When the Trade Federation sets up a blockade around the planet Naboo, two Jedi Knights, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), are sent to find a peaceful settlement. When the negotiations fail, the Jedi flee with Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) to the Republic capital Coruscant. Their ship is damaged during the escape, forcing them to take shelter on the planet Tatooine. There, they meet Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who Qui-Gon senses has a strong connection with the Force and accompanies them on their journey.
After waiting 16 years since Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was released, George Lucas finally shows how the Star Wars Saga all begins. With the progress in special effects since Return of the Jedi comes a whole new visual style to the Star Wars universe. Although it has its bumps, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace tells the story it wants to, while throwing in some visual flare to really make it pop.
The Phantom Menace follows a similar formula to A New Hope. There is some exposition to learn about the characters, but for the most part it concentrates on the action. It hardly takes a break so it keeps moving along fairly quickly. However, there were times it felt like scenes were cut short to keep the movie moving forward, making transitions feel abrupt. This does not apply to action scenes, which receive their fair share of screen time.
Despite knowing several of the main characters and already aware of their fates (if you have already watched the original trilogy), there is still a sense of wonder and discovery throughout the film. One of the draws for me about the original Star Wars trilogy was the vast universe it built. This film takes that same feeling and builds on it. Sure, a good chunk of the movie is set on Tatooine, a planet seen several times before, but more time is spent amongst the city and ordinary folk and learning more about their way of life. There is a sense about how vast and strong the Jedi are. The Republic Senate, merely mentioned before, is shown, along with the galactic capital Coruscant. If this movie does one thing correctly, it’s expand the Star Wars mythos and universe.
Much like A New Hope, a lot of the core cast of this film were relatively unknown at its release. Liam Neeson and Ian McDiarmid were the only ones who had any major acting experience (again, referring to the main cast). Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman were just starting their acting careers and Jake Lloyd was just a young boy. It was easy to tell they were still somewhat new. There didn’t feel like there was much emotions in their lines and it came of very flat most times. But overall they all did well with their parts.
My biggest complaints about The Phantom Menace is the dialogue. Much of it was delivered as if the actors were on a stage play, making it come off as corny on screen. I know the actors can do better, I’ve seen most of them do better. Maybe it was because some of the actors were still fairly inexperienced, but they just seemed awkward in their deliveries.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace gives Star Wars fans what they have been waiting for almost two decades: a glimpse at how everything began. The film’s pace is quick, concentrating a lot on the action. Although I know the fates of the main characters, it is still entertaining to see their origins, as well as expanding the Star Wars universe. It is a very similar sense of wonder during Star Wars: A New Hope. Because of the movie quick pace, several transitions feel abrupt. Most of the cast were fairly inexperienced at the time and it was obvious but the parts were well cast. The Phantom Menace isn’t as good as its predecessors, but it does well to expand on fan-favorite characters from the original trilogy.
Cast & Crew
George Lucas – Director / Writer
John Williams – Composer
Liam Neeson – Qui-Gon Jinn
Ewan McGregor – Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman – Queen Amidala / Padme
Jake Lloyd – Anakin Skywalker
Ahmed Best – Jar Jar Binks (voice)
Ian McDiarmid – Senator Palpatine
Pernilla August – Shmi Skywalker
Oliver Ford Davies – Sio Bibble
Hugh Quarshie – Captain Panaka
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)
Andy Secombe – Watto (voice)
Ray Park – Darth Maul
Peter Serafinowicz – Darth Maul (voice)
Lewis Macleod – Sebulba (voice)