Everyone knows The Phantom Menace is a terrible movie. You know it. Little kids with Anakin backpacks know it. George Lucas knows it (as he swims through his pool of Star Wars licensed gold). Even prequel apologists like me know it.
So, does anyone really need a 70-minute video review to tell us why we hate such a mind-numbing piece of woefully disappointing cinema? Yes, at least when that review is produced by mad genius Mike Stoklasa of Red Letter Media.
Stoklasa’s review doesn’t simply trash The Phantom Menace, it explores the reasons the two Star Wars trilogies are so different, and examines the broader question of why some movies make people’s eyes glaze over in awe and other movies make them want to slit their wrists.
The Phantom Menace Review is conducted in the same style as other Red Letter Media reviews. It’s exhaustively illustrated with wall-to-wall footage from the film, features critiques from the perspective of an almost frightningly informed viewer, and narrated by a guy who kind of sounds like Brad Neeley if Brad Neeley was a backwoods codger who abducts and slaughters disoriented hikers. To clarify that last point, the narrator of RLM reviews is a character whose role is to sometimes stray from film critique and get into pitch black humor involving basement death chambers and eerily specific advice on how to kill prostitutes.
Fun as serial killer humor may be, the main reason to watch this review is for the review. Stoklasa points out tons of plotholes and poor dialogue, but the real insight comes from his examination of what connects a viewer to a movie. The first 10-mintute segment contains the sharpest piece of criticism in the whole 70-minute expose. Four average viewers are asked to describe the personality of certain Star Wars characters, and the ease with which they paint colorful adjective portraits of original trilogy characters like C-3PO (“prissy”, “anal-retenandtive”, “high-strung”) is contrasted with the near-impossible task of describing a main character from the prequels (Padme is best remembered as “monotone”).
Towards the end of the review, Stoklasa uses behind-the-scenes production footage of The Phantom Menace to examine the film’s problems at their source. Stoklasa concedes he can only speculate on what went wrong during filming, but his implications are clear when he asks us to see the fear in the eyes of Lucas’ production team, unable to question or critique their master.
The Phantom Menance Review has it share of cheap shots, nitpicks and tangents, but it ultimately gets closer than any other review or article to answering the question burning inside every Star Wars fan: How could one of the greatest movie franchises of all time get #$%@ed up so badly?