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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

60% Liked It
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Star Wars: Episode I - The Pha...

Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Pernilla August

In 1977, George Lucas released Star Wars, the ultimate sci-fi popcorn flick-turned-pop-culture myth machine. It quickly became the biggest money-making film of all time and changed the shape of the fi... read more read more...lm industry. After two successful sequels (1980's The Empire Strikes Back and 1983's Return of the Jedi) that extended the story of the first film, Lucas took some time off to produce movies for others, with mixed success. In 1999, Lucas returned to the Star Wars saga with a new approach -- instead of picking up where Return of the Jedi left off, Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace would be the first of a trilogy of stories to trace what happened in the intergalactic saga before the first film began. Here, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is a young apprentice Jedi knight under the tutelage of Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson); Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who will later father Luke Skywalker and become known as Darth Vader, is just a nine-year-old boy. When the Trade Federation cuts off all routes to the planet Naboo, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are assigned to settle the matter, but when they arrive on Naboo they are brought to Amidala (Natalie Portman), the Naboo queen, by a friendly but opportunistic Gungan named Jar Jar. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan plan to escort Amidala to a meeting of Republic leaders in Coruscant, but trouble with their spacecraft strands them on the planet Tatooine, where Qui-Gon meets Anakin, the slave of a scrap dealer. Qui-Gon is soon convinced that the boy could be the leader the Jedis have been searching for, and he begins bargaining for his freedom and teaching the boy the lessons of the Force. The supporting cast includes Pernilla August as Anakin's mother, Terence Stamp as Chancellor Valorum, and Samuel L. Jackson as Jedi master Mace Windu. Jackson told a reporter before The Phantom Menace's release that the best part about doing the film was that he got to say "May the Force be with you" onscreen. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Id: 10899641

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Recent Reviews

  • fb100000293612769
    June 18, 2013
    It's not a bad movie, just heavily flawed. Its acting and dialogue can be cringe-worthy, but its high points still make it an enjoyable cinematic experience. It is overall a visually-dazzling film with a stunningly complex plot and heart-pounding action sequences.
  • fb733768972
    April 28, 2013
    Filled with horrific dialogue, laughable characters, a laughable plot, ad really no interesting stakes during this film, "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" is not at all what I wanted from a film that is supposed to be the huge opening to the segue into the fantastic Origi... read morenal Trilogy. The positives include the score, the sound effects, and most of the visual effects, which provide some great eye candy for audiences, but if that's all the film has, then what the hell is the film's purpose? I don't have anything else nice to say, and I could rant for days, so I am stopping here. This film is a complete mess in every way.
  • February 19, 2013
    Three Stars!!
  • January 1, 2013
    I'm in the minority on the new trilogy, but I enjoy them greatly. They never quite reach the heights of the one-two punch of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, but they are on par and sometimes better than Return of the Jedi. The Phantom Menace has a few problems, but it is ... read moregreat entertainment. The special effects finally are up to the standards George Lucas envisioned for his stories and they look light years ahead of the original trilogy. They still hold up well today. The added characters to the mythology are great, and the actors/actresses portraying them are even better than the originals (which was not a master class in acting, but they did their job well enough). I especially love Darth Maul, who gives the sith another great villain in the series. Obviously a big deal is made about how annoying Jar Jar Binks is, and while I won't say he isn't annoying (because he certainly is) I do think that entire thing is overblown way out of proportion. He doesn't destroy the film by any means. The story meanders for awhile and is probably the weakest of them all, but there's still plenty of incredible action and set pieces to hold on to. The finale with Darth Maul is just as rousing as anything in the series and the music is superb. The Phantom Menace continues the Star Wars legacy with aplomb and it only gets better from here.
  • September 24, 2012
    Star Wars: Episode I has become my generation's equivalent of Highlander 2: The Quickening - it's the epitome of a filmmaker betraying his fans, the base line for terrible filmmaking, and the butt of everyone's jokes. It has been taken apart, deconstructed, ripped to shreds and s... read moreeethed over by countless disillusioned fanboys, to such an extent that reviewing it seems redundant. What can I say that the likes of Red Letter Media have not covered in far greater detail, and with much better jokes?

