"Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" Film Review

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) - IMDb

"Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" Film Review

Rating: 3/5

By: Nathaniel Simpson

    In 1977, George Lucas broke onto the scene with a film unlike anyone has ever seen before - "Star Wars". From that first film with the memorable characters and dialogue, a massive franchise spanning numerous years was born. One of the most memorable plot details in the original trilogy was the revelation of Darth Vader being the father of our hero, Luke Skywalker. But, how did that come to be that an evil man with a frightening voice and a menacing suit father a child? Lucas decides to explore the past by releasing "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace", which follows the tragic backstory of a young Anakin Skywalker. 

    The movie opens on two Jedis boarding a spaceship to help settle a crisis present in the galaxy. We are then given the identities of these two lightsaber-wielding heroes - Qui-Gon Jin (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). After unsuccessfully reaching a consensus on the problem, the two Jedis travel to Naboo in attempt to rescue Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) and go to Coruscant to receive help from the Senate.

    On the way to their destination however, they are attacked by the Federation blockade, damaging the ship's hyperdrive. From there, they are forced to land on Tatooine for repairs. That is when they then meet young Anakin Skywalker (played by the now infamous actor, Jake Lloyd), who is a slave and pod-racer. Qui-Gon senses the force in the young child, and takes him back to the Jedi temple after getting the necessary parts for their ships. Along the way, a Sith Lord named Darth Maul (Ray Park) is hot on their tail to assassinate the Queen.

    The film captures some of the classic elements from the previous trilogy. The lightsaber fights are great, and our two main Jedis are great representatives of the forces of good in the galaxy. The landscapes of the different planets we visit in the film show off the great visuals and atmosphere Lucas has created for his galaxy opera franchise. 

    The film spends more than half of its runtime on Tatooine as the characters are getting ready for the pod-race that Anakin is competing in. The stakes are high as if Anakin wins, they get the part needed for their ship and Anakin's freedom. If he loses however, evil bird-like slaver Watto (Andy Secombe) keeps their ship and Anakin. This plot line keeps us on the edge of our seats and really sets the tone and plot lines for the film. 

    Towards the second half of the film however, the plot seems to move slower, at the same time rushing to the end. This is bad structure in the writing from the screenplay also written by Lucas. It seems as if out of no where, we're in the final battle of the film and we're confused on how we got there so quickly. 

    One of the major grievances I have for this film is the character of Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), who is extremely annoying through some of the parts in the film. Some of the scenes are actually pretty funny, but some are just downright stupid and makes you roll your eyes. Take the final battle scene for instance. Many of the scenes shows Jar Jar messing up the plans his allies have, and somehow gets the entire fleet captured. Lucas gives around 5 minutes of screen time during the final battle for Jar Jar's stupid shenanigans. It's extremely annoying after a while, and the film could have been a lot better without the character entirely. 

    This film definitely isn't as good as the entries in the original trilogy, yet it is still a pretty good Star Wars film. Lucas shows that he still has the potential to bring back the Star Wars franchise in a way that many fans will appreciate.