Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

1999

Action / Adventure

259
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 22%
IMDb Rating 6.6

Synopsis


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Director

Cast

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn
Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala/Padme
Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker
1080p
1.80 GB
1920*816
English
PG
English
23.976 fps
2hr 16 min
P/S 484 / 1,129

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Marty Leicht 1 / 10

The Disenchantment of Star Wars


Keep in mind while reading my comments that I am - and always will be - an avid Star Wars fan. The first three films helped define my childhood and have stayed with me into early adulthood. The themes and the sheer FUN of the trilogy are truly rare in this day and age.

That being said, "The Phantom Menace" is perhaps one of the worst films I have ever had to sit through, and a disgrace to both Star Wars and Lucasfilm. A true embarrassment, I was near tears through most of the film. Seeing it on opening night, I was thrilled as the trademark intro script scrolled up the screen. Everything that followed was truly horrifying, starting with the most ridiculously stereotypical Asian alien bad guys this side of Ming the Merciless. Add to that a completely dreadful script, way too many effects, no discernable plot line, and dreary "action" sequences, and you have yourself a real stinker. And I won't waste any space talking about the apocalyptic disaster that is Jar Jar Binks.

Poor Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, and Natalie Portman!! Three of the finest actors to grace the screen today, and they have nothing at all to work with. Meanwhile all the dialogue goes to Jar Jar and Anakin, played awfully by Jake Lloyd. Sidenote: Am I the only one concerned with the fact that through the whole movie everyone calls the future Darth Vader "Annie"???

Darth Maul would be a formidable villain, assuming, of course, that he had any lines, which he doesn't. He is silent during his entire lightsaber duel with Neeson and McGregor, eliminating the verbal duel that was at the heart of Vader's fights with Luke in the original series. His role seems detached and his presence does not seem to effect the sequence of events in the least.

And let me say this: there are too many effects. They are not even that impressive, not for a lack of technical wizardry, but because the action they portray is either confusing or non-existent, and there is none of the tension in any of the battle scenes which is even close to that found in its technologically ancient granddaddy, "A New Hope". In fact, considering the technology available, the scenario of the battle scenes seems pretty ho-hum-ish if not trite.

There is not enough room to write all the terrible things about this movie. They even reduce the Force to microscopic organisms that live in the bloodstream. This was the most disappointing movie experience I have ever had. Mr. Lucas, if you or any of your people read this, please take to heart the ramblings of a disgruntled but faithful fan in order to make Episode II much better.

Reviewed by kylopod (kylopod@aol.com) 5 / 10

A perspective after all the hype has died down

Lucas may have problems as a director and writer, but I've always thought that those flaws are balanced by his great storytelling ability. The problem with "The Phantom Menace" is that he simply has no story to tell. The film merely adds an introductory chapter to a story that has already been told, and stretches it out into a two-hour movie. It is no accident that prequels of this kind are rare. They are very difficult to make properly. And apparently he's just not a sophisticated enough filmmaker to pull it off.

For one thing, this project is limited by the fact that anyone familiar with the first trilogy knows the story's outcome, and it therefore lacks some of the suspense associated with a gradually unfolding saga. More importantly, however, this situation leaves Lucas with very little freedom as a storyteller. It also encourages him to gloss over key events; because their outcome is a foregone conclusion, he forgets to bring them to life.

For example, we know there will eventually be a romance between Anakin and Padme. So Lucas has the two characters meet here and--surprise, surprise--they seem to like each other. Their developing friendship isn't portrayed that clearly, and their motivations for becoming close aren't explained. Because Lucas fails to make scenes like these believable, we can't help being conscious of how he's manipulating the plot in his effort to connect the two trilogies. Another good example of this problem is Anakin's portrayal as a potential Jedi. There doesn't appear to be anything about this kid remotely out of the ordinary, even though the other characters keep talking like there is. Our only reason for thinking he's special is that the plot requires it.

If the story fails to be engaging, it is because we never see the important events. Lucas makes a fatal error in not showing what's happening on Naboo, the small planet whose capture is the focus of the plot. Numerous atrocities are supposedly being committed against the planet's inhabitants, but we only know about this because the characters on screen refer to the events, usually rather woodenly.

The deadpan performances are a problem in themselves, but they only highlight our lack of involvement in the story. Think of Han Solo sweating in fear, then think of the emotional vacuums passing for characters in this film. Whenever any of the characters do express emotion, as in the scene where Anakin and his mom part, it still seems awfully restrained. Somehow, Lucas manages to keep the emotional reactions of his characters to a minimum, which gives the film an almost mechanical feel.

