The Final Countdown!

So here we are. At long last we’re about to see some full fledged Jedi take on an honest to darkside sith lord in his prime. This is what Star Wars fans have been waiting for, this is why we bought the ticket. Jeepers H. Cookies! This guy has a double bladed lightsabre! This is going to be AWESOME. Oh wait, we’ve just cut back to Anakin sitting in his cockpit trying to figure out the controls so he can “help”.

Funny, He had no problem identifying the controls in the Naboo cruiser, and now suddenly the fighter is a total fucking mystery? And he can’t find the trigger? He keeps pressing buttons that do stuff like starting his ship’s launch sequence and closing his canopy before finaly finding the trigger, and look at that, it’s on the fucking joystick, right where you’d expect the trigger to be. Bravo Anakin, you sure are a wunderkind.

Anakin blows away the destroyer droids as his ship prepares to take off, leaving the queen and her posse free to head to the throne room. I love that no one cares that a 9 year old boy has just flown away in a star fighter. He’ll be fine I’m sure, he’s pretty worldly for a slave child from the asshole of the universe. Too bad he didn’t have an Artoo unit with him, it surely could have easily shut down the launch sequence… oh wait. I hate you George.

Finally we’re back to the big booyah! This sequence is thoroughly awesome. Ray Park as Darth Maul is everything I wanted from a Sith lord, totally bad ass, totally in control. The Fight is amazing, with very few false notes to pull you out of the action. Every so often you get an unnatural arc on a jump or other such telltale signs of wire work, but for the most part this duel is sweet like candy.

It’s also an excellent example of why the Jedi suck. Here’s Darth Maul, and he’s kicking ass with his lightsabre, but that’s not all, because he’s also using the force to throw thing, open doors, push his opponents, he’s kicking them in the face when the opportunity arises. In short, Darth Maul fights like he has a brain. The Jedi seem to be locked in to the “sabre only” combat mode. They forget they have the fucking force! This is a problem the Jedi will have throughout the entire series unfortunately.

It’s also worthwhile at this point to mention music. John Williams score for Episode I felt mostly phoned it. It was boring, cutesy and more than a little repetitive. Rumour on the net is that Williams actually sent Lucas a letter disowning the score as it appears in the final cut of the film. You see, back in the day Williams would compose to locked in scenes. His music would flow, uninterrupted, through the whole scene. It was all designed to gel together. Now, Lucas and his team are editing the music, chopping it up to fit and cutting it wherever they want. The result is that there’s no musical flow or continuity to the prequels like there was in the OT.

The duel is an excellent example of this very problem. The music for the duel, entitled “Duel of the Fates” is awesome, best piece of the movie, best of the prequels, easily on par and as iconic as “The Imperial March”. So what does Lucas do, he chops up the scene, interrupting the music so we can peek in on Amidala and her dumbass squad as they fight there way through those useless battle droids. And then we’ll cut to space to follow the space battle, which has an entirely different piece of music which is totally uninspired and lifeless. And then back to the plains of Naboo for the Gungan battle. The full version of duel of the fates is glorious, and the sequence should have flowed uninterrupted. I understand where George was going, he wanted the same kind of editing that made the Battle at Endor so bombastic and exciting. The problem is only 1 of the sequences in this section of the film is the least bit interesting or exciting. Cutting to the others just slows down the movie and bore the audience. And of course the music for the battle of Endor flowed, not like this mess.

We’ve been pulled out of the duel once agin to see scenes of the other battles, which are weak. Anakin in his fighter is so painfully bad as to be unwatchable. The lines are terrible, the delivery is wooden and the action dull. The queen’s journey throught he palace is lame, and then becomes ridiculous with the introduction of “ascension guns”. What the hell? is this suddenly Batman? What possible reason could this group have for carrying ascension guns with them? Sigh.

Back to the duel, Darth Maul is kicking the Jedi’s ass. The setting is totally ridiculous and full of lens flares with no apparent source, but the lightsabre action is sweet. And then we get to the laser doors. The hell? Apparently the Theed power plant was built by a video game designer. These laser doors open, letting Qui-Gon and Maul duel down the corridor and then for no reason at all, they close, trapping our players in different sections. These doors serve no purpose other than to prolong the duel, and that’s just sloppy writing.

So we leave our Jedi in their video game-esque predicament and check in on Jar Jar, huzzah. Jar Jar still sucks, and he sucks even worse in a battle. Now, I’m an animator and that means that, by law, I am required to love slapstick. However, the slapstick chicanery in this battle sequence is enough to turn my stomach. It’s retarded. Jar Jar is retarded. The Gungans are a huge factor in what ruins this movie. Remove the Gungans and suddenly the movie is significantly better.

Meanwhile, back in the palace the Queen has been captured… again. And up in space Anakin is screaming in a very unconvincing manner, and has somehow crashed landed his fighter inside the droid control ship. Luckily we cut back to the duel right away and things can get good again.

