Blog 693: Close, But No Biscuit – Star Wars – Part 1

Star Wars, oh Star Wars. It was my life; the original trilogy and selected bits of the Expanded Universe were everything to me growing up. The space-ships, the subtle mysticism, the ancient ruins and technological marvels mixed just so to create a wonderous, exciting universe of adventure.

Alas, while the disappointing scab of the prequel trilogy has mostly healed by now, to the point where I can actually appreciate some parts of them with a degree of clarity, the wound torn open by The Force Awakens is still raw.

But let’s not get started at the end. Let’s begin at the beginning, even though it’s not the real beginning. Let us discuss Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

No transcripts this time, just some additional thoughts in the post.

The Phantom Menace

I’m definitely with Chris on the major fumble being the introduction of more sci-fi elements rather than building on the mysticism of the Force.

Obi-Wan and Qui Gon should not have walked into a random shop and discovered the most powerful force user in the universe — it’s too much of a random coincidence as presented right now. The worst thing is that the precedent is already set — “I have felt his presence” is used so much in the original trilogy that they could have allayed fears of random coincidence simply by having Anakin draw the Jedi to him, like a lodestone. Grumble.

Then, to add insult to injury, they splashed midichlorians all of it. There should be no need for a blood test, they should just feel it. Why has nobody picked up this incredible Force user? Because it’s Tatooine, no Jedi has been out to this arse end of the galaxy in donkeys.

As I said — it wouldn’t take much effort to bring the prequels onto a more pleasing axis.

Re-watching I was surprised by how many effects were actually practical. Face masks, sets, the legend of awful CGI has been exaggerated over the years. Yes, Jar Jar and other foreground characters are awful, and the pitched battle on rolling green hills in bright sunshine isn’t great…

Chris says he can’t tell between the CGI and the real anymore, but I still can. It’s weird — take my recent favourites, Godzilla, Pacific Rim, John Carter; three films replete with computer-generated imagery that is so good that my mind sort of doesn’t care. A part of me is still “yep, there’s definitely something not quite right about that imagery”, but the rest of me is “shut up some giant monsters are fighting”. Maybe it’s a matter of engagement, where a fundamentally good film is allowed more wiggle room?

Though the flip-side for me is the original Jurassic Park, another film I re-watched fairly recently. While the distance shots of the Brontosauruses are a bit wobble, there are a couple of fairly close shots of the velociraptors that I literally thought were animatronic. The bit in the kitchen where they jump over the counter, battering a few pans off — it is perfect. It looks like they are there. I wonder if it’s because the animatronic monsters did exist anyway, so that even if they weren’t used in that particular scene, they provided a real-world reference point for the CGI? More like a 3D scan than something totally non-existant?

The racism angle is fascinating because, as a child seeing The Phantom Menace I just didn’t pick up on it at all. Re-watching the film recently before this enterprise, for as far as I can remember the first time since back then, now as an adult aware of all these stereotypes… Wow. It’s pretty blatant.

The comment from Lucas that racist interpretations say more about the audience than him doesn’t hold much water to me: there are just too many elements of these stereotypes coalesced into single characters/species for it to be coincidence.

Ah well, it’s canon now and we’re stuck with it. Just think though — if instead of writing an irrelevant and shit retread, we could have rebooted and rebuilt the prequels to be good…

2 thoughts on “Blog 693: Close, But No Biscuit – Star Wars – Part 1”

  1. Agreed with a lot of points you guys made. Disagreed on two things though: despite it’s flaws, the Phantom Manace takes the biscuit. I love the film because while I agree with pretty much every flaw you guys mention, I don’t consider any one of them to have real significance.
    The second point I disagree on is that I actually like the movement of the droids. Since they’re not made of flesh and blood, I feel the odd movement fits. (unlike that of Jar Jar, that character would have been fine if they had just toned him down a bit..)

    I’m not really specialized in racism, but isn’t it useally the europeans that are painted as the greedy guys? (because a lot of them conquered in the name of profit, obviously)

    The force awakens would have been a decent stand alone sci-fi movie. As part of the star wars saga it’s story is pathetic. I haven’t read a lot of fan fiction, but I’m sure it’s better on avarage than this thing.


    1. I agree that maybe each of the flaws of its own is superficial, but there are a lot of seemingly superficial flaws accumulated in the Phantom Menace. There are absolutely some biscuit crumbs obtained in there, like the vehicle and ship and character designs as I said, but it can’t get the whole biscuit because there is just too much junk floating around.

      As for racism, I’m not specialist either, and I found it pretty noticeable this time around. I don’t know, it’s a thorny topic at the best of times, and again, there’s just a little bit too much of it to dismiss it as accidental coincidence.

      Well, the Force Awakens to me IS bad fan-fiction. “Our Darth Vader is cooler, AND he’s Han Solo’s son! Our Death Star is bigger!” etc etc etc. There are elements of it that are good, but it doesn’t hold up as a complete thing (or even a part of a trilogy, but we’ll get to that I’m sure…).


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