5 actual good things about Star Wars: The Phantom Menace as it turns 20
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Yep, Episode One is 20 years old.
How the hell did that happen?
It seems like only yesterday we were poring over magazines (remember those?) and desperately trying to navigate dial-up Internet in order to find out precious details about the then returning Star Wars universe.
Hype, as you might imagine, was extremely intense.
Joy was in the air, too. This was going to be the best film of all time, a true summer event to put everything else in the shade.
How could it miss? This was STAR WARS for christ's sake.
And then the movie opened with scrolling text about taxation and trade federations.
And then there was young Anakin Skywalker, who had the charisma of a door.
And then there was Jar. Jar. Binks.
Hey, at least Darth Maul is going to do cool things, though, right?
Look, it's very easy to hate on The Phantom Menace.
Simon Pegg and Spaced did a pretty good job, for example:
Clip via Channel 4
But yeah, it's low-hanging fruit for the most part. And considering it's the damn thing's birthday, let's just be sound for once, eh?
We're not suggesting - not remotely! - that Phantom Menace is some kind of misunderstood masterpiece.
We're not even saying that it's good. But there is a handful - just about - of things to admire.
So let's be nice, shall we? Here's five things we actually liked.
#1. The Posters
Credit to the art and marketing department.
The teaser poster remains a brilliant piece of literal foreshadowing:
And the main poster itself is a striking, colourful collage:
#2. Climactic lightsaber fight / 'Duel of the Fates'
John Williams, you magnificent bastard.
It takes pretty much the whole movie to get to the showdown between Obi-Wan Kenobia, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Darth Maul (more on him in a bit) but it's worth the wait.
The fight is well-designed and choreographed, the stakes high, the payoff genuinely shocked, and the music... good lord, the music.
'Duel of the Fates' got its debut here, and there's a reason it got out of this project not only unscathed, but beloved.
Clip via Bos VideoTunes
#3. Darth Maul
Yes, he didn't do much.
Yes, he didn't say much - though fair play to Peter Serafinowicz for giving great vocal.
Yes, he went out fairly handily.
No, he wasn't the new Darth Vader.
AND YET, he looked ridiculously badass. And sure look, he's back now, thanks to Solo: A Star Wars Story, so we can still salvage this dude.
He even made the front cover of the Sunday Times Magazine! Legacy, baby.
#4. The Pod Race
Often cited, sometimes mocked, still good craic.
Clip via StarWarsTiggy
#5. Liam Neeson as a Jedi Knight
But it happened.
Granted, Qui-Gon didn't really shine like we had hoped, but Liam Neeson wielding a lightsaber sure was something.
BONUS: RedLetterMedia's incredible review
The late Roger Ebert was just one of literally millions of fans of this superb video essay breakdown, courtesy of the team at RedLetterMedia.
RLM has since gone on to become a pop culture staple in is own right, regularly reviewing movies with sardonic wit and able chemistry.
Their take on the Phantom Menance, as narrated by a strange possible serial killer, is the stuff of legend.
Part one is below if you've never seen it. All 90 minutes are gold.
Clip via RedLetterMedia
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