If you think that the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise is popular or that The Dark Knight was hotly anticipated you’d be right, but they are as nothing compared to the impact of the original Star Wars films at the time they were made. Star Wars was not so much a film franchise, but a virtual way of life to a whole generation. The Phantom Menace was the most hotly anticipated film ever made, and by that measure, George Lucas had a Hell of a lot of expectation to live up to. And, well, we all know what happened.
Now all the hype has died down and this film can be looked at rather more objectively, there’s actually a lot to be admired. Lucas obviously surrounded himself with some of the best cinematic talent around; the effects are fantastic, the fight choreography excellent and best of all, the production design is magnificent. It starts fairly well jumping straight into a decent action sequence and it was hard not to feel a collective tingle up our spines when we heard the sound of a light sabre igniting for the first time in 14 years.
And then “oh lordy lordy, where am dat warty melon mazzah?” it’s Jar Jar f***ing Binks. We then spend the time in which a planet is being invaded by a droid army watching computer generated fish eating each other while a fish-faced Burt Kwouk impersonator talks about trade embargoes. And there’s nothing more magical and awe inspiring than a good trade embargo, eh? There are some decent sequences, particularly the exciting Ben Hur-esque pod race and well orchestrated space battles but the rest of the film is just a load of dreary sentimentality, dull political manoeuvring and feeble slapstick. We know the likes of Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman can act, so to blame them for their performances is like blaming a jockey for not winning a race when he’s handed a three legged donkey.
All the faults with this film can be laid squarely at the door of Lucas and his feeble script, and the best analogy I can think of when comparing the original Star Wars to The Phantom Menace is it’s like comparing Let It Be to The Frog Chorus.