    Being someone who never likes conforming to popular opinion for its own sake, I went into The Phantom Menace with as open a mind as it was possible to have. Sure, it might be bad - but surely not as bad as its reputation would lead us to believe? Even as someone with mixed feelings towards the Star Wars phenomenon, I wanted to be the one defending the film, at least in some small way. But despite my best efforts, I am forced to concede and state the obvious: The Phantom Menace is horrendous.

    It is rare that you come across a film so utterly inept that you don't know where to begin in criticising it. I have neither the time nor the patience to list every last plot hole, or criticise every single creative choice (if the word 'creative' is remotely appropriate). Nor do I have such low standards that I intend this to become a splurge of incomprehensible ranting about how George Lucas is the devil (he's not, he's just delusional). So forgive me in advance if this review feels a little cluttered or disorganised - at least it'll make more sense than The Phantom Menace.

    It probably makes sense to start with the ways in which Episode I betrays the original trilogy, and therefore the fans that made Lucas immensely rich. The whole reason that the prequels exist, other than money, is because fan enthusiasm for the originals was so sustained. Lucas had planned the trilogy several years before the Special Editions, in light of the success of the Dark Horse comics and Timothy Zahn's novelisations.

    The difficulty is that The Phantom Menace doesn't know who its core audience is - indeed none of the prequels do. It doesn't know whether it wants to be a direct throwback to the originals, replicating the trilogy's aesthetic warts-and-all, or whether it wants to bring in a new, younger audience who have no familiarity with the first three films. Lucas never comes down on one side or the other, resulting in a film which is too complicated for anyone older than then, but too infantile and stupid for anyone over that age.

    The plot of The Phantom Menace is simultaneously too convoluted and too asinine. The originals were classic, Flash Gordon-style stories of good vs. evil, which drew inspiration from the westerns, matinee idols and adventure comics of Lucas' youth. They explored ideas of freedom, justice and redemption through epic dialogue and action scenes on a grand scale. This is a film about taxation, votes of no confidence, and pod racing. At best, it's not engaging; at worst, it's cataclysmically dull.

    Perhaps no aspect of The Phantom Menace has gained greater notoriety than the concept of midichlorians. Put simply, in a single conversation Lucas changes the Force from a spiritual power into a biological phenomenon, caused by something as ordinary as bacteria. The Force is no longer something which can be controlled and mastered by everyone, given enough time and training: it is something that you can only use if you are genetically built a certain way. Not only does the concept not make sense, but it turns the Force into something elitist and aristocratic. While the originals were populist, making us believe that anyone could master the Force and become a Jedi, Episode I teaches us that Jedi are born, not made, so you may as well not bother trying to be one, or indeed care about them.

    Everything written up to this point has been from a fan perspective. But even to the casual viewer, who may be coming to Star Wars for the very first time, there are many problems with Episode I as a piece of filmmaking in general. It's not just that it's a terrible Star Wars film, or a terrible prequel - it's a terrible film, full stop.

    Firstly, as Red Letter Media have pointed out, there is no central protagonist to whom we can relate. This stems from the fact that the whole of The Phantom Menace, and the other prequels, are essentially backstory to get us to the creation of Darth Vader and the birth of Luke and Leia Skywalker. Since this transition would only take up one film at most, Lucas has to keep us distracted for more than five hours, introducing characters whose only purpose is to get us to that point. They have no personality or development outside of that - they just exist as dull, poorly-written, obvious devices.

    Qui-Gon Jinn's purpose is to be killed at the end so that Anakin can be trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi. There is nothing else that he does in the film that couldn't have been done by Obi-Wan himself. Darth Maul does nothing but follow the Jedi and fight them, since his only purpose is to provide a climactic action sequence - which of course, ends with a big anti-climax. Anakin, Obi-Wan and Amidala are all completely in situ: they're only there because they have to be in the next two films. As an aside, the body double sub-plot involving the latter and Keira Knightley doesn't work - because they look nothing alike. Why not just create a CG duplicate of Amidala, like you did with the droid army?

