The Phanton Meh-nace

Eric Cunningham

Eric Cunningham is the editor-in-chief of Elections Daily. He is a lifelong resident of western North Carolina and graduated from Appalachian State University. You can follow him on Twitter at @decunningham2. @decunningham2.

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18 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    Maribou and I were really excited about this one.

    I saw the original trilogy in the theaters and was part of the playground rabbinical councils that discussed such things as “my mom told me that one of her students told her that Darth Vader got dropped into a volcano by Obi Wan and that’s why he wears that suit” and having another of the kids say “my older brother’s friend read the books and he told my brother the same thing!”

    When the Ep I trailer showed up, Maribou and I were *STOKED*.

    And we saw it and we walked back to the car in silence.

    “What did you think?”, she asked me when we got to the car. “IT WAS *FINE*!”

    And we drove home in silence.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:

      One of my friends went to it on opening night and there was a super fan who showed up in a nearly movie-quality Darth Maul costume. After the movie was over, as they were exiting, the guy in the Darth Maul costume wadded it up and threw it in the trash can with the empty popcorn bags and drink cups.Report

    • gabriel conroy in reply to Jaybird says:

      I lied to myself for a while, maybe a couple hours, after the film and told myself it was good.Report

  2. Mike Schilling says:

    I saw TPM at a work outing, and our response was uniformly negative. JarJar was obviously the worst thing in it, but the kid actor who played Anakin added nothing, the confusion about which was the real Amidala was pointless, the pod race was a silly contrivance, and so on. I was tired enough of Qui-gon speaking entirely in aphorisms that his death was OK with me.

    The film’s only redeeming feature was that it inspired this:

  3. Marchmaine says:

    “World War I started with the assassination of a minor member of royalty”

    Damn Prince Rudolf fanbois… ruin everything.Report

  4. I’m one of the few Gen-Xers who liked the film. It has its flaws but the visual sense, the way the action is filmed, the way the plot is built are good. In fact, I would actually say they take more risks and expand the universe better than the sequels have. The main failing is Lucas’ directing of actors. Natalie Portman, an Oscar-calibre actress, is terrible. Jake Lloyd need a lot more help. McDiarmiid and McGregor are the only ones who really shine.

    But it’s good. And I’ve watched it many times.

    One note: when I showed the prequel trilogy to my kids, I used the order 4-5-1-2-3-6, so that the prequels becomes a flashback after you find out about Vader. it works REALLY well this way. The parallels between Anakin and Luke are stronger, the surprises are all kept well and the revelation of Leia’s identity is way better.Report

  5. North says:

    The Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars movie I saw in theaters. Having been born in ’79 I missed the theatrical releases of the original trilogy but my Father was a fan. Whenever we’d rent a VCR and cassettes the trilogy was inevitably rented along with whatever else we got.

    Speaking personally I felt there was something severely wrong when I watched the Phantom Menace. The cartoonyness of everything was really off-putting when compared to the more staid visuals of the original three. The ships seemed significantly more advanced despite the fact that the prequel was happening significantly further back in time than the trilogies and the writing had gone utterly off the rails. The force being devolved down to a glorified yeast infection was shocking and the virgin birth of Anakin Skywalker was… something else. This is without even getting into the rolling horror show of Jar-Jar or how Anakin accidentally flew up to a Trade Federation ship and blew it up while doing the equivalent of banging on the keyboard of the fighter he was in. I clearly was not young enough to appreciate pod racing- at all.

    I have, over the years, come to rationalize the visuals for the trilogy by telling myself that they are being described through the lenses of looking into the past. Of course they look shiny, glossy and magical- they were a golden bygone era from which the gritty present Star Wars had descended.

    The best I can say for the film is that Phantom menace was better than the rolling garbage fire that was to come- its sequel.Report

    • George Turner in reply to North says:

      They made a sequel? That brain bleach I gargled must have really worked. I remember being horrified by a sequel, but now have no idea what it was. Ah, Kamino cloners, Clone Wars, some kind of cockroach with 20 whirling lightsabers.

