10 Reasons why The Phantom Menace Rocks!
With the recent 3D re-release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, there’s been yet another resurgence of hateful and spiteful material towards this movie. Quite frankly, this just pisses me off. If people don’t like Phantom Menace fine, but the joke isn’t funny anymore and I frankly am getting tired of all the unnecessary hate. It’s not like the original trilogy didn’t have ridiculous and dumb stuff in them.
The first movie was made in the bleeding 70s, I’m surprised it’s stood the test of time that well. Does that mean that Vader and Obi-Wan’s lightsaber fight no longer looks awkward as hell? Of course it doesn’t. Does the pre-2004 edition Emperor in Empire Strikes Back look like shit? Of course he does. Were the Ewoks too adorable for their own good? Of course they were.
I know what you’re saying about Episode I. Jar jar, right? Well forget Jar Jar and focus on everything that was awesome about the movie. Because there were so many genuinely awesome, new and fresh things in Episode I that it became my second favourite film in the series (after Return of the Jedi).
1. Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn
Liam Neeson is the original badass, but he’s also just an incredibly talented actor who instantly classes up any movie he’s in. Episode I is no exception. We all wanted to know what kind of master Obi-Wan trained under and I honestly can’t think of anyone cooler than Neeson. Not only is he charismatic as all hell, but he’s also physically fit which proved instrumental for another point on this list. His banter with the young Obi-Wan, played by the equally awesome Ewan McGregor, is some of the warmest and well thought of dialogue in any of the Star Wars movies.
How come do people criticizing Episode I so readily forget about him. He’s the first full-fledged and legit Jedi, besides Obi-Wan, ever committed to the screen. And he’s cool as fuck.
So people hate Jar Jar, but did everyone forget about Watto? The greedy, blue flying junk salesman from Tatooine who talks with a funny accent and who takes no shit from anyone. And also, did I mention, he’s immune to Jedi mind tricks. Watto is one of my favourite characters from the film. Not only does he unwittingly introduce Qui-Gon to Anakin, but he’s just a slimy money grabbing bastard and yet somehow very relatable at the same time.
I think it’s a shame that Watto didn’t appear more in Episode II, but he’s still an extremely memorable part of Episode I.
3. C-3PO Unshelled
Probably one of the coolest moments from this movie watching it the first time was learning the origins of C-3PO and seeing him without his shells. The film also has the momentous first meeting between him and his cute and heroic counterpart R2-D2.
These guys are the staple of every Star Wars movie, so how come no-one ever lists seeing 3PO for the first time as one of their top-5 Star Wars moments? Sure it doesn’t quite compare to R2-D2 saving the heroes at the end of Empire, but it surely beats heck out of that stupid factory scene in Episode II.
This took some creativity and mind you that’s not a CG 3PO unlike in Episode II. That’s the real deal, a puppet.
Often ridiculed, I think it’s about time someone gave Jake Lloyd genuine credit for playing the child-version of one of the most darkest and tragic characters in film. I don’t honestly know what people were expecting? Did they think Anakin should have been an angst-ridden teenager? Didn’t we get more than our fair share of that in Episode II? And compared to Hayden Christensen, Lloyd can act like nobody’s business, he comes off as genuine.
Also, his goodbye scene with his mother, played by the superb Pernilla August, is one of the most moving moments in all of the Star Wars films. Sure, Lloyd says a lot of cheesy lines throughout the movie, but he also does a retroactive reprise of Harrison Ford’s famous “Woo-hoo!” towards the end of the film. Why is any of this a bad thing? Like A New Hope wasn’t cheesy and juvenile?
Oh, I see. Ani, right? Grow the fuck up, what else are they going to call him.
I think one of the best lines from all of the movies. No matter how much you hate Jar Jar, you can’t deny that the Bongo underwater chase is one of the best action-scenes from the Star Wars movies. You have a genuine feeling of claustrophobia as the heroes are trapped in the depths of Naboo’s ocean and chased by every manner of sea-creature imaginable.
