Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Review

By Shamus Posted Saturday Jan 2, 2010

Filed under: Movies 81 comments

I found this gem via the Jay Barnson. It calls itself a review of the Phantom Menace, but it’s more like a complete deconstruction of the characters, plot, and cinematography. The voice used by the author is one of a crazy old man on an angry incoherent rant, but occasionally you’ll see gaps in the persona and see the disappointed filmmaker / Star Wars fan underneath.

I agree with Jay that part 2 was the weakest part of of the review. I think it crossed a line and went from “edgy satire” to “goofy and disturbing”. But that’s just me.

Warning: Bad language.

Link (YouTube)

You could probably cook up some justifications for Palpatine’s behavior to explain why he so often acted against what were ostensibly his own goals. You could construct a larger scheme and then just say that what he did in the movie was what he improvised when the Jedi intervened and brought back the queen. But that just means that the plot was too large and complex for a movie. In any case, if the audience has to retcon in their own fixes in order to get the thing to make sense, then the story isn’t working.

It was strange at the end when he basically had Lucas critique himself. When young George Lucas talked about how empty special effects are when they don’t have a good story behind them, and when you contrast his later work against Star Wars, it does sort of make you wonder what happened to the guy.

It’s the eternal George Lucas question: Did he have it and then lose it, or were his classics just a fluke?


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81 thoughts on “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Review

  1. Magnus says:

    “In any case, if the audience has to retcon in their own fixes in order to get the thing to make sense, then the story isn't working.”

    I agree with this completely.

    I get the feeling if Lucas had really intended to make all six (or nine perhaps) episodes, he should really have written all the main story arcs when he was younger (and therefore clearer in his mind). The prequels feel almost like a bunch of good ideas strung together with bad connections.

  2. Jason says:

    Ima go with fluke. His best work consists of his great ideas with someone else’s execution. Empire, for example.
    I can’t imagine how bad Indy would have been if Spielberg hadn’t been involved.
    He also seems to worry quite a bit about the whole Hollywood
    idea that you need to modify your idea until it has “mass market appeal.” Whatever the hell that means. Focus groups. Blech.
    He does good work as a producer, but once he gets a good idea, rip it out of his hands, creative control and all, and give it to someone else.

  3. Daimbert says:

    My view on it has been — and my memory seems to have me thinking this BEFORE the prequels — that Lucas just isn’t a strong enough writer to write prequels. Prequels are hard to write, mostly because they’re just different from normal movies and sequels. The whole point to a prequel is to show and explain how the things in the main work got to the point they did. Now, having three movies of prequels tends to make that less direct, as you can spread them out a little. But ultimately what makes a prequel good is everyone saying “Oh, so THAT’S how that happened!” as opposed to “Oh, that’s so cool!”.

    So, to start with, you really, really, really have to keep continuity. Prequels are not the time to rewrite your story. Lucas basically tossed out all sorts of reasonable impressions — Clone Wars being a war fought by clones, kinda, instead of being against them — and made outright contradictions — Amidala dies — to make this story. He might have been trying to fix problems, but you have to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt what you originally did if taken as one whole. He didn’t.

    Second, you want to get as many little details in as possible. The whole point is to support and show how the originals got there, so the more little details the better. And make them prominent. He didn’t.

    Third, while I appreciate his foreshadowing, you can’t rely on us not knowing what’s going on to build drama. We already know the ending. So we know that Obi-wan doesn’t die, and are only looking to see how he gets out of it. We know that Palpatine is the Emperor, and a Sith. So you need to make us, again, want to see how it got that far. So some backstory ON Palpatine would have been nice.

    The best prequel I’ve seen is “In the Beginning” from Babylon 5. JMS really had it all thought out in detail, even down to why one character only wears one earring — which I’d never noticed. Lucas didn’t have things thought out nearly that well.

    I didn’t mind “The Phantom Menace” and actually liked “Attack of the Clones” less than it from the beginning. But the problems highlight why prequels are hard to pull off.

    Note that I find the criticism of characters not really reasonable. I could name more traits about those characters than the people he asked. Like the fact that Qui-Gon is a bit of a rogue among the Jedi; he has a history of going out on his own to make the decisions he thinks is right despite what others think. And Amidala is exceptionally concerned with her people, and is strong-willed and yet compassionate.

  4. What seems more likely is that Lucas’ very talented entourage never worked up the guts to tell him he was crashing the movie (possibly all prequels) into a wall.

    There’s a chance that in 77, as a kid, he had veterans slapping him behind the head about some of his less savory ideas. Leaving behind the best ones.

  5. Telas says:


    I think Chatty’s spot on. I’ve heard from a number of sources that Harrison Ford got in quite a few heated discussions with Lucas over dialogue. “Real people don’t talk like this” was the repeated quote.

    There’s a PDF out there called “The Secret History of Star Wars” that pretty much debunks the whole thing. Lucas got lucky early on, and time (and self-importance) has exposed his lack of talent.

    Not that I’m bitter or anything…

  6. Robyrt says:

    This is a decent critique, but it’s about 30 minutes too long. Even speaking really fast, Yahtzee-style, would only save so much time.

    I really enjoyed the Phantom Edit of this movie – 20 minutes shorter, most of the nonsensical bits removed, and the pacing largely fixed because of it.

  7. Nixorbo says:

    I found that the most damning segment was the “Describe this character” bit.

  8. UtopiaV1 says:

    Wow, what a dull voice to listen to for 20+ minutes…

    Still, i suppose he’s right. The original trilogy should have simply died after episode 6, or at least gotten Ridley Scott to do the prequels, he can make absolutely ANYTHING interesting!!! Love that guy :P

  9. Old_Geek says:

    Don’t say Lucas is a fraud. The Phantom Menace and the other prequels remind us that film making is a colaborative art. Great movies happen when many people put in their two cents. No one, not even Lucas, should be the sole creative force.

