Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Stars: ★★★1/2

Year: 1999

Country: USA 

Director:  George Lucas

Cast: Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn), Natalie Portman (Queen Amidala/ Padmé), Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (Senator Palpatine)

Genre: Science Fiction

Reacting to the Trade Federation’s blockade of the peaceful planet Naboo, the Galactic Republic sends two Jedis, Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi, to resolve the issue. But under the orders of evil Darth Sidious, the Trade Federation tries to invade Naboo and kill the two Jedis. They both manage to escape, but are now immerse in a much bigger mission. Along with Queen Amidala and a Gungan new friend, they’ll be part of intergalactic disputes, lightsaber battles, podracing bets, and the discovery of a promising child: Anakin Skywalker.

Sixteen years after the end of the original Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983), a prequel of it was released. Avid fans all over the world were awaiting it full of excitement, queuing for hours to get a ticket and quiting work to attend the film. What movie could possibly live up to such great expectations? Well, Star Wars Episode I didn’t. Not only critics but also a considerable number of fans, hated this movie.  But I’m not a fan. I was born many years after the original trilogy was made, and this is in fact the first time I watch the entire saga. So I didn’t feel that same disappointment with Episode I. I liked, I enjoyed it, and I think it is overall a good movie. However, I could see some flaws, and though I wasn’t disappointed, I didn’t get that magical feeling I got when I watched the original trilogy. I like this movie, but I understand why many Star Wars fans do not.

The main problem with Star Wars Episode I is, in my opinion, the plot. To begin with, I have the feeling that many of its points are there just to fill some holes. Points that were forced into the plot, and do not seem natural. For instance, the midi-chlorians. We are led to believe in this movie that Jedis become Jedis because they are born with that capacity: they have more midi-chlorians than the rest. Was the introduction of this new element an easy way to explain why Anakin should be trained as a Jedi? That’s the only explanation I can find, because apart from that, I think midi-chlorians are absolutely unnecessary. In fact, I think that rather than connect the prequels with the original trilogy, they do the exact opposite. After seeing the old films, I thought that the Force was something mystical, and that you could become a Jedi if you worked hard and managed to control the Force through the peace of the mind. But now with the new film, the Force is reduced to something, let’s call it, biological. You become a Jedi because that’s your destiny, not so much because you work hard for it, that’s the impression I got. Maybe I didn’t understand it right, but if this is the same impression fans got when they watched Episode I, and they saw the whole concept of the Force change like that after so many years of believing a different thing, their disappointment is more than justifiable. Another thing that is evidently just forced there to fill a hole is the clue we get of why Anakin eventually turns to the bad side. After insinuating that Anakin is afraid to lose his mother, Yoda says: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.” Does this sound forced only to me? And finally, there’s Anakin virgin birth. We’re not told much about it in this movie, except that he has no father. It just sounded a bit ridiculous to me.

But apart from all these “forced” points, I think the plot mainly fails because it doesn’t involve the audience. The movie engaged me due to many factors I’ll mention later, but I wasn’t actually interested in the story. I couldn’t feel the dramatism of the original trilogy, I wasn’t worried about the characters, I wasn’t anxious to know what would happen to them. And here comes the other great weakness of the movie: characterization. I don’t think the cast was bad, I think the script was the problem. There’s not character depth whatsoever, so we’re never given the chance to explore them, to care about them. Both Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson are splendid actors, but they can’t show it here because the script doesn’t let them. Who is Obi-Wan Kenobi? Who is Qui-Gon Jinn? The film doesn’t show me who they are as individuals, nor does it say much about their relationship (what later makes a dramatic moment in the movie not be as dramatic as it should). I sometimes feel that I shouldn’t compare this movie so much with the original trilogy, but characters like Han Solo and Princess Leia were far more interesting than new characters like Queen Amidala and Jar Jar Binks. Han Solo made me laugh, he was funny! Jar Jar Binks tries so hard to make me laugh that he ends up looking stupider with every try. I don’t like that character at all, I think it is truly annoying. Amidala is a flat character, at least in this movie, not at all like the awesome female character of Princess Leia. Darth Maul is alright as the one who’s just sent to kill, but he’s not an actual villain (I guess that was the intention, after all). I think the character that got most depth was Anakin Skywalker, but it wasn’t much anyway.

Now that I’ve said what I don’t like about Episode I, I’ll tell you what I love about it. This movie is aesthetically wonderful. And I mean it, I fell in love with the visuals. Every planet, every city, was a delight to my eyes. Now add the awesome special effects, and you have some really cool and memorable scenes. I particularly loved the podracing scene and the lightsaber battle at the end. That lightsaber battle is the coolest ever! And not only due to special effects, it’s obvious that a lot of attention was paid on every single movement. But hey, that’s not it. Now, add a soundtrack as good as the one from the original trilogy, and the result is just too much (in a good way, of course). We even have here the addition of some new amazing droids, and more work on costumes. For all of this, Episode I is highly entertaining and beautiful to watch. I gave so much space to criticize the movie’s flaws, that this tiny paragraph seems insignificant in comparison, but I don’t need more words to express how much I love the artistic work in it. It is simply AWESOME.

To sum up, I’d say there are many weaknesses in the plot of Star Wars Episode I for it to be as good as its predecessors. Nonetheless, the visuals, special effects and music are so good that it mostly compensates those weaknesses. That’s at least, what I think. So what’s your opinion about Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace? 

Watch the trailer ↓

– Written by GuadiRC –


3 Responses to Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

  1. Pingback: Movies – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace | Glutton for books, movies & series

  2. Yes, Episode I is quite disappointing. Yes, I watched the original trilogy first, and was excited (at first) to watch Episode I….until I actually watched it! Ugh! Episode 2 and 3 were just as bad! In my opinion, Lucas ruined his own masterpiece.

    You’re lucky you’re not a fan…and that you watched the original trilogy after you saw Episode I. I wouldn’t wish that kind of disappointment on anybody lol.

    Happy New Year!

    • fictionworms says:

      Actually, I watched the original trilogy first (guess it wasn’t that clear on my review). But I watched them very recently, that’s why I said this is the first time I watch the saga. I still have to see episodes II and III… I loved the original trilogy, BTW.

      Happy New Year to you too and thanks for passing by 😉

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