Over with, let’s get this: Star Wars Episodes I & II Review

This week, progressive/nerd/parent reviews of all six Star Wars films as part of the obsession with/buildup to/exploitation of the release of The Force Awakens. The reviews are in sequential order (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) although I recommend a different order for first time viewers.

A long time ago, in a lulz far far away

Star Wars: Episode I – “The Phantom Menace”

Bechdel-Wallace Score: 2.5/3

Shukla Score: 1/3

Russo Score: 0/3

Kittens: 😿/5

There are no representations of sexuality in this film. There are two people of color, but they never speak to each other about anything (count towards this racial diversity, Yoda does not). Technically the film has two (named) women who speak about something other than a man, but I still scored it 2.5 and not 3 because men are present and involved in those scenes. I awarded the movie 1 out of 5 kittens because it would take something to distract me from the Jedi/Sith duel, but otherwise nothing is needed to pull me away from this narrative calamity.

Highlights: The designs of the planets and ships, the Jedi/Sith duel, the end credits releasing me once again from all of the film’s failings.

Low points: The first low point comes in the second sentence of the opening text:

“The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.”

That’s right, this isn’t your dad’s Star Wars – it’s Grover Norquist’s Star Wars! Ugh. Then there is Jar Jar and he says “exqueeze me” and then you’re just dazed, in a fog of disappointment, until you come out of it a little while later and they’re on a desert planet and there is a kid and midichlorians and immaculate conception and what the fuck happened to my childhood?!?!?!?

Dad edit: I really discourage my son from watching this movie at all. When he asks “can we watch the one where Anakin is a kid?” I ask him “you mean when he gets his arm cut off?” not because I am in anyway confused, but because if I remind him of Episode II he usually forgets wanting to watch Episode I. Benign, my manipulation is.


Tell that bounty hunter to be cool.

Star Wars: Episode II – “Attack of the Clones”

Bechdel-Wallace Score: 2.5/3

Shukla Score: 1/3

Russo Score: -10/3

Kittens: 😼😼/5

There is no LGBTQ representation in this film, and even the depiction of heterosexuality is noxious, so I docked ten points (sometimes a zero just won’t do). There are three people of color with names in the film, though they do not ever speak to each other. Like Episode I, the film does have two (named) women speaking to each other not about a man, but for like two seconds when one of them is dying. I don’t award a perfect score on a technicality. I gave the movie 2 kittens, because there are portions of the film I actually want to watch, other portions that are repulsive, and I figure it would take an average of 2 kittens to distract me from the movie.

Highlights: The highlight for sure is the noir-ish Kenobi/Kamino/Fett subplot (marred as it may be by the scenes being interspersed with the Naboo seduction that is the worst shit in any of the prequels). Mace Windu in action is fun, especially when he decapitates Overrated Fett Sr.. Seeing some actual clone-warring is really good, too. I want to say good things about the plot and the actors, but the writing makes that impossible. Better just to move on to…

Low points: This movie is painful in a different way than Episode I. While Menace was a bad idea, badly executed – Clones is a good idea, badly executed. The plot is there for a good political / military action adventure, the talent is certainly on screen to pull it off, but the writing is risible in its (few) best moments and otherwise execrable. It isn’t just that the writing is bad, it is that it is also incoherent. For example: in the opening scene, Yoda tells Chancellor Palpatine (!) that the dark side is interfering with his ability to use the force; later in the movie, Windu and Yoda debate whether to tell the Senate that their ability to use the force is impaired by the dark side; Yoda convinces Windu not to do something that Yoda himself has already done. The Jedi lack any curiosity about why one of their now-dead comrades ordered a mysterious clone army on false pretenses. And it is not as though this lack of curiosity is caused by an excess of circumspection about whether or not to take command of a slave army, which they do without delay. Last thing: What is the deal with the factory scene? It always seemed to me that it was pointless and just added in, mostly by computers. Was there a subplot there at some point?

Dad edits: I let my kid watch the slaughter of the sand people scene months before I let him watch the fireside stalker confessional scene. A young Bobba Fett watches his dad get decapitated. An arm gets removed from a person cavalierly, twice (pro tip: don’t go to a bar with Kenobi). At this point we watch the whole movie all the way through, but my kid almost always taps out during the afore mentioned fireside scene, so he doesn’t see much in between that and the clone troopers battling the droids on Geonosis. If I had unlimited resources for my dad-editing, I would actually just remake this as an Episode I, do a live-action best-of from The Clone Wars show for Episode II, then remake Episode III with more Grievous and a Skywalker/Kenobi relationship that has real conflict in it. But I digress.

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