The last thing anyone should ever do is tell someone how to spend their money.
There are times when I’m compelled to inform people where their money is actually going, how it’s going to be used and why it’s being taken out of their pocket in the first place, but that’s for information purposes. You can decide what to do with your money, I’ve never told anyone otherwise.
Until now. Now I’m telling you straight out — do not spend your money going to see the 3-D version of Phantom Menace in the theater this weekend. Or ever.
You probably have good reasons for wanting to see it. You wanted your kids to get the Star Wars experience from the beginning (completely legitimate), you’re a fan of 3-D (shakier) or you still think George Lucas is a mastermind and all six of the Star Wars movies are the greatest flicks this side of The Godfather (completely, utterly, hopelessly false).
Need more convincing? That’s why I’m here!
It stunk out loud the first time around.
What, we’ve forgotten already? It was only 13 years ago, people. Phantom Menace is the same movie that had an incoherent B-story about trade federations and republics and senates and what not, cardboard acting by most of the people involved and a script that makes you puke. Sometimes we see those kinds of qualities in the theater and get angry, then grow to appreciate the movie’s subtleties, action sequences or humor over time. This is not one of those times. In 1999, the plot didn’t make sense because we couldn’t understand it. Now we can understand it, but it still doesn’t make any sense.
It killed our buzz.
In retrospect, nothing could have ever lived up to the hype. After 16 years of hearing rumors about prequels, we were finally getting not one, but three new Star Wars movies in a six-year period. And we were getting them without movie history’s biggest whiner, Luke Skywalker! All of that, and it was going to be the backstory for cinema’s greatest villain. That couldn’t possibly go wrong! I remember buying my presale tickets, I remember dragging my girlfriend go to see it with me on opening morning (on her birthday), I remember the guy in the Loews Mountainside in New Jersey screaming out the minutes remaining until showtime at five minute intervals, I remember kids and grown men having light saber fights in front of the screen while we waited for the movie to start. It had all the elements of what should have been a magical theatrical experience. Then we saw the movie. People visibly were shaking their heads as they walked out of the theater wondering exactly what happened to their childhood. They took bets on whether Jake Lloyd would ever get another acting job. For the record, he retired two years later at the ripe old age of 12. George Lucas did not, and we were never the same.
It clouded our vision of the next two prequels.
Phantom Menace was so bad compared to the first three Star Wars movies that we never really trusted Lucas again. It was like watching Michael Jordan play for the Wizards. It was still fun watching him, but it was so far from what we saw as children, we actually distrusted his future judgement. On multiple viewings, Clones and Sith actually aren’t that bad. The dialogue is still extremely questionable and Hayden Christensen doesn’t exactly elicit thoughts of Harrison Ford, let alone Mark Hamill. But the stories are more tangible (only because there was nowhere to go but up) and the action is better. Phantom Menace was so bad, we couldn’t see past its warts. We then looked for those same warts in the next two movies, and holy crap did we find them. We should have been sitting back and enjoying them, but we spent countless message board hours reading comments from wampa1 about 673 different plot holes that don’t make sense in Clones. He might have been right — but we never looked for them in Star Wars. And believe me, they’re there.
Jar-Jar Binks + 3-D = my nightmare
I still watch Phantom Menace every time it’s on TV. There are some salvageable moments, like anything with Darth Maul and the perverted fun of realizing that 18-year-old Natalie Portman is flirting with a 10-year-old. Yet every, single, solitary time I watch Phantom Menace, an uncontrollable sound comes out of my mouth on each punishing occasion that Jar-Jar Binks “talks.” It’s an involuntary, audible grunt. My wife has yelled at me for it. (“Then why are you even watching it???”) But I can’t help it, every time that thing makes a peep, I grunt. The grunt is disgust that George Lucas felt he must have needed something cute and cuddly to sell extra toys and it’s frustration because you can’t understand a fargin’ word he ever says. There is no way that anyone could have watched the rough cut of this movie and said, “Oh yeah, this Jar-Jar thing is gonna be an absolute home run!” Everyone involved with this movie should have apologized for Jar-Jar before Phantom Menace was released. Anyone who hasn’t yet should do so immediately. And until I hear an apology from Lucas, that man gets no more of my money. He should get no more of yours, either.
If you like human beings, you should hate this movie.
That fight between the Gungans and the droids at the end of the movie? There isn’t one actor in the scene. Phantom Menace is the movie that made the technological advances in computer generated images (CGI) readily available, which we thought was a good thing. And in a way, it still is. But Hollywood studio accountants were immediately doing the math of what it would cost to make the next action movie with computer generated images instead of actors. When actors are out of work because Transformers 15 has replaced Shia LaBeouf with a Shia LaBeouf hologram, we can point the blame in the direction of Phantom Menace.
It’s a money-making machine.
Nothing more, nothing less. Any admission by Lucas to the contrary is complete shullbit. Phantom Menace is one big, long, video game trailer mixed with a Toys ‘R’ Us commercial. Instead of Lucas just living off the massive profits from the first three Star Wars, he wanted more for some reason. I don’t know why. I’ve lost sleep wondering why. What was supposed to be a tribute to the fans for making Star Wars, Empire and Jedi so unbelievably popular turned into a Lucas free-for-all on the savings accounts of hardcore fans. It continues to this day, seven years after the series ended. If you want it to stop once and for all, don’t go this weekend.