It's true that "A New Hope" never showed Alderaan's inhabitants, but we still could feel the tragedy of the planet's destruction through the horrified reactions of Princess Leia and Obi Wan. Moreover, there were many other involving events which we witnessed directly, such as the slaying of rebels at the beginning; the capture and torture of the princess; and the murder of Luke's foster parents. Furthermore, the major plot elements were intriguing in and of themselves. They weren't there merely to show us how they were to be linked to later events, which seems to be the case with the new film.

I suspect that Lucas was not as concerned in the first trilogy with what had to happen later in the story and was therefore able to focus his attention on the events at hand. The weakest segment was "Return of the Jedi," which had the task of bringing the story to an end. Only then did Lucas start to show signs of forcing plot points. In "The Phantom Menace," he gets so bogged down in the task of bringing his story from point A to point B that he ends up with only the bare bones of a plot, and none of it comes alive.

This is especially true of the characterization. In the old trilogy, characters like Yoda and Han reveal distinct personalities in their first few minutes on screen. This film goes for more than two hours and the characters, including the familiar ones, come off vague and nondescript. We aren't given much of a chance to experience their personalities in the way they interact. We must take Qui Gon's word for it when he describes Obi Wan as "headstrong." What's most odd is that the cartoons seem better developed than the humans. The scenes where Qui Gon negotiates with the birdlike slave-owner Watto are amusing and well-done--probably the movie's best scenes aside from the stunning action sequences--but they can't hold a candle to the constant interactions throughout the first trilogy.

One thing I cannot do is accuse the film of lacking creativity. The design of the creatures, the technologies, and the planets is impressive. Watching the film is sort of like reading a children's book that isn't very good but abounds with beautiful illustrations. There is certainly a "wow" factor in the movie's visuals, but the effect of it is short-lived.

I get irked when I hear fans talk as though the "Star Wars" movies were never about anything beyond special effects. While the inventive visuals are part of what made the originals so revolutionary, they're not what made the films so fun to watch. And in no way can they explain the trilogy's continuing popularity today. After all, many of the original effects look primitive by today's standards, and their novelty has certainly worn off. Only an enduring and compelling storyline could have allowed the first three films to become the classics they're almost universally acknowledged to be.

Reviewed by JohnIL 7 / 10

Too many "Yes Men" around George Lucas



Of course this movie had a ton of hype and what movie can live up to all of that....yada yada yada. Even allowing for that, this movie is somewhat of a dissapointment. This movie proves that it wasn't just special FX that made "Star Wars" fun to watch. It was as if George Lucas was so thrilled with what he could do with CGI effects, he forgot what made the original trilogy so great, which is writing and characters. It's not a bad film but the problems are many.

-Many people have forgiven this movie for being lackluster as they say "It is only the first in another trilogy and it is just setting up everything to follow". WRONG WRONG WRONG, this film needed to be it's own movie first and foremost as the other three films were. It needed to have good characters and a somewhat interesting story....it didn't.

-The conflict in this story revolves around a trade dispute and the fate of the planet Naboo. Was anybody really caring about this? The details of the dispute are somewhat vague and what is revealed doesn't real generate enough interest for us to root for a particular side. The important conflict regarding Darth Sideous and his rise is kept far far in the background. We don't even know why Darth Maul hates the Jedi's so much....he just does. Possibly Lucas wanted Darth Maul to be somewhat like Boba Fett (silent and mysterious). It worked with Boba Fett because he was only a supporting character, not a main villian. This film really has no clear villian. I wish somebody would have had the courage and just told Lucas that his basic story was lousy.

-Nobody looks particularly happy in this film. Qui-gon is really the only character that can be related to and even he is rather distant. The queen acts like a mannequin in much of her scenes (and looks like one to). Obi-wan Kenobi wanders through the entire movie to no avail and never says anything interesting. The characters never seem to talk about anything besides the plot (unlike in the first film). C3PO and R2-D2 were pretty pointless. The Jedi council comes across as extremely cold and buracratic. And I will never understand WHY they wrote Annakin as a grade school kid in this film. He should have been a teenager. His scenes with the queen were awkward. We're not even going to discuss Jar Jar.

Various other things...

-The "midochlorians" thing seems to have just been tacked on. The humor falls flat unless you are an extremely small child. Annakin destroys the trade ship at the end and safves everyone, basically BY MISTAKE!!! ILM and George Lucas seem to be so happy with their new CGI toys that they spent 95% of their time perfecting them. Quite frankly I thought the FX in "Return of the Jedi" were sharper, more dimensional and less cartoonish. Nothing all that memorable seems to happen here. This movie may never have been as good as the hype, but it could have easily been much better than this. I waited so long for this film, yet the first time I saw this movie I was actually bored in the middle of it.

There are good moments. The pod race was fun, as was the light sabre battle at the end. There are some very nice special effects throughout.


Hopefully Lucas just had writers block when he wrote this one. Maybe he will remember what made the other films so good in time for "Episode II". Though he seems to have botched the title of it already.

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