    As far as the review, it was a bit too long. It can be reduced to two very strong points.

    1) There is no protagonist
    2) There is no villian whose actions you can understand.

    Any great story comes from the conflict between a great hero, an underdog whom you relate to and root for, against an evil villian whose evil plans make your blood crawl.

    Phantom Menace lacked both.

  10. Pickly says:

    Lucas did do American Graffiti before Star Wars, which was also quite well received. The argument that “Lucas can only work well with other people” is kind of pointless, since the same will apply to most artists, writers, etc.

    A lot of the criticism to me seems more like fans being really, really invested in the series, and as a result, their expectations go far higher, feelings of betrayal appear, etc.

  11. Aler says:

    I’m going to argue against fluke.

    You see this same trend with George Romero. “Night of the Living Dead” and “Dawn of the Dead” are fantastic. “Day of the Dead” is pretty good, but nothing amazing. “Land of the Dead” is terrible.

    Same with Ronald D. Moore. The early seasons of Battlestar Galactica are great, the last was terrible.

    M. Night Shamalyan’s “The Sixth Sense” was a great movie, as was “Unbreakable”, but each subsequent movie has gotten worse.

    The X-Files made no sense in the last couple seasons.

    I think this comes down to too much freedom. When they’re working within restrictions (of technology, or budget, or trying to keep ratings up, or studio requirements), they produce great work. When they’re recognized as geniuses and are given completely free rein, they flounder.

    Some people work best in a small box, and Lucas is one of them.

  12. 13_cbs says:

    Aside from part 2 (which I also thought was a little…disturbing), I don’t think the review was overly long. Yes, he could have simply said that there was no protagonist and that there weren’t any villains whose motives you could understand, but that would have missed out on much of the reviewer’s humor, which was in dissecting every little thing and pointing out the ridiculousness of them. The drawling monotonous voice actually adds to this since, on one level, it makes it sound like you’re listening to the ramblings of a drunk lunatic.

    I’ll have to agree that his “can’t describe Qui Gonn or Amidala” criticism was a little weak, but I also have to wonder how much of the info we could fill in about them came from sources outside of the movie.

  13. Telas: “There's a PDF out there called “The Secret History of Star Wars” that pretty much debunks the whole thing. Lucas got lucky early on, and time (and self-importance) has exposed his lack of talent.”

    Actually, it’s not an e-book any more. I own and run the publishing company that picked that book up and put it into proper print (you can buy it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble). And it is quite a nice book.

    When it comes down to it about the movie, though, the really big problem is that when it comes to the actual prequel story, there’s almost nothing there. If you take Revenge of the Sith by itself, it takes care of pretty much everything that sets up the original trilogy, and it actually does it pretty well. So, instead of being a strong, plot oriented movie, Phantom Menace is essentially two hours of universe building with a couple of story points.

    Now this isn’t really the way it was originally intended. The original intention of the prequel trilogy when Lucas sat down, (as the Secret History of Star Wars tells, as I recall) was to tell the adventures of Obi-Wan Kenobi. But, as the story developed in the scriptwriting stage, it became the back-story of Anakin Skywalker instead, which left most of the story in the final part of the prequel trilogy. So, part I set up the discovery of Anakin, part II set up the Clone Wars, and part III had the remaining 60-80% of the story.

    All that said, at least Phantom Menace had a strong sense of fun, and while the pod racing was useless as a plot sequence, it was pretty fun to watch. Episode II was a lifeless abomination that somebody would have to pay me to put on my DVD shelf…

  14. Ell Jay says:

    Like any critiques of Star Wars, the proper in-universe explanation for anything that doesn’t make sense is “it’s the Force.”

  15. Ace Calhoon says:

    I pretty much lost interest at the “describe a character” part. The character choices were iffy to begin with… Why compare Han Solo to Qui-Gonn? Why not old Obi-Wan to Qui-Gonn? Or old Obi-Wan to new Obi-Wan? Or Leia to Amidala?

    And when it came to describing Amidala, what about the bit about how she’s struggling to come to terms with her responsibilities? It’s a cliche, sure. Which should have made it easy to come up with.

    I’ll certainly agree that the old trilogy is much better than the new trilogy (and any kids who say otherwise can go ahead and get off my lawn). But I find the mindless hating to be… Distasteful.

  16. BlackBloc says:

    The early seasons of Battlestar Galactica are great, the last was terrible.

    The last 10 minutes are terrible. The rest was pretty good.

  17. SatansBestBuddy says:


    I have never seen anything with Lucas’s name on it that was any good save for early Star Wars and early Indy.

    And before you say being bad is a recent thing, remember that this is the man who made Howard the Duck…

  18. Aler says:

    Huh. 70 minutes later, I’ve finally watched the entire video and the reviewer makes exactly my argument at the end.

  19. Craig says:

    @ace calhoon: I would hardly call it mindless hating. It was well thought out and carefully presented hating.

    My review of episode 1 was, “characters boring, podracing fun”
    Which reminds me, I would totally buy another podracing game. The one for the n64 was good times.

  20. LintMan says:

    I don’t know. If someone’s going to create an extended critique of a movie series, going into detail about the flaws in characterization, etc, is it really a good idea to make a joke about being unable to pronounce the word “protagonist”? It’s not that hard a word, and repeatedly stumbling on it came across to me as quite patronizing.

    Anyway, the crtitique does make a few good points, and I liked the clips of the people unable to describe Qui-Gon and Amidala’s characters. But do people really have a hard time understanding what Palpatine was up to in the prequels?

    Even before parts 2 & 3 came out, I thought Palpatine’s plan was fairly apparent. Given that we knew he would eventually become emperor and dissolve the senate, the question was how he manages to do that, particularly with the Jedi Council standing in the way. Part of the plan was to use a trumped-up threat (ie: a “phantom menace”) to manipulate the other factions and conceal his own machinations.