    This brings us onto Jar Jar Binks, a character who epitomises everything wrong with the film and the prequels in general. Not only is he poorly written, obnoxious and annoying, but he exists solely to appeal to very young viewers, patronising them with every word he says. That's not to mention the racial stereotyping of the characters, whose Jamaican-style dreadlocks and accent are partnered to a personality which is lazy, clumsy and cowardly. And Jar Jar is not the only blatant stereotype on show: the Viceroy, head of the Trade Federation, speaks with an oriental accent a la Fu Manchu.

    The performances in The Phantom Menace are universally terrible. Liam Neeson spends the whole film speaking in monotone and looking into middle distance, like he really doesn't want to be there. Jake Lloyd is pretty poor as the young Anakin, though he's mildly less annoying here than in Jingle All The Way. Ewan McGregor does a half-decent Alec Guinness impression but it's all on one level, and Natalie Portman looks mopey and confused. Not even Brian Blessed and Terence Stamp can save this film: even if the latter started shouting "Kneel before Zod!", it wouldn't help.

    If nothing else was true about the original trilogy, the action sequences were always exciting and engaging. But here not even the mindless action is remotely entertaining. Lucas has become so reliant on CGI that the battles have no physicality, and the lightsaber fights are so highly choreographed that there is no surprise or spontaneity. The editing is repetitive, Lucas' camerawork is lazy and his staging of every scene is broadly the same, with character either sitting and talking, or walking and talking.

    There is no better example of a pointless action sequence than the pod race. Like so much of the prequel trilogy, it feels like we're watching someone playing a computer game - or that the film is essentially a long advert for said computer game. We sit there watching pods overtaking each other at random, enduring random explosions and changes in the course, until convention takes over and Anakin wins. In many ways, it sums up the film, being a long, tedious distraction with no narrative purpose, designed only to milk money from people who are mostly too young to know better.

    Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace is a cataclysmic alliance of boredom and betrayal that will break the spirits of any Star Wars fan and put newcomers off the series for life. Every aspect of the film that you could possibly mention has something wrong with it, and all the pieces are barely held together by Lucas' horrible direction and lazy editing. It's a soulless and depressing experience, which leaves us not just reeling from its own awfulness, but from the knowledge that there are two more films to go before we get to the good stuff. Still, at least things can't get any worse - right?
  • August 21, 2012
    The first out of the prequels is almost a poor start. It doesn't touch the questions or story of the original trilogy, such as the development of Anakin Skywalker. Some characters feel weak, however, the character of Darth Maul has become quite an icon. While it does feature some... read more nice visuals and some stunning lightsaber duels, this maybe the weakest out of the Star Wars saga, but it might be worth a try.
  • fb1442511448
    August 11, 2012
    Lucas provides a visually stunning back-story to the origins of Anakin Skywalker in Episode I. With brand-new modern-age technology (undiscovered in 1977) Lucas is able to present his vision of 'Star Wars' the way he intended. Though the execution may have fallen flat, the visual... read more world of 'Star Wars' is given a completely different makeover with the CGI-improvement in this film. 4/5
  • July 2, 2012
    Cinematic cotton candy ... the visuals are out there, but the story takes itself way too seriously (and there ain't that much happening to be so smug about), and the actors merely poor props to that story. And worst (like Cameron's "Avatar") racial profiling that should embarrass.
  • February 21, 2012
    An overly-long, often slow and boring start to the saga. It could be better.
  • February 10, 2012
    First off the 3d was mostly disappointing, it looked good at times, the pod race etc. but most of the movie it was barley noticeable. Seeing as this was the main reason for the re-release it seems odd. As for the movie everyone had already seen it. The pod race and lightsaber bat... read moretles are great but not much else. The trade and diplomacy plot seems even more ridiculous and out of place as ever. Jar Jar Binks is ridiculous but seems to be on screen way more then he should. Sure there can be a goofy sidekick but they seem to stick him in scenes that don't need any comic relief and these ruin the flow and tone of the film.The film is still star wars, and enjoyable but the plot seems lazy and the Gungan aliens (Jar Jar's tribe) ruin the movie with terrible dialogue and accents and lame fighting. Probably best to pass on the first three films going to be released and wait until the original trilogy comes to theaters, if only to see how a 70's movie converts to 3d.

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