It had to happen sooner or later, I have to give the Star Wars prequels a little hate. I just watched "The Phantom Menace" again, with the help of Rifftrax. This is an audio commentary provided by a couple of the performers of "Mystery Science Theater 3000". You synch it up to your DVD and they basically mock the movie as you watch.
Now this film has plenty of flaws, but I want to focus on some of the basic story telling ones that I noticed, especially with the help of Mike and Kevin. Episode 1 has a ton of moments where exposition is dropped into the story, slowing down the action to a crawl. This makes the first half of the movie drag for what feels like three hours. The pod race speeds things up a bit (mostly because of the visual effects). Then come the scenes in the middle with the Galactic Senate and the Jedi Council. These scenes deliver important story elements but are so dull. The final section of the film on Naboo feels very forced, as if Lucas was attempting to mirror the ending of "Return of the Jedi" (with three climaxes occurring at the same time).
Compared to the ending of Jedi, this one does have nearly the same punch. In Jedi we are invested in the characters. We care about the fates of Luke, Leia, Han, Lando and the rest of the rebels. In "Phantom Menace" we don’t really have an emotional connection to the characters, we don’t really know what’s going on too well (many people are still puzzled by the end battles who hopes to accomplish what), and the stakes are vague (trade disputes).
All in all "The Phantom Menace" isn’t a well scripted tale. I think Lucas found himself in a strange position attempting to deliver important set up information, deliver new visuals and attempt to create a compelling story. For me the visuals are the only things that worked.
What do you think of the script of Episode 1? Do you think the film delivered a good story or could it have used some work?