Classic (Terrible) Scene #4: “Go Anny!”
A scene doesn’t have to be fantastic to stand out…sometimes it can be terrible. Here’s a scene that goes down in cinema history as moment ‘Star Wars’ turned to the Dark Side.
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (Lucas, 1999)
After rescuing Queen Amidala (Portman) from the clutches of the evil trade federation, the Jedi Knights (Neeson and McGregor) wind up stranded on a desert planet. With a downed ship and no currency, they put all their hopes on a young slave participating in a race he’s never managed to finish.
Feel that running down your leg? That’s all the hope, the anticipation for the Star Wars films being pissed away. Sure, it had a rocky first hour or so, some of the politics and motivations were a bit muddled (Why did the Trade Federation want to block trade to Naboo? That’s like McDonalds trying to block french fries.) but the special effects were pretty speccy and the action was exciting if a bit cartoonish. Then things had slowed down and we could get into the adventure proper.
We’d met young Darth Vadar! And he build C3…wait, what? How does that work? And he has midichrolions? I guess that’s all the mystique and romance about the Force gone…and man, this kid’s an annoying actor…
But here’s the POD RACE! I have no idea what a Pod Race is, but my heavens have they been hyping this scene up with video games and Lego sets and whatnot! It must be great! Look at them go! And go! And go! And – oh for fucks sake how long is this going to go on for?!
This movie was a let down, there’s no doubting that, and this scene in particular is the point of no return. To this day I can’t fathom what the complexities of the bet between Liam Neeson and that flying anteater were, after the noble warriors attempt to scam him out of money failed for some reason. The cameos from Jabba and the Sandpeople are lazy, sad attempts to get a cheer from fans (which it did) while at the same time making the characters look like clowns. You’ve got characters who look like rotted fruit, talentless kids, retarded robots bumbing into things for “wacky” humour (who programs robots to walk into things)…it heaps bad on bad like it’s at a buffet for idiots.
The race itself runs out of momentum way to early. Random explosions and more bloody Sandpeople don’t do anything to make it interesting, its just long and I couldn’t care less about the little snot winning. In fact, I wanted the CGI dude to win, he was a better actor. Taking a look at the deleted scenes for this sequence, there’s actually some pretty cool stuff going on, so clearly the responsibility here lays with Lucas who chopped the action in favour of paying lip service to an extra wearing a towel to play a bit part from a film released 22 years prior.
And if that doesn’t make him a bad film-maker, then I guess the next two prequels, the animated film, the animated series, the Lego animated series and the upcoming sitcom series will just have to prove it.
Worst Bit: I’m going with that spastic double headed commentator. The only reason he was given two heads was so he could suck twice as much as everyone else in the scene. And he does.