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3. September 2014 09:28
by jedi1

The 108 page rebuttal to Mr. Plinkett's Phantom Menace review

3. September 2014 09:28 by jedi1 | 0 Comments

It took me a while to find this, as most of the download links are now dead, but I'm glad I did. After reading it, I still think Mr. Plinkett (Mike Stoklasa) has the right of it. The author of this whiny, often angry, rebuttal (who calls himself Jim Raynor - which could be his real name, but is probably taken from the StarCraft computer game) makes very few valid points that can be backed up by evidence actually IN the movie. Sure, he speculates on reasons why something happens the way it does, but it is only that, speculation and assumption. Far too many of his responses begin with the words, "Perhaps", "Maybe", "Probably" or "The clear implication is..." For example, on page 37, this is his explanation for why the Jedi hold their breath and don't immediately start looking for a way out when the poisonous gas starts to enter the room:

Hmm, perhaps the Jedi, knowing that "dioxis" usually achieves quick results, and concentrating their psychic powers, detected that droids were on the way already? Again this guy tries to nitpick and make up another problem that doesn't have to exist.

Perhaps that is true, but it is clearly not a fact, it is just his interpretation. Good movies have little set ups for things like this, so that we don't have to wonder why something is happening. For instance, in the James Bond film, Thunderball, Q issues Bond with a small breathing tube he can use underwater. Later in the film when he whips out that tube we don't have to wonder where he found it, or what it does. If the Jedi had pulled out their little James Bond style breathing tubes at this point, not only would we believe that they could stay in there until the Viceroy was convinced they must be dead, but also when they pulled them out again later in the film to swim down to the Gungan city, we'd think to ourselves, "Oh, those are handy little devices, I can see why the Jedi carry those about in their robes". Instead, we are left wondering why they even need the breathing tubes if they can hold their breath for so long, and if they can't hold their breath for so long, why didn't they think of using the devices when they were being gassed?

Most films have little inconsistencies like this, even the original Star Wars: "These blast points. Too accurate for Sand People. Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise", yet they can't hit people trapped in long, straight, narrow corridors? At least we know they are not entirely ineffectual like the battle droids in The Phantom Menace. It has also always bothered me that Leia screams "they're coming through!" after Luke "locks" the door above the chasm in the death star by blasting it. Her words just echo about because there is nothing happening behind her. If she screamed it when the door starts inching upward it would make more sense, instead she sounds like she's panicking, which contradicts her behavior in the cell block when she found them a way out.

Some of Raynor's counterpoints make him sound like a complete idiot. For example, on page 106 he's struck dumb by Plinkett's assertion that art can come from adversity, that some production problems can actually lead to a better movie. Perhaps Raynor has never heard of a little film called JAWS? One of the reasons that movie works so well is that we don't see much of the shark until the very end of the movie, but it wasn't written that way. We were supposed to see lots of the shark throughout, and it is only because it kept malfunctioning that they had to come up with more creative ways to convey the danger - like those yellow barrels, or the piece of dock moving quickly towards a fisherman - ideas which arguably made the whole movie better.

Even when he counters arguments with indisputable facts I still don't buy what he's shoveling. For example, Plinkett says that Anakin isn't the main character because he doesn't show up until 45 minutes into the movie. Raynor's response? "Wrong. Anakin shows up at almost exactly 32 minutes into the movie". Oh, then I guess Anakin is the main character. The fact is that by the time Anakin does show up it feels like you've been watching this garbage for at least 45 minutes. And Raynor is wrong about the timing anyway! Anakin jogs down the steps and into the film at exactly 33 minutes and 39 seconds - at least on my copy of the movie, but perhaps Raynor has a sped up 25 fps PAL edition. Somehow he got the timing right about Luke though...

Raynor keeps whining about how biased Plinkett's statements are against the movie, "Another biased portrayal of what happened in the movie," P.14, but that is what reviews are. They are a personal opinion - If the reviewer doesn't like a film, their statements about the film will be biased against it. I could just as easily respond to his statements with exactly the same words, because he keeps trying to show us what a beautiful shade of brown this stinking turd of a film is. I have watched Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace exactly three times since it's release 15 years ago. I saw it at the cinema during its first week of release (no, I did not camp outside the theater to see it, I went to see it 4 or 5 days after it opened), then I saw it again when it was released on VHS (hoping it wasn't as bad as I remembered, but it was) and then I saw it again about a year ago when I screened it for my kids on DVD, and it was still terrible. Had Plinkett asked me to describe Queen Amidala or Qui-Gon Jinn in 2009 I would have struggled too, mostly because it had been so long since I had seen the film, but also because the characters are utterly forgettable and in the end I don't care about any of them.

