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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
1999
 (1)

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 Written by
George Lucas Screenplay

 Directed by
George Lucas



 Trailer



 Release Date
May 19, 1999

 Runtime
136 minutes

 Cast
Liam Neeson Qui-Gon Jinn
Ewan McGregor Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman Padmé Amidala
Jake Lloyd Anakin Skywalker
Ahmed Best Jar Jar Binks
Ray Park Darth Maul
Peter Serafinowicz Darth Maul / Battle Droid Commander / Gungan Scout (voice)
Silas Carson Nute Gunray / Ki-Adi-Mundi / Lott Dodd / Republic Cruiser Pilot
Ian McDiarmid Senator Palpatine
Pernilla August Shmi Skywalker
Anthony Daniels C-3PO (voice)
Kenny Baker R2-D2
Frank Oz Yoda (voice)
Samuel L. Jackson Mace Windu
Terence Stamp Chancellor Valorum
Brian Blessed Boss Nass (voice)
Andrew Secombe Watto (voice)
Hugh Quarshie Captain Panaka
Steve Speirs Captain Tarpals
Oliver Ford Davies Governor Sio Bibble
Lindsay Duncan TC-14 (voice)
Warwick Davis Wald / Pod race spectator / Mos Espa Citizen
Hassani Shapi Eeth Koth
Alan Ruscoe Daultay Dofine / Plo Koon / Bib Fortuna
Keira Knightley Sabé
Sofia Coppola Saché
Benedict Taylor Fighter Pilot Bravo 2
Celia Imrie Fighter Pilot Bravo 5
Bronagh Gallagher Republic Cruiser Captain
Dominic West Palace Guard
Scott Capurro Beed (voice)
Greg Proops Fode (voice)
Ralph Brown Ric Olié


 Reviews
Add my review

Full destruction of the Star Wars saga
By Jack Anderson on January 1, 2016
 (1/10)

Admirers of Star Wars had been waiting for this movie for sixteen years, since the release of "Return of the Jedi". "The Phantom Menace" was one of the most expected movie of the twentieth century, if not the most one. Expectations were more than high. And surely, the pressure was definitely too big for only one man.
Still, George Lucas decided to produce three prequels.

Six months before its release, the trailer of the movie was already a phenomenon in an era where social medias and smartphones did not exist.

In May 1999, the film was finally released and fans from all over the world went into a theatre nearby with full excitement. I was one of those people and I will always remember the excitement and the people wearing disguise.
Suddenly, the Star Wars music was playing in the cinema and the first words of the prologue text was being displayed. History is starting... And here are the words:
Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlaying star systems is in dispute. Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo.
While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict.....

As soon as the text appears, the first thing that comes to mind is: huh?! Trade federation? Taxation of trade routes? Endless debates? Jedi sent to resolve a political conflict?
Can it be that this movie will ruin the saga? Let's continue to find out...

The first sequence - the very first sequence of the Star Wars saga - is showing Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master Jedi going to discuss with the trade federation. This sequence makes no sense at all from the beginning to the end. Let's analyze it.
The apprentice senses threat while his master says everything is great. Shouldn't it be the opposite? Anyway, moving along. Once they all sense threat, at the same time that Qui-Gon Jin says "I sense an unusual amount of fear", a droid serves them a beverage. They of course drink it without thinking that they could get poisoned.
Once they get blocked in a room full of poisonous gas, the head of the federation says to some droids "Destroy what's left of them" just seconds after sending the gas. Just let them die! So, the doors opened and of course the Jedi Knights feel perfectly fine.
Soon after, they hide in the federation ships invading the planet of Naboo. We learn that to go to the city, they need to go through the planet core, which of course means that the invasion will take place at the exact opposite side of the planet. This would mean that the federation decided to land its ships at the very opposite of the Naboo planet.

So, it's been already 10 minutes into the movie, and the worse is yet to come. His name? Jar-Jar Binks. We all know this CGI character that is the best description of the Star Wars destruction. Even though they had some humour in them, the episodes 4, 5 and 6 are very serious and dark. Here, we could say that this film is intended for children. But still it's not the case, since the plot is so overly complex and hard to follow, even for an adult. It deals with politics, trade routes, treaties, and so on. And in the middle of that, Jar-Jar Binks. Misa misa...

Our two Jedi Knights spend some time in the sea, with big fish eating even bigger fishes ("There's always a bigger fish.").
They of course have no clue where to go, but "The force will guide us."

