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Critic Says Everything We Hate About 'Star Wars: Episode I' in 1983 [Video]

"They're making children dumber than they need to be....These films try to keep children, stupid children forever." Joe Simon said, and frankly that's the nicest thing he can say about the Star Wars films. In some ways he's right.

Above Image: Nightline (1983) Rober Ebert, Joe Simon discussing Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

The Star Wars films grossed $2 billion, are loved the world over and considered classics of cinema. Everyone loves them. Except for one man: Joe Simon.

Back in 1983, Nightline hosted a debate between film critics Roger Ebert, the late Gene Siskel and Joe Simon. Simon hates the Star Wars films and doesn't mince words when describing his hatred of them. The critic has been bashed on Reddit and various blogs for his "snooty" attitude and they're right. He's rude, condescending and insulting. But, frankly, his arguments about what's wrong with Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back could easily be thrown at Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.

Here's the Nightline piece from 1983.

Let's take his arguments and compare them with critiques of Episode I:

These Movies Are For Children
"They're making children dumber than they need to be....These films try to keep children, stupid children forever." - Simon

"George Lucas has made no secret of the fact that this film is aimed directly at 12-year-old boys, not at men in their 40s trying to recapture their lost youth." - Paul Clinton (CNN)

"The Phantom Menace may strike even some kids as excessively cartoon-like, but then, as a director, Lucas remains the greatest exponent of the theme park aesthetic. As each character in The Phantom Menace has been designed with a molded plastic collectible in mind, almost every sequence suggests either Mr. Toad's Wild Ride or a Fantasyland it would be a pleasure not to visit." - J. Hoberman (Village Voice)

The Movies Are All Special Effects
“You see one set of robots, some of them ostensibly flesh and blood but actually just as mechanical as the three other robots, attacking another set of robots. It zaps you, it races past you, projectiles are hurling this way and that, there’s nothing to get involved with,”  - Simon

"Climaxing instead with four simultaneous battles, The Phantom Menace is a war movie that's all the creepier for making the combat virtually cost-free. The two human Jedis decimate, dismember, and destroy several dozen digital droid armies—but these pesky critters feel no pain. Similarly, little Ani learns the magic of strategic bombing (or is it a video game?), blasting away at largely unseen as well as nonhuman targets. The extended carnage has none of the horror that characterized the digitally produced human-insect struggle of Starship Troopers. The most exciting action is also the most conventional—the Jedis' leaping light-saber fight with a horned, orange-eyed, camouflage-faced bogeyman could have been choreographed for Errol Flynn." - J. Hoberman (Village Voice)

"As impressive as many of the CGI effects are in Phantom Menace, few of them stay with you; they have the disposability of cartoons but without the carefree flippancy that often comes from the best animation. Even when Lucas hits on a resonant image, such as the underwater city of Naboo, which glows like an aggregation of Art Nouveau chandeliers, he doesn't stay with it for long; he's on to the next effect" - Peter Rainer (New York Magazine)

The Special Effects Take Away From the Drama
“When you have a film that’s 90 percent special – and that’s a kindly estimate — 90 percent special effects, you might just as well be watching an animated cartoon, because finally all those special effects begin to look totally unreal." - Simon

"Ninety-five percent of this film was altered on computer; only about 200 shots were not created digitally. It's a computer-generated-imagery blowout, and the actors in it are upstaged to a fare-thee-well. Being human has never seemed more humdrum. And maybe this was Lucas's intention: By making his CGI creatures -- his 'droids and globs and thingamajigs -- so much more captivating than his people, he's striking a blow for the primacy of special effects over human effects." - Peter Rainer

Cute, but Worthless, Characters
[When asked if he liked Yoda] "Well yes, I mean a little. But let’s say if I saw him in a window at FAO Schwarz and I looked at him for three seconds and said, ‘That’s a kind of cute little figurine,’ I would have had enough of Yoda.” - Simon

Many have said the same about Jar-Jar Binks. He was cute and fun for a few minutes, but that's it.

"The icky alien sidekick Jar Jar Binks remains worse than an embarrassment. His dialogue serves so little purpose that each time he opens his rubbery mouth to drop another line in incomprehensible Rasta Pig Latin, he stops the movie cold. (How annoying is Jar Jar? He's annoying even in the middle of combat.)" - Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly)

Is Joe Simon right about the Star Wars films? No. I could watch them all day and still love them and there's nothing wrong with that. But what he said isn't new or shocking. It was ahead of his time.

(Via ABC News)

What do you think? Is Simon right about the Star Wars movies?
[Image Source: YouTube]

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  1. While I think the last three movies were awful, i don't think they were bad in the way he's describing. So does he hate animated movies as well? He has a few good points, but overall just a bit harsh.

    1. Yeah, Alex, especially when he calls film critics who like Star Wars immature.

  2. There is truth to what he says especially when applied to the prequels. It was like Lucas learned all the wrong lessons from the first three movies.

    1. Yeah Pat. Several actors, including Terrance Stamp, objected to his CGI directing style. They got better as they went along, but still weak.

  3. He probably wasn't much of a fan of sci-fi movies in general, and I guarantee he wouldn't like our event movie era at all. That being said, people can sometimes forget that Return of the Jedi was not popular among the fans. It was the first of the prequels, in essence. But apparently there was backlash even with the one everyone says is the best of them, Empire Strikes Back.

    So maybe it's time to stop saying Star Wars is only good with [insert your preference]. If anything's truly childish, that would be it.

  4. no comment... my life was star wars then... now i am one of the rings.

  5. Oh my lord. The WORST kind of pretentious "film criticism." Thank the heavens for Siskel and Ebert - who may have been a little down on my beloved horror films but who obviously show their love for more than My Dinner with Andre, The Seventh Seal, and Tender Mercies. The minute he said he'd take his kids to see Tender Mercies - somebody should have stopped the taping and called DSS. Tender Mercies is a marvelous drama I loved in a college film course - but to take a ten or twelve year old to sit and watch a bunch of talking heads hash over life for two hours - child abuse.

  6. Wow! What a clip, Mo. Isn't that critique a right prick, huh?

  7. Very pretentious Craig. I've never seen "Tender Mercies," but I fear children. Thanks for the background on that.


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