Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Production Budget: $115,000,000.
Domestic Total Gross: $431,088,295
Domestic Lifetime Gross: $474,544,677
The first episode of the prequel had some great actors setting the story for what would be the tone of the trilogy. We were introduced to the Jedi in a way we had yet to see before – in their prime. We saw the trickery of the Sith before they were in power. We saw the worlds as they were meant to be seen in the mind’s eye come to life in vivid colors and masterful imagery. I think the portrayal of the Star Wars universe was damned near perfect. And it all falls apart with the introduction of – Anakin Skywalker.
In my opinion they tried entirely too hard to show the audience how special he was (The virgin birth really puts it over the top). While I don’t think the midichlorians are a result of Anakin’s story it becomes all the more offensive by association. What makes it worse is I believe that the casting of Jake Lloyd was perfect based on the look of the character. Jake Lloyd LOOKED like he had some anger Management issues – but they never gave him dialog or scenes in which he could show that anger. The failure in this respect was not the poor performance we saw, it is the poor writing the character was given.
When I envision a young Darth Vader (of course assuming I know he turns out to be the evil ruler of the galaxy), I envision a character more along the lines of the one played by Pierce Gagnon (Cid) in the movie Looper (which has its own set of problems, but I am not here to talk about that now). That little boy was disturbed and angry and he acted out. You could SEE the potential for evil in his character. Young Anakin Skywalker was simply too good and too fanciful a character and did not fit into the Mythos of Darth Vader. They gave him a story line in which he gets to save the day – TWICE. It appears to me that they tried to force him into the role of Luke Skywalker, which was completely unnecessary.
What Would I do differently?
First of all I would have completely changed the story of Anakin’s background. I would have made his father an unknown, but hinted that he could have been a Jedi. I would have made the character less well adapted to his situation as a slave. And I would have killed his mother off in the first movie and have him see it happen. How they killed her off was fine, but it should have happened at a younger age to plant the seeds of anger and hatred.
I also would have focused more on the relationship between Qui Gon and Obi Wan. I would have written their relationship a little more abrasive than it was and Kenobi as far less submissive. The death of Qui Gon and the subsequent battle with Darth Maul should have been a flirtation with the Dark Side that Obi Wan overcomes, akin to the moment where Luke gives into his anger to defeat Vader in Episode VI. Kenobi should have had more flaws – a trait that made Qui Gon such an interesting character as a Jedi. This movie had all the right elements to give it the potential to be a great Star Wars film. Its failure is in the delivery.
In my next installment I’ll tackle Episode II: Attack of the The Clones. Stay Tuned!