Once on Naboo, the two creeps from the trade federation want the queen to sign a treaty stating that the invasion is legal. What is the all point of the trade federation? Blocking trades (so that they don't get money) and then invading a planet, for what?!
By that time (25 minutes already), the lightsabers have been used so many times that there is no sense of danger at all. Not one bit. Droids are being killed by the dozens. There is no building of any emotion. As an audience, we don't care one bit of anything.

Later, the queen is formally thanking R2D2 (a robot). Remember when Luke Skywalker says hi to R2 in the first movie? This is a small thing but this shows that every good thing from "A New Hope" is bad in this one.

After half an hour, we finally get to meet Darth Vader! Of course, the young version of him. Unfortunately, the young boy playing Anakin Skywalker is giving a more than bad acting performance. Jake Lloyd is definitely an error of casting, and a big one - error that will be done once more in the next two films with Hayden Christensen.
Jake Lloyd is simply reciting lines, and it's pretty obvious. It's even more obvious when watching the making of the film, where you see how much the boy is struggling.

After the mother of Anakin is explaining that she gave birth and that "there's no father" (immaculately conceived), Qui-Gon Jin is taking a blood simple from the young Darth Vader and we discover as an audience that the force is actually in the blood of the boy. This once more destroys the saga entirely. All the great discussions from the first three movies about the amazing concept of the force are destroyed. The force is in the blood, nothing more to show, people. Moving along.

After almost an hour, we get 15 minutes of a podrace, where we all know in advance that Anakin will win. It clearly feels like watching a videogame, as almost all images are computer-generated. There is no emotion, no suspense, no point at all. This is totally useless.

Ultimately, the movie ends with a war taking place at four different places: in the city with the queen, in the landscape with Jar-Jar, in the sky with Anakin and with Darth Maul, the only character that we will remember from this movie. Indeed, while we don't care about the three first separate sequences (stupid: both Jar-Jar and Anakin randomly wins by coincidences), there is just one scene that is built and is a bit interesting. I am talking about the fight between Darth Maul, Kenobi and Jin.
Unfortunately, this sequence is cut many times with other sequences, hence the emotions that are finally being built come down each time.
But for this sequence, the only great thing that we will remember is the excellent music created for this scene by John Williams. This insane theme is named Duel of the Fates and is the perfect theme.
Even though the fight is heavily choreographed, still it is fun and entertaining.
But it's still late and the film ends soon after.

The end credits are rolling and now we can do a proper reflection on this film. Cinema is an art form based on collaboration. George Lucas had sixteen years to write it or find good people to do it for him. But he chose very poorly. And, from what we can see in the making of, most people around him praised him for those choices.
"The Phantom Menace" is one of the worse movies that I have seen. The story is totally boring and serves no purpose. Indeed, Senator Palpatine is trying to get elected Chancellor. Whether the Jedi Knights are there or not, he would have succeed anyway. So what's the point of all that?
As for the characters, Qui-Gon Jin and Obi-Wan Kenobi should clearly have been the same character, as there is not much difference between them and we don't care for any of them. Can we really compare Han Solo, Princess Leia, Darth Vader to dull characters such as Qui-Gon Jin, Padme or Jar-Jar Binks?
Finally, the direction is horrible. There is so much crap on each and every frame.
Once more, looking at the making of is extremely interesting, as you can see that the movie was really created in post-production. And that when the team saw the rough cut for the first time, they clearly hated it. Of course, I'm sure they would all have preferred to produce an entertaining movie. They also should be praised for all the tremendous efforts that they have made into it. The special effects are very well done and the level of perfection and details is high.

But instead of simply complaining about the film. Let's go to the high level and rethink what is the basis of all good film. A damn good script. Looking at the script, there is no way that people thought it would be a great movie. But it was Star Wars and everyone thought that because of it, it would be a great movie.
In a way, this is reassuring, because this proves that whether you have millions and millions of dollars, this does not matter one bit if you work with a poor script. And words have no price.



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Saga: Star Wars

 Movies
Star Wars 1977
The Empire Strikes Back 1980
Return of the Jedi 1983
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 1999
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones 2002
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith 2005
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 2016
Star Wars: The Last Jedi 2017
Solo: A Star Wars Story 2018
Star Wars: Episode IX 2019

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