The Phantom Menace - A disappointment?

© Maikel Das 1999

The Phantom Menace, respectively the Star Wars saga in general is a fantasy-space opera-family-entertainment-movie. It has to function inside these genre settings. The Phantom Menace is not supposed to be high art or a religion. Itís supposed to be high quality entertainment and of course also to make a lot of money. George Lucas is not Stanley Kubrick and the wars in this universe are spectacular but completely unrealistic and unbloody. So, when (media) people criticize, Star Wars is simple and naive, theyíre right but miss completely the point, because thatís the way adventure stories and classic myths are. And thatís what Star Wars is ? a fairy tale narrated with modern methods.

The Phantom Menace is something like the prologue of the Star Wars saga. It introduces the main characters and their relation to each other. Once the figures and settings are defined, the "realî story can unfold with Episode II. This makes Episode I very interesting for fans, which are familiar with this universe, but an ordinary theater visitor, might be bored.

Of course severe marketing considerations are also part of the story. The Phantom Menace wasnít shot for the benefit of all mankind. Lucasfilm is no charity organization. This is big business and a lot of people making a living with it. The merchandise will do more money than the movie. Sometimes it looks like "blockbustersî are only produced to sell licenses and weíre all trapped in a sticky spider web.

This Jar Jar Binks character is such a figure. Heís not vital for the plot, but 10-year-old kids will love him, while most 30-year-olds will be annoyed. But I guess, not so annoying like Ewoks. Comedy was always part of the Star Wars saga. Though my feeling is that the comedy have shifted toward slapstick now. Anyway, I can accept this goofy character and understand the value for the overall saga. Beside, his actions are taking place in the background, the little cartoons from Aragones in "Madî or the adventures of Gyro Gearloose Little Helper. And this can be funny something.

Anakin, a 9-year-old slave children and an ace-pilot and engineer at the same? Bullshit! Even if he is a "superforceî, heís still a little boy. 14 years would have been much more plausible, also for the story. The Jedi Council said that Anakin is too old to be trained as a Jedi. And Luke? He was much older when he discovered his powers. In the "making ofî book George Lucas said about the age of Anakin that the separation of the mother is more traumatic for a young boy than for a teenager. And thatís important for the further development of the plot. Well, I understand it, but I still donít like it.

Midi-Chlorians? A microorganism in the cells that makes someone force-sensitive? What is the Christian religion? A virus? And Islam is a diarrhea disease? We better forget the Midi-Chlorians right away! We also forget the "virgin birthî right away. Someone should have had the guts to tell George what nonsense and crap this is.

Anakin is already the farther of Luke and Leia. Now he also created C-3PO. Why must every main character be related to each other? This is like a soap opera. Why canít C-3PO just be a protocol droid that stumbles into deep shit? What next? Han Solo is the illegitimate son of queen Amidala? Chewie is the exile-president of Kashyyyk and the Ewoks are freak clones of his DNA? Thereíre still chances to correct this plot element to the better.

Every saga has a beginning. The Phantom Menace is a spectacular beginning that introduces us to new worlds, races and characters. Itís like a pilot movie. All pilots suffer under the necessity to explain everything, to introduce everyone and make the audience curious for future episodes. The story gets driven forward with Episode II and III. These are the movies Iím really waiting for. Especially III, when the republic is going down the drain and Anakin turns to Darth Vader. At least boywonder Anakin isnít 9 year old then.

The Phantom Menace is a film for the 90s, created for an audience of the 90s and not for a fistful of aging Star Wars fans. If you watch this movie with a "seventies attitudeî, conditioned by the media hype and the high expectations of a fan of the first hour, you can only be disappointed. Free your mind and become one with the force. Relax. Dive into the fantasy universe and let yourself getting impressed by the SFX. Thatís the way you have to watch the next generation of Star Wars movies. Consume ? donít think.

I donít know if this is something that still interests me. But I still can have fun.

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