Zombieland Double Tap Review

The first Zombieland was great fun and came out of nowhere. I remember seeing it and being completely surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. It was quirky, funny, and had the 4 main characters had great chemistry. It was also 2009, and by 2014 I had just naturally assumed there wasn’t going to be a sequel. However, 10 years later, we have the next part of the story and once again I am going in with absolutely no idea of what to expect. 

The core cast are all back, with Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, who has noticeably grown up over the last 10 years while the other 3 look remarkably like how they did in the first one. It’s like they haven’t aged a day, but then Woody Harrelson has looked like he does now for as long as I have known of him, so I guess it makes sense. He’s one of those ageless people like Keanu Reeves.

Anyway, those four returns and seem to have not missed a beat. Their chemistry is once again the engine that keeps this film going. The banter back and forth between them all really does feel like a group that has been together for a long time so I would guess these four are friends outside of the camera as well. The newcomers to the cast add some new dimensions, and top of that list is Zoey Deutch who plays a ditzy, oblivious girl who has somehow survived this long. At first, I thought the character would become annoying very fast, but she does develop a little and is not just the idiot she first seems.

Rosario Dawson is the other newcomer and as always, she is great. She is immediately on the same wavelength as the rest of the group and her chemistry with Woody Harrelson adds a new dynamic to his character. I’ve talked about the cast so much because really, they’re the best thing about Zombieland Double Tap. Beyond them and some funny “Zombie Kill of the Year” bits, there isn’t much else here beyond some zombie killing.

The plot is fine, the action scenes are fine, and the special effects are great. That could kind of sum up this film unfortunately. There is no clever plot here, it’s basic and it serves its purpose of giving the characters a reason to go somewhere. Beyond that there is no intrigue or “what’s going to happen”. There is rarely a moment when you worry about any characters and when you do, it’s never for too long. The new Zombie types are fun, and the cleverly named T-800 (Zombieland’s main box office competition is the new Terminator) is an interesting idea, but they quickly become just another part of the horde.

The action scenes do have some fun moments, but there are only so many times a zombie being shot in the head is that entertaining. The film sets up a more interesting fight at the end, but then the finale happens a bit too quickly and there is no time for any cool action scenes. The last fight is practical, rather than entertaining, and even if there are some fun visuals a couple of times, my highlight of the films action was a cutaway skit to a guy murdering zombie in Italy.

What is odd about Zombieland Double Tap is that it doesn’t bring much new to the table, but still feels fun, fresh and enjoyable. It’s a movie we have had before, but the 10-year gap makes the reunion feel like more fun than if we had a sequel a couple of years later. It’s rare that comedy sequels made 10 years later work (see Zoolander 2) but somehow the formula of the first film still holds up in 2019. As much as I enjoyed watching this film, I can’t say I need another Zombieland anytime soon, so perhaps revisiting in another 10 years wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

It’s one of those films where your expectations need to be in the right place when you go in. Don’t expect a stunning sequel that surpasses the first, it doesn’t even try to be that. It’s an update on what’s happened to the characters you enjoyed first time. Like a postcard from someone you lost contact with, you will probably smile, laugh a little, and then forget about it all over again.

Good: Great chemistry between the cast with some laughs. Some laugh out loud moments that got me good.

Bad: Unambitious, very little original content, and unadventurous action scenes.

7/10 – Zombieland is Fine, and I think that’s what they were aiming for. 

 

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Between Two Ferns Review

I don’t know how I had never heard of the Between Two Ferns show on YouTube before. If you don’t know what it is, it’s an interview show hosted by Zach Galifianakis, and he ask’s some of Hollywood’s biggest names some very insulting questions to hilarious effect. I discovered this all by watching the mockumentary about the making of the show “Between Two Ferns: The Movie” which is now on Netflix. 

I can honestly say I do not remember laughing as hard as this watching anything since maybe the Pink Panther movies when I was a child. Something about it just hit me exactly in the right way and I was laughing for most of the brisk hour and 22-minute run time. Zach is so good in this role, his ability to say the most absurd things and keep a completely straight face leads to some amazingly funny moments. He’s so good in the role, because he is playing himself. There is a lot of him in the role, but it’s just all dialled up to 11.