    Yes, it’s a bit byzantine, isn’t quite airtight, plotwise, and probably could have been spelled out better, but overall, there are much bigger problems with the prequels that those, IMHO.

    For me, the biggest problems in The Phantom Menace were:
    – Jar Jar
    – flat characterizations
    – uninspired acting
    – the “midi-chlorians” psuedo-science bs
    – the whole pointless podrace part
    – Anaking destroying the enemy ship with an “oops!”
    – Anakin’s “virgin birth” and “will bring balance to the force” prophecy

  21. Ace Calhoon says:

    @Craig If there were well thought out points, they were not in part one of the video.

    The high points of part one:

    1) TPM doesn’t have a protagonist, which is bad because most movies have one. Unless you’re one of the dozen or so directors named.

    I’m not even sure that this point is really TRUE, to be honest. I haven’t watched TPM in years, but as I recall both Obi-Wan and Amidala go through pretty standard protagonist cycles.

    2) Han Solo and C-3PO can be described with more adjectives than Qui-Gonn Jinn or Queen Amidala, at least by people who love the original trilogy and hate the new movies. And again, Han Solo and C-3PO are both pretty easy characters to describe, while the “subjects” missed some pretty obvious explanations for Amidala.

    That’s… Not exactly compelling stuff.

  22. randy says:

    Fluke, and surrounding himself with professional people on the original trilogy. Even the best line in all the trilogy (“I know”) is not his, but Ford’s.

    For the prequels, nobody could cough Lucas. That’s 100% Lucas himself. And it’s an ENORMOUS turd.

    It’s a pity he couldn’t let it go. He destroyed most of the franchise and lost thousands of fans.

  23. LK says:

    I think he had it and then lost it. If you look at THX-1138, there was a really interesting and novel film that was thin on plot, sparse on special effects (though with good choice of set design), but was carried well and was riveting based on the character development alone (aided no doubt by Robert Duvall’s talent).

    Honestly I think success ruined the man. For the original Star Wars he had a big vision and a small budget and he had to make it work by carrying it with the strength he had available at the time.

    Now, he’s swimming in money and he just can’t resist the temptation of playing with all these hollow, exorbitantly expensive toys that he didn’t get to use in his films before. The end result is a long sightseeing trip where the focus is largely on gawking at the settings that the characters and story are only there to justify (which would explain why young kids still love these films. They can more easily forgive a bad story if they get to be amazed by imaginative and pretty visuals, not that they don’t prefer good stories)

  24. gottasing says:

    I agree with LK that the lack of limits became his undoing. I think the story behind the original trilogy was good, but that he never really had the story for the prequels nailed down as any more than just fuzzy ideas. When he was suddenly given the freedom to make good on the fuzz it all sort of fell apart.

  25. krellen says:

    It’s not just Lucas. The entire culture of film-making is a vastly different beast in the 2000s than it was in the 70s. Choreography, effects, visuals and action are all far more valued these days than they were in the past, and while movies of this sort have always been made, it is only recently that they have begun to actually be hailed by critics and awards organisations as “great cinema”.

    This culture enabled Lucas to create the world he has always had in his head, and likewise enabled him to disregard the need for story, plot, or coherence he needed in past eras. That’s truly what the prequel movies are: Lucas’s vision of his world, loosely strung together by interrelated scenes that don’t really weave a cohesive or coherent story.

  26. Daimbert says:

    I don’t know. I think it’d be safe to say that the story in the OT wasn’t anything special, and he certainly made things up as he went along. If anything, I think he tried to do TOO much, and make too many actual points instead of just making something entertaining.

    Take Palpatine’s plot. It isn’t obvious how his actions are leading him to his goal because the actions don’t seem to work out as being the best way to get there. But part of the problem is that while Lucas didn’t want — and shouldn’t have wanted — to get into the details of why the political system and machinations worked, he used enough of them to puzzle us. Instead of, say, not showing the Senate deliberations at all and just having Amidala grumble about them.

    Can anyone say that he would have had a 14 year old elected queen if he hadn’t been worried about what point he was making? Kids don’t care about elected or not, and adults won’t believe a 14 year old elected queen. That was just dumb.

    And SUCH a missed opportunity. After all, would ANYTHING have been impossible in either AotC or RotS if Amidala had stayed queen? Probably not; AotC seems untouched — since going into hiding would still be the best idea, although Naboo might not have been the first choice, but that’s easily worked around — and since big things were happening Amidala being on Coruscant to oversee that seems reasonable. But if she WAS queen, and was on the side of the pro-democratic side of the issue, it leads to a great character moment:

    Amidala is hurting her side of the debate because she’s an elected monarch in a monarchy, fighting for democracy, and so she seems hypocritical to do so. And so we can have even just an undertone where she is a) fighting to make Naboo democratic, perhaps even based on her own ideas of being unprepared for what occurred when she was 14 and b)is torn between respect for her planet’s traditions and her conviction that democracy is the best way to go.

    Nice, deep and personal character point that you get with only the addition of a couple of throw away lines, lost because the good guys can’t have anything other than democracy.

  27. eri says:

    I’ve watched this… twice. It’s hilarious, though the scene in part 2 could be both hilarious or detrimental. He has an in-joke in all of his Star Trek reviews that he killed his wife by crashing her car into a tree, and is now a serial killer/rapist/etc., which comes to the forefront in that one segment. Either way I think is critique is totally spot-on, and caught on to things that I didn’t even pick up on before in my earlier viewings of the film.

    When even a complete re-edit of the film can’t turn it into something worth watching (The Phantom Edit or one of its brothers), you know something is wrong. To George’s credit, the two follow-ups are much better, but still masturbatory. Somewhere along the line he just lost his way… though there’s an argument to be made that the reason the original trilogy is so good is because George Lucas actually had less control over Star Wars then than he does now.

