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Star Wars Geek Off!: Top 5 reasons why “The Phantom Menace” is the best of the Star Wars Prequels

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“The Phantom Menace” Movie Poster (LucasFilm Ltd.)

What’s this thing where everybody wants to throw down with me all of a sudden?  First one of my geek buddies gets all over me when I say that Jon Hamm wouldn’t make a very good Superman; and now I’ve got Marcus LeShock of WGN-TV gettin’ up in my grill over the Star Wars prequels?

Seriously, people, you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Well, since Mr. Leshock appears to be suffering from delusions of grandeur, let me set him straight on which chapter in the Prequel Trilogy was the best of the three, and that would be…

Episode One: The Phantom Menace!

What? You don’t believe me? Think I’ve taken a few too many Force FX lightsaber shots to the head? Well, just hold on to those tomatoes you’re getting ready to fling folks, while I make my case for one of the most derided chapters in the Star Wars saga…

Read more after the jump!


Top 5 Reasons The Phantom Menace is the BEST film of the Star Wars Prequels

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Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Best Story: Of the three prequel films, Episode One:The Phantom Menace is the only one that truly succeeds in accomplishing what it sets out to do.  Where Attack of the Clones was supposed to sell us on the Anakin/Padme romance it failed miserably; and Revenge of the Sith was supposed to explain why Anakin would fall to the Dark Side of the Force and was equally ineffective.  It fell upon TPM to introduce us to all the principal characters and put the pieces in place for the rest of the trilogy.  We are introduced to a young Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn; Queen Amidala and a young Anakin Skywalker; Senator Palpatine and his devious alter ego Darth Sidious; and we even get to see the first meeting of R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Sure, it gave us Jar Jar Binks, but remember, Lucas didn’t create Jar Jar for the 30-40- somethings who grew up on Star Wars, but the new generation of fans he hoped to inspire with his new trilogy.  While most adults hated him, kids actually liked him. So cool your turbo-thrusters, nerds.

TPM had the toughest task placed upon it, setting up a story that millions had been waiting for decades to hear told, and it did exactly that. Now, while the punchline for the prequels would fall short in ROTS, you can’t fault TPM for that.


Best Score
: When John Williams wrote the score for TPM, he created some of the most memorable pieces of the prequels.  “Anakin’s Theme” was a sweet meloncholy arrangement that cleverly segued into a variation of the “Imperial March”, forshadowing the young boy’s eventual fall into darkness. The epic “Duel of the Fates”, which played across the multi-layered narrative that was the climax of TPM would be revisited in ROTS and remains the most memorable musical piece of the prequels.

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Ray Park as Darth Maul in Episode One: The Phantom Menace (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Best Villain: Of all the prequels, TPM would have what has to be
considered the best villain in Darth Maul.  Think about it?  Who did we
get for AOTC? Um. Count Dooku? Seriously? That sounds like something an
infant leaves in their diaper.  (Why nobody ever referred to him by his badass Sith name, Darth Tyrannus is beyond me.) And who was the major baddie in ROTS
after Dooku — um — lost his head at the hands of Anakin Skywalker?
General Grievious, a multi-limbed psuedo-Vader with an annoying case of
whooping cough.  Let’s face it, for the 20 minutes or so that he
appeared in TPM, Darth Maul pwnd those other Star Wars prequel bad guys.

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Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) & Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) in Episode One: The Phantom Menace (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Best Couple: Forget Padme and Anakin, or even Anakin and Obi-Wan, the most convincing ‘couple’ of the prequels was Qui-Gon Jinn ad Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Played with a wise serenity, Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon was a calming influence on the hot-headed Kenobi, as played by Ewan McGregor.   I bought that these two had a history together and had shared many adventures.  And the tragic death of Qui-Gon at the end of the film proved that even Jedi can cry.

Best Box-Office
: For those who need empirical evidence as to whether TPM was the best of the prequels, I’ll just use the most money = most successful = best movie formula.  According to BoxOfficeMojo.com TPM ranks at #7 among the all-time box-office champions (with a domestic gross of over 430 million dollars) putting it just behind E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.  The first Star Wars film, A New Hope, ranks at #4 with just over 460 million dollars in total domestic box-office receipts.)

Now don’t get me wrong, when it comes to comparing the prequels to the classic trilogy, there’s just no contest.  Episodes IV-VI will always reign supreme in this Star Wars geek’s heart.  But I think it’s time to appreciate the effort of the the folks who created that galaxy far, far away.  And to accept that for all it’s faults, The Phantom Menace was the best of the three.

And while Marcus Leshock will tell you that Revenge of the Sith was the best for all it’s SFX and Ian McDiarmid’s performance (which got him an Oscar nom, btw) the story falls apart at the most crucial time in the film.  Why does Anakin turn to the Dark Side?  Because he doesn’t want to lose Padme? Well if he’s so concerned about losing her, why does he force choke her to unconsciousness when he KNOWS SHE’S CARRYING HIS CHILD!?  And why does Padme die at the end?  The medical droid tell Obi-Wan that Padme is perfectly healthy and yet appears to have ‘lost her will to live’. WTF?  Those are story elements that just kill the whole climax of the film and spoil the resolution of the prequels. And as I said before, you can’t fault The Phantom Menace for that.

So, what do YOU think? Am I crazy? Should I turn in my Star Wars Fan card?  Tell me what you think!  Comment here or let me know on Twitter or on my Facebook Page.

And may the Force be with you!