Thursday Rethink: The Phantom Menace is a Good Movie


Every Thursday, the Three Brothers will invite you to rethink a film, director, actor, etc. To start, we'll briefly set our proposition against a prevailing or established public or critical opinion, an individual assessment, or even our own judgements and preconceptions. Then, we'll offer you three reasons to rethink the film, actor, or director, or three intriguing points to consider about it. What's important, though, is that we also want to hear back from you. These aren't essays or formal re-evaluations. Thursday Rethink is about inviting ourselves and you to change, or at least to consider, a different point of view.

The Proposition: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace is a good movie.

The Backdrop: If you know the Three Brothers, this may seem like an obvious first entry. We don't hide our love for all six Star Wars movies. That said, this proposition isn't about apologetics. These are simply three observations I want to put out there after seeing Episode I on the big screen again, and amidst the renewed discussion (and diatribe) that the 3D theatrical release has instigated. Of course, we all know that The Phantom Menace is widely considered a disappointment, if not a disaster, among fanboys and many film critics. What if it's not though?

Three Reasons:

1. Liam Neeson is great as Qui-Gon Jinn. Neeson provides a strong, perceptive, and slightly-amused centre to the film, as Qui-Gon is the character who links all the others, and the narrative, together. Neeson is always committed and convincing, whether he's counseling Obi-Wan or negotiating with the fluttering blue alien, Watto.

2. The politics resonate. Usually dismissed as tedious or unnecessary, the political observations the film makes and the machinations depicted in it actually speak to the times we live in. For example, Senator Palpatine informs Queen Amidala about the state of the Republic: "There is no stability: only politics . . . The senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates. There is no interest in the common good." As a Canadian, I recognize the ineffectual legislature and stifling bureaucracy only too well.

3. The action sequences are both impressive and comprehensible. As the final three intertwined battles demonstrate, George Lucas's film is elegantly composed and skillfully edited. Similarly, the pod race is visceral yet easy to follow on the big screen, and the rousing Duel of the Fates is probably one of the best sword fights in movie history.

So, what do you think?