So the other day I watched a documentary on Netflix called The People vs George Lucas. It was all about how Star Wars fans once loved George Lucas for creating the original trilogy which they are so passionate about but how they now tend to hate him for creating the prequel trilogy. It’s a sentiment I totally understand. I by no means hate George Lucas but I am glad to hear that he has stepped away from the Star Wars franchise having recently sold it off to Disney. I think there’s a lot to like about the prequel trilogy but like the fans interviewed in this doc, I agree that there’s a lot to hate as well. The wooden acting, the introduction of midichlorians, the whiny Anakin, I could’ve done without all of that. It had actually been a while since I watched Episode I and watching this doc made me decide to give it another chance. I find that a lot of movies that disappointed me on the first viewing due to high expectations, are much more enjoyable the second time around, like Wrath of the Titans and The Wolfman. Of course this was probably my 15th time seeing Phantom Menace but still, I was curious as to how I would feel about it today. So I watched it. And yeah, it was rough. Not unbearable, because I love Liam Neeson and I get giddy every time I see Darth Maul, but pretty close to unbearable. In the first few minutes we have to deal with the bad rubber masks of the trade federation, the cheesy “acting” of the battle droids and then the nightmare that is Jar jar Binks. Part of my brain likes it because it’s Star Wars but a larger part is screaming “This is terrible!” It can be a very confusing experience.
Some of the new characters I quite like, like Maul, Qui Gon, and Watto and some I loathe like Jar Jar, young Anakin and Boss Nass. And then there are a bunch of characters that I’m pretty indifferent towards. When I watch the original trilogy I feel a connection to every alien that appears on screen because I owned their toy and shared many adventures with them. That is not the case with the CG aliens that populate the crowd shots of these newer films. I couldn’t care less about Ben Quadinaros or Ody Mandrell.
The battle droids used by the Trade Federation were pretty underwhelming in appearance and once they started talking I absolutely hated them. The constant “Roger Roger”s and the stammering “Coruscant..that does not computer…er….you’re under arrest”. Give me a break. The flying versions of those annoying droids though actually still seem pretty cool to me. The Vulture droids didn’t appear to babbling stupid f**k-ups like their bipedal brethren. In droid mode they walked around like some large 4-legged robotic beast. The shape of their heads and their red slit eyes gave them a very menacing appearance, the complete opposite of the duck faced battle droids. The battle droids looked incredibly flimsy and seemed to break apart from the slightest impact. The Vultures looked much more capable at inflicting damage instilling fear.
In ship mode the Vultures bear a resemblance to the Tie-Fighters which is a nice nod to the later (earlier) films as a hint at what is to come. Unlike the manned Tie-fighters though the Vultures are droids and did not require pilots. I assume they must not have been very effective droids otherwise why would they evolve into piloted craft in later years.
As much as I dig the design of these things I likely would have never bought these things had I not been suffering from extreme Star Wars fever. When Episode I hit theaters I was so excited about getting a new Star Wars flick that I bought up everything. Not too many brands could convince me to buy multiple figures of old men in purple robes and yet Star Wars had me lining up outside to purchase the damn things at $10 a pop. The fever had died down by the time Episode II came out and I had lost it completely by Episode III. I only have a handful of figures from those last 2 films but when it comes to Phantom Menace, the worst of the bunch, I have pretty much all of the figures. I don’t usually buy vehicles unless they come with a figure that I want. This set was unique as it was 3 small vehicles packaged together with no figure. If they were strictly vehicles I would not have bought this set, even with extreme Star Wars fever. But because they’re robots I was able to validate the purchase.
The set included 3 Vulture Droids and a stand. But only one of the droids actually transformed into its “robot” mode; the other 2 were permanently stuck in ship mode. The ships could be attached to a stand which could be held like a handle. This way kids (or grown men) could make the pair fly around the living room in a synchronized flight pattern. Buttons on the handle could be pressed to eject each ship from the base simulating it getting blown out of the sky. It’s kind of a neat play feature that I probably would have gotten lots of use out of as a kid. My favorite of the set is the transforming ship. The droid mode looks alright but it lacks the menace of the on-screen version. It’s legs are pretty unstable and it doesn’t take much to knock him over. The paint jobs are pretty good with an army green base and some added wear and tear. Better than a battle droid to be sure but give me a Storm Trooper any day. 5 out of 10.