You are here: Kaedrin > Stuff > Movies > - The Phantom Menace
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

(1999) rated: PG

Director: George Lucas

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Jake Lloyd.

Synopsis: The first of 3 prequels to the already existing Star Wars trilogy, this movie follows the trials of Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) and her planet, Naboo. The greedy Federation which has been giving Naboo such a hard time decides to make times harder when it targets two Jedi Knights (Neeson and McGregor, playing Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan respectively) that were sent to help and invades Naboo. The two Jedi manage to help Amidala escape to the desert world Tatooine (you may recognize the planet as Luke's home planet) where they meet a 9 year old slave boy, Anakin(Jake Lloyd) , who is especially strong with the force. They eventually manage to get back to Coruscont, the Republic's capital, and attempt to save Amidala's people back on Naboo through legal means. Meanwhile, there seems to be a presence that is manipulating things to meet their own devious purposes. So it appears that they are not just fighting the Federation but the Dark Lords of the Sith as well.

Review: Given the wait, hope, and hype behind this movie, one would be tempted to think that this movie would be a disappointment. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was not a disappointment at all, but rather, a spellbinding journey that captured my imagination the way only Star Wars can. I found myself brimming with nervous energy while waiting in line with hundreds of other fans. Sure, its not as groundbreaking or inventive as the original, but that is to be expected. The movie is part of a larger whole, and it follows that it will carry with it familiar themes and ideas (especially since it is telling the beginning of the saga we all know and love).

The storyline, much like earlier installments, is simple yet captivating. Still present are the obvious influences from myths and fables we are all familiar with and that give the story an undeniable credibility. Good versus evil was never presented so well as in the Star Wars movies and this installment is no exception. There are some good new themes as well, such as the critique on how governments are often tangled up into a useless web of red tape and procedure. The characters are all well done (and played well by their respective actors), especially the underutilized Obi-Wan and Darth Maul. The latter is a particularly effective villain who has certainly earned a spot next to Darth Vader as the ultimate villain (the word most frequently used to describe Darth Maul: Baddass). Neeson and Portman were commendable as well as young Jake Lloyd, who manages to do a reasonable job (he is only 9 years old and has to say lines like "yipee!"). The one character that I found myself not liking too much was the always goofy Jar Jar Binks, whose antics were sometimes (actually, never) funny, but oftentimes just annoying.

I must admit that, when I first found out just how many special effects shots there were, I felt that Lucas may have jumped the gun a bit and used too much computer generated imagery. But the special effects were first rate all the way, despite maybe a minor problem here or there (latex doesn't look too good when compared to cgi). The action sequences were breathtaking to say the least, especially the light saber dual between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. No zombie like movements here and I wouldn't dare to give away any more details than I already have.

To put it simply, the movie is not perfect but I still loved it and in my opinion it has lived up to the hype (of course, I tried my hardest to stay away from the hype). Remember that this is possibly one of the hardest movies to make; Lucas has to lay the groundwork for the next two films while keeping in mind that we already know how the story will end. Not to mention the fact that people have been waiting for this film for well over a decade. Any problems with the film are definitely minor and will eventually be forgotten (except maybe Jar Jar). There are a few things that could be exploited well in the next two movies that would make this movie seem better (and of course, the opposite is true). The previously mentioned underuse of Obi Wan and Darth Maul was not necissarily a problem because they leave you starving for more (the same way I wanted to see more star destroyers and more of Boba Fett). And no, Yoda's dialog does not seem forced and Mace Windu's light saber does not say "bad mother fucker" on it (though I think Qui-Gon's did). The force was with this movie. There is a certain subconscious, intangible glory that permeates the film and the audience alike making for a wonderfully entertaining experience that is sure to capture (or recapture) the imagination of a new generation.

Did you notice:
• The Wookies and the E.T.s at the Imperial Council?
• The actor who played Willow (another George Lucas flick) at the Pod Race?
• The familiar breathing pattern at the end of the credits
• The conspicuous "Intel Inside" stickers that suddenly appeared on C3PO and R2-D2? (Just kidding:)

• "Why do I get the feeling we've just picked up another useless life form?" - Obi Wan Kenobi
• "The ablilty to speak does not make you intelligent." - Qui-Gon Jinn
• "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you." - Yoda
• "And you, young Skywalker; we shall watch your career with great interest." - Senator Palpatine

• Do you think that Darth Sidious resembles someone we all know and hate?
• Are you sure the midi-chlorians are "good"? Since they don't appear in the later films, one could reason that they are "evil".
• Will Darth Maul make an appearance in Episodes II or III (as a clone perhaps)?
• Will George Lucas decide to kill off Jar Jar Binks or maybe just make him more usefull (please!!)?
• Do the steriotypes (Asian Trade Federation? Black buffoonery of Jar Jar?) presented in the film detract from it?
• How awesome was that Light Saber dual (or, uh, tri-meet)? And is it possible to top it?

Star Wars: The Official Site
Star Wars: IMDB Page

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
Spaceballs (parody)

The Store:
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (DVD): Not yet produced, but you can go and vote for its release via Amazon (who will tell Lucasfilm how many people are waiting...)
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (VHS - Widescreen): Special Edition, comes with a booklet and movie cells. Tape also has a behind the scenes featurette.
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (VHS):
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (soundtrack): Music composed by John Williams
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (book): Novelization written by Terry Brooks

Copyright © 1999 - 2003 by Mark Ciocco.
No part of this page may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission.