The Phantom Menace… 3D.

12Feb12

This isn’t a review per se. I’ve done that before, and looking back it is strange to feel so distant from my former self of merely 18 months ago. Oddly, I think I got it completely right whilst missing the point entirely. I was right to find it furiously imaginative, and second only to Empire. I stand by both those claims. But having just watched Phantom once more in the cinema, my reasons on reflection appear awfully misplaced.

I should’ve recognised it moreso for the ludicrous farce that it is. I don’t know if the film picks up or we just get used to it, but the first half hour felt dreadful, only for the rest of the movie to play out like the greatest of guilty pleasures. We begin by darting from place to place with utterly meaningless dialogue and story. It actually feels like a video game of mindless light-sabre fighting, merely punctuated by minor narrative interludes. And what’s this baloney I wrote about it being the greatest story of the lot? Seriously? Every sci-fi battle we see is predicated upon tensions concerning a bloody intergalactic trade embargo.

But anyway, there’s only so long that you can criticise Jar Jar, mainly because he seems to shut up half way through. Before you know it, you’ve sunken into Lucas’ imagination and are happily going along for the ride, only to laugh occasionally at the absurdity of it all. The scene summing it up arrives when they land on Tatooine, only for Qui-Gon to head into town from the desert accompanied by… R2 and Jar Jar. When Queen Amidala suggests Padmé should accompany them and observe the culture, Qui-Gon objects. ‘This is not a good idea’. And we can’t help but think: ‘what, but taking a sluggish droid and a Gungan goon is?’ Why the hell would you take Jar Jar with you? In fact, why did you bring him along for the film in the first place? We could have waved goodbye to him in Gungan City, but no. You insisted on taking him with you for the underwater journey because he would be helpful (in fact, he just proceeds to have a massive panic attack), failing to foresee that he’d be your +1 for the rest of your short cinematic life. I know the real reason is that Jar Jar needs to be there for merchandise reasons, but surely a better rationale can be found than this?

Other highlights include the opening credits announcing that Jedi Knights fight for universal justice, only for Anakin later to inquire whether Qui Gon came to Tatooine to help free him from slavery. Qui Gon’s answer? ‘No’.

Best of all, after a ten minute balletic duel with Darth Maul, Qui Gon proceeds to get killed not through a master somersault followed by a sneaky stab in the chest. Oh no; Qui Gon gets knocked in the face, loses his balance and Maul finishes him off.

Pfft. I dunno. I’m only pretending to care. Perhaps the fact this film is tied up to my childhood – it came out when I was nine – ensures I’ll always have a soft spot for it. But I can’t watch it without a certain sense of schizophrenia; pure joy accompanied by severe cynicism. The former flows from the cries of the kid within, the latter from the rational matured movie buff. But the product is pleasure, even when I’m mocking it.

— A word on the 3D, which after all is the whole reason for rerelease. Or so they claim. Those suggesting it’s a money-spinning ploy are all too correct. The tell-tale sign is the fact that they haven’t even bothered to make it 3D. I swear to you. Take your glasses off, and for the majority of the film it will not be blurred at all. All they have done is picked some scenes ad hoc upon which to retroactively impose the appearance that the characters are sticking out from the screen a little bit. No artistic merit. Nothing. Just darker visuals, the hassle of a (second, in my case) pair of glasses, and – the killer – the cost of an extra £3. Don’t ask me to decide if it’s worth it.

— One idea to make it better: I couldn’t help but feel the Jedi Council scenes could be spiced up by getting Yoda to say something like ‘Wanker, you are’, as Qui Gon insists on Anakin’s status as ‘the Chosen One’. Or – even better – how about Samuel L as Mace Windu shouting something like: ‘motherfucka ain’t gonna become no Jedi on my watch!’

— Kermode vents his anger here.

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