Star Wars is one of the all-time classic movies which people love. The
Empire Strikes Back is a lot weaker, has no pace, no form, and no
satisfactory ending (but great music), and Jedi pushed Mark Hamill's acting
ability beyond breaking point, and involved Ewoks (my friends all like the
bit when the walker trod on a few of them). Phantom Menace had a lot to
First, a comment on the SFX. They are good. Though computer animation
still usually looks like computer animation, it has to be admitted that this
is about the best to be done so far. The character of Jar Jar Binx (a few
shots excepted) is better animated than the human cast. Alas, though, many
of the special effects are gratuitous, the most obvious example of this
being the underwater journey through the core of the planet - a wholly silly
This film contains several revelations which I did not like about THE FORCE.
Whereas Obi Wan in Star Wars told us that The Force surrounds all living
creatures, in this film we find a creature immune, for plot reasons, to The
Force. Also, a few times the "Will of The Force" is mentioned. This
suggests that The Force is an intelligence, like a monotheist god, and that
this intelligence has desires and plans. Surely it is better to have The Force as
something which people can use to good or evil, an energy source which a few
talented people can make use of. If The Force is all-powerful and has a will, then
surely the events we are seeing are all pre-destined and the characters
Anakin Skywalker, played by a child with a wildly over-cute face, is
introduced to us as a mechanical genius. For some reason, it was thought a
good idea to have him as the creator of C3-PO (so why doesn't Darth Vader
recognise him in the later episodes?), and as the builder of a tremendously
fast racing machine. Surely it would have been far better to have him with
a strange social influence. I'd have had him as the leader of a huge gang
of children, many older than he, who all look out for his welfare, as their
benign dictator. Surely The Force has more effect on hearts and minds than
The pod race is just an inferior Ben Hur, with a silly two-headed
commentator. Nothing very clever happens.
Some say that the film is too obviously talking about the current real-world
situation. The Evil Trade Federation represent the Japanese, Corruscant and
the Senate represent the USA, and Naboo represents Europe. This is a fair
point, and perhaps the film would have been better if such interpretations
did not fit so well.
On the plus side, it is EPIC, with impressive locations and a cast of
thousands. The sheer amount of design involved is staggering. Huge numbers
of creatures, buildings, costumes, and objects needed to be designed for
this film. Much of the design is good, and all the design is impressive
because there is simply so much of it. I for one liked the political plot
in the senate, which is not what I or many others were expecting. This
side of it was quite mature and interesting, although I doubt that the
kiddiwinks would appreciate it much, but they have plenty to like, as there
are lots of explosions.
A definite low point is that the baddies are not very menacing. The robots
who die in droves do not look frightening (I love the design of the Star
Wars storm-trooper uniforms), and move with daft slowness (and why didn't
they have rubber soles to their feet for grip and quietness?), and so are
just not at all scary. They are even worse at shooting than the
storm-troopers from the earlier films. Whereas Darth Vader was an excellent
villain, who appeared early on in Star Wars, who had lots of good powerful
and evil dialogue, and who did much to shape events, instead we have Darth
Maul, who has nothing to say, and is nothing more than a fighting machine.
The Jedi are central to this film, and are alas one of its weaker points.
Obi Wan and his master are very dull characters, and all suspense and
mystery about them is thrown away. After seeing Obi Wan use super-human
agility, we are required to fear for him when he is hanging off a walkway.
The Jedi in council (all male, so far as I can tell) are shown as vague and
indecisive, and Yoda's eyes still don't seem to focus on anything, as though
they were made of lumps of glass.
Overall, I'd say that any Star Wars fan should see it, and it does set up
the next film pretty well. I want to see what happens next. There are many
niggling little flaws in it, some bits don't make sense, others are very
predictable, but one would be missing out of a piece of world culture to