Poor George Lucas. Struggling to pay his bills, he has resorted to releasing Star Wars in cinemas again. Justifying it this time by converting them to 3D. In five years he will release it with scratch and sniff cards to round off the “immersive experience”.
My relationship with Mr Lucas is much like that of Sharon Stone and James Woods’ in Casino. George is my abusive ex-pimp. He has always treated me badly but I cannot help going back to him and helping him out. The amount of Star Wars DVDs, video games, and toys I have bought over the years is sickening. I cannot help myself. Upon hearing that he was re-releasing the Star Wars films again the thing that upset me the most was the knowledge that I was going to go and see them and pay through the nose as I did so. Therefore I was so thankful I got to go to the screening, for it meant that I needn’t give any more money to Mr Lucas. At least for while.
Outside the screening stood Stormtroopers. Not Naboo guards. Not Gungun warriors. This is because no one gives a shit about them. Star Wars and the love of Star Wars is all still based on how wonderful the original trilogy was. George Lucas has said that there are two types of people in the world: Creators and Destroyers and that he falls into the former category. He says that but from the 90s onwards he has systematically destroyed everything he created over the previous two decades. From Young Indiana Jones, the first major tampering with the Star Wars films, the Prequels, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and of course the newest changes to Star Wars. “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”
The screening had a red carpet with an assortment of less than D class celebrities. “Stars” from a Big Brother series shown some years ago, rubbed shoulders with “big” names such as Vanessa Felts and Andrew Stone from Pineapple Studios. Rarely has a red carpet been more unnecessary. The biggest star there was C3-P0 himself, Anthony Daniels, who will be anywhere with Star Wars and a pay cheque. If you want him to introduce one of the films before you pop it in the DVD player it will only set you back around twelve pounds and travel expenses. After his rather embarrassing speech the film began.
The Phantom Menace is often referred to as the worst Star Wars film. This is not true. It is the closest George got to the original trilogy. Real sets, by far the best effects, and all filmed in England. Resulting in a cast of British actors dubbed with American accents (unless of course they were playing villains). Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith looked more like Pixar films that Ewan Mcgregor had somehow wandered into, looking confused at his presence there. Endless green screen and a plethora of Australian accents were very jarring.
Phantom Menace is not a good film but there are a lot of good things in it. Darth Maul is still pretty cool. His double lightsaber and make up make him instantly watchable and the lightsaber battle in the climax is still the best in the franchise. The presence of Liam Neeson helps the film greatly, despite the character being a distinctly second rate Jedi. His second line, after Obi Wan says, “I have a bad feeling about this”, is the response, “I don’t sense anything.” Dear God. Yet he is the closest to bringing the gravitas brought to the original by Alec Guinness.
The film is a complete mess. It starts off quite excitingly with lightsabers cutting up droids, and ends excitingly in a huge climax with space battles, land battles, shootouts and of course the fantastic lightsaber duel. The middle is simply awful. We spend far too much time on Tatooine and watch George Lucas completely rewrite the story of Anakin’s origin. He had a guideline to follow. Obi Wan in the original Star Wars (I refuse to call it a New Hope) tells Luke the story of his father. George throws this out the window, so now we have a little boy whose mother is either a liar or someone who was impregnated by the force. Anakin is a little irritating blonde boy who podraces: a sport which is far more dull than it sounds. After we leave this tiresome desert we head to the houses of parliament in space. Floating pods with people discussing trade routes. The middle of this “first film” in the franchise is utter shite. The bookends, however, are enjoyable.
By far the most despicable aspect of the film is its racism. We are shown the evil Japanese trade federation (here called Neimoidians). Then comes a Jewish hooked nosed greedy tradesmen (here called Watto a Toydarian). And who can forget the idiot race of Rastafarians (here called Gungans). These thinly veiled stereotypes are hard to watch. There is no point in mentioning what an awful a character Jar Jar Binks is. We all know he is an abomination.
So what about the 3D? Well I took of my glasses several times throughout the film … to discover many of the shots haven’t been changed at all. The shots that have been add nothing. It is a despicable excuse to re-release the films. All involved should be ashamed as they bath in the money that comes pouring in.
The Phantom Menace was a disappointment in 1999 and still is. I don’t mind the film, but the experience of this screening makes me take off half a star for this release. The most upsetting part of the experience is that as I left unsatisfied I knew I had about a week before I felt compelled to buy the Blu-Ray collection.
Movie Rating: 2.5/5