Eli Roth is best known as the filmmaker behind the first two films in the Hostel franchise, but back in 1999 before Roth became one of horror cinema’s biggest names he was just another fanboy writing film reviews for movie blogs like LeisureSuit.net (one of countless film and culture blogs from back in the day – it no longer exists). Thanks to the magic of the Internet (where nothing is ever really gone forever…), we can now see one of Roth’s early pieces – a scathing review of Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace.
What’s most intriguing about Roth’s take is that it was written just prior to the film’s release and it’s completely negative. I remember most of my fellow film writers being almost afraid to trash the newest Star Wars back then, although now it’s the norm (and for good reason, because as Roth mentions, it sucks.) We’ve selected some of the best quotes from the piece – but first we’ll allow Mr. Roth the opportunity to set the stage for the review.
Roth starts out talking about how he expected no one would ever actually read the review – and how he’s now a bit embarrassed because the people at Skywalker Ranch are really nice to him. He also says you can discount some of it because he hadn’t even had sex yet. The director then adds:
“Now I look back at that review and all I can say is, I'm so happy I have a life now. Having received similar scathing reviews (and worse ones), I read it and laugh and realize that the only crime against cinema was getting that upset at a movie that was never intended for me. I've met so many young people who love the 'new' Star Wars films, because that's who they were made for. Thinking that George Lucas made The Phantom Menace for me is symptomatic of my entire generation who grew up with Star Wars, because as kids in the '70s and '80s, those films were made for us. We just assumed that would continue in the '90s (and secretly hope it does with J.J. Abrams at the helm of the new ones). So while I won't be ordering the Phantom Menace special edition Blu-ray anytime soon, I don't take the film as a personal assault against my childhood. At least not in front of girls.”
While that sounds quite gracious and fair, a lot of Roth’s criticisms of The Phantom Menace are 100% accurate. Take this commentary on Jar Jar Binks:
“Jar Jar Binks is simply an embarrassment. It's not just that he looks so much like a computer-generated character that you can't believe him, it's that Lucas decided to make him a crazy Jamaican monster who makes fart jokes. Imagine the worst aspects of Jedi -- the Ewoks -- exploited in mass form and forced upon you throughout the entire film. I was cringing every second Jar Jar was on-screen. I thought to myself, f*ck, he's not gonna be with them the rest of the film, is he? Sadly, he was. Lucas came up with some crazy notion that none of the characters in this film should have a sense of humor, and that he should dump it all into this one insane computer-generated Jamaican frog. As a result, Liam Neeson is a stoic, overdramatic bore, and Jar Jar Binks says he's in 'big poopy.'"
Then there’s this gem about the film’s logic in regards to C-3PO:
“Forget the fact it's too confusing, forget the fact the dialogue is embarrassing, the film doesn't even follow it's [sic] own logic. We meet young Anakin Skywalker and go to his house on Tatooine. He's a boy genius who's building his own robot named C-3PO. What? Excuse me? Are you telling me that Darth Vader built C-3PO? And 3P0 grew up on Tatooine? In the first Star Wars, when R2 and 3PO land on Tatooine they make it very clear that they have no idea where they are. They've never been there before, so how could they have grown up there? It's obvious that Lucas wanted to throw the droids in, which gave me some sense of familiarity, but the way he used them makes no sense, even within the logic of Star Wars.”
After that, he nails one of my own personal pet peeves with the film:
“Here was the only interesting part of the movie: Darth Maul. Lucas created a wonderfully dark, mysterious character and decided to put him in the movie for about 12 minutes. We never learn anything about him, he's just a bad guy who appears to be the only one who can take on Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. The scenes he's in are great, and it gave me a really good idea for a Halloween costume, but you will make yourself insane trying to figure out why Lucas had so many scenes with Jar Jar Binks, and so few with Darth Maul.”
Head on over to the Huffington Post for the full review.