Has anyone ever had their hopes so high for an upcoming movie that they felt like their life’s happiness revolved around how good that movie was going to be? As a movie junkie, I can tell you that’s I how felt about certain movies that I’ve seen. There’s a movie that I know will see the light of day sometime during my lifetime and I become very anxious to see it. When that movie finally comes, I’m either massively disappointed or extremely overwhelmed. I’m happy to say that the latter occurs more often, but the former occurs more than I want it to.
The best example of this was during the beginning of 2016, when a not-so little film called, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, was released. I love comics, and I love comic book movies, and Batman vs. Superman was a movie that I spent many years waiting for. When I saw it opening night, I came out of the theater only semi-satisfied. Batman vs. Superman? How is not the coolest movie ever?! I figured seeing it a second time would probably make me like it more, but when I sat through it a second time, I actually liked it even less. Then I saw it a third time, and liked it even less. Yeah, it was disappointing. Sure, the ultimate edition that came out soon after improved on it, but the damage was already done.
A movie with two of the biggest superheroes ever failed to impress audiences and didn’t do well at the box office. Never in a million years would I think that would happen, but it sadly did. That made me sad, especially since it was a follow-up to Justice League (which wasn’t much better) but after multiple viewings of the film, something clicked in me.
I was too young to notice at the time, but in the year of 1999, another not-so little film was released. Ring any bells? Here’s a hint: it includes a duck-like creature that talks funny and a Sith lord with a devilish appearance and a double-bladed lightsaber. That’s right, the first episode of the Star Wars saga, The Phantom Menace. I was a few years younger than the annoying kid Anakin when this movie came out, so there wasn’t much anticipation from my end. In fact, I became a Star Wars fans around the time this movie came out, because I watched it around the same time I watched the original trilogy. I wasn’t very critical of it, but then again, I was a little kid at the time.
I was also too young to care about the anxious fanbase that was super excited for The Phantom Menace to release. Now that I’m older and did the research, I realized those people were just like me when I saw Batman vs. Superman. We were all very excited for these highly anticipated movies, and they let us down. It wasn’t just a matter of being disappointed with the movie, however. When you’re disappointed by a film that you feel like you’ve waited your whole life for, it hurts you.
When the Star Wars fans of that generation, who grew up with the prequels and walked into a theater to see The Phantom Menace, just imagine how most of them felt walking out. I can relate to this because I grew up with the prequels and the original trilogy, and just like everybody else, I was excited for the new Star Wars trilogy. And much like many other Star Wars fans, I was pretty disappointed with how it turned out. The younger crowd of this generation was massively disappointed, much like the people of that generation was. It seems like our generation got double duped with a lackluster Batman vs. Superman movie. That being said, I’ve come to realize something interesting: Batman vs. Superman and The Phantom Menace are basically the same movie.
That’s right. Not only is Batman vs. Superman the Phantom Menace of our generation, but it’s almost the same movie. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll happily give you some specifics. Let’s begin with both movie’s main characters. What exactly does “The Phantom Menace” refer to? George Lucas intended for Darth Sidious to be the Phantom Menace, but let’s face it, he didn’t do squat. Yes, he was the guy behind the scenes pulling all the strings, but what did he do physically? It was Nute Gunray who invaded Naboo and held the planet hostage, and it was Darth Maul who confronted the Jedi and killed Qui-Gon Jinn. The Phantom Menace is the main title of the movie, but the guy who is supposed to be the Phantom Menace doesn’t really do much. That sound familiar?
Batman vs. Superman was supposed to be about Batman and Superman, but Batman was the one actually doing something to advance the plot. As for Superman, he spent most of the movie being depressed and that’s pretty much it. Now I get it, he already had his movie, and Batman needed to be developed, but we the movie didn’t do much with Superman. His character development felt bland and his sacrifice was undeniably very untimely. Let’s not forget, the Dawn of Justice part of the title, which was the overall endgame of the movie. Batman vs. Superman focused too much on setting up Justice League, that it forgot to develop the conflict that reflects the title. The Phantom Menace did the same thing, focusing too much on setting up the stage for the two sequels, instead of actually having a coherent plot.
But wait, the similarities don’t stop there. Darth Sidious was technically the main villain of The Phantom Menace, but like I said, he didn’t do much. The villains who actually did do something were Nute Gunray and Darth Maul. Now Nute Gunray is probably the weakest Star Wars villain ever, but he was the guy on the field calling the shots. Then there was Darth Maul, who was the actual physical threat to the heroes. He had an incredible fight scene with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, but his biggest crime was killing Qui-Gon. Oh, and then there was Jar Jar, who is a villain that banes the whole saga.
What does that have to do with Batman vs. Superman? Well, I’ll get right to it and say that Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is basically Nute Gunray and Jar Jar rolled into one. He’s a useless pest of a villain, who spent a lot of time giggling and just being more annoying than menacing. Luthor did act as the scheming mastermind, but what were his exact motivations? Did he ever really say the specific reason why he wanted to kill Superman? Did Nute Gunray give a reason for serving under Darth Sidious? It seemed like they both just wanted to fight the good guys because they wanted to. A villain with no clear motivations is a bland villain.
Oh, and think about Darth Sidious’ plan. It wasn’t to corrupt a son to kill his father, but to get someone to sign a piece of paper. This was all for the purpose of securing his position as the Supreme Chancellor, but that’s only if she didn’t sign it. Yes, I’m aware she didn’t, but what happened if she did? Would he have been able to become Chancellor if she signed the treaty? It’s like he didn’t want her to sign it, but he also wanted to force her to sign it. Yeah, his plan just didn’t make sense, just like Luthor’s. I mean, he pitted Superman and Batman against each other, but no matter who won, he lost.
And then there’s Darth Maul, the villain who had little motivation, but didn’t need it. He just wanted to kill the Jedi. He was quiet, didn’t say much, but his appearance said it all. The villain that reflects him the most is Doomsday by far. Both villains were the physical henchmen who didn’t talk much (Doomsday yelled a lot) and actually killed the hero. Darth Maul killed Qui-Gon and Doomsday killed Superman. In the end, they both paid the price and were killed with bladed weapons. The only real difference between them is that Doomsday doesn’t look nearly as cool as Darth Maul. He just needed a few more spikes.
Is Qui-Gon really the hero of The Phantom Menace? I guess you can argue that he is, but even he was severely underdeveloped, much like Superman. When they died, their deaths were sad, but it felt like we were just starting to get to know them. There was also Obi-Wan, the biggest hero of the franchise, but he was sidelined for most of the film. You know who else was seriously sidelined for Batman vs. Superman? The one and only Wonder Woman. After these films, both characters got their chance to properly shine in the sequels, and they did so brilliantly.
Man, oh man, these two movies are basically dysfunctional twins. We had such high hopes for them and they disappointed us immensely. Now that the new Star Wars trilogy has made fans angry, it seems they are appreciating The Phantom Menace more. I wonder if Batman vs. Superman will become more liked as time goes on, but we’ll see. I just hope the next decade doesn’t give me a similar experience, but then again, disappointment always finds a way.