Star Wars Episode 1; The Phantom Menace... Ten Years Later

I’m not sure George Lucas lost his touch, or at least that he had a surplus of ‘touch’ to begin with. If you look at the original trilogy, the worst is Return of the Jedi, which he exercised the most creative control, and the best by far is The Empire strikes Back, where he was least involved. It’s interesting that in interviews, he says he got the idea for midichlorians when writing the first film, but didn’t have a place to tie it into the plot.

Quite frankly, to me, it’s not even the plot or the effects. Lucas is a bad writer. Plain and simple.

I was never really a Star Wars fan either. Wasn’t blown away as a kid nor when I revisited them in my teens. Oh, I tried. It’s sort of a nerd requisite to love the SW saga. But it never really made me want to watch the movies more than that first time after buying the videos.

And then the prequels… I watched them, I exited bored with the first two, and got annoyed with the third. (Noooo, Samuel L. Jackson, you must not kill anybody, it’s wrong!.. oh, shit, I killed Samuel L. Jackson myself. Crap. I must be evil. Oh, well. I guess I’ll go and kill me some children. Lalalalalaaaa… Seriously.)

A while ago I did read a Star Wars comic book (Knights of the Old Republic) and while the writer of the comic was no Alan Moore or anything, THAT did grab my attention: likable characters, charming action scenes, well thought plot twists… and the whole SW universe showing such potential for good storytelling… makes you wonder how good could the movies had been if Lucas had picked anybody else to do the writing.

I think he’s good at story, but bad at dialogue and directing. If the exact same plot was given to a good screenwriter, and a great director, it would’ve been glorious. Even cheesy stuff like Jar Jar would’ve been handled better.

Han Solo was always the coolest thing about Star Wars. Without that swashbuckling, badass cockiness, it’s all just too goddamn boring. I’ve said this before in other threads and I’ll say it again because I think it’s an important point:
The Star Wars prequels managed to be too serious AND too childish, at the same time.
It’s a baffling concept, but somehow they managed it. Not only does it have the ponderous and boring political storylines, it also has little Jake Lloyd and his stupid pod race, Jar Jar, “Naboo,” etc. Not to mention the CHARACTER NAMES WERE FUCKING SILLY. Count Dooku? Are you fucking kidding me? And we’re supposed to take these characters seriously? The prequels give us these goofy-ass, childish characters, and then presents them in the most heavy-handed and pompous way imaginable.

The prequels were flawed right from the very beginning because they were based on lame stories. The Clone Wars is a stupid and uninteresting storyline! The politics of the Republic is a boring plot device! And honestly I didn’t even find Anakin Skywalker to be an interesting character. I never saw Darth Vader as all that interesting, for that matter, but at least Vader was BADASS. They made Anakin into a whiny little loser who uses phony kinetics and lacks confidence; a real pretty-boy poseur.

The prequels took place too far before the first Star Wars. That time period is just a stupid period to make a movie about. They should have focused more on the formation of the Empire under Vader, and on the other side, the formation of the Rebel Alliance. Anakin’s transformation into Vader should have been confined to one film (the first) at most. The rest should have focused on the period directly before the beginning of Episode 4 and given some backstory to the cooler characters in the original films: Tarkin, General Veers, Biggs and Wedge, Boba Fett (who should have remained a masked and mysterious mercenary and not revealed as a little kid, taking away all the mystique of his character,) the red Imperial Guards, etc, and the younger Han Solo. So much potential, squandered.

Yeah, KotOR was based on a RPG videogame which came out five or six years ago, and which managed, in terms of plot, setting, characters and acting, to be far more Star Wars than the previous two-and-a-half actual movies. Shit, the Clone Wars comic books, which are pitched at about a ten year old level, are actually more nuanced than the movie which spawned them. No joke; the movie’s attitude to breeding human clones for slaughter is “Hey, a free army! Bonus!”, while the comics actually touch on the ethics of this: which would seem to be immediately obvious as a major plot issue to anyone not as emotionally tone-deaf as Lucas is.

