Right now, I am currently watching Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and I cannot help but wonder what the fuck happened with this movie. It’s not very good. The original three were incredible but this one doesn’t fit.
There is one question on my mind that I cannot figure out: is this a kids’ movie? The dialogue is over the top, the aliens look more like cartoons than ever, there are borderline offensive alien accents, shiny spaceships and bright colors. There really aren’t the same types of conflicts from the original movies. There are no struggles about faith, no conversations about power, leadership, and responsibility, no existential musings about the universe and what keeps it all together. Just pod racing and fart jokes. There was a weak attempt to talk about economic struggles through some sort of bizarre form of dictatorship run entirely through holograms but that doesn’t last long. Actually, I don’t even know what the Galactic Trade Federation actually does other than bitch. The only redeeming qualities of this movie are Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson.
This movie is necessary though. This movie was obviously going to make money. He knew that the moment he sat down to write it. No matter what he wrote, millions of people all over the world would empty their wallets for months so why bother to try? Why challenge yourself? When he sat down to write this, the big questions, the questions that produce great writing, were already answered by the last films. All this movie is is a backstory. All plot and no substance, going after the senses but not soul. But it needed to happen. I suppose Lucas later realized that if he was going to describe the origin of Darth Vader, he was going to need to try harder. He would have to portray the descent from innocence to anger. He would have to explore ideas about corruption and expectation, examining what makes a person take the easy route instead of the best.
With that in mind, perhaps the first three episodes are not so much of an exploration of the powers above but of the powers within. What if these movies are about George Lucas’s internal struggles with the Star Wars franchise? Everyone is banking on him to create something as historical as the original trilogy but there is too much pressure. Now that there is tons of money on the line, a vast and devoted army of followers who perceive his word as universal truth, a Galactic Trade Federation-esque production of merchandise, maybe Anakin’s story is Lucas’s trying to fight the person he has become. The characters warn him of the impending dangers of the powers he has but there are far too many eyes looking on him. When he starts to slip, there is no return and he partially destroys himself and becomes the monster he is. A powerful, influential, and historically important monster. The struggles in this movie are not between good and evil. They are between George Lucas’s soul and the man he has become.
Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just about the dirty politics and blowing shit up. Anyway, your trailhead, if you choose to accept it, is to fight with yourself in whatever way you chose to define “fight.” That is all. Jar Jar Binks is racist.