Maul is pacing like a caged tiger, that’s cool. Qui-gon is meditating, that’s lame. Obi-wan is waiting, sabre at the ready, much better than meditating. The laser doors open for no reason and the fight is back on. Qui-gon and Maul are duelling away, and Obi is hauling ass down that laser corridor. Uh oh, the laser doors have closed again! It’s too bad Obi couldn’t have used the force to somehow run faster. Oh wait, He can! They did exactly that at the beginning of the movie to escape the destroyer droids! Too bad Obi forgot he was a Jedi, because Qui-gon is about to buy the moisture farm.

The duel that leads to Qui-gon’s death is pretty weak. Qui-gon goes down like a punk. At least we get a believably anguished cry from Obi-wan to sell the scene. And now, back to the Gungans! Jar Jar has surrendered to the droid army, I hope they reward him with a summary execution. Meanwhile in the palace the Queen and her group have been brought to the trace Viceroy to sign the treaty, but luckily her double shows up with some more soldiers and takes some pot shots at the Viceroy, convincing him that he’s not captured the queen, but rather her decoy. How deliciously ironic George, you’re so clever! The queen and her crew instantly turn the tables on their captors in the confusion and Hooray, they’ve captured the Viceroy! Now the droid army will be useless, because he was totally directing the battle. Oh no wait, he wasn’t doing jack shit. Whoops, there goes that plan.

FINALLY, we’re back at the duel. Obi-wan is looking pretty upset about the death of his master. Maul is looking smug. It’s great. And as soon as those laser doors open this movie turns into a shit-storm of fast and furious lightsabre action! This is the cheese my friends. This is what we’ve been waiting for ever since we first laid eyes on a lightsabre oh so many decades ago. This duel is the reason to watch this movie. And like every other good moment in this film it’s over all too soon as Obi-wan is defeated because Maul actually uses the force while Jedi just use their sabres. Maul pushes Obi down a pit where he gets a precarious hand hold and Maul tosses Obi’s lightsabre down the shaft, leaving our hero defenceless.

Okay, who’s ready for more Anakin? Tough, we get to go visit him now anyway. His dialogue is beyond terrible and for reasons beyond me, George decided that Anakin saving the day was an accident. He accidently sends a volley into just the right reactor or whatever to blow up the whole ship. He even says “Whoops” afterwards. Pretty much robs the act of any significance whatsoever. And now the Gungans are free because without the control ship the droids all shut down. I tell ya, these battle droids? A masterpiece of design and function.

Back to Obi and Maul. Obi get’s that look on his face like he’s just clued in to the fact that he has the freakin’ force on his side. Maul looks suspicious, and then Obi launches himself out of the pit and in a terribly done wirefu flip over Maul he snatches his fallen master’s lightsabre with the force and cuts Maul in half before he realizes what’s going on. I don’t buy it, Maul isn’t that stupid. Here’s what really happened kids. George created Darth Maul, and he was instantly way cooler and scarier than Vader ever was. He was in serious Danger of overshadowing Vader as THE bad guy. So, he has to go down like a punk, to assure Vader’s throne remains unchallenged. Weak sauce.

Qui-gon’s death scene is short and understated and probably the finest piece of emotional acting in the whole of the prequels. Obi-wan’s pain at the loss of his master is entirely believable and moving. It’s a shame the rest of the film didn’t have acting of this calibre.

And so, the trade federation is defeated, the Jedi council and the newly elected Chancellor Palpatine arrive and attend Qui-gon’s funeral. We get a moment with Palpatine where he tells Anakin he will be watching his career with great interest, just in case there was anyone in the theatre who didn’t realize he’s the evil Sith lord. Yoda makes Obi a full on Jedi Knight and grudgingly allows Obi to take Anakin as his apprentice. Crazy. Later at the funeral Yoda and Windu have a little about Sith and we learn about the totally ridiculous “rule of two”, apparently there is only ever a master and an apprentice. What an excellent system.

Finally the film raps up with obligatory celebration scene with marching Gungans and lame ass music. The queen gives Boss Nass a glowing ball and the Boss yells out “PEACE!”. I guess the Gungans and the Naboo were at war? This of course goes against the queen’s stance at the beginning of the movie about not condoning a course of action that would lead them to war. But what do I know? We get a final shot of all our surviving heroes, just like we do at the end of every Star Wars movie annnnnd… CREDITS.

Thank the Force it’s finally over.

So that’s it kids, Episode I. Thanks for reading, I apologize for wasting valuable hours of your life. Will I do a review of the other 2? Possibly. But not for a good long while I expect. I hereby wash my hands of episode I. good night everybody.

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~ by Pagz on October 3, 2008.

2 Responses to “The Final Countdown!”

  1. I think the movie would have been better if they’d waited for The Blue Fairy to turn Jake Lloyd into a real boy before they filmed his scenes.

  2. And Episodes II and III would’ve been a WHOLE lot better is they’d waited for Jake Lloyd to turn into a real man before they filmed his scenes, rather than using the laughably bad Hayden Christensen…

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