26 May 2015

A Link To The Past

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Look, everybody knows everything about Star Wars: Episode 1- The Phantom Menace, so what could I possibly say that you haven't already heard over and over again? Well it was 1999, and thanks entirely to the trailers for this movie the worlds supply of nerds were increasingly suffering from some sort of collective movie blue-ball. It'd been over fifteen years since Princess Leia chose to start shagging Indiana Jones instead of her own brother, and so excitement for this prequel trilogy was higher than Keith Richards in a rocket full of crack. Then the film was released, people were able to see it and millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror as it became increasingly more apparent that what they were watching was a total piece of shit. Like Dr Manhattan's giant squid monster, The Phantom Menace brought humanity together to fight one collective enemy with society’s battle cry being, “George Lucas raped my childhood”. Although if modern revelations are to be believed, it seems that most media personalities that rose to fame during the 1970's have quite literally raped somebodies childhood, so perhaps this was a little extreme. Nor in my own case was it true. I was ten years old in 1999 and I loved The Phantom Menace more genuinely than I loved my own soon-to-be-dead grandfather.  

As I'm sure you all fondly remember, this new entry into the saga begins with the traditional yellow text setting up an exciting new beginning to one of the most beloved franchises of all time. God knows what the hell it's talking about though as its indecipherable waffle about trade federations and galactic embargoes is like trying to read a tax return from the fucking zodiac killer. From there we see a couple of Jedi knights bumble their way from one culturally insensitive alien stereotype to another, as though this kids-film is from the damaged fever dream of a dying racist. First they run away from the weird Japanese creatures, then they bump into the Jamaican cliché, before having to buy a slave off what I'm sure Mel Gibson would refer to as, “a flying Jew”. Whilst doing this the two Jedi are also having to protect a young Queen from a devil looking Sith Lord, who is not only the coolest thing in the movie but who also has less screen-time than Ewan McGregor's anal pubes did in Trainspotting. Where once we had a smuggler hooking up with a sassy princess, we now have Natalie Portman flirting with a boy so inappropriately young for her that had she been slightly older then she'd have been rightly forced to sign the sex offenders register and banned from living near a primary school. 

The biggest problem with The Phantom Menace is in director George Lucas' intended target audience. Rather than honouring his hard-core legion of fans with a film they'd actually enjoy, he decided to ignore them in favour of a weaker minded group of younglings that were more likely to buy his merchandise. I'd had my mind blown by Star Wars in 1997 during the twentieth anniversary re-release, and so two years later I was not only as excited to see this film as everybody else but was actually lucky enough to be the age it was aimed at. As a result, I loved the bullshit that I could see onscreen and like the gonk in The Manchurian Candidate I couldn't wait for the brainwashing to end so that I could buy every bit of crap that Lucas had to offer. Since then however, I have done what humans traditionally do and grown both older and more cynical. I spent more time hearing about how turd this film was and suddenly I'd gone from watching The Phantom Menace every weekend, to having not seen it in years. I might now be in my twenties but I was curious as to whether I'd still like this movie despite its crappy reputation. I'd always enjoyed it in the past and so maybe I'd be influenced by the kind of nostalgia that lets people remember the Ewoks with such hypocritical leniency.  

The results of this curiosity are I'm sure obvious at this point due to quite how many times I've already used the word, “shit” and perhaps even the phrase, “anal pubes”. I watched The Phantom Menace the other night and its awfulness became painfully obvious from the previously mentioned opening text and subsequent racism. Not only that, but for the most part the acting is fucking diabolical. Now I know Liam Neeson has forgotten that he's an actor and spent the last few years trying to cram in as many action films as he can before his hips cave in, but this was before all that. This was back when he was known almost exclusively for his dramatic work and Oscar nominations, and even then he delivers his lines like a deaf man that's been kicked in the throat. Of course though, this is mostly due to the writing of The Phantom Menace featuring some of the worst dialogue this side of a Tommy Wiseau film. In regards to Lucas' writing ability, Harrison Ford famously told him that, “You can type this shit but you sure can't say it”, based on this film though I'm not even sure he can type it. It's more like somebody has accidentally smacked the keyboard with various parts of their body during a particularly violent wank and autocorrect has gone mental in trying to interpret it. 