The 3 crew members he works with are a solid supporting cast and have moments to show they can deliver some great laughs too. They are never front and centre long enough for us to feel any real connection and even in the scenes when it seems like we are starting to build to that we get another joke that stops it developing. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean the entire film rests on the audience being fans of Zach and his style.

The premise is that they must make ten episodes of the show on the road, and that leads to where the movie is at its best, the interviews. Zach’s deadpan face and the generally great job by the actors and actresses who play it straight as well really made me laugh. It’s juvenile at times but there is enough gold in these moments to warrant spending the time to watch the film.

The film’s structure is like a lot of similar sketches stitched together. Sewing together the interviews is the challenge the film faces, and it has moments where it struggles. The humour can be hit and miss in these sections. Whilst the highs don’t reach the same level as the interviews, the jokes that missed don’t really grind the film to a halt either. There is always another moment just around the corner. The film doesn’t let you dwell on an unfunny moment because you’re into the next moment, and this scatter gun approach works for the most part.

It’s only when I have stopped to really think about those moment in between the laughs that I’ve realised there are chunks of the movie where we are just waiting for the next laugh, it doesn’t have a narrative thread that is keeping you hooked that other mockumentaries like “American Vandal” have.

That would be a bigger problem were this a series of hour-long episodes like that is, but the shorter run time allows it to just be what it needs to be. A vehicle for Zach Galifianakis to make you laugh for a bit and remember not to take everything so seriously. I personally enjoyed it a lot, and I think a lot of my friends would love it. It’s not perfect but it does have some very good highs that make Between Two Ferns the Movie worth watching.

Good: If you like Zach’s comedic style, this will crack you up. I laughed throughout and the interviews are gold.

Bad: Scatter gun approach may not hit enough for some to think it’s worth the watch, but it really does depend on your sense of humour.

7/10 – Great fun and doesn’t overstay its welcome. 

 

El Camino Review

If you’re one of the few people who has not treated themselves to watching through Breaking Bad, I envy you more than most people in the world. The show is a stunning blend of excellent writing, great performances and twists that leave you desperate for more. Just over 6 years on from the end of the series, we are heading back to the moments after the series with Netflix’s El Camino.

It’s impossible to talk about this show without spoiling Breaking Bad massively, so please do yourself a favour and do not read on if you haven’t seen the show. Make the time for the 60 odd hours of Breaking Bad and enjoy the incredible ride before watching El Camino.

Onto El Camino itself, it’s a film that sneaked up on me and I am grateful for that. It was a nice treat to find it had dropped on Netflix over the weekend and I sat down to find out what exactly happened to Jesse after the events of the Breaking Bad Finale. The idea of dropping back into that world is tantalising, although I must confess, I was not sure we really needed any more to explain the aftermath.

El Camino picks up from the last time we saw Jesse in Breaking Bad, driving off from his captors and finally free. From there we see the events of the next day or so, interspersed with flashbacks to the previous times and the events of his captivity. It’s an interesting choice to go with for the film, but it fits very well with the style we grew to love with the original series. In fact, calling El Camino a film is a bit odd for me, as it does not feel like one.

This feels like its two bonus episodes of Breaking Bad showing what happened next. As such, I found it to be a bit of an odd experience watching along, as the first hour of the film crawls by at a snail’s pace. I know it’s a bad sign whenever I check a film run time, and when I saw I was only 45 minutes in, I was questioning whether it was worth me sticking with it.

I completely understand why Jesse is how he is, and what the motivations are for him. I just felt like this film was going to give me something a little bit new, whereas this feels very much like a couple of mid-season Breaking Bad episodes. The second half of the film was more enjoyable, and the outcome, even though it was telegraphed from the beginning of the film, feels like a satisfying place to end this story.

Perhaps this is a case of my expectations and what I wanted being too far from what we got, but by the end of El Camino I was very much done with the film. I love Aaron Paul in this role, and he is as great as he was in every episode of the show. Of course, seeing Jesse Pinkman and all the characters we see pop up through the film was fun, but one of the biggest feelings I had watching El Camino was that I now want to watch Breaking Bad again. Not because I loved El Camino, but because I of what I think it’s missing.

