Shaking Our Fists at the Sun:
Why Star Wars Sucks

By Walid Habboub

May 15, 2002

Not even Xena is a match for the double-edged lightsaber from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace!

Included below is unequivocal evidence that the movie franchise known as Star Wars absolutely sucks - or it does now, anyway - so beware for you might not like what you hear. You see, I never thought that Star Wars sucked until the release of Phantom Menace just about three years ago, when mild anticipation turned into utter disappointment. And the reason that disappointment turned to hatred is because the film managed not only to fail miserably, but it also managed to undermine everything that the previous trilogy had built. But before we go on to the ultimate dissection of where the franchise is now, we absolutely have to look at what made Star Wars cool in the first place.

The Good Stuff

Excuse me if I use a big word here, and I hope I've spelled it right, but the bottom-line reason that Star Wars was cool is the juxtaposition (no red squiggly line means I typed it right. In your face, spellcheck! Hmmm, red squiggly line under spellcheckā€¦damn.) within its many themes and different cinematic aspects. The contrast between religion and technology, future and past, power and restraint are all reasons why the Star Wars story was interesting. These were themes that blended so well with some truly exciting action scenes to produce some of the best popcorn films of all time.

The most appealing part of the original trilogy was the existence of The Force, a biblical quality that bound all living things and made them equal. The presence of The Force contrasted so well with a story set in space and centered on space fighters and laser swords. The Force grounded the films and made them accessible to audiences who might have been alienated by an out-there story.

Beyond that, the movies didn't take themselves too seriously and were just plain old fun. The action drove the story, and the plot was merely background filler that served mainly to lead up to the next great action scene. The story was simple and straightforward: Get the droids to the rebel base so that the Death Star can be destroyed. This premise alone led to some incredibly fun action sequences.

So the brilliance of the original films is in how simple they were, though we can't dismiss simplicity as not being clever. The stories were delivered with a wink and a nudge, but still contained enough themes and tones to seduce a viewer. There is a reason that Star Wars has such an incredibly large fan-base, and that is because the movies had magic and charm. In the their simplicity and straightforward execution, they won audiences over. In their lighthearted and adventurous tone, they thrilled everyone. In everything, they captured people's imagination and universally endured.

The Bad Stuff

Forget that The Phantom Menace was a horrendous movie in almost every way possible. Its true downfall is how it undermined everything that the original trilogy had set up; it betrayed everything that the fans had come to know and love about the Star Wars mythos...OK, maybe we won't forget that Phantom Menace was a horrible film.

Yes, the movie was bad. The most frustrating thing about the film was how obvious it was that it was created to sell toys. Take the pod-race scene, for example; there is a 20-minute set-up to this scene that is built around telling us that there is absolutely no way that the good guys would leave this planet unless the pod race was won by little Anakin. First off, it does not take 20 minutes to communicate this message; it takes about five, eight if you're being long-winded. Secondly, the set-up was so do-or-die that there was no question about whether or not the good guys were going to win. And with the fact that this was a race, there was only one way to reach the goal. So essentially, we have 25-30 minutes of set-up for - and small demo of - the next Star Wars video game. An utter waste of time and story.

The pod-race scene is not to be singled out here. Most of the action scenes carried no weight whatsoever. Obi-Wan and friends being chased by a giant underwater worm was really just an extension of the giant space worm from a previous storyline, and it served absolutely no purpose but to be a mediocre action scene. And I still don't understand why Jar Jar and friends had to fight those robots, other than for the sake of passing time.

And don't get me started on Jar Jar, cause I don't think I could say anything that hasn't already been said. Suffice to say the most disappointing thing about Jar Jar is that Lucas decided to flip fans the bird and included him in Attack of the Clones

The most disappointing aspect of the film as a whole was the fact that it tried to be a political thriller, something that no one was expecting nor wanted. The purpose of the inclusion of this story is puzzling. Not only was it overly complicated and somewhat contrived, but it is also unnecessary, seeing as how most everyone knows to what outcome the plotline will lead. Regardless, the complicated story made it difficult to follow the film; more accurately, sheer and utter boredom, coupled with a complicated story, made it difficult to follow the film. And yes, you are reading correctly that I'm saying that the film was both too complicated and not complicated enough. Some scenes were just jam-packed with plot, while others just moseyed along at a snail's pace.

The movie just did not work, and if you think it did, you are deluding yourself. The drop from Darth Vader to Darth Maul was the least of the drop-offs. What didn't help the film is the amount of anticipation around it and the fact that in the end, it delivered a hackneyed, convoluted script that was surrounded by recycled, overly-glossed action scenes. The film doesn't stand on its own, but also brings down the rest of the franchise with it

The Really, Really Bad Stuff

Again, the worst part of Phantom Menace is how it totally messed up the entire Star Wars mythos and everything that made Star Wars interesting.

The first and most glaring and painful mistake Menace made was that it screwed with The Force. You do not mess with The Force, simple as that. But not only did Lucas mess with The Force, he undermined any sort of credibility it ever had. In what could only be described as a light-years-step back, The Force went from a deeply spiritual and haunting presence to another sci-fi shtick. And this was not only done once, it was done twice, as if the dead horse wasn't dead enough. So we find out that the power of The Force is dependant on how many Medicrapiolas you have in your blood and this destroys the idea that any person with a strong will and strong heart can tap into it, and we are shocked; THEN, we find out that some beings are actually immune to the power of The Force, and our previously-ripped-out hearts are thrown to the ground and stomped on repeatedly. Extremely uncool, George. Uncool.

Along with this, the franchise has become too advanced for its own good. Gone is the grandeur of seeing the giant ships powering through space and in place of the slick, textured feel of chrome vessels. The realness is gone and has been replaced with pretty pictures that are hollow and meaningless. Star Wars now seems much too wrapped up in creating an attractive world than it is in telling a compelling story. The pretty actors walk around saying air-headed things and delivering lines much like 4x4s would. Though you can't really blame the actors, as they haven't been given much to work with here and thusly haven't been able to create memorable characters. New characters like Qui-Gon Jing, Mace Windu and Jar Jar Binks are forgettable at best and murderous rage-inducing at worst. This all contributes to the franchise turning into a shallow-yet-pretty thing whose success can only be contributed to the adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

May Whatever The Force Has Become Be with You

This is all said partially out of love, but mostly out of frustration. By no means am I a rabid Star Wars fan; however, I did enjoy the original trilogy and feel that The Phantom Menace was a very effort to the point of it being insulting. Of course, what doesn't help is George Lucas' constant preaching about how releasing his movies isn't about the money but about the love of movies while seeing the last two films reduced to two-hour marketing campaigns. The magic is gone, the love is gone and the wonder is gone. With this franchise more than any other, it is truly a sad thing, seeing as how many people it touched. At the very least, we know that we can always go back and watch the first trilogy and enjoy how much fun they were.


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