Star Wars: Episode One……..oh boy, where do I start. So much promise, so much fail. After sixteen years of waiting we finally got another Star Wars movie. We were all so pumped for it….and we were mostly disappointed. I remember going in the theater ready for the awesome and coming out just thinking “was that it?” I went back and saw it a few more times to make sure I soaked it all in, and I defended it on the internet against people who just came and said “that sucked.” But eventually I faced up to the truth. Now I don’t think it sucked, but it was severely lacking It did have some good stuff, and as a Star Wars nerd I can still sit and watch it if it comes on. It’s not Batman and Robin.
What worked for me:
More lightsaber stuff is always welcome, and we got it here. The duel with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon taking on Darth Maul was better than any of the lightsaber action we’d gotten before.. It didn’t have the psychology of the Luke/Vader duels but from a pure fighting and action standpoint it blows them away. And we got lightsaber stuff from the opening tip this time around. Seeing Jedi in full glory and not the ragtag remnant we got in the original trilogy is a plus. Darth Maul was great in the time he got on screen. The podrace scene was a triumph in special effects and was really exciting. The special effects alone made it worth watching when it came out. The movie looked great all around.
What didn’t work:
The story was a classic example of doing too much. What we needed was a good introduction of Anakin Skywalker, some way to get him connected to the rest of the universe, and an introduction of what would bring down the Republic. Well….we got those things but the execution was….not very good. The movie starts with a blockade that is a red herring to plant the seeds for a war being controlled by Senator (soon to be Chancellor Palpatine) in order to coerce the Galactic Senate into giving him full control of everything. We get two Jedi going to investigate, who are then attacked, forced to flee to an underwater city (which served no purpose but to introduce Jar Jar Binks and bring his people into the fold). Then they go find the captured Queen of Naboo, flee, land on Tattooine when their ship gets damaged, meet Anakin, get their ship fixed, go to the Senate to tell them about the blockade, go back to Naboo when that fails, and get in a big battle to end the whole thing. Why? Why send just two people to investigate a blockade and jamming of transmissions and not a military squadron? The whole initial premise makes no sense.
And Anakin, oh Anakin. We got a 10 year kid born from immaculate conception, with a creepy crush on a 15 your girl (which only made their subsequent romance even strange later on), who we were somehow supposed to believe would become freaking Darth Vader. Why not start with a teenage Anakin, with an actual Jedi father who skipped town, giving him a reason to be on the edge emotionally from the jump? Then there’s the dialogue, wooden as usual but lacking the cheesy charm that the original trilogy had. George Lucas’ shortcomings as a script writer and director were really exposed here. I’m no Jar Jar Binks fan, but Episodes two and three diminished his presence enough to take the sting out of his appearances in Episode One. That doesn’t make him any less annoying, of course.
Overall grade: C
When you take the movie in it’s totality, including the action and visuals, it’s not a failure. But the story and the dialogue are just not very good. A simpler story with a less convoluted premise for the coming Clone Wars, a better depiction of the political debate in the Galactic Senate, and a better choice for Anakin were all needed to make this work. Too bad we didn’t get it. There’s good stuff here but the stuff you have to wade through too much to get to it.