It’s not really a criticism, but the film falls apart when you analyse it as a standalone film. This is very much Breaking Bad season six condensed down to two hours, and for me that just didn’t work. At the same time as explaining what happened next, the film also goes into the past and shows Jesse’s time as a prisoner and his day out with his captor Todd. This extra leg work was all very breaking bad, and if this was an episode of the show, I would have eaten it up with no complaints. This isn’t supposed to be just another couple of episodes though, and that is where El Camino falls.

For all the good performances and the satisfaction of seeing where Jesse Pinkman ends up, El Camino just feels unnecessary. I am a huge Breaking Bad fan, but this just felt like filler episodes with a few fun scenes and a nice farewell. Watching this 6 years ago would have felt good, like a nice epilogue to the finale of the show. That epilogue has come 6 years too late for me, and whether that’s a fair criticism or not, that’s how I felt watching this film.

Good: Great performances, some incredible cinematography, trip back to the world of Breaking Bad.

Bad: Six years too late and it feels unnecessary because of it. Answers questions I didn’t care about anymore.

6/10 – Its more Breaking Bad so it’s not terrible. That’s all it is though.  

Joker Review

The Joker is a character I have been fascinated with for as long as I can remember. I loved the Mark Hamill version in the animated show and Jack Nicholson in Batman 89 was terrifying when I was a child. Jared Leto showed an example of how different the character can be and of course Heath Ledger delivered the most incredible performance we have seen in any comic book movie role. That is until now. 

Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck and it’s 99% him. He is front and centre very much like the films that very clearly inspired this one. Phoenix uses the opportunity to display just how incredible one man’s performance can be, and he transforms into the character of Arthur Fleck. When you have an actor with this talent in a role with this much complexity to it you always have a chance for something special.

Hangover director Todd Phillips is at the helm for this one, and it seems he and all the rest of the people involved in this production realised what they had. Phoenix is given the film and carries it completely on his shoulders. Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, Brett Cullen and Frances Conroy play the other characters and are all good, but they are all there to add to the journey Arthur Fleck is experiencing.

There will be inevitable comparisons with Heath Ledger, and I fully understand that’s going to happen. I have said consistently, and it remains true even after this film, that The Dark Knight is my favourite movie. That is almost entirely down to Heath Ledgers Joker.

Part of the appeal of the Joker is that he doesn’t have a clear origin, it’s always a little unclear. This film tries to tackle how a character like the joker could be created in a real world. The 70’s setting not only allows for some great style and production design touches, but also gives the film the same style as the films of that decade. I have recently watched Taxi Driver, and Joker takes a lot of inspiration in a very unsubtle way. The comparisons with past eras of movies doesn’t end there with Falling Down and King of Comedy also being clear heavy influences.

As I have not seen those two films, I didn’t suffer from what I have seen a few people complain about with regards to the films handling of the references and inspirations it takes from those films. I have heard that a lot of this film isn’t particularly original, but I think the originality comes from this being a comic book film unlike any other we have seen before. Yes, we have seen films about terrible people before, but never have we seen a realistic depiction of someone’s slide into becoming the Joker.

How the film handles that transformation is particularly interesting to me, and some of the dialogue in the final act. Mental illness has had a stigma attached to it forever, and even today it’s often misunderstood by society. This film is brash with its messaging, and it makes a clear statement about how important it is to support people with mental illnesses. Arthur Fleck is completely detached from the reality the rest of the world lives in, and its reflected particularly well during the stand-up comedy scenes in the film.

There’s been a lot of controversy around the film in terms of how violent it is, and frankly I find that all to be ridiculous. I have seen more gratuitous violence in every single Tarantino movie, both Deadpool films, and endless amounts of horror films. The violence in this movie is impactful, and it’s all in the context of the film. At no point is any statement made about guns, it’s not the focus in any way. The focus is on the mental illness, and how letting it go unchecked can lead to terrible consequences. It’s highlighting how the downtrodden can feel neglected and unimportant to the people with power and status.

My biggest criticism of the film is it’s handling of the messaging. I personally don’t find The Hangover movies to be that funny because they’re brash and the jokes fall flat for me, and that same brush is being used here but this time it’s being used to paint a different type of story. Joker provokes a lot of thought, it’s a film that stays with you and it forces you to think about uncomfortable, difficult subjects. I suppose in a way, a more subtle approach wouldn’t have the conversation going quite so ferociously in my own mind as this film has managed to do.

