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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (Widescreen Edition)
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200 of 253 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2005
I saw this film on theatrical release in and was very disappointed. Of course, alot of the disappointment initially had to do with the incredible hype build-up that accompanied the new trilogy. Nothing could have lived up to the public's expectations.

That having been said, The Phantom Menace is disappointing not so much because it stinks, but because, I felt, with some additional tweaking, it could have been much much better. Its almost as if Lucas got the plot ideas and character concepts developed to a schematic level and then sort of lost interest in them and did not develop them any further.

Specific gripes:

1. We never really bond with or understand Qui-Gon's character or his relationship with young Anakin. He states that he thinks Anakin may be the chosen one, but that is not really sufficient. We need to see an emotional bond or some kind of identification between the two, but it just isn't there.

2. Not to pick on Jake Lloyd (he's probably a great kid), but Lucas or whoever just did not get a good performance out of him. Plus, there is no hint in young Anakin at this point of character traits or flaws that might later foreshadow his fall. Yoda says he sees anger and fear in Anakin and the Jedi Council make vague predications that he may eventually be dangerous, but we as audience members just don't see it. We are supposed to infer that Anakin is somehow damaged by his life as as slave and subsequent separation from his mother, but again, we don't see any of this. His life as a slave doesn't seem to indicate any hardship; his big scene saying goodbye to his mom is not particularly moving (mainly due to wooden acting by Lloyd; Pernilla August as his mom does a good job thought). Also, if he's a slave, how does he have time/resources to build robots and pod racers? Just not very true to life.

Perhaps if we had seen Anakin and/or his mom subjected to some sort of abuse or exploitation we would have a better indication both of the fear and anger in Anakin and also a potential emotional reason for why Qui-Gon wants to rescue Anakin. When I reflected on it, I thought it would almost be better if Anakin were like the feral boy in Road Warrior II: an unkempt, unclean, and agressive character that had to be somewhat tamed and civilized by his Jedi rescuers. We don't see any character flaws, any little hints of selfishness, anger, fear or frustration. As is, young Anakin is just an average cute kid; we don't see any depth to why he wants to escape his life as a slave or run off to join the Jedi so we don't really care.

3. Source of humor: The original series had a mix of humor based upon the droids 3PO and R2D2 and also with the human characters (primarily interactions between Solo, Leia, and Luke). In TPM, the primary source of humor is generated from droids and Jar Jar Binks with little or no humorous banter or interaction between human characters. This has two effects: 1)relying on computer-generated characters for humor means the primary form of humor becomes physical slapstick, which is one of the main complaints about the Jar Jar charcter; and 2)the interactions between the human main characters, when deprived of humor, makes their relationships seem dry and mechanical, another source of the shallow characterizations.

The one humorous moment that stands out is when, after being ambushed by the Trade Feds at the beginning, Obi-Won says to Qui-Gon with a wry smile: "Well, you were right about one thing Master....the negotiations were short!" This one moment stands out because it is one of the few jokes between human characters and it works and expresses some of Obi-Won's personality. It also effectively echoes some of the banter and attitude that made Solo's character so liekable and crucial to the original films, an attitude and sensibility that is lacking in TPM. As is, we are stuck with Jar Jar's pratfalls for yuks, and it just doesn't work unless you are 5 years old.

4. The shallowness of Darth Maul: Similar to other problems with character depth, we don't know enough about Maul. He says early in the film that at last he will have revenge on the Jedi. Revenge for what? We never know beyond vague notions that the Sith and Jedi are ancient enemies. That is not enough. We either need to be shown more back story on this or have some reason for Maul's motivation. His fight scenes with the Jedi at the end are dynamite and clearly the actor is very skilled in martial arts and projects a menacing attitude with only minimal dialog or screen time, but we never really know anything about him other than "he is a bad guy" and that is not enough.

