do. And I tried my hardest not to love this movie, but it did something for me.
There is a scientific formula for Star Wars movies that just makes it all click. It looks something like this: When L= Lightsaber fight, Eb = Epic Battle, SwY = Scenes with Yoda, D= Droid humor, P= poignant moments
(4SwY + L)(15D+2P)= a solid Lucas flick. (All values are approximate.)
There’s a funny mixture of mind and heart that comes into play here too. Although I love the brute force and battle scenes, the logic and critical accuracy that every piece of a successful prequel must fulfill is satisfying. There are plenty of “ohhhh, so that’s why he/she does that in the next movie” moments, my favorite being the entire senate sequence that results in Senator Palpatine becoming Chancellor Palpatine which will eventually result in his role as Emperor Palpatine. His scheming is under the radar for most of the film, but Ian McDiarmid does an admirable job showing us flashes of evil.
There are plenty of negatives to focus on in this movie. Do any of the creatures shown to us in Episode I really compare to the Ewoks? The answer is no. There was a bit of magic lost in the 20 years between the trilogies, but it’s a moot point to zero in on this, especially 11 years after the release of Episode I. Why can’t we just be content with what this movie is, go see it in 3D, fatten George Lucas’ pockets a bit and relive our childhoods as the “Second Star Wars” generation?
Save your insults for Episode II, people. No matter how you look at this installment, it’s undeniable: THERE IS A TWO-SIDED LIGHT-SABER. And what could be wrong with that?
This article was originally published in The Minaret.