REVIEW: RedLetterMedia’s Review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace


(Warning: Video contains explicit language. NSFW.)



Deep question: What is the point of this column? Why do we have reviews of movies and TV? Why do we seek out reviews, read them, write them?


Answer #1: To get ideas for what to watch next. There is so much stuff out there, especially in these days of internet streaming, and sometimes you just need a push in a direction, any direction.


But then why do we — or at any rate, I — sometimes look up and read reviews or recaps of movies and TV episodes we’ve already seen? Sometimes we won’t even click on reviews of stuff we’ve never heard of, but we’ll read a recap of a TV episode that we saw just last night or last week . . . or maybe that’s just me.


Answer #2: Sometimes it’s for validation. I’ll admit it, sometimes if I like something, I want to know if the wider world embraced it as much as I did. If I look at the reviews it got, maybe I’ll learn that my tastes are too mainstream for me to maintain my hipster cred. Or maybe I’m one of the few who saw brilliance where most people missed it. Or maybe I just have really bad taste and didn’t realize it? (Totally hypothetical, fyi; my taste is impeccable.)


Answer #3: We loved some movie, or hated it, or felt indifferent to it, but for whatever reason, we can’t quite find the words to explain why, and there is something so satisfying about finding someone who can articulate your thoughts for you. Makes you feel stupid and smart at the same time.


Answer #4: Negative reviews have a tendency to be hilarious.


This column is old-school movie reviewing — i.e., it uses the written word. An increasingly popular alternative these days is the video-review, which pop up all over YouTube, because just as anyone with a keyboard can post a blog post movie review, anyone with a video camera can post a YouTube movie review.


And I am in fact reviewing a review. Because I think they’re worth discussing and also, I can.


Some of the most popular video reviews on YouTube, and some of my personal favorites, are RedLetterMedia’s reviews of the Star Wars prequels: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith.


They are preposterously long for movie reviews — The Phantom Menace review is in 7 parts of 10 minutes each (from back when YouTube videos maxed out at 10 minutes), for a total of 70 minutes for just the one review.


How the heck does this reviewer get away with that, and better yet, achieve viral popularity? Even the Kony video was only half an hour. What gives?


Well, it’s a combination of factors.


The key, I think, is that the reviewer anticipated the obvious initial reaction of most people to a 70-minute movie review. Naturally, most people would say, “Jeez, it’s just a movie. Who cares? You must be the biggest loser with no life and no friends.”


RedLetterMedia preemptively counters this in the most deliciously demented way possible: he invents an entire movie-reviewing persona for the videos, a persona that gleefully screams, in essence: “Yes, in fact I AM a complete and total loser with no friends! What’s more, I actually killed all my ex-wives and I hate my kids and my grandkids and I’m a compulsive gambler and I kidnap cheerleaders and prostitutes and tie them up in my basement!”


Not exaggerating. At all. The review’s opening line is: “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is the most disappointing thing since my son.” And later he actually takes the camera down to what he says is his basement and while he’s ranting about how much he hates the movie and its shameless merchandising, the camera just happens to pan over a hooker tied up in the corner. (She begs him to let her go, and he snaps, “Shut up, I’m making a review here!”)


It is simultaneously the most messed-up and unbelievably genius idea any movie reviewer has ever had.


The other major strength of these reviews is that they have genuinely insightful criticisms to offer. Couching them in the over-the-top absurdity gets people to actually listen to what the reviews are saying.


RedLetterMedia points out failures in the characters by asking people to describe Han Solo vs. Qui-Gon Jinn. (Han is a “dashing, cocksure, arrogant badboy with a heart of gold,” whereas the most anyone can come up with for Qui-Gon is “stoic” and “bearded.”) He demonstrates that there is no protagonist (which he hilariously mispronounces differently every time he says it), and as a result, the movie’s story is unfocused and lacks coherence. He intercuts footage from the movie and the behind the scenes featurettes to emphasize his points.


Without one or the other of these two key components — the legitimate critiques and the ridiculously profane and misanthropic persona — the reviews wouldn’t hold together. It may not sound like a winning formula, but it’s addictive, and will get you to watch all the way to the end, as evidenced by the almost 1.5 million views on Part 7 of the 7-part review.



Video Source:


3 thoughts on “REVIEW: RedLetterMedia’s Review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”

  1. Interest question and answer technique to start the post with. I agree that it’s pretty admirable to put on a persona when doing a youtube review and try to approach it differently, as I have as a youtube movie reviewer as well. Sometimes doing a dumb voice like that the whole review helps make your more serious critique a little less serious and more comical.

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