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These Maligned Movies Deserve a Second Chance

I’m not going to pretend “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace” wasn’t one of the most disappointing movies of all time.

Fans had waited 16 years for George Lucas to revive his wonderful Star Wars saga. He had the opportunity to give us what we had been hoping for for so long. But both the script and the filming felt like they were first takes, and what in the world is a trade federation doing in a “Star Wars” adventure?

Put these complaints aside. “The Phantom Menace” is still an enjoyable film. Anyone ages 8 to 80 can enter into the magical realm of “a galaxy far, far away…” and go on a fun ride.

And no, I never thought Jar Jar Binks was all that annoying.

While I can see where the second episode is painful (my third least favorite film of the franchise––just ahead of Episodes 9 and 8, respectively), and episode three is better, “The Phantom Menace” doesn’t deserve all the hate that it has gotten over the past 20-plus years.

Somebody else out there must have something nice to say about it…right? Note: “The Phantom Menace” scored an impressive second-place finish earlier this month during its 2024 re-release.

‘Superman III’ (1983)

Not long ago, I wrote how “Superman: The Movie” is still relevant, and why it remains my favorite comic book movie. While I can understand arguments against the fourth installment, “The Quest for Peace,” I’m surprised “Superman III” isn’t well liked.

After all, it has everything you’d expect in a Superman film. The sequel embodies the essence of a Superman comic book more than any of the other films. The story seemingly jumps off the pages onto the big screen.

It has charm, humor (thanks to a great performance by Richard Pryor), good guys who are really good and bad guys who aren’t so bad. Plus, it has the standard Superman characters that we love (even if they appear only for a brief period, including Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane).

Plus, we get a cinematic glimpse of Superman’s hometown of Smallville and meet Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole).

I know some of it might seem cheesy, but it’s aimed for 8-to-10-year-old boys and like I said, it’s a Saturday morning cartoon that sprung to life. It’s fun, lighthearted and innocent––and that’s what a Superman movie is all about.

‘The Legend of the Lone Ranger’ (1982)

All three of these movies speak to the inner child in me. There’s nothing like the adventurous spirit of a young boy. And those of us who grew up watching The Lone Ranger reruns know this.

In fact, I still have a vinyl record album of “The Lone Ranger” radio serials. So it’s no surprise the 1981 film would be something I gravitated toward in adulthood.

But it wasn’t until the past year or so that I learned of “The Legend of the Lone Ranger’s” poor reputation.

Why? This is––well almost––the perfect Lone Ranger story. I mean, sure, if it had a top-name director, A-list stars and a script polish it could have been better.

As is, “The Legend of the Lone Ranger” does justice to the masked man’s legacy. You could tell they wanted to get it right.

It sticks true to the character’s origin story, packs plenty of action, fine cinematography, a decent soundtrack and a good cast. “Taxi”-era Christopher Lloyd does a fine job as the villain.

I’m curious what the actual Lone Ranger’s actor’s voice sounded like (veteran actor James Keach replaced star Klinton Spilsbury’s vocals.)

And like “Superman III,” it embodies the character’s spirit almost perfectly, even slightly in epic form. I realize that’s a stretch, but it’s superior to the painfully awkward 2013 version starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp.

Jeff Miller is a husband, dad, pastor, artist, writer and all-around good guy (for the most part). He lives in the Western Finger Lakes Region of New York State with his wife, Diana. He has three grown children. Jeff has two blogs of his own, A Closer Look and Flashback Friday Christian Music Review. Jeff is also a contributor to Kingdom Winds, where you can read his sermons online.

This column originally appeared at A Closer Look.

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