Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Director: George Lucas
Cast: Liam NeesonEwan McGregorNatalie Portman, Jake Lloyd 
Plot: Two Jedi Knights escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to reclaim their old glory.

Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Awards: Nom. for 3 Oscars - Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing.
Runtime: 133min
Rating: PG for sci-fi action/violence.



“The boy is dangerous.  They all sense it, why can't you?”

My word, I can't even begin to comprehend the massive disappointment that accompanied moviegoers when they first caught this movie in theaters in 1999.  At that time, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was billed as the most highly-anticipated blockbuster in the history of cinema. 

Imagine you were 15 years old in 1977.  You caught A New Hope and fell in love with it.  You grew up with the Star Wars franchise.  About two decades later, George Lucas releases the first installment of a planned prequel trilogy.  You buy a ticket, only to find out that you have just walked into Toys R' Us. 

I wasn't around yet in 1977, but I can feel the anguish and sheer frustration of those who had expected to be immersed in the Star Wars mythology, but ended up crying out loud.

The Phantom Menace has only three plus points for me: First, Liam Neeson who plays Qui-Gon, a Jedi master, gives an anchoring performance that brings some seriousness to the proceedings. 

Second, John Williams' return to the musical universe of Star Wars is quite outstanding, in particular his theme for young Anakin Skywalker and his epic-sounding 'Duel of the Fates' that unfortunately accompanied an (anti)climactic light saber fight sequence with a villain that no one knew his back story to. 

Third, the high-octane pod race sequence very much enlivened a tepid affair, ruined primarily by weak plotting, dialogue that a third-grader could have penned, and a certain Jar Jar Binks who needs to reflect on his own existence.

George Lucas may also need to do some reflection, but he redeemed himself somewhat with Attack of the Clones (2002),  and more than made up for it with the astounding Revenge of the Sith (2005).  The Phantom Menace, however, deserves a remake, or rather, a reinterpretation. 

It is a spectacle, yes, but it is a largely empty one.  The visual effects, unfortunately, have aged quite badly, appearing too artificial and shockingly less accomplished than that of the original trilogy.  Catching the film on Blu-ray highlights its deficiency even more. 

It is good to know that two months prior to the release of The Phantom Menace, the Wachowskis presented The Matrix to a global audience awe-struck by its brilliant storytelling, sci-fi action and instantly memorable characters.  There was no chance in Naboo that George Lucas could top that.

Verdict: The weakest of the franchise by light years, this is a one-way trip to Toys R' Us, and adds nothing of note to the Star Wars mythology.


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Liverpool said…
"The Phantom Menace" is as entertaining as the previous star wars films.

The sets in this film are very impressive. In fact, all the 6 films have amazing sets. People watch Star Wars because they want to be transported to a faraway place for 2 hours. The action, especially the pod race sequence, is quite well executed. However, it may seem too "CGI" at times. Some of the scenes also looked stagey.

Many fans hated this movie. There can be only one reason why: It could not capture the true essence of the orginal star wars trilogy.

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