In all honestly, Joker is not an entertaining film. It’s a slow burn to start with, and it has a lot of scenes that will make you squirm uncomfortably and begin to make you think you’re being sympathetic to the character of Arthur Fleck. The film shows how tragic events can affect someone’s life and spins that into an origin for an extremely twisted and dark character, and it achieves that goal very well. If you prefer your movies to have redemption or light-hearted fun, steer well clear of Joker. This is the furthest thing you could get from a Marvel film, and yet there were moments which made the geeky side of me just as gleeful as the ThunderCap moment in Avengers Endgame.

Joker is a rare film that will start a conversation about topics that are very rarely brought up in everyday life, but ones that perhaps should be. That ability to start a conversation is a sign of a very good film in my opinion.

Good: Joaquin Phoenix should win the Oscar this year, I will be astounded if anyone can top this performance. Production design, the score and soundtrack are all top notch as well.

Bad: Even if the messages it’s trying to convey are important topics for us to think about, the film has all the subtlety of a brick to the face.

9/10 – I never thought I’d say this after Heath Ledger, but this is the best Joker ever. 

 

 

Episode III – The Best of the Prequels

I have always held this opinion. The third movie in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith, is a good film. It’s not spectacular and doesn’t get to the dizzy heights of Empire Strikes Back, but it is good. It’s prime Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan and continues from the previous two films in that it has just made me more and more excited for his solo series. 

Episode III opens with a spectacular space battle, one of the best looking we have seen, and introduces the best robot in the universe, General Grievous. The name is just incredibly on the nose, but it works, and his weird fleshy eyes and heart, the smokers cough and the voice all combine to make one of the most unusual villains in the Star Wars world. I normally know a lot about characters in Star Wars, but he is a bit of a blind spot. I don’t know where he comes from, I don’t know how he works, but he uses 4 lightsabers at once in this movie and that’s just Baller as fuck.

Hayden Christensen isn’t the best actor in the world, but he does give it his all in this film. There are only one or two awkwardly written scenes with Padme in this one, although it is still cringe inducing when they are supposed to be cute together. It has a key role in this film, but this romance is probably my biggest problem with the entire prequel trilogy. I don’t necessarily think it’s the actor’s faults, but any chemistry they have is smashed into touch by the dialogue.

It took some big personalities in the original trilogy to take what George Lucas gave them and turn it into the real emotional moments. Han Solo’s “I love you/I know” moment was created by Harrison Ford and Director Irvin Kershner not George Lucas, and moments like that are an example of what is missing from the prequels.

This film does have its own very quotable, and much meme’d line though. I didn’t even think of it as it was about to happen, but when Obi Wan dropped down behind Grievous on Utapau and greets all the droids with “Hello there” I laughed out loud. It is so perfect, so Obi Wan. It’s a dad taking the piss when things are about to get serious and he’s saying it purely to get their attention. If he doesn’t say those words at least once an episode in the new TV show I will have no choice but to brand it a complete and total failure.

We get some more political intrigue with the Emperor finally becoming The Emperor after he turns Anakin, and again Ian McDiarmid is just perfect in this role. I don’t know exactly what capacity he is going to be in The Rise of Skywalker but getting one last serving of McDiarmid is going to be a great treat in December.

When it comes to lightsaber fights, nothing has yet topped the end scene of this film within the entire franchise. Rey and Kylo Ren are great but they aren’t up to the balletic battle at the climax of Revenge of the Sith. Switching between Anakin V Obi Wan and Palpatine V Yoda absolutely blew my 12-year-old mind in 2005. Yoda walking into Palpatine’s office and knocking out the two guards with a nonchalant flick of his wrist tells us that here to fuck around, he is not.

How did I get into the third film before I wrote in Yoda’s voice?

After some force power dick measuring, Palpatine and Yoda literally whip them out, and begin fighting lightsaber to lightsaber. Both becoming well rendered video game characters leaping around. Before they end it with Palpatine launching half of space parliaments furniture at Yoda. It’s quite a poignant scene, as I think someone should go into parliament and launch chairs around in real life. Only do it with all the politicians still in their chairs.

Useless overpaid incompetent twats couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery let alone Brexit. I don’t care which “Side” you’re on, the whole thing needs to be torn up and started again.

