Any of these diversions will be a better use of your time than another two hours with Jar Jar Binks in “Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D”
Let’s face it: “Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D” is the broccoli that Lucasfilm wants us to eat before we get the delicious cake of “Star Wars” (I’m firmly against calling it “A New Hope”) and “The Empire Strikes Back” in 3D. But it’s not like you have to prove that you paid to see “Phantom Menace” to be allowed to buy a ticket to the good ones coming out later.
If you’re a fan of “Phantom,” then great, have a wonderful time. For the rest of us, here’s a list of things you’ll find much more palatable
>> Any “Star Wars”-themed ads: Whether it’s Chris Pratt shilling for Kinect, the now-legendary VW spots, or Yoda hyping ramen and Go-Gurt for Japanese audiences, these short spots have a subversive pizzazz that’s missing from the stodgy “Phantom Menace.” Even if you don’t like them, they’re generally over in a minute. But most of them are pretty clever.
>> Any of the “Robot Chicken” parodies of “Star Wars”: Showing a rare sense of humor, George Lucas actually signed off on these — the running gag of Emperor Palpatine taking phone calls from an incompetent Darth Vader is probably my favorite.
>> “The Star Wars Holiday Special”: Only in the 1970s would anyone have thought it was a good idea to turn a hit sci-fi action movie into a variety special with Bea Arthur and Diahann Carroll. And that’s why the ’70s were awesome. Plus, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a, shall we say, bright-eyed Carrie Fisher sing the “Star Wars” theme, with lyrics.
>> “Star Wars XXX: A Porn Parody”: Only if you’re 18, of course. But most of the acting here is better than Jake Lloyd’s “Yippee, I’m a Jedi!” turn as young Anakin Skywalker.
>>“Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium”: A vastly under-appreciated Natalie Portman movie, and one where she gives a far more interesting performance than in all three of her “Star Wars” appearances combined.
>> “Postcards From the Edge”: Speaking of the women of the “Star Wars” franchise, Princess Leia set Carrie Fisher on the road to fame and fortune (independent of the fame she inherited as the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher), but she really came into her own as a writer who mined her own life for a series of entertaining novels and one-woman shows. This Mike Nichols–directed screen adaptation of her first roman-à-clef definitely counts as a career highlight.
>> Turkish “Star Wars”: There are no words for this loony rip-off, except that you need to be watching it RIGHT NOW.
>> Virtually any online parody of “The Phantom Menace”: Start with this new one from Second City Television:
>> “The Phantom Edit”: The super-cool thing for George Lucas to have done would have been to convert this fan-generated trimmed version of “Phantom Menace” into 3D. A fan in California took Lucas’ original and made some very judicious snips, from the excision of the aforementioned “Yippee!” to the removal of almost all of Jar Jar Binks’ screen time. This sort of fanboy rejiggering goes on all the time, but this version actually drew critical acclaim and buzz that extended past the usual internet subjects. Alas, you’ll have to settle for it in 2D.