The Phantom Menace sucks.
Batman & Robin sucks.
The Matrix sequels suck.
Spider-Man 3 sucks.
When it comes to movie criticism and audience reactions, these statements could be called “truths.”
Are there people who will defend one of these movies? Of course. Every movie ever made will always have at least one person defend it and one person deride it. Doesn’t matter if it’s The Godfather or Twilight. On the spectrum of criticism, it’s bound to happen. But when the vast majority of movie-goers share an opinion, it’s easier to make a statement like “The Phantom Menace sucks.”
Here’s my question though: What exactly do we gain from continuing to talk about these movies and their sucky-ness?
When someone feels the need to pipe up and declare their distaste for The Phantom Menace, what does it accomplish? How does it add to the collective discourse? From an intellectual standpoint, I know that people are capable of holding grudges. Sometimes for a really, really long time. But how does it benefit a person’s life or society at large to continue to rant about this movie?
It’s been nearly 15 years since Phantom Menace was released. Fifteen years of people ranting about how much the movie sucks, how the movie “raped” their childhood, how George Lucas is Satan, how annoying Jar-Jar is, how annoying young Anakin is, how the dialogue was more wooden than a tree, how the movie was a cacophony, how CGI effects are way worse than practical ones. So on and so forth.
Is there anyone on this planet not aware of these complaints? Is there anyone for whom it is a complete surprise that people have a strong, negative opinion of this movie? Will another rant retroactively cause a rip in the space-time continuum and cause George Lucas to actually make a good version of the movie? No.
I don’t want people to suddenly pull a 180 and like the movie. But at a certain point you have to just let it go. A bad prequel was made by a guy who at one point made some really good movies. That’s all that happened. Bad movies get made all the time. In fact, comparatively speaking, The Phantom Menace can’t possibly be the worst movie ever made. That title has to go to something made that with a shoestring budget and barely released to the public. But of course, The Phantom Menace was a high profile failure. Because it was seen by many, a lot more people can partake in the rants than people who rant about a movie like, I don’t know, Mongolian Death Worm.
I get it, though. The Star Wars movies mean a lot to people. Even though I wasn’t born when the original trilogy was released, I still have fond memories of watching the movies during my childhood. I can clearly recall the astonishment I felt seeing Luke as a badass Jedi Knight in the beginning of Return of the Jedi. I remember the despair I felt while Luke lost his hand in the fight against Darth Vader. I still to this day get goosebumps when Han swoops in to give an assist to Luke at the end of New Hope. It’s one of the most thrilling moments in a movie ever made.
And yes, of course it sucked to wait in line waiting for Phantom Menace to be released, spend how ever much was a ticket back in 1999, and sit through a crap movie for two hours. But to hold onto that anger for 15 years? It borders on unhealthy.
At a certain point the rage directed towards The Phantom Menace simply became a joke — or meme, if you insist — that was perpetuated mindlessly in conversation and the internet. “HA HA HA. That movie isn’t as bad as [pause for laughter] The Phantom Menace!!” The distaste for the movie lost all meaning, credibility, and purpose. We’ve all seen what it’s like when a joke is beaten into the ground. Once a joke has lost its luster, it’s a sad sight to see someone try to revive it. It’s like when a movie spawns a funny joke and then a year later some advertiser tries to use it in a commercial. Perpetuating stale jokes is the reason why people can’t stand Scary Movie, Epic Movie, and all the Blank Movies. And yet, we’re part of a culture where it is still okay to rant against a terrible movie such as The Phantom Menace or Gigli.
I guess I’ll never understand why it seems like people are more willing to celebrate the negative than to celebrate the positive. It just seems toxic and dwelling in that negativity all the time cannot possibly be good for a person’s psyche and attitude. I’d be willing to make the case that someone who constantly talks about how bad movies are is someone who creates a self-fulfilling prophecy for him or herself and is never satisfied with the movies they watch. It’s the type of person who always exclaims that movies aren’t made the way they used to and everything released now is garbage. That type of person is blinded by nostalgia and their own inability to keep up with current trends, attitudes, and unwilling to alter their tastes. It’s not they type of person to emulate.
The Phantom Menace is probably a bad example to use for this article. Yes, I’d love for people to stop ranting against it because it’s an exercise in futility; not because I secretly like the movie. However, in 2015 new Star Wars movies will be released and I’m sure everyone will dredge up memories of how they were absolutely traumatized by seeing The Phantom Menace.
The point is this: It’s okay to stop talking about a movie that seems like nearly everyone has a dislike for. When you continue to have conversations about how terrible the Matrix sequels were or Spider-Man 3 you’re preaching to the choir. The meaning of that phrase is that you’re telling people something that they share the same opinion on. You’re not going to sway anyone’s opinion. A bad movie was made 15 years ago. It’s okay to stop talking about it. To keep perpetuating the same stale conversation is just to emit white noise from your mouth hole.
There has to be a statute of limitations on this type of thing. Want to talk about how The Phantom Menace used CGI in narrative. Go ahead. Maybe talk about how the nature of sequels and how Spider-Man 3 was ultimately overloaded with content and suffered. But to give a broad rant about the movie is just a waste of everyone’s time.