It probably actually helps if you are a kid to watch this movie. Yeah, all ages.
*sigh* Is it possible for a 33 year old nerd to review this movie objectively? This is the film that birth the term "ruined my childhood." (I apologize, Ghostbusters, for my generation throwing that term around willy-nilly.) This movie has been analyzed and reanalyzed time-and-time again. I don't know if I can contribute anything to the grand discussion of this movie, but I can just say what I see.
Due to the obsessive nature of Mr. C, I have attempted to expand my knowledge of Star Wars. Being a Trekkie, I have a fairly solid understanding of most sci-fi fantasy, Star Wars included. If you had asked a 10 year old Mr. H about the trilogy, he could talk for hours about how awesome the franchise had been. I actually saw this movie early in the theater while wearing a Millennium Falcon tie dye shirt. This might have started my distaste for Star Wars. Like many nerds, I left Star Wars that day.
But I remember liking it.
The first show I saw, I remember thinking that this movie was so cool. It was only when everyone trashed it that I saw its flaws. I saw it a few times after that, each time only more disappointed by what was on the screen. Perhaps that comes with age. I now dislike quite a few movies that I loved growing up. While I can't say I ever loved The Phantom Menace, I definitely had a good time at it. There has to be something of value in here.
Many people throw George Lucas under the bus. I hate to admit, but I am one of those people. He made one truly great movie: the original Star Wars. Everything else he did, he was part of a team. That's not slagging the other films. The Empire Strikes Back is probably one of the best films of the genre, but it wasn't directed by him. The script wasn't even by Lucas. He was part of a team and that's what really worked about those movies. Collaboration can bring about wonderful things. This isn't to say that Lucas doesn't have the ability to be a great director. It's just the idea that he thrives when he's hungry. Lucas wasn't anyone when the original film came out. He was a desperate filmmaker that was being laughed at and ridiculed by the actors on set. He had something to prove and he had something he loved. Then he became the Star Wars director. That's what he was known for and, for better or worse, he embraced that title. A guy who wanted to make cool little indie films had become the establishment. But imagine if Spielberg just became the E.T. director and only made E.T. stuff. He wouldn't grow. His films would become incestuous and collapse inwards. That's the prequel trilogy to me.
I can't help comparing Lucas to other film greats like Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock. All geniuses in their own rights, they hated actually filming their movies. Pre-production was their comfort zone. When it comes to directing actors, they allowed them to do whatever they wanted. The problem comes when you have actors working on a green screen for the entire movie. The acting is stiff and there is an attitude of "doing nothing at least isn't making a bad choice." This is where Jake Lloyd comes in. Keeping in mind the tragedy this boy's life has become, I feel sorry for him. He's the only one taking a risk on that screen and it does not pan out for him. Lucas didn't really direct this kid. There's no talk of subtlety or depth. Everything is right on the surface a la community theatre. I look at Liam Neeson, who is acting against nothing and doing a fabulous job faking it. But what was this kid supposed to act across. There are fantastic actors in this franchise who have nothing to contribute. Lucas could have fixed this, but he was just staring at ones and zeros on a computer screen.
There is an odd message in this movie. I'm going to ignore the very troublesome plot and focus on the theme of the movie. Is the movie telling the audience to avoid taking chances with people? Possibly one of the few loftier ideals in this movie is the scene with the Jedi council. Qui-Gon Jinn tells the council that he will train the boy, despite the council's reservations. They are hesitant because they do not know his future or potential. He takes a risk on this boy because he believes that no one is predetermined. But this is the kid that becomes Darth Vader. If you really wanted to talk semantics, Vader betrays the Emperor at the end of the Return of the Jedi, but this is after he slaughters children unnecessarily in Revenge of the Sith.
There's so much wrong with this movie and even the good scenes are pretty rough. I understand that the next generation loves this movie and I hope people get a bit of joy from this movie. I just can't find much love from it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.