The Silver Lining… Episode I: The Phantom Mess, I Mean, Menace

What’s that old saying?  Time heals all wounds.  Well, time might not heal all, but it sure can heal some.

Over the weekend, I went to the show to see the re-issue of Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D, and you know what?  It wasn’t as bad as I remembered, and here’s why:

1) It has two of the best characters in all the prequel story lines.

Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn, which translates to "Half Slice" and "Hole in Chest"

I always maintained that Liam Neeson brought a gravity to the Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn that Ewan McGregor never could to his Obi-Wan Kenobi.  I still don’t know if it’s his size, voice, or demeanor, but when Qui-Gon defies the Jedi Council to stand by his belief that Anakin is The Chosen One, his conviction is convincing.  Everything in the Star Wars universe we know and love hinges on his gut feelings, and we buy (and buy and buy) into it, too.

As for Darth Maul – once a bad-ass, always a bad-ass… until he falls down a pit like other fan favorite, Boba Fett.

2) Jake Lloyd is a much more tolerable Actor! than Hayden Christensen.

If he says "wizards" one more time!

Notice I didn’t say “better.”  He’s a kid, for Yoda’s sake.  What am I gonna do?  Ridicule him like how… he… will… eventually… kill a bunch of Padawans?  I also think this video existing helps his situation:

3) Jar Jar Binks wasn’t as jarring.

He's wearing Pajarjars.

I’ve come to Jar Jar Binks’ defense before (or at least George Lucas’ decision to include him), so it was no big surprise to me that this time around, he hardly annoyed me.  That’s probably because he was a big surprise in the first place, much like the Midi-chlorian debacle (which was nowadays just as negligible).

4) Were there more practical effects and sets in Episode I?

Seemed like it to me.  To all you non-film school students, practical effects means “it’s really there.”  Episode II and III relied heavily on CGI, whereas this one went partially old-school, and the look of the film benefits greatly.  Palpatine’s senate office looks real when he’s in it; Anakin’s Podracer and Naboo Starfighter look real when he’s in them.

There was an article I read (that I don’t feel like looking for) that stated mixing CGI and practical effects tricks the mind much better.  That’s why Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs were so convincing for early CGI.  It even explains why Ray Harryhausen’s clay figures can mess with us – they really exist.

Now I’m not knocking CGI in lieu of practical effects either, and here’s proof:

"There is no try... only do-over."

(For the flip side of this Silver Lining, check out this article on Time Magazine’s site.)

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