Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
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“God is dead”
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Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was an elaborate practical joke pulled off by film director and notable prankster George Lucas. His inspired conceit was to make the worst film possibly imaginable and release it as part of the Star Wars series which, up to that point, had been at least marginally awesome.
Believe it or not, The Phantom Menace was not the first time Lucas pulled a trick on Star Wars fans. Many years previously he had made the movie The Return Of The Jedi, as the final film in the series. "I thought it would be hilarious to ruin the climactic feel of the movie by introducing some sort of incredibly irritating creature who would dominate the last 30 or so minutes," he says in an interview, chuckling, "So that's when I came up with the Ewok." For the three or four readers here who haven't seen the film, Ewoks are possibly the most preposterous creatures ever put on screen. Picture the telletubbies, except instead of 4, there's an Army of them. Yeah. Seriously. Lucas thought it would be hilarious to introduce these oversized gerbils and watch the reactions to the fans, who he clearly thought would be devastated. Unfortunately, many fans loved the ewoks, even after they sang the most irritating song ever written at the end of the series. "Well," Lucas reportedly said, "Ruining the end of the story clearly wasn't good enough. At least I still have time to ruin the beginning!"
Writing and production
Lucas thought it would be immensely difficult to pull off his scheme, but to his shock, 20th Century Fox gave him a million dollar contract the minute he walked back into the building. He used much of this money to hire a group of the world's finest writers. The writers collaborated on a mindblowingly awesome script. Lucas used this script for rolling paper to smoke pot with as he wrote his own script. His first idea was Jar Jar Binks, a creature even more annoying than the ewoks. Lucas originally wanted to make Jar Jar the film's only character and only introduce Anakin Skywalker in the last five minutes of the film. However, his agent talked him out of this. Lucas did, however, make sure that at least half of the movie's playtime would be devoted solely to shots of Jar Jar falling down, blowing things up, and performing other two-year-old pleasing antics. After the script was written, Lucas re-released the original Star Wars films about 15 times so he could raise enough money to make the new film. Once enough funds were raised, Lucas hired several excellent actors and bludgeoned them in the head until they had forgotten how to act properly. He explained his reasoning in a recent interview: "You see, if I had hired actors who were notable for sucking, people would actually EXPECT a crappy movie! But if I hired actors notable for awesomeness such as Samuel L. Jackson, people would actually expect a decent film. Thereby making it far more hilarious to watch their reactions."
The film centers around a young Obi Wan Kenobi and his master, Qui Gin Cocktail (or Qui Gon on gin). The first twenty minutes of the film consist of one super-extended scene in which the two Jedi fight off an army of animated robots who look about as threatening as toaster ovens (interestingly enough, the two Jedi Knights actually did fight a toaster oven in the original script, though Lucas changed it at the last minute). Of course, there were those two bad-ass rolling ones that were all like [crap imitation laser sound] and the guys just run off like the cowardly bastards they are. Then, they go down to a planet called Naboo for no apparent reason, where they meet Jar Jar Binks, some sort of large, orange amphibian with a voice like Elmo on some sort of mind altering substance. Over the course of the next hour and a half, Jar Jar falls over, bumps into things, makes funny faces, and runs around while zany kazoo music plays in the background. Then, in the climactic scene of the film, Obi Wan and Gin Cocktail fight the villainous Darth Mole for 45 minutes straight, Gin Cocktail is stabbed, and Darth Mole pulls a Sean Bean & is chopped in two in a "Strangely hilarious" scene. Then, the credits roll. It is only after the credits that George Lucas appears on scene and explains, "This film is actually a joke. I wanted to see what would happen if I released the worst movie imaginable under the name of "Star Wars." APRIL FOOLS!!! HAHAHAHHA!" However, few audiences make it to this point, as most have either left the theater, fallen asleep, or killed themselves.
Star Wars, Episode I joined Freddy Got Fingered and Showgirls as one of the most badly reviewed movies in cinema history. As one critic pointed out: "The only redeeming factor in this film is the fact that Natalie Portman is kinda cute. But she's barely in it. Thankfully, that little boy who plays Anakin is on screen a LOT, and he's pretty cute too...oh, that glistening little boy's skin fills me with PASSION!" The rest of the review is illegal in most countries, so it will not be duplicated here. Some critics gave it slightly more positive reviews, such as one reviewer who said, "Aside from the lack plot, proper character development, coherence, setting, or dialogue of any kind, it was decent. I liked the credits!" Roger Ebert gave it a five star review for being "Easy to sleep through."
Several months after Lucas made the first movie, he was asked if he'd consider remaking it as an actual movie, but Lucas said, "Of course not! If you want to watch a real Star Wars movie, go re-watch the first one! I'm making prequels as a joke, remember, so I can laugh at people who take them seriously, and so I can make as much money as possible so I'll be able to drag Harrison Ford out of the retirement home for another five Indiana Jones movies." In many countries, Episode I of Star Wars has been outright banned due to its tendency to cause vomiting amongst fans of the original series. These countries are also expected to ban the next prequel, episode II, which actually caused several angry fans to burst into flames to the amusement of Mr. Lucas.