It's difficult to pinpoint exactly when certain historical events happen. For example, It's difficult to say exactly when the French Revolution came to an end. Some Historians say it ended when Napoleon was crowned Emperor of France, while others assert that it didn't end at that point because France had Monarchs after the end of Napoleon's rule. In a similar fashion, it's difficult to pinpoint the birth of the Hateboy movement. Some will argue that it all started in 1997, when fans went to see the Special Editions, and they were angered by the changes George Lucas made, in particular the whole ''Han Shot First'' stupidity. Others might say that it really wasn't born until the internet united the haters and made them a powerful force. Regardless of when this Weapon of Mass Destruction was born, it's important to note that perhaps the people most influential in dispersing the seeds of this movement, either intentionally or unintentionally, where the critics who reviewed The Phantom Menace. We know that Roger Ebert liked Phantom Menace, but other critics like Peter Travers from Rolling Stone didn't. But what most people don't know is that one of the earliest reviews of the film came from none other than Eli Roth, director of horror and violent films, since it was published before the film was ever opened to the public. In several ways, Eli Roth is one of the founding fathers of Hateboy Nation. The term Hateboys, however, was coined several years later by the blog A Certain Point of View.net.
Once notorious hateboy Mike Ryan from the Huffington Post unearthed this review, We can now see more clearly some of the ''genesis'', the reasons why most hateboys didn't like the prequels and why several at the end of the day, don't really like Star Wars.
Let's see how it starts:
Few films in history have had greater anticipation than The Phantom Menace. People have been waiting on line for over a month to get tickets. I know I have been waiting since 5th grade, following every rumor in "Starlog" and on the Internet. So here's the kicker: IT SUCKS. I'm sorry, it does. I know it's sacrilege to criticize George Lucas or the Holy Grail of movie trilogies, but after waiting 16 years I can honestly tell you this film is an unbelievable disappointment. People may say that waiting 16 years for anything will be a disappointment, but I waited 16 years to get laid and that really lived up to all my expectations. Okay, I'm lying, I didn't get laid until I was 18, but you get my point.
Really Eli Roth? Really? Comparing the experience of watching a Star Wars film to sexual intercourse is the lowest form of male primate ritual. Any Star Wars fan that truly loves the films knows that the Star Wars experience is one of pure connection with your soul. It's not a love affair, it has absolutely nothing to do with that. Any person who gets married because they think it's a very long love affair will be divorced very soon, because they all end in disappointment. So in truth, it's no wonder Eli Roth makes this comparison: he probably wasn't enamored with Star Wars in the first place.
Let's start with the first problem of the movie, the title. What does it mean? I have no idea. Having seen the film, I still have no idea. I'm guessing it's a reference to Anakin Skywalker, but your guess is as good as mine.
This proofs he probably never understood the film in the first place. George Lucas managed to fool him into thinking that Palpatine and Sidious are two different persons, hence the title of the film.
At this point I realized that Han Solo and Chewbacca wouldn't be appearing any time soon, and I got a bit worried. It wasn't the fact that half the film was computer generated and it was starting to look more like A Bug's Life than Star Wars, it was the embarrassing dialogue that Lucas wrote.
The whole argument against Lucas with the ''bad dialogue'' makes you think that they never paid attention to the dialogue of the previous films. It's not meant to be Shakespeare, it's meant to sound big and epic and so forth. How could Han Solo show up if he was just a baby? Weren't we supposed to see a different story? Simply because Chewie doesn't show up, it doesn't mean its a bad film. After all, the Star Wars universe is pretty big. Apparently Eli Roth didn't bother to notice that the film was shot in Tunisia and in Italy, for Tatooine and Naboo, nor did he realize that Coruscant had to be CGI because their was no other way around it. So anyway, that argument is completely invalid.
Imagine the worst aspects of Jedi--the Ewoks--exploited in mass form and forced upon you throughout the entire film. I was cringing every second Jar Jar was on screen.
And yet Eli Roth said that he loved the Ewoks recently, in the Return of Return of the Jedi video. Is he just making up excuses simply because the prequel hatred bandwagon is based out of emotion and not facts?
In Phantom Menace, when a ship crashes during a race, an ESPN-type announcer says "I don't care what planet you're from, that's gotta hurt!" Is that supposed to be funny? Whereas the previous films were based heavily on Greek mythology, this film is based on popular culture.
Again, Eli Roth ignores the fact that Episode I is the most influenced by Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, as he ignores that Anakin's early stages of his hero journey is very similar to Luke's. So much for Joseph Campbell, whose influence is as much, if not more, visible in this film than in A New Hope. What about the virgin birth? What about Darth Maul, who clearly resembles Satan? And what about Qui-Gon? Did nobody notice how similar he is to Obi-Wan in Episode IV? I could go on.
And finally, Eli Roth's prediction of the future comes true, to a certain extent at least:
I was so angry after the film I wanted to punch someone in the face. I was tempted to go to Hollywood Boulevard, outside Mann's Chinese Theatre, and scream to the crowd who have been sleeping outside since March: "It sucks. Go home. Go back to your non-existent lives! It sucks!" I have a feeling that there will be riots in the streets when this film comes out. Star Wars fans will be so shocked and appalled that they will harass George Lucas into seclusion, and he'll get so pissed off he'll just say "fuck it" and chuck the whole thing. Or he could play it smart and stick to writing the story and leave the dialogue to people who actually know what they're doing.
What is true is that for the years that followed, a small but annoying group of ''fans'' have been doing everything in their power to discredit George Lucas and his films. The funny thing is that the guy who prophecied everything is apparently no longer a hateboy anymore. At the same time that this got unearthed, Mike Ryan contacted Eli Roth, and he has some things to say that distinguish him from the guy who wrote this review in 99.
I wrote that review very much in the style of my all time favorite movie review, which Steve Martin wrote in his book "Cruel Shoes" as a 'rejected New Yorker submission' reviewing "Alien," where he admits to falling asleep in the film and not remembering anyone's names. I knew Jordan Hoffman from NYU and had written a screenplay for him when he was working for Andrew Lauren (son of Ralph, who was producing at the time), and so Jordan asked me to write that and credited me as "Hollywood screenwriter," despite the fact I had never done anything in the business. I didn't really worry about making enemies because I was dead certain nobody I mention in the review would ever read it. Oops. Now I know the people at Skywalker and they're so nice and invite me to all kinds of Star Wars events, but I'm guessing that now that you've unearthed this treasure I won't be on their Christmas list, despite my enduring love for Star Wars.
Now I look back at that review and all I can say is, I'm so happy I have a life now. Having received similar scathing reviews (and worse ones), I read it and laugh and realize that the only crime against cinema was getting that upset at a movie that was never intended for me. I've met so many young people who love the "new" Star Wars films, because that's who they were made for. Thinking that George Lucas made "The Phantom Menace" for me is symptomatic of my entire generation who grew up with Star Wars, because as kids in the 70's and 80's, those films were made for us. We just assumed that would continue in the 90's (and secretly hope it does with J.J. Abrams at the helm of the new ones). So while I won't be ordering the Phantom Menace special edition Blu-ray anytime soon, I don't take the film as a personal assault against my childhood. At least not in front of girls.
So at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what Eli Roth thinks with regard to Episode I, due to the fact that he obviously isn't a hateboy anymore. He realizes that their are plenty of folks who love these films, and that George always intended the film to be for kids. So Eli, I want to say personally that your view on Episode I is forgiven and thank you for not being a hateboy. I wish Simon Pegg and the rest of the crowd, could learn Eli Roth's lesson, someday.