Raynor gives us a fair explanation of the Trade Federation - taxation - Sidious - McGuffin, but fails to acknowledge how utterly BORING that whole premise actually is. The fact is, that if you are bored reading the opening crawl to the point where you find yourself skimming past lines about taxation and Senatorial debate that might have explained what happens next, clearly something is fundamentally wrong with the film. He also goes to great lengths to point out that actually Amidala's ship DOES get hit again - and more than once - after this shields are restored, but unless you go back and watch that scene again this isn't obvious from the editing. When you watch the scene, it looks like the shields come back up and then they escape, that is the impression you are left with. The fact they there are actually one or two last minute pot shots at the ship goes unnoticed - unless you are actually looking for them.

I don't know what this Raynor character's background is, but unless he is some kind of military commander, how are his assessments of the military strategies so much better than Plinkett's? "Judging from the laughable tactics that he has suggested throughout his review, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that he has no military experience either. After all, he's tactical genius who actually thinks this is a good idea [that the Jedi should attack the whole droid army in the hanger]." I don't think Plinkett's idea that the Jedi could take on the whole droid army in the hanger of the ship is necessarily a good one, either, but if the majority of them are strapped into the ships and shut down, they actually might have been able to disable them all if they snuck from ship to ship and did it quietly... And if you actually stop to think about this, they are probably ON THE DROID CONTROL SHIP. All the battle droids could simply be shut down from somewhere on that ship. Too bad Artoo wasn't with them at that point - Artoo could have just "put his thing in the thing" as Plinkett would say, and shut them all down. Then the Jedi could simply have arrested the Viceroy and ended the blockade. 

Raynor is gracious enough to accept some of Plinkett's criticisms, and even shares some of them, admitting that Obi-Wan is under utilized in the film, that the whole Midichlorian thing was probably a bad idea, as was the idea that Anakin turns out to be C-3P0's maker. And when he isn't whining like a 7 year old ["The girl pretends that she doesn't remember who Qui-Gon is, despite how much of TPM is spent following him" - If she has only seen the film once, perhaps years ago, and isn't a huge Star Wars fan it is very plausible that she would not know which character Qui-Gon is], but actually calms down enough to use reason and logic, he occasionally makes some good points of his own. For example, in response to Plinkett's question "If the Sith have been extinct for a millennium, and only Jedis use lightsabers...then why are the Jedis so darn experienced at sword fighting?" Raynor suggests that perhaps they train with each other and that this was just a stupid, pointless question. On this one, I'm inclined to agree. I also agree with his points about the fight choreography in the lightsaber duel at the end. At the time the movie was released, I was heavily into martial arts and for me the duel was the one exciting and redeeming feature in the whole movie. Having said, that, I can also appreciate Plinkett's point of view that "Their flawless choreography lacks all humanity and emotion" without feeling like I need to get all agitated and defensive about my own opinion.

Raynor's conclusion is that people should take the time to check the 'facts' before they accept them as truths, but he offers very few real facts of his own. Really his entire argument is that he was offended by the Red Letter Media review, he actually quite liked The Phantom Menace, and has come up with his own set of theories and plausible reasons for why certain events in the film happen they way they do, presumably after watching the film many times. Sure, Plinkett exaggerates things and bends the truth for the sake of entertainment, and that's what makes it funny - we're not idiots, we do realize that he takes certain scenes out of context to emphasize the point he is trying to make, but the way he shapes the material resonates with those of us who disliked the film. He takes things that were slightly off about the film, but you couldn't quite put your finger on why, and gives you a reason. Sure Plinkett is nitpicking, but this film has so many nits, that by pulling them all out one after the other we get to see just how poorly put together this whole film is.

If you really want to read his full rant, you can download Jim Raynor's "Study in Fanboy Stupidity":

Red-Letter-Media-Episode-I-Review-A-Study-in-Fanboy-Stupidity.pdf (2.08 mb)

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