Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

sw1i

Original Theatrical Release Date: May 19, 1999
Director: George Lucas

Two Jedi Knights – Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) – are in the middle of a trade dispute and narrowly escape a hostile blockade by the Trade Federation army. Making their way to the desert planet of Tatooine, the two Jedi warriors find a young boy named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) who may be the one prophesied to bring balance to the Force. Qui-Gon takes an interest in freeing the boy from a savvy gambler named Watto (Andy Secombe), but meanwhile the threat of the Sith is rising – with a vicious Sith lord, Darth Maul (Ray Park), hot on the heels of the two Jedi.

I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I used to have hand-me-down action figures from my uncle. They came in a carrying case shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet and I would play with them for hours. So, naturally – when this movie came out during my high school years – back in 1999….I was more than excited. I’d seen previews where Darth Maul was speeding across the desert surface of Tatooine, only to leap from his speeder and attack some Jedi and it gave me goosebumps. Darth Maul truly looked like a badass.

The real experience in the theater wasn’t as amazing as I’d hoped. There was a certain quality to it that I didn’t like. Everything was too clean – even in the dirty, rundown slums of Tatooine. The CGI looked out of place for the Jim Henson style Star Wars experience I remembered as a kid. Everything was bright. The ships were polished and sounded like high-end vibrators. (Not that I’d know about that or anything)

In short, it didn’t feel real. Despite the excitement of the initial ambush sequence and the eventual podrace – I fell asleep in the theater. This is, to date, the only movie I’ve ever fallen asleep to during the time it was showing on the big screen. This hasn’t changed fifteen years later. The film boasts one of the best fight scenes in Star Wars history between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon – but other than that it’s a lot of politics and talk of trade embargoes and underhanded dealings. Jar-Jar Binks is MUY ANNOYING and seeing Darth Vader as a youngster is sort of a letdown. And don’t get me started on Midichlorians.

Recently, I’ve reverted to watching the Star Wars films in the “Machete Order“. I recommend you do the same, which enables you to skip out on Episode I entirely. As snarky as some hardcore Star Wars fans are about the prequel films – there is actually some decent stuff in them. When combined into a single narrative with every film aside from Episode I – it actually makes a lot more sense and is more enjoyable to watch.

In any case, after all the hype – Episode I just has way too many problems as a film – let alone as an installment of a beloved franchise. So, while I may watch it once in a while (mostly for the fight scenes), I will usually avoid this Lucas offering altogether.

PS – In case you didn’t know – I cosplay as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Exhibit A

10464368_253761558148430_8934216931598601412_n

I was recently at Super Megafest 2013 in Framingham, Mass last November and I ran into Ray Park (the actor who played Darth Maul in Episode I) at his booth. He was only doing one photo per person, but after finishing with mine (I let him use my lightsaber) he told me to pretend I was being impaled so he could get his “revenge” on me. Exhibit B

Me with Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode One) at Super Megafest

Me with Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode One) at Super Megafest

SuperMegafest2013 037

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Advertisements

Wanted (2008)

Wanted (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: June 27, 2008
Director: Timur Bekmambetov

A frustrated office worker named Wesley (James McAvoy) is contacted by a secret organization of assassins who tell him his father, a master assassin, was killed. They want Wesley to join up with them because he, they tell him, has the same superhuman abilities his father possessed.

First off, I’d like to say I don’t hate the film. I’m pretty good at separating a film property, in my mind, from anything it’s derived from so that I can still enjoy both. Books tend to be much better than movies because we can imagine everything ourselves with no budget or anyone else directing the action. I’m a huge fan of comic books so when I first heard about this movie, I was super-excited. I’d read the comics it was based on and it’s great material to draw on for a movie. However, the movie version was only VERY LOOSELY based on the comics.

What happened here, though, is that the movie lost its voice. The first half was great. It was reminiscent of Fight Club, with a strong narrative voice coming from Wesley as he experienced a slew of unfortunate life events. With the second half the focus changed and was lost and it also lost its sarcastic whimsy and became a straight-up different movie. It went from Fight Club to Commando, essentially switching up the momentum at the wrong time.

The character of Fox (Angelina Jolie) was cool enough in the movie, but Angelina was pretty much just channeling Lara Croft. Her character is much better, MUCH better in the comics.

The visuals were the movie’s strongest points, with some amazing Gun-Fu and car chases. Timur Bekmambetov has proved that visuals are his main strength as a director, most notably with Night Watch and Day Watch, and this film is no exception. He has a keen eye for what will prove most exciting to see on screen, with dynamic camera work and cinematography.

It’s just right for a movie you want to pop in and munch on popcorn to for a couple hours.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Wanted