Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
2/4
poster

Details & Information from IMDB

Genre Sci-Fi
Year 1999
Duration 133 min
Rating 6.4 out of 10
Description: It is a distant galaxy eons before the gestation of the planet Earth. Advancements in technology and science have allowed the evolution of millions of worlds that are otherwise in many respects still primitive. These worlds are somewhat loosely allied into an intergalactic Republic, whose capital world is the planet Coruscant, a planetary city. Upholding order for the Republic are the Jedi, an order of warriors endowed with near-super power derived from self-generated fields of energy known collectively as The Force. Within the Republic, dissident worlds have banded into an alliance known as the Trade Federation, and the Trade Federation is locked in a dispute with the peaceful world of Naboo. Two Jedi knights, Qui-Gon Jinn and his youthful apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, have been sent to Naboo to help mediate an end to the dispute, but Nute Gunray, an alien viceroy, orders them to be killed, and the two Jedi discover upon their escape that the Trade Federation will launch an invasion of Naboo. With the help of a well-meaning but hopelessly subliterate alien native of Naboo, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan land on Naboo to rescue her ruler, Queen Amidala, a ruler whose rule is a mixture of monarchy and republican democracy. Escaping Naboo, they are attacked by a Federation base star and are forced to land on the distant planet Tatooine, where in seeking parts to complete their journey to Coruscant they encounter a young boy, Annikan Skywalker, a slave who possesses a gift for the savagely dangerous sport of podracing - a gift that Qui-Gon deduces is part of a genetic makeup perfect for the Jedi Order. Annikan eventually joins with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, and in the process attracts the attention of one of Queen Amidala's handmaidens with a dramatic secret, and all reach Coruscant, but endless and pointless debate within the Republic's Senate leave them no choice but to strike out on their own to liberate Naboo, a task made all the more difficult because a traitor within Coruscant has at his command a dissident Jedi warrior who seeks the death of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan.
Comments: Well, after waiting 16 years for his next installment, George has given us "The Phantom Menace". As a Star Wars fan I got what I expected - another chance to immerse myself in the Star Wars universe - a film whose sole purpose is essentially escapism. But as a movie fan, and judging it as I would any other movie, I frankly feel mildly disappointed. Any movie that's made can always be improved upon but I feel that this SHOULD have been better. Firstly the good points :

1) The visuals are stunning - a lot of love and hard work has quite obviously gone into the effects and the people involved can quite rightly be proud of their work

2) All the performances by the main cast were good. Particularly Natalie Portman and Pernilla August.

3) The Pod Race was exciting and amusing.

4) The final sabre duel was quite fantastic : Darth Maul prowling up and down like a caged tiger was a particularly excellent touch - it added real tension and anticipation to the scene.

5) The music as always was magnificent. The Star Wars saga would lose much of its charm and intensity without Williams' scores.

And now the negatives :

1) The pacing was too fast in parts! The first half hour of the film just left me cold - you weren't led into the story. You were dumped straight into the action. On paper I'm sure the first half hour looked fantastic but I found myself sitting in the theatre going - 'hey, great special effect shot there!' I wasn't involved in the story and the scenes lacked tension and danger.

2) The film only truly started for me on reaching Tatooine. I finally got a chance to get to know the characters. However there still was not enough character development in the film as a whole. For example, Obi Wan had nothing to do or say throughout the movie except flash his light sabre around from time-to-time. Who is Obi Wan??? After seeing the film I'm none the wiser. And the final sabre duel (good as it was) would have been infinitely better had the relationship between Qui-Gon and Obi Wan been explored past the mere mentor-apprentice motif. The final sabre duel lacked emotional involvement as a consequence.

3) Why did they make Jar-Jar so incomprehensible?? I found myself becoming annoyed at having to strain to understand his nonsensical utterings! (Having said that, he wasn't as annoying as I'd been led to expect) Why George used easily identifiable racial accents for his alien characters completely puzzled me. It just shows a lack of imagination!

4) Not enough Darth Maul.

5) What's with the biological exposition on the Force! Was that necessary? The first three films pointed to links between the Force and genetics but I don't need tiresome cold scientific explanations as to the Force's origin, thank you very much! It just ruins the mystique.

6) Can we have less of the mindless gaffes that occur in the final battle scenes (You know the ones that save the day!) Its an insult to the audience's intelligence (In a full theatre I swear I didn't see a single soul who looked under sixteen! - has George forgotten about the original fans). In the original trilogy there was none of this cringeful embarrassing material (Ewoks excepted!!)

Well I think I'll stop there. To summarise : a good movie that could have been a whole lot better. Perhaps there was too much story to cover in two hours? In which case the plot should have been shortened on the adage that "less is more". I've always thought that episode one was always going to be the lamest of the new films so I await the next installment with anticipation and hope .....