  28. Atarlost says:

    Two things have happened I think. I agree with everyone who says Lucas needed limits to write good movies, but I think the acting profession itself has declined, at least in America. I think if he’d had to make the original trilogy with the actors he used for the prequels they would have been nearly as bad.

  29. OK, whilst some good points were made, the ‘describe the character bit’ falls flat, and as someone else pointed out, the character comparisons are deliberately biased.

    Also, Amidala? A young woman, determined, brave in the face of extreme dangers, believes in the power of diplomacy over brute force. Thought that bit was kinda weak.

  30. maxam says:

    Feh – You can see it all coming apart early on – in Jedi to be precise. Lucas wasn’t overly happy with Empire and steps in to ‘do things right’ for the finale. Nuf said.

  31. Vladius says:

    I knew it was only a matter of time before you posted this.

    His Star Trek reviews are pretty good, but they’re more about nerd rage types of things instead of story issues.

    Email me if you want a pizza roll.

  32. Sheer_Falacy says:

    I watched the whole thing, and I was amused when he criticized Yoda’s Fear leads to… speech from the Phantom Menace, since that was taken wholesale from the original trilogy that he loves so much.

    And the jokes about murdering his wife were so amazingly unnecessary. Ugh.

  33. Zimboptoo says:

    The review bits were really good, and the psychopath bits were painfully hokey. I would much rather watch a version that had those bits cut out completely; they didn’t add anything to the review or the entertainment value, to the point where I enjoyed the videos less because of them.

  34. Mark says:

    I saw this last week and ended up watching the whole thing, then went back and watched all his old Star Trek reviews too.

    And then I went and bought some pizza rolls. Seriously.

  35. Simulated Knave says:

    In regard to Harrison Ford’s comment about the dialogue (though I think Mark Hamill supposedly said something similar).

    All it demonstrates, IMO, is that Harrison Ford is a vastly inferior actor to all the rest in the trilogy. Everyone else managed to make that dialogue sound PLAUSIBLE. He didn’t.

  36. dan says:

    I’d say that both TPM and the fact that the reviewer feels the need to play a crotchety old serial killer instead of just a crotchety old man both support the idea that many creative people function much better if there is someone around who can say “no” once in a while.

  37. Asmodoues says:

    @Knave: I could not disagree with you more strongly.

  38. TSED says:

    What’s wrong with your faaaaaaace?

  39. 13_cbs says:

    While it’s true that the other actors in the original trilogy are to be praised for making the dialogue workable, I think Harrison Ford deserves praise for making the dialogue good.

  40. Rutskarn says:

    I feel extremely nerdy that I got the “Shatnerians” joke.

    See, they’re really called Neomodians. Neomodians–>Nimoy (Leonard Nimoy)–>Shatner (William)–>Shatnerians.

  41. Ben says:

    Gary Kurtz has said that the biggest “change” in Lucas was the success of the Indiana Jones films. Lucas felt that the stories in the IJ movies were thin, yet the movies were still huge hits. Therefore, the story, continuity, etc. really weren’t that important.

    I think you can argue that point, to an extent; but I think it’s also clear that Lucas began feeling less strongly about his old axiom: “A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.”

  42. AGrey says:

    If you watch his star trek reviews, he usually includes a little bit where he tells you to post a comment (or send an email) and he’ll mail you pizza rolls.

    actually seeing him stuff an envelope with pizza rolls is hilarious.

    has anyone tried getting some?

    also, I LOVE his comments regarding the lightsaber duels.

  43. Sean Riley says:

    The biggest problem I have with the videos are the bits where his friends stumble over characterisation descriptions. Because of one simple little detail: Luke. He’s, um, a bit naive, maybe. And… that’s all I could do. Leia is a bit easier, she’s sarcastic and snarky, very determined and faithful to her people. But neither of those two is a marvel of characterisation.

    Now, let me run these through you. Obi-Wan Kenobi (purely the prequel version): Very rash and hot-headed, prone to grumbling when not out doing something. Despite being very forthright has a really sardonic side. Decides on whom he can put his faith in and sticks to it come hell or high water.

    And, oh yes I’ll go there, Jar-Jar Binks: Naive, childish and impulsive. Functions almost purely on id. More than a little bit stupid. Played as comic relief, but has a tendency to luck out despite incredible odds. Speaks with a stupid accent.

    I’m not saying the prequel characters are better. His overall point is right. But his evidence is crap. He cherry picked his examples; picking the best of the first set and the worst of the prequels.

  44. IgnusDei says:

    I think you guys aren’t quite getting the point of the characterizations bit. I think it’s not that there’s no words to describe the episode 1 characters, since there obviously are once you think about them hard enough. The problem is that they fail to make a strong, lasting impression, so much so that it’s difficult to sum them up right off the bat.

  45. ima420r says:

    Great vids. EP 7 isn’t wanting to load for some reason, but hoping to get to it soon.

    I liked the character descriptions, though they were obviously cherry picked. I also liked the whole “who is the lead character in TPM” bit.

    The whole thing really helped me to understand what I didn’t like much about the movie and why I found it so boring. I saw it 3 times in the theater; the first time I got vored but heck it was a new Star Wars movie and that kept me excited, I fell asleep 2 the other 2 times before reaching the pod race.

    TPM was the weakest of all the movies for so many reasons, some of which were not even mentioned in the vids.

  46. scob says:

    “Did he have it and then lose it, or were his classics just a fluke?”

    .. or, were a lot of us like 7 years old when the first films came out, and we’re just seeing the later films with a more jaded eye. I watched the original trilogy (on VHS! from back when Han shot first!) and while it still has a special place in my heart, you can all but see the strings the Tie Fighters are hanging from… the masking was atrocious. If I compare that to, say, Avatar, there isn’t a contest: the first trilogy opened our eyes to what was possible, but it didn’t really explore the space much.

