3. STAR WARS: EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE

posted by stuartbaket

When:

1:10 AM - 11:20 PM
Thursday, May 14

Where:

1555 Tator Patch Road, Chicago, IL 60606

Description:

This film is set several decades before the events in the original three Star Wars films, and recounts the first adventures of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. Interestingly, the film (you can order the film essay from https://mcessay.com/ service) is remarkably different from the Star Wars films many people grew up with, both in positive and negative ways. There is a dazzling array of cameo appearances by old friends and familiar locations, as accompanied by John Williams's familiar Victorian theme, but the structure is more that of a mild political thriller, than a conventional science fiction film. As such, this may account for the somewhat tepid reaction by some of the fans. Specifically, the film is fundamentally different from the expectation one may have formed on the basis of the original films, and the highly kinetic trailers. Where the more familiar Star Wars adventures push inevitably forward, chased by a barrage of blaster fire, Episode I takes time to establish the economic and political balance of various forces within the framework of the Star Wars environment.

 

However, the film does spend more time than necessary achieving the right balance.  This can largely be attributed to the fact that Lucas is now working without anyone to refine, temper, or contradict his creative impulses.  This time out, he does not have 20th Century Fox breathing down his neck, and is in fact producing the film out of his own pocket.  Fellow USC Film School alum Gary Kurtz (American Graffiti, The Dark Crystal) and producer of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, departed the franchise when Lucas insisted on blowing up another Death Star, keeping Han alive, and introducing Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. Similarly, Empire writer Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill, Grand Canyon) refused to write the third film, given these story requirements.  Furthermore, Empire director Irvin Kershner (Eyes of Laura Mars, Amazing Stories) was not asked to return for Jedi, because he kept doing his own thing, disregarding Lucas's backseat directing. Marcia Lucas, editor of the first three films left the ranch when she divorced George Lucas.  Lucas replaced these people, whose counterbalance drastically improved the first two films, with yes-men such as Jedi director Richard Marquand (The Legacy, Eye of the Needle), and now Episode I producer Rick McCallum (The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, The Singing Detective), two people whose biggest breaks were courtesy of Lucasfilm.  What effect does this have?  Read on.

 

The film introduces political maneuverings of certain members of the senate. Solutions to dilemmas are discussed in terms of weighing the efficiency of a senatorial committee versus that of the court system. This type of dialogue can easily slow down the pace of a film, especially when that dialogue is written by George Lucas, who by his own admission, tells stories through visuals, not words. Furthermore, while Lucas tries to introduce a higher level of sophistication to the Star Wars world with these political machinations, he also succeeds at lowering it, by introducing a digital character whose appeal is exclusively juvenile.  To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: we knew R2-D2; we grew up with him; you, Jar-Jar, are no R2-D2.  At the same time, given the extent to which certain scenes are recognizable as foreshadowing, such as Obi-Wan's underestimation of Anakin, and Anakin's attachment to his mother, the film is definitely on target, since it serves as a critical expository anchor for the next series of films.

This shift away from the direct action of the first three films is also demonstrated by an extensive running discussion of the spiritualism of the Force. Notions such as Zen riddles, angels, and immaculate conception are much more explicit in firmly establishing the religion of the Force.  In some ways, this could be too much information for a subject that was appropriately kept subtle in the first three films. However, the film does provide a welcome exposition of the behavior and code of the Jedi Knights, who come off, interestingly, as mystical priest warriors.  They behave much like the Jesuits in Roland Joffe's The Mission, operating seemingly autonomously in relation to state authorities, while a charismatic lead member determines the right path by following his own beliefs. Liam Neeson (Schindler's List, Rob Roy) plays this role as Qui-Gon Jinn, pronounced "KWAI (like the garlic supplement) - Gon JINN" (probably not coincidentally, since "Jinns" in Islamic mythology are creatures beneath angels, yet with powers over mortals). As Zen master Takuan Soho trains legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi in Eiji Yoshikawa's sweeping novel Musashi, Qui-Gon Jinn trains young Obi-Wan Kenobi, as played by Ewan McGregor (pronounced "LUCK-y BAS-tard").

 

The slower pace of Episode I is, however, punctuated by some breathtaking sequences, that fit squarely in the familiar pace of a Star Wars film, while giving a nod to earlier work in the field.  The pod-racing sequence is a prime example, which bears a close resemblance to the chariot race from William Wyler's Ben-Hur, in terms of specific plot elements, imagery, and length. A particularly sympathetic queen in Episode I is fantastically dolled up, with a make-up job that has more in common with the Kabuki-like appearance of the crazed wife in Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, than anything else in recent film memory. The queen's starship is a striking chrome ship that strongly suggests the art deco ships of the first Flash Gordon serials. The jaw-dropping depiction of the planet Coruscant is simultaneously reminiscent of the ground-breaking work by Fritz Lang in his film Metropolis and that of Isaac Asimov in his visionary novel, Foundation.

Details:

$0.00 free
312-869-4150