Friday, February 24, 2012

Star Wars - The Phantom Menace: Jar Jar is funny—but the 3D’s not that good.

Now let me just clarify, those are not my words.

Last weekend I took eight nine-year-olds to see Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D. My son picked this activity to celebrate his birthday and all the kids he invited showed up excited to see the movie (OK, just the boys showed—all the girls declined—sorry, Star Wars, apparently young ladies do not dig you.)

Critics and Sci-Fans alike seem to almost universally dislike this film (57% approval rating at—but yet the early matinee was 80% full—and I notice this week “Phantom” is still rated number 6 at the box office—not bad for a movie that first came out 13 years ago.

Although I’ve seen the movie a couple times, it had been several years since my last viewing of “Phantom”—and I was at first excited to hear the Star Wars anthem and see the rolling, yellow lettering explaining what was going on in that galaxy far, far away. But then the first star ship appeared on the screen, rumbling in space like a 1968 Corvette with a blown out muffler. Then a short while later Jar Jar Binks was on the scene, annoying as ever. My enthusiasm soon faded. The movie is over two hours long and I expected the kids to start getting restless a short while in—but that didn’t happen. They were eating it up—I was the one shifting in my seat and looking at my watch.

But, despite plenty of flaws with character and story, George Lucas and his crew got a lot of things right. There are cool aliens and Jedi, and one of the best-choreographed fight scenes ever. There are heroic moments, spot on special effects, loads of artistic backgrounds and details and even moments of humor.

When the movie was over I asked my son and his friends (now all drinking lemonade and eating cupcakes with 2” thick frosting) what they thought of the show. The consensus amongst the 3rd grade crowd was that it was a 9 out of a possible 10. They debated whether the best moment was the pod race or the Darth Maul/Jedi fight. (It turns out my son’s favorite birthday gift was a double-bladed Sith light saber toy, by the way.)

Q: “What did you think of Jar-Jar?”

A: “Pretty funny.”

Q: “The Jedi?”

A; “Pretty cool.”

Q: “How was the 3D?”

A: “Not very good.” (I concur.)

One of the other parents at the party, kind enough to help us chaperone, commented to me after the show, “Some of the writing really isn’t very good, is it?” “No. No it's not.”

But long live Star Wars and the Lucas Empire, if not here but in some galaxy far, far away. If for no one else other than the nine-year-olds (and nine-year-olds at heart) out there who know what it is to be entertained.


Oh—and if you want a good laugh (about all the things wrong with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) please check out this link (thanks, Q!):

The challenge in part 1 of asking people to describe the character traits of Qui-Gon Ginn (the drunk) and Queen Amidala really cracked me up :-)


Jon said...

Oh, Phantom Menace... I have never experienced such unbridled mass excitement, especially in the moments just before you started on that first day way back when in the packed auditorium of the Chinese theatre. People were going crazy, booing every single trailer at the top of our lungs like we were losing our minds. It was like being drunk, the best drunk ever...

And afterwards...

Oh, and afterwards...


Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I saw the Phantom Menace....3 times? When it was in the theater. Or 3 times, and then once more, when it re-released a few months later for charity. I made my boyfriend at the time take me; he didn't really like Star Wars but we were going.

Those little girls don't know what they're missing. Star Wars is the way. 3D, though? I'm underwhelmed.

Qlaudie said...

Excellent, Mark. The best summation of George Lucas in re: Jar Jar Binks ever... from the link you put in the article... "After all, this is the man who made a movie with an animated rabbit who steps in the poopie."

Jon said...

Yeah, post-conversion 3-D is always bad. Always. Thinking about the prequels, what was, what could have been, what should have been? It still hurts when it rains...

So I just watch these instead. They remind that Star Wars is still cool somewhere.