Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
I said back in January that I would be re-watching and posting my thoughts on the first six Star Wars movies, after watching Episode VII. It's taken a long time for me to finally get around to re-watching Episode I, but I did finish it. I will not be pointing out the flaws, as everyone has already done that. I will instead be pointing to things I liked.
Right off the bat, Darth Maul is awesome. He looks like a demon and Ray Park is amazing at his fight scene. We have not seen martial arts in Lightsaber duels up until this point, and despite that it fits in seamlessly. A Sith Lord that can take on two Jedi at once is very menacing, and the Lightsaber staff was great. Killing the character was a huge mistake, and it could have been a great motivation for Anakin and Obi-Wan to chase him in the next movie to get revenge for killing Qui-Gon Jinn. Such a wasted opportunity.
Jake Lloyd's performance was by no means Oscar worthy but his acting was far from the only robotic performance. Samuel L. Jackson was very monotone, and Natalie Portman was very wooden at times too - especially when she is asking the Gungans for help. Lloyd did fine for what he was given, and honestly very few nine year olds (including the ones who criticize him most strongly) are going to do much better.
The CGI has not aged well and does look very fake at times. However, once you become invested in the film it does create a huge world that could not be built with practical effects. You can tell here what George Lucas wanted to do with the first three movies in terms of setting up this huge world.
It is especially noteworthy in how it shows the Jedi Council has become arrogant and complacent, allowing the rise of the Sith - including one serving in the Senate. Yoda especially comes off as a real jerk when he is berating a little boy for missing his mother. In many ways, the Jedi is responsible for its own downfall. That will become much more prominent in Episode III, when they are doing downright villainous things.
Yes, this movie has a lot of flaws, and I could go on at length about them. But, again, everyone else has already done that. If you can look past them, there is a lot of good here. This is the weakest film of the entire series, but it is still a Star Wars movie and in my opinion is very enjoyable.