20 May 2009
jesus christ, what a bad movie that was (the phantom menace memorial)
Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace could not have come at a more opportune time in my life, or so I thought at the time. It was my freshman year of high school, and I was in the process of forming fast friendships, some I cherish and others I and miss to this very day. Friendships with people who, among other things, like me, LOVED Star Wars. people who could quote the movie from memory with me, people with whom I could discuss the significance of Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole, Kevin J. Anderson, Aaron Alston, and the others that made up the vast menagerie of writers who'd contributed to this great American institution we called Star Wars.
More than that, though.., there was this girl. She knew EVERYTHING about Star Wars, tons about Buffy, played the odd video game.., plus, I was convinced she liked me (oh, high school, how simultaneously exhilirating and excruciating you were... "liking" people, and barely knowing what that meant). If it was possible for this girl to get any more awesome, I couldn't imagine how.
[ASIDE: The Star Wars Celebration, the first one, at the old Lowry base in Colorado, was easily the high water mark of my first year in high school, for many reasons, not the least of which, at the time, had to do with this very same girl. But, there's not really even a story there, so I won't try to force one. It was the weekend I figured out what sort of person I really was, and intermittently fought against embracing it for years. END ASIDE]
Turns out... The Phantom Menace. While we were both disallowed from dating until our 16th birthdays by both our sets of parents (perhaps for the best, the way things turned out),we still made plans to go see the movie together. A "non-non-date," perhaps.
Purchasing the soundtrack a month before the film's release (a soundtrack I feel ranks pretty highly with others Williams has produced - it's the only part of the film that doesn't flat-out disgust me) allowed the movie's truest dramatic moment - the death of Liam Neeson's Qui-Gon Jinn - to be ruined, but that was kind of okay. It was still Star Wars; I could still be hopeful.
The magical moment came (walking into the theater, filled with anticipation), and the magical moment went all too quickly, partly the result of a lack of genuine romantic chemistry (which I myself would not admit, sadly, for years - she was much more on the ball in that regard), and partly due to the fact that the movie we sat in the theater to watch was FUCKING TERRIBLE. From the shitty opening crawl (economic downturn, planet on the edge of the Republic... as Patton Oswalt might say, "Who gives a shit?"), to the bad fake Asian accents that Nute Gunray and the rest of the Nemoidians sported, to Ft. Collins, Colorado's own Jake Lloyd's god-awful performance as Anakin Skywalker (sure, he's a little kid, but so was Haley Joel Osment. And he was a great child actor), to the fact that the pod race went on too goddamn long, to the unforgivable underuse of Darth Maul, to the fact that Lucas obviously forgot everyone from the original trilogy (not to be a continuity whore, but well, I'm a continuity whore. Star Trek explained it away. Two lines of dialogue. Come on), to, yes, Jar Jar Binks.
Oh, Jar Jar. If the movie had come out only one year later, common perception could've been that he was the worst idea in popular entertainment in the 21st century (still, I'd contend). Instead, we had to close out the 90s with the most minstrel-show-ized character I'd yet seen in a film (not saying much, sure, but I was 15 at the time. Sue me). [ASIDE: My friend Travis and I, at the Star Wars Celebration, sat close to Ahmed Best - the man behind Jar Jar Binks - during Anthony Daniels' - C-3P0 - presentation. We were excited when we recognized him. We felt stupid for feeling that way once we saw the movie. END ASIDE] He destroyed every single scene he was in, including the less-than-climactic final battle between the native Naboo forces and the droids of the Trade Federation Army. Jar Jar would've been acceptable (well, not really - one could only hope we've moved past non-ironic race-based humor in this day and time, but as we've seen, that's not the case) in one of Disney's stupider animated films, but this was STAR WARS. Anything less than a total recapturing of the spirit of the first films was unacceptable. As a result, the film was unacceptable.
So, that's what I remember about my one and only viewing of that piece of unadulterated shit in the theater. In the words of Randall Graves, "I want my eight bucks back."
All apologies to the potentially-misrepresented and unnamed female party in this story. If you remember it differenty, and you read this, well, I'm all for setting the tale straight. Though, I doubt rehashing is high on either of our priority lists.