    I wonder if 30 years from now, today’s 7-year-olds will speak of Avatar the same way. What, no smellovision? and in only 3D? Pshaw.

  47. Joshua says:

    For someone who makes a lot of good points about pacing, characterizations and narrative structure, his own reviews seemed to suffer quite a bit from this with all of the stupid serial killer nonsense.

    Some of the stuff is a bit nitpicky(it might be difficult to write a screenplay for a movie and then do endless brainstorming sessions to see if there is a single thing wrong with the logic or continuity), but overall it’s spot on.

    Although no one here has mentioned it yet, I think one of the most telling things is the part where Lucas and the other producers actually sit and watch TPM after it’s done and realize what an incoherent mess it is, and yet it’s too late to change anything because everything’s too woven together.

    From a personal standpoint, I remember in the late 90’s where you had people going to the movies just to watch the first *trailer* for TPM and then cheering. I remember being in line for 30 minutes or so as it wrapped around the block to see this movie. Finally, I remember thinking about five minutes in(listening to the boring dialogue of the Jedi and the stereotypical Japanese cant of the Trade Federation) that “OMG, this movie is going to be really painful for the next two hours.”

  48. Danath says:

    Excellent review, part 2 was fine frankly, I mean have you guys WATCHED online tutorials or reviews from just about anyone nowadays? Spoony experiment, Nostalgia Critic, I remember seeing some Photoshop tutorial vids that had a similar type of crazy character in them. It’s just keeping in theme and adding some spice to the review. I frankly found it hilariously in character with his voice and attitude, although I can see how some find it offensive. I quite enjoyed part 2 is all I’m sayin.

    Lucas never had it, the man is quite the visionary in terms of ideas, but he very very obviously needs others to reign it in and create something watchable with it. At the same time, the big budget special effects crammed into every scene did get rather annoying quickly, too much crap in the screens to be enjoyable, which is mentioned in the review, and makes me quite glad. A good example is the Yoda fight, which isn’t so much a fight as it is Yoda doing gymnastics with a light saber tied to his arm, flying through the air in a series of somersaults. Also the INCREDIBLY cheesy choreographed fighting got really annoying, all the lightsaber swings were directed at the other persons lightsaber, no moron fights like that, except in these cheesily choregraphed movies which confuses looks with substance. It “looks” awsome, but it doesn’t feel awsome, it doesn’t create excitement when you watch it.

    Also, George Lucas Love Story. And Vadar as a whiny emo-boy in the other 2 prequels? Fuck you Lucas, I will regard your movies as fanfiction and not have you piss all over one of the greatest villains of all time.

  49. toasty says:

    Part of the problem was the fact that George Lucas doe whatever he wanted in the newer trilogy, part was also that actors, IMO. One good actor in three movies… no, that’s pitiful. (okay, Liam Neelson was good, but they killed him!) I mean, Natalie Portman turned out alright in later (not SW) films, but she kinda sucked in Episodes I and II…

    Also: I really, really, really, like the original trilogy. There is some sort of magic about those movies that make’s them nice and fun. Not so in the newer ones, ESPECIALLY #2

    Edit: Qu-Gon: Wise, noble, elderly, brave, skilled-duelist, warrior, diplomat, strong-willed, stubborn.

    He had a point about Amidala though… she DOES NOT have a character, at least in the first film. I dunno about the others…

  50. Ace Calhoon says:

    @IgnusDei — The bit fails even worse at that interpretation. Unless they hunted down people who had never watched Star Wars and showed them both movies for the first time, this is what the comparison boils down to:

    Characters from a movie that you’ve been watching continuously since you were born (or very young, depending on age) are more memorable than characters from a movie that you saw a hand full of times in your teens (and which is totally cool to hate). Shocking.

    Also, even in this interpretation character choice is still pretty well stacked against TPM. It isn’t “describe your favorite” character… It’s describe specific characters.

  51. justaguy says:

    I couldn’t watch them all… I started the first one and got annoyed listening to him. Clicked through some of the other parts to see if anything grabbed my attention, watch most of the last one and just… meh. He basically strikes me as a guy who nerd rages with his friends, which is fine I think most of us do that from time to time, but then decides to take that nerd rage and make it into a movie. It’s just trying to hard. Nerd rage is an “in the moment” thing. To nerd rage so consistently for as long as it took to make the movie, and edit all that stuff, and to as is pointed out load the deck with those characterization things… he strikes me as an attention whore, and I hate that.

    Which is why I can’t watch Yahtzee’s reviews either. He has a schticht he is using to pander to his fans, and he has to stick to it. He’s not really reviewing, hes being “entertaining”. *shrug* I get that people like this sort of thing but.. meh. 70 minutes of quirky nerd rage is not my idea of entertaining.

  52. The plot started to drift with the second movie shot when Lucas needed to set things up so he could do movie three no matter who signed what contracts.

    Then movie three ends up with the screen writer’s strike, the writer on the Nova theme going awol, and a complete rewrite being necessary.

    By then the entire plot has shifted so much that there isn’t much left to do.

    Then the load of the retconning was pretty heavy.

    On the other hand, it makes for a great sand box.

  53. Razhem says:

    I do agree the monotone and the serial killer skit detracted from the review. But except for the character description part which is just plain horribly biased. He does say some pretty interesting things, probably from part 5 or 6 onward is where you see the more interesting bits, specially since he puts the behind the scenes and crew working images, things I had never seen or heard that caught my interest a lot.

    At part 7 (if you omit the last 2 minutes which were another part of his nasty skit) he does some pretty good observations about the whole train wreck.

    The movies themselves. Last time I saw them, Star Wars has that whimsical charm, but it has certainly not aged well, Empire strikes back is by far the best, damn good film, return of the jedi gets too hokey at times but is still fun. Phantom menace I loved when I was a kid, now I know the boring crap that it is, clone wars was pretty although half pointless and the love scenes were painful. Revenge of the sith was pretty damn awesome from where I stand.