Anyway, back on spicy hot drop Mustafar (that’s a Fortnite/Apex reference, I am down with the kids) Anakin has finished slaughtering politicians and is waiting for his wife whom he loves so much. She turns up, unknowingly bringing Obi-Wan with her, and before she can even say “I didn’t know he was there he’s a fucking space wizard” Anakin chokes her out. That’s her dealt with for plot convenience sake. Now we can have Obi Wan and Anakin get their duel on. There is no Force dick measuring here, it’s all about the swordplay.

They battle in rooms, on railings, climbing up huge structures, floating on robots above flowing Lava. It’s a beautifully choreographed scene but one does have to question why they felt the need to move around the planet so much. They could have had the entire fight on the platform where the ship was.

I am glad they didn’t though, as it leads to an interesting moment in the Star Wars franchise. Having duelled with nobody getting a clear advantage, Obi Wan gets the high ground. Anakin leaps to get over him, and Obi Wan fillets him. Both legs and an arm swished off like trimming wings off a chicken. It’s brutal.

I spent a lot of my life thinking this was a stupid end to the fight. Then my flatmate shared a bit of reasoning behind it that since then I have thought about a lot and I kind of wish there had been some way to show this in the film. Considering I watched this film 2 days after watching Episode I, the Darth Maul/Obi Wan fight was fresh in my mind. The jump Anakin tries to perform is the same one Obi Wan did against Darth Maul, only Obi Wan taught Anakin about it, so he is completely ready for it.

Obi Wan even says to Anakin “Don’t Try It”. In my head I like to think they have discussed that fight at length, and Anakin knows it is Obi Wan’s best moment. Being the egomaniac that he is, he wants to prove he can do anything Obi Wan can, so he tries to copy it. Of course, instead of landing behind Obi Wan and chopping him in half, Anakin gets butchered. It adds a bit more to the end to me, and I like to think that’s how it was meant to be.

All in all, the prequels are a brilliant story that isn’t done full justice by the execution of the movies. I can’t help but feel a little like the Sequel trilogy that ends with The Rise of Skywalker is the reverse of that. The new films look brilliant and are acted well. The dialogue is well written, and they’re directed expertly. There actual bigger story doesn’t seem nearly as well thought out or planned as the original or the prequels though. We will have to wait until December to find out.

‘Til tomorrow!

ChAzJS

 

Episode II: Not all bad.

As hinted at yesterday, today’s post is about Star Wars Episode II. When I was 9 years old this was everything to me. It has lots of fight scenes, insect people, lightsaber’s coming out of all its orifices and Yoda flipping about like a bouncy ball launched into a cupboard. How does 26-year-old me feel about it? 

Well as it happens, I didn’t think it was too bad. The film starts with an attempt on Padme’s life, and the trauma she goes through leads her to mistakenly marry an immature child she met 10 years previously and has had no contact within the intervening years. At least that is what I must tell myself to buy into any of the romance between her and Anakin in this film. There are poorly written lines in most films, but somehow George Lucas saved all his worst lines for use exclusively in scenes between Anakin and Padme, when they’re supposed to be falling in love.

That criticism extends to the next film in the franchise but more on that another time. As for this film, that whole story line with them falling for each other is what punches this film down to a 5 or 6 out of 10. The rest of the film is a fun time with some heavy plot convenience, but I found most of it to be forgivable.

Attack of the Clones introduces us to the prime Ewan McGregor Obi Wan we all remember, with that beard and that hair and that voice. He reaches his peak in Revenge of the Sith, but his step fatherly relationship to Anakin is where the film gets a relationship right for me. You feel he cares for his protege deeply and is struggling to be the teacher he wants to be at times, with his pupil showing some signs of teenage rebellion. This film makes me very excited to see the Obi Wan series coming out on Disney Plus in the next few years, as you just want to spend more time following McGregor around on his adventures.

The entire section of the film with him hunting down Jango Fett (#TheBetterFett) I found entertaining, and if that’s a hint at the kind of things we could get from an Obi Wan Series I am all in. Also, the sound design of those bombs (seismic charges I believe to the nerds out there) that are deployed in the asteroid field is just something else. What a boom.

