The last time I watched this was around 10 years ago when it came out in 3D. I went out to the theatres, naively hoping if it got enough financial support, George might get around to re-releasing the original trilogy. (That did not pan out.)

I walked out in the middle of the third act, angry I’d wasted my money.

After Rise of Skywalker came out, I thought to myself, Surely the prequels weren’t as bad as this, right?” It took a year and a half, but I am finally getting around to re-watching all these movies with a new perspective. 

Honestly, The Phantom Menace isn’t as bad as I remembered.

It’s bad, don’t get me wrong. There’s too much politicking, and the politics don’t make much sense. It’s fascinating to see Lucas try and grapple with organized religion and the state as a concept for his sci-if adventure, and it doesn’t work. (I really do think Rian Johnson would do a better job of pulling some of that off with The Last Jedi.) Jake Lloyd doesn’t work (and I don’t think it’s Jake’s fault). Jar Jar is so annoying, but Ahmed Best really gives it everything he’s got.

It’s also hard not to imagine the myriad of ways this film, or this trilogy, could have been better — could have been good. I wish that Liam Neeson was Obi-Wan, and that Ewan was Anakin, and that we had just glossed right over the whole childhood story. 

So I’m not saying this is good.

But I am saying it’s better than Rise of Skywalker, which was corporatized and sanitized and entirely bereft of ideas. George Lucas was at least trying things here, even if they don’t work out at all.

It’s also not boring, at least most of the time. Parts of this are kind of fun. The podrace sequence is pretty good. The lightsaber duels are good. The weird alien creatures and general world building is all great. The film sounds amazing (although the Blu-ray’s visual fidelity leaves much to be desired).

Obviously, this is a dumpster fire next to the originals. But I’ve seen way worse.

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