  54. Instinct says:

    What everyone here has missed is that Lucas took the entire feel and how Star Wars was told from Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress”. Both movies don’t follow the hero of the film and instead follow the lowest characters – the servants (droids).

    I seriously think that once he didn’t have a Kurosawa film to help him along, and didn’t have someone to help him edit his ideas that’s when it all fell apart.

    By the time the Empire Strikes Back rolled in he had a problem – two heroes and one girl. Luke was supposed to be the Shane type of character, he rides off into the sunset even though he loved Marian, because it would have been wrong to stay since it would have destroyed her marriage.

    But, there was nothing for Luke to ruin so he had to come up with something else and BINGO! She’s his sister… an easy out that really made no sense. Wouldn’t Vader have been able to tell she was his daughter? He could tell Luke was his son! These problems just compounded themselves into Return of the Jedi and then the Prequel as well.

    Lucas had a good idea, but he really didn’t have the skills to bring it all the way to life. For that he needs help and constraints on what he is allowed to do. The prequel trilogy shows what happens when he can do whatever he wants – it becomes a big mess.

  55. Zetal says:

    It’s really easy to tell someone’s your son when he’s running around USING YOUR LAST NAME…

  56. Knight-Templar says:

    I think Lucas has allways wanted to make films in the maner of the prequels but back when he made the original movies he was held back by others working on the film. But when the trilogy became so popular they gave him free reign, I mean the core ideas were his after all.

    He makes the movies he wants to, alters the movies he wants to and more or less does whatever he wants. Like the review said, “who’s going to stop him?”

    Seriously, who would be able to change to any signifgant degree anything Lucas makes? He earns buckets of cash so producers will let him go crazy. He is convinced he is in the right so I imagine he would surround himself with like minded people, or even a bunch of yes-men.

    Nothing can stop him, and he intends to edit and change his movies for as long as he can. “Movies are never finished, they are simply abandoned”, I think thats a terrible idea, if people like something then prehaps it is better to abandon it than to alter it.

  57. Jansolo says:

    “Describe the characters to your friends like they ain’t never seen Star Wars…

    …Qui Gon Jinn…

    …I don’t remember :D :D :D Ok, It’s Leam Neeson”

    Funny a lot.

    “Oh, yes”

  58. Tobias says:

    I’m sure this guy has a lot really valid points… but I really can’t watch this. After just five minutes of watching, his way of speaking made me want to smash something… or just fall asleep, your pick.
    Then again, I might not be missing a lot. Here’s my guess at the gist of it: The prequels alternate between those plot elements that make no sense, those that have no dramatic value at all and those who do both (trade blockade, I’m talking about you). Oh, and yes, blatant intellectual insults way beyond what’s tolerable even by Star Wars standards. I hope he also mentions how the “FOR DEMOCRACYYYYY”-blabber voiced by several characters at various points completely wrecks willing suspension of disbelief, Star Wars feel and I’m sure a lot of other things.

    And I agree.

  59. someboringguy says:

    The character description and the listing of other movie characters were the most boring parts of the review.But good try, I have been searching the internet a lot of time for someone to even try to review movies in a funny way.Usually people fail badly.
    They start with an humiliating event of their lives and compare it with the process of watching the movie OR they say whatever they’d rather do instead of watching the movie, and it usually is something humiliating/painful/both.
    After that they either narrate the movie without any criticism or they make some boring jokes or jokes that I’m sure that they’re good for someone who has been watching the american television for 50 years and remembers what actor played in a B-rated movie from the 60’s.
    So, so called “funny” movie reviewers, you suck…badly.

  60. Bryce says:

    Mentioned earlier in the thread was the Secret History of Star Wars. If you really want to understand George Lucas and the process that lead up to the prequels (and it does a good job of answering “why…WHY?!?!”) this is a mandatory read.

    It does the impossible…it restores your confidence in what his early genius was, and then makes you hate him even more by his actively denying it later on.

    Here is an early draft of it that was available for free earlier. The book is better organized and more fleshed out, but this will still answer a LOT of your questions.

    WARNING: this is a 4.4 meg PDF. Roughly 500 pages if you print it out. It’s length is one of the reasons it got turned into a book, but I still HIGHLY recommend it if you were passionate about the story, or more importantly, were around 10 years old in 1977

  61. Bryce says:

    (edit: arrrgh…I missed the point that @Sean Riley made the same arguments that I make below…hours earlier. Oh well, Conan says reading the thread before replying is for the weak.)

    I will say his arguments about the prequel characters are straw men. Although they are not as fresh and vibrant as the first trilogy characters, they still can be summed up without too much difficulty, at least not as much as the folks he chose were having.

    The problem would be that they would sound a LOT like the original characters.

    Obi-Wan(Star Wars) A mentor who is stoic and full of Wisdom. His quite manner belies hidden strengths…

    Qui-Gon(PM) The same….and he’s got a bit of a hard headed streak where he is willing to go against the authoraties to pursue what he feels is right..

    and so on…

  62. HeadHunter says:

    @ Atarlost #28:

    I wouldn’t blame the acting profession for the poor performances and characterization we saw in the prequels. After all, we had Christopher Lee as Dooku, and he’s widely regarded as one of the all-time great cinema villians. Lucas simply underutilized him. And Liam Neeson? I think the reason Qui-Gon always looks so baffled and frustrated is because that’s Neeson trying to figure out how to portray any dimension with the cutout cardboard character and cumbersome dialogue.

    As for the rest of the roles? Let’s blame casting. Lucas was determined to use unknowns in such significant roles, and it hurt the production. Haley Joel Osment auditioned for young Anakin, but was passed over in favor of Jake Lloyd? That kid couldn’t even portray believable joy when he gets let out of work early (“yipee”!?!). Hayden C. plays “adult” Anakin like a pouty brat, preventing the audience from really identifying with him – something that would have helped integrate him better with Vader. IMO, James Franco would have played that role much better.

