In Defense "The Phantom Menace" (Sort Of)

In Defense "The Phantom Menace" (Sort Of)

"Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" is much maligned among most "Star Wars Fans", but does it deserve the massive levels of negativity from fans?
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Like most "Star Wars" fans, I do not look kindly upon the "Prequel Trilogy". Like many, the Prequels led to a long period of disappointment and embarrassment for anyone who identified themselves as a "Star Wars" fan. The film that kicked off these feelings was the first of the Prequels; "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace". No other film in the "Prequel Trilogy" has received as much hate as "The Phantom Menace". The massive disappointing reception from both critics and fans led to an almost constant feeling of cynicism and bitterness that still surrounds the release of "Star Wars" movies to this day (trust me, I've seen these fans hate a "Star Wars" product before they've even seen it). It is clear that "The Phantom Menace" is a film that lives in pure infamy, but does it deserve to?

Make no mistake, this is not going to be one of those self-righteous contrarian articles saying "'The Phantom Menace' is actually a good movie". In all honesty, "The Phantom Menace" is not a good movie and it isn't good for all of the reasons that several people like Mr. Plinkett have pointed out; It has sloppy story structure, poorly written dialog, wooden acting, Jar-Jar, reliance of style over substance, Jar-Jar, poor child actors, overused CGI that's aged poorly, too many boring political meetings, Jar-Jar, and did I mention Jar-Jar Binks.

However, my biggest issue with the Prequels was how they managed to suck all of the mystery and fantasy elements that made me interested in the series as a child (for example, why was it necessary for us to know about midichlorians, Lucas? The Force is supposed to be mysterious and spiritual in nature). But, looking back on it, I can't bring myself to hate this film like most "Star Wars" fans do and that's because I was able to find elements within the film that are of genuine quality.

For instance, I really enjoyed the lightsaber fight between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul. I know the fight isn't as emotionally engaging as the fights in the "Original Trilogy" due to us not knowing the heroes well and not knowing the villain at all (seriously! he's only in the film for almost fifteen minutes and he only has two or three lines). But the fight is well choreographed and paced to one of the best pieces of "Star Wars" music ever written; "Duel of the Fates". In fact, I can say that this is the best lightsaber duel in the "Prequel Trilogy" because it is mostly grounded and doesn't go over-the-top with ridiculous flips and moves (like the lightsaber fights in "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith" did).

I can also say that the production design for "The Phantom Menace" was very spot on. The effects actually look really good. Yes, a lot of the CGI hasn't held up well over time *cough* Jar-Jar *cough*, but a lot of the practical effects still do. I also like how this was one of the last "Star Wars" films to use a lot of practical effects; like model ships and locations, practical sets, location shooting, and aliens made with makeup and masks (things we wouldn't see again until "The Force Awakens").

The film also includes great sound design, as well as the previously mentioned quality of the score (but when it's John Williams scoring your movie are you that surprised). While you can argue that this is a textbook case of style over substance (and you'd be right), at least the style is of a high enough quality to be fun to look at.

This brings me to one of the best things to have come from not only "The Phantom Menace", but the Prequels in general; the worlds. The worlds presented in "The Phantom Menace" are unique and some of the most creative in the "Star Wars" universe. From the Mediterranean architecture and underwater bubble cities of Naboo to the city-planet that is Coruscant, these planets display a vast universe with various cultures and alien species.

It ultimately helps the galaxy feel larger and varied. While the Originals were limited by the budget and technology of their time, the worlds in the Prequels feel truly alien. While there are some fans who didn't like the clean and shiny worlds (mostly because "Star Wars" had always visually distinguished itself from most sci-fi films through a "used universe" that was grimy, dirty, gritty, and felt lived in and somewhat real), I don't mind this change. I always thought it did a good job of visually emphasizing a prettier and happier era before the Empire took over.

Even after everything I just said I still don't consider "The Phantom Menace" a good film, but I don't feel like it's the terrible disaster that most "Star Wars" fans make it out to be. I don't even think it's the worst "Star Wars" film ever made. That title still belongs to "Attack of the Clone" (mostly because, even as a kid, I thought the story and characters were bad... like... why doesn't Uncle Owen recognize C-3PO if he owned 3PO for years in the past!). If you want to know more about my opinions on "Attack of the Clones" go here.

So why do so many people hate "The Phantom Menace" more than "Attack of the Clones"? It mostly has to do with hype and disappointment. While I don't consider "The Phantom Menace" the worst "Star Wars" film, it is the most disappointing.

Fans had been waiting almost twenty years for a new "Star Wars" movie and the hype surrounding the "return of Star Wars" was so massive that it, in retrospect, had almost no chance to live up to the hype. Take that and mix it with the overall mediocre quality of the film and it led to a disappointment so large that it has still left traces of unhealthy cynicism and hyperbolic hate within the fandom to this day. I'm not asking that everyone start liking this massively flawed film.

I'm just sick of the hyperbolic hate that continues to emanate from a film that is below average at worst, which has led to the creation of a massive toxicity problem within the "Star Wars" fandom (but that's a topic for another day). I hope that this article has shown that even films as flawed as "The Phantom Menace" still have some qualities worth mentioning.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.
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When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...

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"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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