Notes on Phantom Menace 3D

So I decided to go and see a movie today. My first choice was Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, a movie that had three strikes against it:

  1. Tom Cruise,
  2. by the trailers, it’s a stupid glitz-action flick made for people who masturbate over guns, slowly curving cars and gowned girls getting out of them — which is okay for those that like such, but if I take matters to my own hands it better be something I desire, like nice libraries — and
  3. Tom Cruise.

Then I heard Ebert had given it 3.5 stars of 4, and decided to risk it.

No dice; the theater was packed. And when the board shows the free seats going to single digits, I don’t go. I don’t go to the movies to meet people, and the kind of people who go to see a Mission Impossible movie annoy me.

(“Why, Mr. Masks-of-Eris, but all kinds of people go to see—“)

(“My point exactly!”)

The second choice was Vuosaari, a Finnish film about Finnish people being depressed and hopeless. (This is the only theme of about 70% of all Finnish films. The other 30% are often weird.)

No dice again; there was a humongous line, a line as if nothing else was showing tonight, despite the MI film being packed and playing already.

I looked at the board and saw there was just one more film playing today, a second half-hour away.

Star Wars I : the Phantom Menace, in 3D.

So I took that.

*

In a film like this, you pretty much know who the heroes and the villains are. One way to know this is that the heroes are allowed to act snooty and rude at the villains without being called on it.

The two Jedi come to treat with the Trade Federation guys, and one could really watch the first few minutes as them being mafia toughs and the Trades being justifiedly afraid for their lives.

Don’t take my word for it. What did Mr. Qui-Gon say? “These Federation types are cowards. The negotiations will be short.”

How about Mr. Dofine of the Federation? “I knew it! They were sent to force a settlement, eh. Blind me, we’re done for!”

Ah yes, “force a settlement”, in “short negotiations”, like a gundark forcing a splanbean into a turbolaser.

Admittedly after this the Federales will unleast battle droid mayhem at the Jedi, but still. Who sends a couple of Space Jesuits to deal with a diplomatic crisis?

(Wait, no. As I’ve heard, Jesuits are smart guys except for the religion thing, and not lightsaber-wielding ninjas. They would be good negotiators. But the Jedi? Qui-Gon can be as lovely and incorruptible as he wishes, but does he know a left-handed toss about Intergalactic Law? About trade franchises? About what is legal and what is not? Or it is just that the Jedi are not subject to Law, and so people tend to do what they want?)

In my ideal world, the Trade types would have sat down and talked, and talked, and talked until a Jedi (Obi-Wan probably) lost temper and force-choked one. Then a lawsuit, and popular victory! Vicious Jedi thug assaults peaceful Neimoidian! Secretive Jedi Council refuses to investigate! Found to be in contempt of court, Yoda is! Ha ha ha!

*

Wait a minute. Because of the body double scheme, am I not right in saying that 90% of the Amidala costumes never had the real Amidala in them?

*

The middle of the movie would go so much smoother if Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan would just introduce a light saber into Watto’s chest and take the engine. What, the needs of the Republic, the lives of thousands, don’t excuse a little bit of theft? You really think Naboo can wait a day for this pod race of yours? Gambling Jedi pricks!

Also, Shmi, Anakin’s mother. Who will be next mentioned in a later film, a decade or more later, when Anakin has the premonition she’s in trouble. Because who has time to rescue his mother from slavery on a harsh desert planet when you can do Jedi Training! instead.

It would have been a nice drama spot to have a slightly older Anakin ask the Jedi to bring his mother out (Watto is greedy; the Jedi are rich), and be told that the Jedi don’t go for love. That love leads to anger, hate, music piracy, whatsit. You know, instead of a teenage Anakin muttering that line sullenly at Padme.

*

One more horrible revisionist idea. If you want to turn the Phantom Menace into a film from the Sexist Ages, turn Jar-Jar into a silly exotic woman-girl, and the Gungans into an Amazon tribe of such.

Not so funny comedy relief now, right?

Oh wait; Jar-Jar was never funny.

For a different Age of Horror, take some real ethnic group instead. (That would be a nice movie: Star Wars as made by the makers of the Birth of a Nation! Carpetbaggin’ Neimoidian scum versus pure Jedi in white robes! With hoods! And uh burning swords that make a cross shape like this—)

For additional discomfort, imagine the droids as human slaves in funny suits. (The droids are sentient, I think. And Anakin can make one in his basement, without anyone asking any questions of this toddler Frankenstein!)

(I think droid rights were briefly mentioned in the Star Wars Extended Universe; but they’ve decided to not go there. The same as with house elf rights in Harry Potter; liberating the differently looking servile race is a futile fringe lunacy and the attempts are hilarious! Go back to work, DOUGLASS-7! Ha ha ha!)

(Actually, since droids are commonly seen talking to each other, thinking, expressing desires and distress, they must be sentient, or really weirdly and wastefully programmed for the comfort of their masters. Assuming the first, think of the droid factories in the second and third films. Thousands and hundreds of thousands of minds, stamped into being to be disposable soldiers! The horror! The horror!)

(Wait, what about the droid control ship? Are individual droids just the fingers of some big central intelligence? Hopefully, because the alternative is that they’re thinking beings slaved to the control ship, to go to coma or to die when the control ship decides that’s a good idea. That’s really controlling your slaves.)

*

The dialogue. Real people don’t speak like that. I’m pretty sure real people don’t speak like that.

Unless Star Wars is purposefully filmed to happen in a galaxy where manners and thought patterns are such that this is how people actually think and speak.

That would be some high-concept sci-fi, bordering on trolling the audience.

George, you wouldn’t, would you?

*

There were around ten people in the audience: this on a Saturday, the day after the first showing, in a theater with around 250 seats.

One of those ten was a raggedy-looking older man that was not and had never been in the core audience for Star Wars. He sat at the back row.

Around the end of the exciting, action-packed pod race sequence he had had enough, and had fallen asleep. Which was made known by his loud, loud snoring.

I didn’t mind. Phantom Menace, remember? I just thought he had found an escape.

Well, until round the big end battle he started distressedly mumbling and speaking out in his sleep. Truly, there is no hiding place from the evil of the prequels.

When “Directed by George Lucas” blazed on the screen and I left, the usher guy was trying to get him to wake up.

*

One more thing. The poster at the lobby had a big picture of Darth Maul, the bad guy. (I hope he didn’t get paid by lines, because he has like two of them.) And two pod racers racing. And Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. And Padme maybe.

But no Jar-Jar, and no Anakin.

Maybe they were hoping people wouldn’t notice this was that film until after the door was closed and the lights out.

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