    If WE can find better actors for these roles, why couldn’t Lucas?

  63. Xpovos says:

    70. Minutes. Oi. Don’t start watching, you can’t stop. He’s right, but I don’t care for the stylings.

  64. qrter says:

    Just hearing a few seconds of that person doing a terrible comedy voice was enough for me to turn it off.

  65. Sungazer says:

    Speaking of Retconning…

    The gymnastics he has to go through are immense, and they actually sound plausible, but I don’t think Lucas had them in mind when he was making the prequel trilogy.

  66. Sungazer says:

    Doh! I guess it doesn’t have much to do with the actual prequels.

    Sorry about that, please don’t ban-hammer me!

  67. Bryce says:


    Poor Jake Lloyd. He is not the wooden actor that most everyone classifies him as. He just got any creative ideas of characterization crushed out of him by Lucas.

    Orson Scott Card met him on the set, and was suffciently impressed with him to put him to the top of the list for the {then} screen adaption of Ender’s Game. He even changed the scripte he was working on to fit him. Then Phantom Menace came out and DESTROYED Jake’s career.

    If you wonder “was it all George” I put this to you. Imagine you are not familiar with Samuel L. Jackson’s work. Now judge his chops as an actor based only on his performance as Mace Windu.

    Just mull on that for a bit. This is Lucas’s genius…He was able to pull out a cardboard and understated performance out of SAMUEL L. JACKSON!!! I don’t think Jake deserved his fate that he reaped.

  68. HeadHunter says:

    I must respectfully disagree, Bryce. The aforementioned “Yipee!” line particularly illustrates my point.

    One can hardly blame Lucas if the kid doesn’t sound genuine there… unless we’re to believe that he threw out all the good takes of that scene in favor of the one in the film.

    But, yes – Lucas was able to take Liam Neeson, Christopher Lee, Ewan McGregor, and even Samuel L. Mutha-f***in Jackson and turn them into cardboard cutouts. That’s a heinous crime and frankly, Lucas deserves to be tarred and feathered by the fans he betrayed.

  69. DaveH says:

    Someone way back up there mentioned the “bring balance to the Force prophecy.” Well, Anakin did that. When he was done there were 2 Sith (Vader, Palpatine) and 2 Jedi (Kenobi, Yoda). Yeah, not what the Jedi had HOPED the prophecy meant, but prophecies are so often disappointing….

  70. HeadHunter says:

    That’s what happens when they cut Math out of the curriculum at the Jedi Academy, I guess. :)

  71. Blackbird71 says:

    I have to say that George Lucas epitomizes the idea of resting on one’s laurels. A long time ago, he made a handful of really good movies, but what has he been doing since? For the most part, he’s been revisiting, revising, and remaking the same movies. I think decades of living in the past and polishing his trophies has stagnated whatever creativity he had as a young and inventive filmaker.

    Oh, and for those in the early comments who liked the podracing so much – please go and watch Ben Hur. If you’ve never seen it before, you’ll be absolutely shocked at how blatant of a ripoff the whole podrace was. It’s not an homage, it’s direct plagiarism, and is just more evidence of Lucas’ inability to create anything of his own that’s worth watching.

  72. Tizzy says:

    The Man Himself was on the Daily Show right now (01/05). I hope y’all saw him, it was worth it.

    I have to go with “fluke”, although it may sound a bit harsh. You can’t do “Star Wars” by luck alone, so the man obviously has something to bring to the table, but it seems it’s not nearly as much as some may have suggested.

  73. Cronus says:


    I find it interesting that I posted that same idea on some Star Wars forums and was flamed because of it. Removing the Sith removed the taint from the Force, thereby bringing it into balance. Personally I prefer what you presented, gives the prophecy more grit.

  74. HeadHunter says:

    But Good is never balanced by the absence of Evil, for without Evil there can be no quantifiable Good.

    Eddie Murphy nailed it in Vampire In Brooklyn. :)

  75. AceCalhoon says:

    @HeadHunter The way the prophecy is intended to work is that the Jedi are in harmony with the Force and the Sith twist it to their own ends. Rather than thinking of it as good vs. evil, think of it like this:

    The Force is nature, the Jedi are hippies, and Sith are corporate villains of the kind so popular in fiction. If exactly half of the planet is turned into a strip mall/parking lot, nature isn’t in balance… It’s pretty well wrecked.

    But yeah, whoever noticed that there were exactly two (canon) Sith and exactly two (canon) Jedi after the purge was pretty clever.

  76. Patrick J McGraw says:

    I’m going to have to chime in here as one of the people who actually like the prequels. Phantom Menace is the weakest of the lot, but still captures the essential appeal of Star Wars, which IMHO is “What the makers of 1930s Saturday matinee serials would have made with access to modern special effects.”

    That’s the reason for Lucas’ stylized dialogue – it’s a (pretty good, IMHO) pastiche of the very distinctive and not at all realistic style of dialogue used in the 30s. And Ford’s problem was that he just didn’t get that. Compare his performance to Carrie Fisher’s, where she absolutely [i]nailed[/i] 30s-style dialogue delivery for such ridiculous lines as “I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized you foul stench when I was brought on board.”

    I am of the camp that believes that a lot of the hate directed at the prequels is due to adult fans expecting the new movies to make them feel the way the original movies made them feel when they were kids. That’s setting oneself up for disappointment in any case.

    I do agree that Jake Lloyd sucked, and I do blame Lucas for casting him instead of one of the other finalsists, who was fantastic. (See the special features on the Phantom Mencase DVD.)

    One other cmoplaint that I commonly see is that “we know how it will turn out, so we aren’t worried about a character’s survival.” But with these kinds of adventure films, the tension is “Will our hero get out of this?” Of course they will. The tension and interest is “HOW will our hero get out of this?” I mean, did anyone really think our protagonists were going to die in the Death Star’s trash compactor?