To be fair, the original Star Wars is built upon a similarly asinine premise: Luke Skywalker is the child of the most powerful ex-Jedi in the galaxy, has been safely hidden away from his father’s influence by the people who would later lead the Rebellion. This ‘hiding away’ consists of placing him on the same planet his father grew up on, with his father’s relatives as guardians, and even keeping the same surname. As additional protection, Obi-Wan Kenobi installs himself a few miles away, lives under the same surname, continues to wear his Jedi robes and use his lightsaber in public. They should have all been picked up by the Empire years ago.

But the original SW is not built on that premise–it was the prequels that set up that equally idiotic contrivance. The decision to leave Luke on Anakin’s homeworld with his step-siblings was completely immaterial to the original story’s development; it was simply another stupid decision made when formulating the prequels.

Only according to the prequels.

Only according to the prequels.

Remember that you’re dealing with a galaxy of trillions, if not quadrillions of sentients. Finding two particular people on a backwater planet should still be next to impossible, even if you know their surnames. Leia had the benefit of owning a droid which knew where Obi-Wan was hiding. Darth Vader didn’t.

And Obi-Wan’s robes only became the official uniform of the Jedi according to the prequels.

Vader didn’t even know he had any children, he thought the kid (singular) died along with Padme.

True, but it still the worst possible place to hide Luke. What if Vader had decided, at any point in the intervening eighteen years or so, to drop in on his step-brother, maybe crash for a couple of weeks?

“Sorry about the couch, Darth. Luke’s using the spare room these days.”
“Luke Skywalker. He’s this kid we’ve been looking after for the last seven years.”
“Seven years? Skywalker?” [to himself] “Where have I heard that name?” [to Owen] “You got a photo of him?”
“Sure, on the fridge.”
[Darth crosses to fridge, pours himself some blue milk, and looks at the photograph stuck behind a Jar-Jar Binks fridge magnet]
“Hmmm… good-looking kid. What’s he like?”
“Luke? Well, he’s cocky, rebellious… he’s a hell of a good pilot though. You should see him in his T-16, he can bullseye Womp Rats, no problem.”
“Womp Rats? But they’re no bigger than two metres!”
“Like I said, hell of a pilot. I wonder where he gets it from…”

Lucas has said that the prequels were created esentially to tell the “Darth Vader” story. Anakin/Vader was the central focus to which all other things just happened around.
So if this was the core of the story telling why was done so poorly? A young Anakin should have been cast and written as a mysterious, dark, slightly creepy child. Think young Voldemort from the upcoming HP trailers, or the “I wish you into the cornfield” kid from the twilight zone, or The Bad Seed, or Damien.
The innocence of a kid with a side that grows darker like a coming storm.
Jake Lloyd as written and played was a big !FAIL! in that category. Happy little blonde farm boy he was.
So with that opportunity lost we had to see a teenage Anakin decend into darkness. And does that happen in an interesting, empathetic, or even sympathetic way? No. Turns out he is just sooo talented that he thinks everyone should kiss his ass and give him RESPECT! Cause everyone knows how sympathetic we are to talented sport stars who cry about not getting enough attention.
Add to that his BIG TURNING POINT. He so loves his wife that he has to learn the dark side to save her. Does he ask Yoda or Obi-Wan if that would really work? No, just take the word of some old politician.
In addition the “love” between him and his wife is so weak with the wooden chemistry and no real reason to exsist that by that time we don’t really care.

If Lucas could have handed off the writing, scripting, casting of the central core of the story to capable hands he could have still played around with the surrounding mini stories himself. But the narcissist in him made him think he was genius he clearly was not.

The OP covered most of the main points. But he forgot the racism. I understand that Lucas was “inspired” by the serials of the thirties but he should have been able to figure out the turning ethnic stereotypes into aliens wasn’t going to placate anyone.

