By Matt Fleming and Jarrod Jones. This is the ANTI-MONITOR podcast, where we have a pod and it’s the fastest ever. This week, Jarrod & Birdy assess ‘Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace’, where they discuss shifty-eyed regal decoys, lightsabers, and how directors should never work with children. Then they take some time for some good-humored Star Wars trivia.

As always, be wary for spoilers throughout, and please enjoy.

ANTI-MONITOR — MATT: For all of you who are feeling the fatigue of reboots, remakes, and prequels, may we point you in the direction of the king of squandered expectations. In 1999, the world awaited its return to the beloved Star Wars universe, and then found itself forced to accept Episode One: The Phantom Menace. The collective disappointment of Star Wars fans was simultaneously deafening and silent; Jar Jar Binks arrived to stink up the affair and the plot was far too complicated to grasp. But, hey! Lightsabers! Podraces! A short bit of space fighting!

This Star Wars film focuses on trade conflicts and the ill-advised adoption of a kid who may just be too crazy for “The Force,” all far cries from the stuff we nerds appreciated about the Original Trilogy. Steeped in bloated fan service, The Phantom Menace is a Star War in the basest sense. Sure, we see Jedi in cloaks and bad guys in darker cloaks, but why do we need origin stories for the comedy relief droids? Liam Neeson tries his damnedest to make the best of things, but Lucas has already screwed the proverbial wookie with his heartless attempt to recapture magic that had long since fled the galaxy. What remains is the beginning of the end of everyone’s collective childhoods, including Anakin Skywalker.

ANTI-MONITOR — JARROD: There has been much ink spilled over the critical response of Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace. So it wouldn’t do to dwell on the gripes we’ve heard ad infinitum since 1999. What’s infinitely more interesting is the glut of acceptance that’s been heaped upon the prequel trilogy in the past seventeen years. Apologists have turned into out-and-proud fans, and yes, even Jar Jar Binks has acquired a second life as one of the most underappreciated characters in George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away.

That may have more to do with how deftly Star Wars: The Clone Wars handled this material than any perceived merits found in these movies. But if I had to choose one prequel film to watch for the rest of my life, give me The Phantom Menace. The podrace sequence is still incredible as ever, and even though it ruined lightsabers for me, the three-way battle between Darth Maul, Obi-wan Kenobi, and Qui-gon Jinn goes down as one of the more thrilling action scenes I’ve ever seen. And speaking of Mr. Jinn, The Phantom Menace sports Darkman himself, Mr. Liam Neeson. Had Neeson stuck around through Episodes II and III, Ian McDiarmid would have had to hand his MVP trophy over to Oscar Schindler.

CONSENSUS: Say what you want about The Phantom Menace. Go ahead. We did. 4.5 out of 10

Before: “Holy Cats, ‘DARKMAN’ Is One Nutty Flick,” here.

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