I hate this movie. I hate Hayden Christensen’s acting… I pretty much don’t care for Hayden as a person. I hate the Prequels, and I wish they wouldn’t exist. I’m literally hoping for the day that Disney retcons them out of existence. It happened to Lois and Clark/Barry and Iris, it can happen here too!
So why am I writing this? What the hell am I talking about?
I can’t make a case for Revenge of the Sith or Phantom Menace as I said in the rankings list, but as I said in that same write-up: (which can be seen in full here: http://uruniverse.weebly.com/reviews/the-list-joshs-star-wars-rankings.)
"Yup, I’m now going to defend this movie. Oh wait, I did that IN DETAIL in my “article section?" Ok, then bullet points will do. Take Hayden and Portman out of the movie/ignore them, and only focus on Obi-Wan’s story/the conflict with Count Dooku, Qui-Gon’s former master. On paper, it’s exciting! In film-form, it “works” and offers an engaging if not elementary school level of a detective story... something perfect for a kid’s movie. You just need to look past lines about “sand." More on this one elsewhere.“
There are some really “great” things in this movie, and no, I didn’t go crazy watching it three times. Before we get to the “good," let’s obviously knock out the “bad."
In no particular order, the following infractions come to mind:
- Wasting “Duel of the Fates” on Anakin angrily driving a speeder bike.
- Pretty much ANY scene with Anakin and Padme
- Pretty much ANY scene with Anakin and Obi-Wan
- Pretty much any mention, shot, or other representation of “Anakin Skywalker”
- Sand… oh God, the “sand”
- The opening scene
- The assassination attempt and how it was carried out
But, there IS “good in it. Don’t give up on it.”
This tangent is for those of you showing that wacky sci-fi thing Star Wars to a boyfriend, girlfriend, younger sibling, pet, offspring, etc, for the first time, and despite your best efforts to hide the special edition blu rays, all the golden spindles in the land, and the very notion that “three other movies exist," they’ve done the unthinkable. They’ve discovered the truth and have come to you with that suspicious look asking “why aren’t we going in order?” Many of us have been there.
For the first time since theaters in 1999, we’re watching Phantom Menace, hating most of it (rightfully so), and counting down to the three and a half awesome minutes of Darth Maul… until you realize he first appears in a fucking hologram, and he dies “looking." That's a baseball reference, kids. Then, you reach that point where whoever this person is, has reached Episode II. You know what’s coming... horrific dialog, Hayden “made of wood” Christensen, and oh yes, creepy stares and lines about fucking sand. What if there were a way to suffer through this movie, with rose-colored glasses? A way to make it not only tolerable, but downright… good? You’re in luck then, as I’m writing this tangent, specifically for you!
Ignore/throw out any and all mentions of Anakin. Just turn off your brain and play Die Hard instead, like I do when I’m bored, or anxious, or… driving. Go on your phone, use the bathroom, make popcorn, just forget about him and Padme entirely. If you wanna watch him kill Sand People, that’s on you, just remember, “IT WASN’T JUST THE MEN….BUT THE WOMEN….AND CHILDREN….TOOO! AND HE SLAUGHTERED THEM….LIKE ANIMALS! BECAUSE WHY? BECAUSE THEY ARE ANIMALS!”
The second thing you need to do, and this might be even harder than the first, but you’re already stretched for expert mental gymnastics, so you’ll be fine... is to forget everything you’ve ever known or loved about Star Wars as a franchise. There is no [original trilogy]. There is no Revenge of the Sith. There is only Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Why would I ask you to commit your psyche to such blasphemy? It’s the only way this works.
Phantom Menace is a piece of shit for many reasons, but as RLM graciously pointed out, the key reason is that it has no clear “protagonist.” While this is 100000% true of Menace, an argument could be made and retroactively applied to that flick that the true Hero or Main Character of the Prequels is Obi-Wan Kenobi. He is the ONLY one that matters being as Qui-Gon is dead, and fuck that little kid/the guy playing him now. Thankfully, after the opening travesty, Obi-Wan doesn’t spend the entire rest of the movie with Hayden, and it’s ONLY Obi-Wan we’re gonna focus on.
The actual “story” of Attack of the Clones is a pretty engaging kids movie level detective story, not quite Hardy Boys, but Encyclopedia Brown or definitely Cam Jansen levels of good. Even the “space diner,” when put in context (remembering that in this exercise, Clones is the current/last movie and GREAT Star Wars movies don’t exist) is brilliant. Going to sleazy dive bars and informants for information? That’s exactly what Batman would do!
Obi-Wan’s story follows Obi-Wan on a secret Jedi mission with R2D2 in search of the missing mystery planet and the hired assassin from the terrible opening scene. Obi gets down and dirty playing detective, and does it all without the stupid kid. The Jedi reveal to the audience that they aren’t all that super powerful anymore, and they’re keeping this their own dark secret. They also insist that the thought of an “evil Jedi” is absurd (I guess they discount that last movie as well). There’s a twisted murder plot of Jedi Master Syfo-dyas who has been missing and presumed dead for over ten years, and the reveal that Count Dooku, Qui-Gon’s former Master, is not only evil, but he’s going up directly against Obi-Wan while still trying to turn him. He also remarks that Qui-Gon might have been on his side, something Obi-Wan himself possibly hinted at in Menace, when he says “Master, don’t defy the Council, not again.” Qui-Gon’s defiance, is the ONLY reason he’s not a member of the chair sitting depowered Jedi in the first place.
In terms of a “Star Wars movie/A Star Wars prequel”, it is the LEAST damaging to the established franchise as a whole, while still having a sense-making and coherent plot…and lines about sand.