    (For me, the big value of the scene was that it a) was a classy homage to serial cliffhangers, and b) set up the “R2 saves everyone’s asses” gag, which really paid off when it was subverted in Return of the Jedi and our heroes had to fix things on their own.)

  77. Patrick J McGraw says:

    Also for the “balance between good and evil” people: The “two Sith, two Jedi” argument doesn’t work at all. The primary reason Obi-Wan and Yoda go back to the Temple is to switch the “come home” signal to “run and hide” to protect any other surviving Jedi. And fellow Council member Shaak Ti’s two death scenes were cut because Lucas decided to have her survive, so there’s not just the Jedi or even Masters, but three Council members that survive Order 66. Quinlan Vos (background character in Episode I, mentioned by name in Episode III) was going to be killed in the comics, but Lucas specifically instructed the writers to keep him alive, so there’s another film canon Jedi Master who survived. And that’s without even addressing the Expanded Universe.

  78. Falling says:

    “Also for the “balance between good and evil” people: The “two Sith, two Jedi” argument doesn't work at all.”

    Maybe not, but before I was introduced to the EU/Ep III I was certainly under the impression that there were only two left. In the EU, Jedi come out of the wood works all over the place.

  79. rayen says:

    oh my god i am so tired of this bullshit. okay you wanna know something about the star wars movies? thye were cutting edge new and awesome in the late 70s and early 80s. in 1999 everything those movies did had been done a hundred times before differently. sci-fi action isn’t so cool and new when the matrix, aliens, predator, starship troopers, terminator, men in black, several other star trek movies, rehashes of the original trilogy and anime have been brought into exsistence based on the three orignal star wars movies. you know why people didn’t like the episode 1? because it didn’t revolutionize the movie industry the way the first three did.

    Fanboys bitch and moan about episode 1? what did expect? could you do any better? and look at a script of episode IV, V, and VI now change all the names from han luke lando and leia to brad jon james and jill. now without the nostalgia factor is it really any better the 1-3? no it didn’t have darth vader, no luke isn’t blowing up the death star and no we aren’t revolutionizing the industry again.

    george lucas didn’t have it and lose it no the first three weren’t just a fluke, no george lucas has what he had in 1977. we all grew up saw other movies saw star wars a hundred times over in different suits. we had something different and george lucas was an old man.

  80. The part that makes me the most angry about this review:

    Watching it, all 70 minutes of it, is way, WAY more entertaining, interesting, sensical and memorable than Star Wars: Episode One.

    Episode Two and Three are mediocre. Episode One, while not quite as bad as I remember it, is still so bad that it makes Mike Nelson angry.

    Let me reiterate: The guy who had to suffer through Hobgoblins says that Episode One is the worst movie of all time.

    I am eagerly looking forward to the next review. Unlike Episode Two, I am sure it won’t disappoint.

  81. (Sorry, can’t edit the previous post).

    @#79: You mean, aside from it being an homage not only to classic movie serials but to Kurosawa classics, having unquestionably strong characters such as Han Solo, creating among the most chilling villains of all time, unquestionably beautiful music by a great orchestra, revolutionizing special effects rather than replicating the same old dreck, and having a clear build-up to a classic ending, not to mention having dozens of eminently quotable lines?

    Regarding the character bit: The point is astonishingly simple. Yes, I can think of more descriptions of Qui-Gon and Amidala. Then again, I saw all three of the movies and have seen and read ancillary material. His point was, “Let’s try to get what people who aren’t necessarily huge sci-fi fans to describe the characters”. Han Solo and C-3P0 are strong characters; indeed, C-3P0 is apparently such a strong character that he needs to be illogically shoehorned into the prequels! Amidala and Qui Gon were not, not as they were presented in the movies. Everyone in the comments here CONFIRMED it: You list a few character traits, but the people who summarized Han and C-3P0 listed MANY. Further, Han’s characterization had many layers: Rogue, then sex symbol and flirt, then grudging hero. He became a more complete hero by the end of Return. Everyone here has listed a one-dimensional characterization.

    Further, almost everyone here ADDED ON criticisms. You can add that interacting with CGI not only takes out the grit but makes it so actors can’t plausibly interact. It looks like a video game. Everything doesn’t seem like it’s been lived-in: All the ships are totally polished and clean, no history. Jar Jar is stupid. Dialogue is stilted and boring, which also makes everyone seem like cardboard cut-outs since they’re talking like they’re in some crappy sword-and-sorcery tale. Etc.

    Honestly, watch the first few Star Wars again. Note how Han Solo, Obi Wan and Luke all speak differently. They have different cadences, different accents. That’s not least because Harrison Ford and Sir Alec Guinness resisted Lucas and brought their own interpretations. But the net result is that the world felt real. It felt like a world with different people who have different slang and speak differently. In the turd we call Phantom Menace, everyone from bureaucrats to nobility to slaves have the same accent. Only silly, semi-racist comic relief like Jar Jar can think or speak at all differently. Honestly, I didn’t even find the kid that annoying, because he actually said shit like “They blow you up! BOOM!”

    Or watch Shakespeare. Yeah, it all looks like foppish English “thou” speech. Then you realize that Hamlet has brilliant puns while Polonius is a self-important twit. They speak DIFFERENTLY.

    RedLetterMedia really took the time to go after the criticisms that were made less often and show how every moment of the movie is illogical and bizarre. I had pretty much shut down when I had watched the movie. I had accepted the stupidity. Watching the review made me feel angry. In contrast, the few plot holes in the original trilogy are so glaring PRECISELY BECAUSE the rest of the plot is so compelling and interesting.

    I’m not even that huge of a Star Wars fan, but the first three films routinely make “Top 100” lists and the prequels don’t. What does that say?

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