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STAR WARS MADNESS ROUND ONE: #7 The Last Jedi vs. #10 The Phantom Menance

STAR WARS MADNESS ROUND ONE: #7 The Last Jedi vs. #10 The Phantom Menance

It's time again for another head-to-head in the Star Wars Madness Tournament, as two of the more controversial choices of the saga battle it out! A shocking and subversive story that defied audience expectations, The Last Jedi looks to prove that the Resistance's darkest hour is a harrowing fan-favorite. To counter that, The Phantom Menace is on a mission to show that the beginning of the saga has aged well over time and won the hearts of it's previous detractors. Will Luke Skywalker's final stand be enough to claim the day, or do Jar Jar Binks and the Duel of the Fates have what it takes to fight another day? VOTE BELOW!

Director: Rian Johnson

Era: Sequel Trilogy

Box Office: $1,333,539,889

Synopsis: Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers, and develops a mysterious connection with Kylo Ren. Meanwhile, the First Order seeks to destroy the remnants of the Resistance and rule the galaxy unopposed.

Pros: Picking up the literal cliffhanger Luke and Rey found themselves on, The Last Jedi carried the sequel trilogy forward by taking a deeper look inside its characters. Once again, Adam Driver delivered a strong performance as Kylo Ren, going to great lengths to show us the inner turmoil inside the former Ben Solo. Ren killing his master Snoke and the following team-up with Rey was the highlight of the film, temporarily taking the saga into uncharted territories. The final true performance by Carrie Fisher as Leia was one of her best, showing us yet again the burden of loss the princess carries while trying to hand the leadership baton off to Poe. The cinematography was gorgeous, and the scenes Luke shared with Yoda and Leia showed us the farmboy we knew from the original trilogy.

Cons: This is a controversial topic to touch, to say the least, so it needs to be emphasized that this is personal opinion. The direction taken with Luke just didn’t work. A jaded, cynical Luke is an interesting concept, but how he got to that point doesn’t really fit with the values of the Luke of old, and his unexpected death following the Force projection feat didn’t feel like a satisfying payoff. As a symbol of hope and optimism before, Luke’s largely gloomy portrayal didn’t sit right in many ways. The sequence on Canto Bight proved to be inconsequential, and the Great Space Chase was a snooze. Rose Tico, while acted as well as possible, was a walking contradiction (looking at you, “saving what we love”), and Finn sadly took a backseat in the film and his sacrifice was a missed golden opportunity. The tonal difference between Episodes VII and VIII was jarring given that they touch back to back, and many of the jokes felt out of touch with the generally dry humor in Star Wars. Subverted expectations don’t always mean better results, and while the film took many risks, there were still many glaring similarities to Empire.

Released: May 19th, 1999

Director: George Lucas

Era: Prequel Trilogy

Box Office: $1,027,044,677

Synopsis: Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young Anakin Skywalker, who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to claim their old glory.

Pros: The beginning of the Skywalker saga, The Phantom Menace gives us our first glimpse at how things were in a more civilized age. Liam Neeson’s performance as Qui-Gon Jinn was excellent, showing us how a Jedi should truly behave while simultaneously serving as a foil to the council to show how the Jedi have lost their way. The thrilling podrace served as an example of how far technology had come since the original trilogy and showed us how special Anakin Skywalker is. And how could we ignore the Duel of the Fates? The epic lightsaber fight between Darth Maul and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan is thrilling even on the thousandth re-watch and symbolized a more classical era in which the Jedi were at the height of their power.

Cons: Jar Jar Binks is one of the less popular characters among the fans, with his goofy demeanor and, in many cases, downright stupidity angering the older generation. Despite his silly speech and antics, he serves a purpose to the overall narrative and has a big appeal among the younger crowd. The politics in the film can get a bit bland at times, but those sequences are necessary for us to see how Palpatine pulls the strings from behind the curtain. Some of the CG elements, namely Watto and Sebulba, are clearly outdated, and the original puppet for Yoda used in the film was nothing short of atrocious, though fortunately it’s since been replaced by an updated CG character.

OUR THOUGHTS

Andrew Gilman - While I think The Last Jedi is the better made film, I personally have to go with The Phantom Menace on this one. Some of this may be informed by nostalgia, but I find Episode I's contribution to the overall story to be great, despite some of the executional flaws, and I just can't get behind the majority of the story decisions made in TLJ.

Pete Hernandez - As much as I truly love the lightsaber battle at the end of The Phantom Menace (Darth Maul, Duel of the Fates, epic!) I have to give the nod to The Last Jedi. As a film as a whole*, it wins this matchup in my eyes.

Jack Pues - To put it simply, I absolutely love The Last Jedi. Initially I liked it, then I hated it, and now I’m obsessed with it. While I can’t say it’s the best SW film from this Disney era (Rogue One, where you at?) because of specific plot points and character choices, the themes in it are beautiful. The Phantom Menace will always have a special place in my heart, but boredom takes over in each viewing.


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