Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Phantom Menace: Hate it or love it?

The Phantom Menace. Will reviews change this go around or will people still consider it the weakest of the Saga?

Unfortunately, I doubt anything will change. I’ve blogged about how nostalgia for the Original Trilogy and expectations hurt the chances of TPM being accepted as it deserved. The reasons people dislike this film are a mixed bag of plot and character issues.

 “Trade routes? Trade Federation? What?”

Why is it when politics are brought in, a movie is suddenly labeled “boring”? The politics made the movie interesting. I admit when I was younger I didn’t find it nearly as interesting as I do now. It wasn’t the blaster fighting, action-packed movie fans were used to. The galaxy, unbelievably, isn’t at war all the time. Something had to happen for Palpatine to rise to power. Empires don’t spring out of the sands of Tatooine with a little womp rat fertilizer. 

The movie used a smaller plot, the issue with the Trade Federation and Naboo, to open the door to the larger scheme of everything. This move eases viewers into the story rather than throwing them into a whirlwind of treachery, deceit and betrayal. While trade disputes might seem unimportant, look at the history of various countries to see similar problems. Trade routes being blocked or blockaded lead to wars and border disputes. A large bomb or attack isn’t always the way the wars begin.

The plot was the foundation for the trilogy and in a broader sense, the saga. Think about the prologues, introductions or beginnings of stories. They are typically filled with background information and details that come into play in the future or tell fans who the players are. To some this information seems boring but it is vital to a complete and well-developed story. Without a foundation, the story will fall. Knowing that Anakin was a slave and seeing how leaving his mother affected him was vital to understanding his fall to the Dark Side. Another example is how Obi-Wan become a Jedi Knight and Anakin’s master as such a young age. That event also sheds a bit of light on Anakin’s eventual turn. 

Coupled with the plot are the characters. Lucas and co. received quite a bit of criticism over Anakin as a nine-year-old boy. Sometimes when reading these complaints I wonder how much time that person spent around nine-year-old boys. They say strange things. They are (usually) na├»ve even during a hard situation. They point out what they believe should be the obvious answer to a problem. And they remember some statements parents say to use later. Jake Lloyd’s acting was like a kid. Had Anakin acted too “adult” or hard, it’d been hard to believe he was a kid. While Jake Lloyd was no Dakota Fanning, he did pull off a difficult role.

Jar Jar Binks is another character ran through the gutter. I never cared about Jar Jar either way. He was just “there.” That said, I could completely understand why he annoys the snot out of so many people. I do wish he’d been disregarded after the first movie. Bringing him in as the idiot who gave Palpatine more power was a little too “let’s blame it on the village idiot.” 

The Phantom Menace isn’t my favorite of the Saga. It’s not even in my top three. I don’t find it to be a failure as others do. Is it the perfect movie? No, but it’s still enjoyable and great to watch. It’s not fair to hate a movie without being completely objective about it and thinking about the points fully. Just because something isn’t how you expect it to be doesn’t make it dull or a mess. 

Either way, whether you love it or you hate it, The Phantom Menace 3D release will be an interesting one to watch. The box office numbers will be quite telling about the future of the 3D releases. I think the movie will fairly well for a rerelease. With the Clone Wars, more kids are into the fandom. Many may have missed the opportunity to see any of the six in theaters. This is another great opportunity to bring more people into the fandom.

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