      *Checks IMDB*

      8.6/10 Star Wars
      8.7/10 The Empire Strikes Back
      8.3/10 Return of the Jedi
      6.5/10 The Phantom Menace
      6.6/10 Attack of the Clones
      7.5/10 Revenge of the Sith
      7.3/10 The Force Awakens
      7.1/10 The Last Jedi

      8.6 and 8.7 are stellar ratings that very few movies achieve. Only two sci-fi movies have come in an 8.8, Sense8 and Inception. Two are at 8.7, The Matrix and The Empire Strikes Back, and two are 8.6, Star Wars and Interstellar. That’s rarefied company, making the best sci fi movies of all time.

      By the standards set by the first two, Return of the Jedi was a disappointment at 8.3, though still in a pretty lofty realm. It ranks #22 on IMDB’s sci-fi list.

      To then drop to 6.5 is shocking. Phantom Menace ranks at #722 on IMDB’s sci-fi list, down there below a bunch of Godzilla movies (Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II, Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster, Godzilla vs Biollante, Mothra, Godzilla: King of Monsters, Godzilla: Final Wars), a bunch of Resident Evil sequels, Titan A.E., Powerpuff Girls: The Movie, Return to Return to Nuke ‘Em High Aka Vol 2, Abbot and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

      Just confining ourselves to the tiny universe of George Lucas, THX 1138 got better ratings than The Phantom Menace, though it is far better than Howard the Duck which got a 4.7/10.

      The profound disappointment was that fans knew Lucas had years and years to perfect his nine-story arc. He had an almost unlimited budget. He had developed special effects to an incredibly better degree than was even dreamed of when the originals came out. And he had the vast number of expanded universe novels. If Star Wars was an 8.6, Phantom Menace was going to be a 9. How could it not?

      We were so hyped to see the most amazing sci fi movie ever filmed, and then we walked out realizing “Yeah. That was the same guy who made Howard the Duck.

      It’s canon, and an important part of the ongoing saga, so we watch it and try to overlook its flaws and failings. I’ve been known to rewatch Krull, too. But I wonder if at some point we should sweep all the prequels under the rug and tell our kids that they were high-budget “fan films” secretly funded by Star Trek producers who wanted to mock the Star Wars phenomenon? Who else would’ve added midichlorians or turned exotic aliens into derogatory 1940’s racial stereotypes?Report

  6. James K says:

    For me, the political parts of the prequels were the one thing that really worked – if only more of the trilogy had been about the politics of the falling Republic.Report

    • North in reply to James K says:

      Can you imagine?
      Senator excitedly murmurs to his aides “We’ve balanced the valid interests, the opposition has indicated agreement in principle with the goals of the legislation, we could rationalize the whole trade regulatory apparatus in a way that’ll be predictable for business interests and understandable to the public!” *dramatic music soars then darkens as one of Senator Palpatine’s clerks slinks in* “Pardon me sir, I have… an amendment.Report

  7. Fair Economist says:

    I saw it with a bunch of friends. We were all totally stoked about seeing it – we’d all been waiting almost 2 decades, after all. I was horrified. Jar-Jar immediately put me off, although overall I disliked building it around the Chosen One most of all. Anakin seemed just a particularly bad Gary Sue, what with all the miraculous abilities at things he’d never even tried. The politics and intrigue were all meandering and didn’t make a lot of sense. If I hadn’t been with other people, I’d have walked out, which would have improved my life by avoiding the podracing sequence. That movie made me a Star Wars non-fan for life – which was quite an accomplishment.Report

  8. Mike Schilling says:

    World War I started with the assassination of a minor member of royalty

    As the heir presumptive to the throne of Austria-Hungary, a monarchy of 240,000 square miles (roughly the size of France) and 50,000,000 people, he was kind of a big deal.Report