Hayden Christensen plays Anakin with a lot of commitment but I think the direction he is given is just all over the place. I think what we were supposed to see is a character who is being torn between the various desires he has and knows what’s right but also can’t ignore his feelings like he should be able according to the Jedi. It’s a role that requires an actor to be able to indulge themselves and really develop it from within themselves. I think director and creator George Lucas, for all his creative genius, may have struggled to get the best performance out of Christensen here. It feels like he was told to stick to the script word for word and to say it exactly how Lucas wanted it to sound, rather than giving him the script and letting him understand the character.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it feels wooden and jarring. It goes back to my comments yesterday about Jar Jar Binks (Who does appear briefly in this film in an unoffensive way). It takes a strong personality to stand up to a director and say, “no I think it should be done this way”, especially when that director is George Lucas who created this entire franchise that may make or break your career. This is all just my read on it though, and maybe this is just the best Hayden Christensen could do.

Wooden Anakin aside, the film develops some of the characters we met in previous films quite a bit, with Mace Windu and Yoda the clear leaders of the Jedi. What I have been enjoying most about the prequels though is Palpatine. Perhaps as a child I just didn’t notice it, but this entire trilogy isn’t the story of Anakin turning into Darth Vader as it seems. It’s the story of how a senator called Palpatine manipulated and rose to power and building the foundation of the Empire that we saw in the original Star Wars in 1977.

Ian McDiarmid in the role of Palpatine is really something. When you realise, he is consistently playing everyone in the room it feels like a different thing all together. I would love to have seen these films focus more on him, give him a little more to do and let us see him planning it out behind the scenes. As it is these films almost try to surprise you that he is the emperor when it seems obvious to me. I am a huge Star Wars nerd of course, so perhaps I am not the one they are trying to get one over on.

The last half of this film, when Christopher Lee is introduced as the Classy Count Dooku, is just one continuous ramp up of the action. From Anakin and Padme fighting their way through a droid building factory, to the climactic battle, there is not a lot of time for us to slow down. and process what’s happening. It’s an action-packed finale and for the most part it works. There’s a lot of digitally created fights, with flocks of droids doing battle with battalions of clones, but it all adds to the sense of scale and if you can look past the dated special effects it’s a decent effort.

There are a lot of cool moments and situations, the monsters fighting Obi Wan, Padme and Anakin lead right into that moment. The point at which 9-year-old me lost their shit. When I see 100s of lightsabers ignite around the arena and think “Oh damn it’s on now!”.

After that, we get a curved lightsaber handle, that seems to add little to the weapon at all, wielded by Count Dooku as he frankly batters Obi Wan and Anakin. Anakin wielding a blue and green lightsaber at the same time is cool, but again he is just being played with by the bad guy. Here we get a situation where he could have easily murdered them both and been on with his business. Instead he toys with them long enough for a little green dude turns up and shows off his power.

The best moment of the film for me is when Yoda opens his coat to reveal his kid sized lightsaber, and then it whips through the air into his hand. He then proceeds to bounce around and the fight is rather hard to follow, but it does feature some excellent faces from Christopher Lee. The film kind of ends on a stutter, with a few things hurried through, including Anakin marrying Padme right at the death of the film.

All in all, I think my appreciation for the prequels is increasing, but I can still recognise that these films are just not that great. The world they’re set in, the characters and the story are all quite good, I just think this film has been executed poorly. The two best films in the franchise were written by Lucas and directed by other people. Perhaps that is the formula that should have been used for the prequels as I just think someone who’s skills were more attuned for Directing rather than creating like Lucas’ skillset is might have taken these films to another level.

Anyway, that’s enough about Episode II, I have Episode 3 in my head now and I will talk about that on Friday. I will give it a break from the Star Wars talk tomorrow!

‘Til then!

ChAzJS

 

Prequel Problems

I settled down last night after getting home late because of train delays and making myself some dinner and began to flick through the various streaming services. For some reason I have had an urge to watch the Star Wars prequels for weeks. and suddenly there they were on Now TV, waiting to be “enjoyed”.

As Episode I began, with baby faced Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson with his glorious mane of hair, I was mildly optimistic I could find some more redeeming qualities in the film as I haven’t watched it for years. The opening 15 minutes are decent, not terrible by any means and some slightly dated special effects and questionable accents on certain aliens aside, I found it okay to watch. Then, they reach Naboo, Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon bumps into Jar Jar Binks (literally bumps into him) and within a minute I was fast forwarding to the pod race to get away from that unequivocal error of a character.