I’d agree with this. I actually thought Qui-Gon got one of the best lines of the entire series, when their submarine escaped the underwater giants and he said philosophically, “There’s always a bigger fish!” I also liked seeing the young Obi-Wan, and the Naboo scenes were sure purty. It was cool when the battledroids unfolded themselves from the landing craft and formed ranks.

Otherwise TPM was pretty much Teh Sux, for all the reasons stated above.

Here’s my Phantom Menace humongous plot hole, which few people seem to have noticed:

Let’s go back to Tattooine and the pod race. Now, recall that Qui-Gonn placed two bets on the race with Watto. First, he bet their ship (the silver SR-71) against the parts he would need to repair it. Well and good, there’s bet #1. Bet #2 comes a bit later: Qui-Gonn bets Anakin’s pod against Anakin’s freedom. Watto takes the bet, but won’t throw in Shmi, Anakin’s mother, because “no pod is worth two slaves.” But, it seems that a pod is worth one slave.

Then, as we know, Anakin wins the race. So, Qui-Gonn wins the parts needed to repair the ship, and wins Anakin’s freedom; he also keeps their big silver spaceship and Anakin’s pod racer. Then, Anakin sells his pod racer, and apparently gets a good price for it, because his mom is impressed at the amount he gets: “That’s wonderful, Ani!”

So…why didn’t they use the money from the sale of the pod to buy Shmi from Watto? Watto had lost other bets and surely could have used the money. We know that a pod is worth roughly one slave, and Anakin’s pod sold for a great price, being that it had beaten Sebulba. Neither Qui-Gonn nor Anakin even attempt to buy her freedom, and it’s not like they needed the money for anything else. All those future “mommy issues” could have been avoided entirely.

The failing here, from a story perspective, is easy to patch up. Either have Watto refuse to sell for some reason, or else cover up the pod somehow, maybe say it was so damaged in the race that it was unsellable. Leaving it with Shmi would have just left the same problem in place. Better yet, show some clue that Qui-Gonn didn’t want to buy her, since he had his own plans for Anakin’s future and wanted him without “baggage.” But anyway, it’s a just a big ol’ story hole that I’m surprised more people haven’t noticed.

That’s actually been brought up before, Max. The complete neglect of Shmi, both by the characters and by the story, is utterly baffling. “We’re taking your son. You can rot.”

Perhaps, being that he’s a slave, Anakin’s pod belongs to Watto anyway and the proceeds from the sale aren’t Anakin’s anyway.

I’ve always wondered - exactly what are the serials that inspired Star Wars? I know the Lensman series was somewhat of an inspiration, but I’ve heard him in interviews talk about going to the cinema when he was a little kid, and being inspired by what he saw there. I’m guessing Flash Gordon- what else?

I loved it. I don’t really see any of the plot holes that you guys see. I didn’t know who Natalie Portman was so couldn’t have possibly identified her. Darth Maul wasn’t particularly relevent to the story except to provide a villain. The story wasn’t really that complex. It was clearly setting up to create the empire. I thought it was made clear in Episode 4 that Luke is staying with his uncle, but I admit it doesn’t seem like a good hiding place. Anakin is a bit too young for Padme at the time, but what the hell my grandparents had the same age difference. Anakin shouldn’t have been presented as creepy and dark because in the end he isn’t the bad guy of Star Wars.

I don’t think anything would have lived up to expectations for these movies. I don’t think the original Star Wars movies would have lived up to expectations. Certainly not Return of the Jedi. Return of the Jedi was the worst movie of all six.

But Watto accepted the bet of Anakin’s pod versus Anakin’s freedom, so it would seem that the pod belonged to Anakin, free and clear, somehow. The whole “slavery” thing as depicted in the movie doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I mean, they live in a relatively nice multi-room house away from Watto’s place, they own their own property…

Why the whole pod-race nonsense in the first place? The jedi order can’t afford the credit line to buy out a kid and his mom from a two-bit slave dealer? James Bond routinely had million-dollar credit lines to toss around in casinos, you’d think super-covert-00x-license-to-kill Jedi Masters would at least bring their Imperium Express card.