‘Phantom Menace’ only menaced wallet

Blake Becker

art by Theresa Whang
For decades, “Star Wars” has been one of the most popular Science Fiction series in the film industry.
Starting with the critically acclaimed, ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” in 1977 George Lucas sparked a franchise that would become his greatest success and make history for becoming one of the best sci-fi films in Hollywood.
Twenty-two years after the first Star Wars movie, in 1999, “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” was released as the fourth chronological movie in the franchise in a ‘prequel trilogy’ to the original trilogy of Star Wars films (episodes IV, V and VI).
Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, who said the movie had poor acting compared to it’s predecessors and that the film focused too much on special effects. The Phantom Menace raked in $924 million, making it the 17th highest grossing film all time. As the prequel trilogy closed with only decent reception compared to the original trilogy, the movie series was complete, leaving an impressive mark in the film industry.
Then in 2008, the respectable franchise turned into a brothel shelling out as many sequels and additional material possible to capitalize on the series’ commendable history.
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” was released as a Computer Generated Imagery television series in 2008 on Cartoon Network which is around the time I lost all respect for the channel. The cartoon series is basically a crappy, blocky, 3-D animated series around the clone wars era, comprised of mostly hyped-up effects, redundant fight scenes, dry humor and god-awful acting. It was also transformed into a full-length theatrical film the same year; implementing the same graphics, acting and writing used in the T.V. series.
In other words, my left kidney exploded.
From that point on, “Star Wars” sold itself out losing respect from both myself and the film industry as it capitalized on bombarding children ignorant of decent cartoons with food, video games, clothing, toys and comic books.
All of this leads up to the 3-D remake of The Phantom Menace that came out Feb.18 of this year, as producers remain incessant on haggling as much money out of the public they can muster. I arrived at the movie theatre around ten minutes early and ended up sitting through half an hour of previews targeting younger audiences and families.
As the film progressed I periodically flipped my special edition Darth Maul 3-D glasses on and off to see how the 3-D effects were being utilized compared to when the glasses were off. Personally I don’t think 3-D movies are all that great and are over-hyped, as they can abstain from doing enough work on important parts of the movie, like character development.
Now to the movie itself.
When Obi-Wan-Kenobi made his famous quote “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” in the beginning, I was reminded this was a trough in the prequel series to begin with. There should have been no theatrical remake at all. The movie didn’t use enough special effects in the first place to make full use of the 3-D addition. When there was potential to make good use of the effects, like in the climactic light saber duel near the end of the movie, there were almost no 3-D effects used.
However, the effects were well implemented with the underwater scenes, space battles and the best part of the movie: pod-racing. The pod-racing was simply stunning because it wasn’t some redundant NASCAR race. There was little bland dialogue to spoil the intensity and suspense of the fast-paced, high-tech, dangerous vehicles speeding through a treacherous wasteland. The 3-D effects were in full effect in this part of the movie as you were put in a first-person-view of Anakin Skywalker’s pod-race. You were right in the middle of the action navigating an unforgiving environment while eluding other racers eager to wreck you.
Those brief moments were the highlight of the movie, though, as 3-D wasn’t used to its full effects in the planet battle in space and on the ground. The movie mostly revolved around building the start of the saga and character development. Those two attributes however were not developed well as the main conflict in the movie was bogged down by unrealistic, boring alien politics. It was also very unsettling to watch Jake Lloyd’s surreal acting as young Anakin Skywalker, along with various other cheesy characters like Jar-Jar-Binks.
The effects did refine the graphics and sharpen details of the film in non 3-D parts, but the definition wasn’t anything that couldn’t be performed on a Blu-Ray disc. When the Phantom Menace was first made the film makers probably didn’t intend to plan out the scenes to be suited for a 3-D remake. They focused on beginning the story of how innocent slave boy Anakin Skywalker, would later become the terrible sith lord Darth Vader. As a result, much of the movie was not planned to make full use of an intense 3-D experience.
Ultimately the movie disappointed and only reassured my preconceptions of a failing franchise that was no longer worth my time or money. I wasted ten dollars on this movie (excluding gas used for drive time) and I didn’t even buy a five dollar small popcorn. It doesn’t matter if you’re the biggest Star Wars fanatic out there, this movie is not worth seeing.
Now my wallet has 10 less buck in it, spent on a movie redo that probably took two months to make.
My life is hard.
Blake Becker