The pod race itself has always been a bit of a weird one for me. I loved it as a kid, but then I remember when I last watched these films, I thought it was an odd scene. Watching it again last night I kind of enjoyed it and I realise that it’s very similar to the dog racing scene in The Last Jedi, only in The Phantom Menace it has a purpose (to show Anakin’s abilities).

Speaking of Anakin, this is the first time I have watched these films and thought about the fact this 9-year-old child ends up marrying this 18-year-old Queen. The ages in the films are meant to be a bit closer but Natalie Portman looks the same in all 3 films, whereas Anakin ages up and changes a lot, becoming Hayden Christensen. I did also watch Attack of the Clones last night, but I will ramble about that later.

The scenes around the pod race are okay. Qui-Gon has some odd sexual chemistry going on with Anakin’s mother, and her line about Anakin being a virgin birth, a fatherless child, is bizarre but I think Rise of the Skywalker may well explain it. It’s been explained in other mediums of the Star Wars franchise, but never in films. The idea is that Palpatine, the good old Emperor himself, used the force somehow and created Anakin as part of his plan to take over the universe.

Ridiculous right, but this franchise isn’t known for its realism so who knows where they will go. Or if this will ever even be explained. It’s at this point there’s more talking, more trade disputes, more things I couldn’t care less about. So, I skipped ahead again. I managed to get to the final fight, the only part of this film I wanted to watch. Darth Maul arrives and Ray Parks in that make up just looks bad ass.

I remember being so amazed by a double bladed lightsaber when I was little. I grew up playing pretend imagining I had a blue, green, or red one, but anything beyond that was just not realistic to me. Then here this guy turns up with a double sided one. How outrageous of him to just change the game like that. Then they begin to fight, and again the 6-year-old me was just blown away.

The fight is less actual sword play and more a choreographed ballet of movement and colours. The cinematography doesn’t quite make the most of it, but you can follow what is happening and where people are. The film takes notes from Return of the Jedi and splits into 3 distinct fights. One with Lightsabers, one with blasters, and one with spaceships. Only this time the Spaceship fight is being done by the 9-year-old boy we met earlier.

He has no experience flying anything in space, but he absolutely nails it. People have problems with The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi because Rey picks up being a Jedi quickly. Well frankly there is no basis for this as apparently if you have it, you just have it. You don’t even need to be told how to use any part of this vehicle, if you got the force, the force got you and you’ll be blowing up space stations in no time.

Oh, I forgot about the other fight happening, the Gungans against the droid army. There is a reason I left this out, because Jar Jar is all over it and it should have been cut from the film. Nobody needs it. Nobody likes it. Get it out of my Star Wars. I want it gone. I want him gone. He’s a fucking diabolical choice by George Lucas. I know he created the franchise so had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted in these films, but why did nobody say “Uh George, yeah just a quick point on this Jar Jar character… He is fucking awful”. That’s all that needed to happen, but nobody back then had the confidence to step up to George Lucas and tell him what to do with Star Wars.

So, the film flicks between them all, and I skip through the stupid Jar Jar scenes, and I have to say I found it enjoyable. Even Anakin’s stuff in the ship is pretty fun, if a bit much when there are hundreds of trained, legitimate fighter pilots up there struggling to stay alive whilst he is doing his thing.

Everything comes down to the lightsaber fight for me though. With Obi-wan trapped he watched Darth Maul beat Qui-Gon and Liam Neeson bows out. Then Obi Wan comes out swinging and slashes the double bladed lightsaber in half, before doing the same thing to Darth Maul.

Important to note he does not kill Darth Maul. That’s right in the Star Wars universe having your legs and hips removed from the upper part of your body is but a flesh wound. Not to mention the fall down a huge shaft like the Emperor in Return of the Jedi. Darth Maul shows up in several cartoons and even at the end of the Solo spin off film. He has robot legs, and it’s the best stuff the character ever does. Even better than the various times in this film when he looks broodingly into the distance.

So, there you have it, an account of my first-time watching Star Wars Episode I in over 10 years. I did this so you don’t have to. Just go straight to Attack of the Clones. Which is what I did after managing to fast forward through enough that I watched Phantom Menace in around an hour. I will go into that tomorrow or another time though.

Until then thanks for reading!

ChAzJS