Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D


I dressed like Han Solo at Comic Con this year. I made my girlfriend dress as Slave Leia. I operate a website based around a Stormtrooper toy. I have beaten “Star Wars Battlefront” campaign time and again. Even now, as I sit in my office at the Crescenta Valley Weekly, I am wearing my Darth Vader watch and my Stormtrooper shirt, sitting next to my “Star Wars” poster on the wall. Suffice it to say, I am a “Star Wars” fan like my father before me.

My father introduced me to “Star Wars” when I was very young.  It was important to him (he saw the original in theaters 107 times before he stopped counting) and he has passed down this torch of fandom to his only son, and it is now important to me.

When “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” was released in 1999, I was 9 years old. I had seen all of the original “Star Wars” films too many times to count by that time and I was a huge fan. I was looking forward to the new trilogy, a trilogy for my generation, to affect us like the original affected my father’s generation.  And when that floating paragraph flying through space hit the screen saying “Episode I,” I could have exploded with joy.
Darth Maul (Ray Park) wields a formidable double-bladed lightsaber.
Two hours later, I walked out of that theater with mixed feelings. I was so excited and, being a 9-year-old boy, of course I loved the fighting and the action and the light sabers. But overall, I was left unimpressed by the movie. Now seeing this as an adult, I have the same mixed reactions but for different reasons.

For those who haven’t seen it, Episode I follows Qui Gon Jinn, a great Jedi master, and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi on a rescue mission to keep the queen of the planet Naboo safe during an invasion. Along the way, they meet a young boy, Anakin Skywalker, who wields the force stronger than anyone in history, despite his lack of training.

Skywalker helps the Jedi to repair their ship and then runs away with them to become a Jedi himself. But darkness surrounds them, as Skywalker’s destiny is unsure – he will either bring balance to the force and destroy the dark side, the Sith, or he will become a powerful Sith Lord himself. And to make things worse, Darth Maul, the Sith apprentice, is hot on their trail to destroy the Jedi and the queen with them.

Seeing this as an adult makes me love new aspects and dislike some things I loved as a child. As a kid, I loved the aliens and how they all just came together and accepted differences between races. Now I cannot believe they didn’t drown Jar Jar Binks when they had the chance.

I was literally banging my head on the seats in the theater when he spoke. An all-digital character, Jar Jar is the most annoying thing ever created. He trivializes everything that is so epic about “Star Wars.” I understand there needs to be a tension breaker for the kids, but by overdoing it, Jar Jar makes everything a joke and you can’t get invested in any of the battles because it becomes a spoof.

The original trilogy didn’t have a tension breaker, and it was great. George Lucas builds up this tension between characters that you are invested in and it doesn’t break. It is tense through the battle’s completion. The new episodes make a mockery of the greatness that is “Star Wars” which is something I didn’t understand at 9.

However, as a kid I always rooted for the good guys. Now that I am older, I can appreciate the aesthetics of the villain. And Darth Maul is a villain for the books.      Strong, silent and evil, he embodies everything that is bad. He is a Sith, he has a red and black face, horns on his head, wears a dark cloak all the time, and, to top it all off, he has a double bladed light saber. How cool is that?! The battle with Darth Maul at the climax of the film is one of the greatest moments in “Star Wars.” Other than that, the movie is a waste. The 3D effect is nice, though.

Honestly, if like me you haven’t seen this film since 1999, you may not remember a whole lot about what you loved and hated until you see it again. But for the price of a DVD, all your friends can watch it and at $15 per ticket in 3D, it isn’t worth it in the theaters. Not for this one. Wait for “A New Hope.” Or maybe “Revenge of the Sith,” if you are a big fan.

Rated PG. I give this film 1 out of 5 stars.