The finale of this scene is just priceless. Just as it looks like the heroes are about to get eaten up by a huge, fanged monster, a bigger sea-lizard chomps him up. This is one of the coolest last-second turns from the whole series. For me, this is right up there with the worm from Empire Strikes Back.
By the way, I should really get that Top-10 Monsters from Star Wars list done one of these days…
6. Darth Sidious
One thing I know people moan on and on about is the film’s wimpy villain: Trade Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray. He and his cohorts are scared shitless by the Jedi for much of the film and go about muttering in a vaguely Asian sounding accent.
What is the big problem then? Nute Gunray is not the fucking villain of the picture, Darth Sidious is. Gunray is just a lackey, a pawn, someone Sidious, or Palpatine if you will, is manipulating for his own evil ends. And by the way, Sidious still kicks ass.
He is as frightening and creepy here as he was in Return of the Jedi. Younger yes and not quite as burned, but his key line from the movie still makes me shiver: “Wipe them out. All of them.”
One thing I know I was disappointed with in Episode II was the fact that Yoda was entirely rendered in CG. For the infamous lightsaber battle with Dooku, okay, I could accept that, but was it really necessary to get all those CG close-ups of him in both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith? I think not.
This is where I think Episode I still trumps the other prequels hands down. Yoda is still a puppet and he is just as expressive as he ever was in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Yes, someone could call me out for being a hypocrite since Yoda is partially made in CG in the film. For about five seconds, at the very end, IN A WIDESHOT. That was acceptable CG usage, we got to see his feet when he walked and that was enough.
Also, another iconic line which makes my Top-10 Star Wars quotes list any day: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to Anger. Anger leads to Hate. Hate… leads to suffering… I sense much fear in you.”
Does coolness not count for anything anymore? Darth Maul, the baddest motherfucker in the Star Wars series since Vader himself. The guy has horns on his head and a two-bladed lightsaber. How much more awesome can you get? Forget Dooku, forget Grievous, hell forget Boba Fett – Darth Maul is the very definition of awesome and he achieves this by speaking less than two full sentences in the whole frickin’ movie.
Some people have complained, perhaps rightly so, that Maul never made return appearances in the other prequels. However, I think it would have been asking too much to turn the prequels into a continuous saga of Obi-Wan seeking revenge for the death of his master. Besides, Maul with a robot hip? Get real.
Maul is awesome and he serves exactly the right purpose for The Phantom Menace, he is an evil adversary for the heroes to conquer and that’s exactly what they do. You don’t hear me complaining about Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin) not being in any of the Star Wars sequels (though I did let out a small “yay” when I recognised him in Episode III).
9. The Pod-Race
Again, did everyone fall asleep when they went to Tatooine? Or is there some other reason why people choose to forget about one of the coolest action-scenes in all of the Star Wars films. Anakin doesn’t just blow up the enemy satellite base at the end of the film, he goes up against a bunch of aliens far older than himself in a sport that is supposedly dangerous to humans.
The pod-race was one of my favourite moments in the whole movie. Sure, it doesn’t advance the story that much and we all knew that Anakin was going to win, but they played it up really well and kept the tension going. It reminds me of the speeder-bike scene in Return of the Jedi to some extent and that’s just a-okay in my book.
10. Best Lightsaber Fight Ever!
This tops them all. Nothing compares to this. Not Luke vs. Vader, not Yoda vs. Dooku, neither Anakin vs. Obi-Wan. There’s a reason I don’t like the other prequel movies as much as Episode I and that’s because there was something real in it. C-3PO and Yoda are one example, the other is the legendary and epic lightsaber fight between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Fucking Maul.
The reason I never enjoyed the Anakin vs. Obi-Wan fight was that it was way over the top. The surroundings seemed too fake and the fact that they were hopping around like fucking rabbits didn’t help one bit. Here, there might have been a bit of wire-work but for 90% of the scene, everything the actors are doing is for real. That’s what sells the intensity of it and that’s why I love it.
Not to mention: Duel of Fates! ’nuff said.