At the very least I suppose the effects were pretty cool for the time with almost everything having been done with CG. Although, you have to wonder if this was because Lucas wanted to impress us with his latest technology, or because throwing a script at some computer nerd and telling them to make it happen was easier than directing real actors. To be fair, the effects haven't dated half as badly as you might imagine considering even this film is now starting to knock on. It's just a shame that we now live in more enlightened times where pixels are used to enhance a scene, rather than create it in its entirety. As a result of this everything lacks weight, believability, any sense of physicality, and therefore interest. It's also probably one of the other reasons why the cast struggle to spit out their shit lines, when all they have to aim for is a tennis ball on a stick and a room composed entirely of green walls. Actual humans aside, I suppose the use of this kind of technology is also to blame for the creation of Jar Jar Binks, who really is a single representation of everything that is wrong with The Phantom Menace. His sub-Chuckle Brothers slapstick shit is proof that the film is aimed at kids, and his Jamaican influence is so offensive that it kind of feels like the Star Wars equivalent of a minstrel act. 

Despite all of this however, I can't bring myself to hate Jar Jar and I can't bring myself to hate this film. I can see everything that's crap about it and I can only imagine how much of a let-down it must have been after such a wait. Nor can I say that I particularly liked what I saw. It's rather that watching this film simply reminded me of how excited I was by it as a child. For better or worse this movie is a thread that leads right back to a time when I was a happier, more optimistic person that was yet to experience a raping from the miserable cock of life. As a child I was incapable of seeing a bad performance and any of that bollocks involving trade and tax was simply ignored by my mushy brain in favour of shiny lights and funny Gungans. Jar Jar to me is like that weird kid in school that you used to be friends with that ate worms and smelt of shit. My cynical self can now more accurately judge him as worrying, but I can't help but remember the fondness that I used to have for him. Nor as a child was I frustrated by Lucas's incompetence as an editor, which can be seen as he cuts between three battles in the third act whilst oblivious to the fact that he's actually destroying the tension of each one by doing so. As an adult this is not only painfully obvious but I couldn't give a flying toss about any of them beyond the three way lightsaber fight.  

In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that as annoying as Jar Jar may be, the real problem in the film is that boring kid that they got to play a young Anakin. Obviously I don't blame him, as anybody whos read anything about his subsequent experience of life will probably see that nobody can hate him more than he hates himself. Instead I blame Lucas for hiring such a shit actor, and directing such a shit performance from an obviously shit script whilst simultaneously managing to shit all over the legacy of Darth Vader. The pod-racing scene might be pretty cool, but I shouldn't be left with the thought that it'd have been improved if the young Vader had exploded into a fire ball that blasted his teeth out through his arse. I might have found Jar Jar funny as a child but even then I was more than aware that the young Skywalker was about as annoying as one of those fish that swims up your knob as you take a piss in a swamp.  

None of this is to say, by the way, that beyond this issue of Anakin, I'm claiming that the film works as a decent kids-film and the only reason people hate it is because they weren't children at the time. Time Bandits is a kids-film that I didn't see until I was an adult, and I loved it regardless. What I'm saying is that The Phantom Menace is just an all-round bad film that only kids will like because it's aimed at them and they're all stupid. The fact that Lucas ignored his fans is simply the reason that they now all hate him. Old people remember their childhood fondly thanks exclusively to nostalgia and that was a time when Hitler was killing all of their loved ones off with bullets, bombs and death camps. However even with a drug as powerful as that nostalgia, the best I can say about The Phantom Menace is that I can't admit to hating it as much as I can see that I clearly should. I asked at the beginning what I could tell you about this movie that you haven't already heard a million times, to which the answer is clearly nothing... Although, including now, I have used the phrase anal pubes three times throughout, so you know that's something to enjoy at least. Thanks for reading motherfuckers and see you next time. 

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