A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, a man named George Lucas brought to life one of the greatest trilogies of all time (and space). Less long ago, in the same far away galaxy, George Lucas took a trilogy-sized dump on his original masterpiece. I just watched The Phantom Menace, and now I want to whine about it. Here we go.
Watching TPM, I’m reminded of that skinny suburban white kid we all knew in high school who thought that because his hat was sideways he was justified in throwing up gang signs in regular conversation:
George, you are trying way too hard.
As the main character of the new trilogy, not to mention the driving plot device of the entire franchise, young Anakin Skywalker should have been conceptually easy to characterize. No reinvention needed; we already knew (from the original trilogy) that Anakin was a talented pilot and gifted jedi, that he was apprenticed by Obi-Wan, that he fought in the clone wars, that he had twin children of whom he was unaware, and that eventually he succumbed to the dark side and became Darth Vader, one of the greatest villains in all of nerddom history. Story=written. There’s no way to screw this up. Suddenly…
“What’s that you say?” George Lucas pops out of nowhere into our previously safe little fantasy world of OhTheAwesomeThatShouldHaveBeen-topia, “Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader is a timeless character with such an epic story nothing could possibly ruin it? Challenge accepted.”
“But George!” We cry out, “YOU created him! Why would you-” but alas, it’s too late. He’s already gone. And in his wake he’s left us with midi(shudder)chlorians, immaculate conception, and a 9 year old space cadet.
I mean, come on TPM, it’s like you took everything Anakin was ever supposed to be in his lifetime and tried to jam-pack it all into one pre-pubescent mama’s boy. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Hayden Christensen was so cringe-worthily awkward NOT because he was a terrible actor (a debate for another time, my good folk) but because he had absolutely nowhere to go with his character for a movie and a half. After a veritable orgy of evidence to establish all of Anakin’s amazing talents and gifts and ungainly crush on the queen and apprenticeship with Obi-Wan and oh-my-stars-he-must-be-the-chosen-one, all George had left to do was turn him evil. Two. movies. later. Notice that as far as Anakin is concerned (you know, the afore-mention driving plot device of the entire franchise), there is literally no point to Attack of the Clones. And while we’re on the subject of burning out ideas in one movie, I would like to quickly point out that in this hashed attempt to please fans of all generations, TPM basically just mashed all of the original trilogy together and called it a movie. Think about it.
Then there are all the OH SOOOO unnecessary plot devices! Seriously, even if we ignorantly put all of the directing woes aside, we could still talk about everything in TPM that was just plain needless, and often just plain stupid. Disclaimer– while much of what follows has already been mentioned, I’m really really bitter (if you couldn’t tell) and my anger management coach says that listing things out is helpful, so here you go:
- Midi(shudder)chloreans. The Force was so good, so pure. So already adequately explained by Obi-Wan in A New Hope. Just why.
- Immaculate Conception. You remember that Bible story where Jesus turned evil and killed all of his apostles? No? You haven’t read the Bible? Ok, go read the Bible and then come back to laugh with me over that joke.
- Droids. This could spark its own debate I’m sure, but I’m gonna come out and say that the droid army was a poor idea. If you already have an army of cheap, perfectly obedient and mass-produced soldiers, why would you want an expensive and life-costly army of clones? Seems to me like a step in the wrong direction.
- 9 Year Old Tag-Along. You’re telling me that when all of the responsible adults planned to infiltrate a fully armed capitol city, everyone was just peachy keen with bringing the kid along? “But, Clark, then how would he have been able to find a ship to fly into space and blow up the command center, thus single-handedly winning the battle for control of the government?” You see my point, then.
- Anakin Flies Into Space and Blows Up the Command Center, Thus Single-Handedly Winning the Battle for Control of the Government.
- Force-Field Walls. You remember the only scene anyone actually cared about, the one where Obi-Wan watches helplessly as Qui-Gon is stabbed by Darth Maul? Do you remember how it was because Obi-Wan was trapped inside one of the most pointlessly designed hallways in all of spaceship building history?
- Gungans. The idea had potential— an underwater alien race which would provide the necessary manpower for the queen’s assault. But if they came up with all that just to introduce us to (*facepalm, audible sigh*) Jar Jar Binks, that’s an awful lot like selling the family fortune for a stake in ShamWow.
- The Prophecy. This last one could have gone either way. It could have been an epic backdrop to add a little destiny to a timeless space-odyssey. Instead it was a poorly-developed, scarcely mentioned plot device used to shove even more Anakin-ness right down our throats.
There’s more I could talk about, trust me, but not without openly weeping. So I’m just going to rest my case. Feel free to leave a comment and fuel the fire. Myself, I’m gonna go watch one of the greatest trilogies of all time (and space).