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

  Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas
Starring: Ahmed Best, Jake Lloyd, Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman
Links: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Sci-Fi

This movie gets: 4.00 (1 rating)
nofreelist.com Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Garden State (2004) and andy-j's review of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005).

"One down, five to go?" - a review by pearly

I was never into the Star Wars (1977) trilogy when I was younger. I don't think I saw them at a young age, which I think is virtually a pre-requisite for enjoying them now (in that nostalgic way that most fans seem to enjoy it). So, I wasn't too eager to head out and see this, the first episode and the prequel to the earlier films, all decked out in my Darth Vader costume like those nerds who got picked on by Triumph. However, I do have some pretty nerdy friends, so I did go to see this at the cinema. And let me tell you, it didn't really do much by way of convincing me that I have been missing out by not being into these films for all these years.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace is nerdy in that convoluted way that science fiction can be: with worlds created just for the series, and more complicated relationships and beings who interrelate in strange fashions, possibly with their own made-up languages, and with customs etc. which aren't 100% specified within the confines of the film, but which are available for discussion on forums across the internet, and so on. This is all well and good if you're into the whole thing enough to care about this sort of stuff, but writer/director George Lucas treads that very thin line between making indications to the depth of his "vision" for the fanatics to wet their pants over, and making the stuff inaccessible for the casual viewer. For the most part, though, it's okay, especially if you're happy enough to just shrug your shoulders and move on if there's something you don't quite understand.

This film is a visual feast, but really only if you're interested in special effects of robots fighting one another, spaceship-style vehicles racing through desert worlds, or Jedi lasers. I'm not.

In this episode, we see the training of a young version of Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) by Qui-Gon (Liam Neeson). Along the way, Qui-Gon becomes intrigued by the very young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who has more somethingorother in his blood than even Yoda, making him very Jediesque (I know all the technical terms). He manages to get Anakin out of slavery (who could forget the pod race) and along their travels, Anakin starts to get to know Amidala (Natalie Portman). All of this is, of course, setting everything up for what we, the audience, already know is to come in episodes 3, 4, and 5, i.e. the initial three films.

I have so far omitted one thing from my review: the one thing that Lucas should also have omitted from the film. The character of Jar Jar Binks (voiced by Ahmed Best) makes what may have otherwise been a mediocre film into a fairly terrible one. Meant as comic relief, I believe (he couldn't possibly be meant to be a serious character, could he?), the reviews on this character are fairly unanimous, and I won't bother saying anything further on the subject, apart from offering my overall view, which is that the character is like one long "me so solly" offensive Chinese-accent joke. Thank you very much, test audiences.

pearly gives this movie 4 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 28 Sep 2004

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Reader comments

  1. I find it very hard to believe there were test audiences for this.

    A comment from nofreelist's own mino on Tue 28 Sep 2004 18:20 #


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