I kinda like The Phantom Menace
Ivy vs. Star Wars, part I
Posted 17 Jan 2022
Every once in a while I feel compelled to revisit this thing, probably partly because its imagery saturated formative years of my childhood despite the fact that I didn’t see it in its entirety until years later. And every time I revisit it, I come to the same conclusions:
This film is very funny, but only when it’s not trying to be. Moments of unintentional comedy are as frequent as its deeply embarrassing intentional jokes. Endless laughs can be had by, say, taking photographs of the screen and sending them to your siblings with snarky comments. But the insipid Mickey Mouse theatrics of Jar-Jar lose all their appeal if the viewer’s age has multiple digits.
This film is very boring. So boring. Not as boring as Attack of the Clones, but still, a major chore to sit through. The Senate Chamber scenes get a lot of grief but that shouldn’t be taken to imply that the battles are a good time, because they’re not. It would be easier to get emotionally invested into watching someone else play Space Invaders.
Visually it actually looks pretty good. The production design is phenomenal and the CGI isn’t nearly as bad as people make it out to be. For a film that came out in 1999 it still holds up remarkably well. And every once in a while there’s a shot that makes you say, “wow, this George Lucas guy is a pretty fine director!”
It borders on campy, but it’s not really campy enough. I want a campy Star Wars, please. All these things take themselves too god damn seriously.
Such racism. I mean, come on. We’ve got Jar-Jar the Minstrel, Watto the Space Shylock, and an evil cabal of Yellow Peril Aliens. Who thought this was OK?
The machinations of the political schemes make no sense. As a kid I always figured I would understand them when I was older, but no. If anything the older I get the less sense they make.
But five years from now or so I’ll probably again want to go through it again. Somehow it’s all worth it so long as I get to see Natalie Portman’s hilarious facial expressions, hear the weird stilted dialogue, watch Darth Maul drive a motorcycle off a cliff, and look at all the nice environments that totally aren’t ripped off from Dinotopia, trust us. And, of course, the greatest line in all of cinema: “There’s always a bigger fish.”
Final note: The first time I watched this in its entirety was in the late 00’s, when it could be found split into about a dozen chunks on YouTube and watched in multiple sittings over several days. I submit that this is still the ideal way to watch it.