5. Plot goofiness. As others have pointed out, all the midi-chlorian business is a red herring of mumbo-jumbo that takes the mystical mystery out of the Force and reduces it to a medical condition. The Jedi are supposed to be wise, powerful seers, but them seem oblivious to the presence and intentions of the bad guys over and over again. Having young Anakin build C3PO is silly and seems like a forced "circle closer". Further, having Anakin start out on Tatooine doesn't seem right and seems like another circle closer that is forced. Wouldn't he remember all this years later as Darth Vader in Episode 4? Wouldn't there be some result of this coincidence? As noted above, having a slave that doesn't seem to be deprived or suffering and has the time/resources to build robots and pod racers as a hobby seems goofy too.

Again, it seemed to me like Lucas got the plot and characters to a certain point and then quit on them. With only a little extra effort or different emphasis on certain elements, the movie could have been much improved and the audience would have had more insight into the characters and identified with them more. As is, the lack of character development combined with wooden acting makes it hard for the audience to care. The special effects set pieces are spectacular, and the computer generated elements are pioneering and well executed, but without a reason to care about or like the characters, its hard to get too excited.

Again, not a horrid movie, but frustrating because with just a few changes or extra effort, it could have been so much better.

POSTSCRIPT (2011)to my original year 2005 review:

This movie does not get better with time or repeated viewings. Further, the contention of some fans who like this movie and claim it should be viewed in the context of the other films (now complete) is not only a misguided apologist stance, but outright doesn't hold water. Why? Because if you compare TPM to any of the 5 other SW films, it is clearly the idiot bastard son of the bunch, wheezing and drooling in the corner.

In review, I give credence to a theory that a lot of other reviewers have given: in essence, Lucas was boiling everything down in this film to aim at the 5-year-old to 8-year-old demographic (probably to sell toys and mechandise, the real unexpected treasure that the original trilogy coughed up back in the 70's and 80's) and, as a result, bored everyone else to tears and/or made older fans hopping mad. However, huge stretches of this movie are so slow-moving that I bet a lot of the the target audience squirmed around in their seats anyway.

The second theory that other viewers have posed that seems to ring true with me as well is that Lucas is in a position now where he's THE MAN and, as a result, has no one around him that is willing to bring up constructive criticism to him or challenge weaknesses in the plot, script, or characters. Back in the day, while the original SW was certainly his vision, that film had to rely on a far more collaborative process to get made and address the many challenges its making entailed. With TPM, Lucas had total personal control and it seems like no one around Lucas had the guts to say: "George, we need a good kid actor to play a central character like Anakin, not some cutesy wooden mop-topped kid from TV commericals" or "Damn, George, that Jar Jar is irritating as hell!" or "George, did you realize all the aliens seem to be stand-ins for offensive real-life planet Earth racial / cultural stereotypes?" or "All the scenes with Kabuki-Natalie are boring boring boring" or "This movie is all-CGI and no plot and no character depth!" or "This movie is full of jumbled-up crap that makes no sense!". Further, modern movie technology further consolidated control with Lucas in that the 1970's technology required many people's input to solve technical problems and was far less malleable; modern CGI allows Lucas to personally review, tweak, and endlessly revise every aspect of the film just the way he wants it.

In a nutshell, there is a reason that the Irvin Kerschner (R.I.P.)- directed "Empire" is widely viewed as the best of the 6 films. How Lucas could see dailies of some of the performances he got out of his actors in TPM and not realize things stank or, at the very least, weren't working is beyond me, unless he was constantly surrounded by lackeys and toadies saying "That's great, Mr. Lucas! Not explaining anything about Darth Maul makes him sooooo mysterious! Having Jar Jar be a moron who speaks like Stepin Fetchit is really cool! He needs more screen time! You're a genius!". In retrospect, I wish that Lucas had handed over all the remaining films from "Return" all the way thru the newer Pre-Quel trilogy to others with Lucas only having an overall story arc / consulting role.

I know that Lucas is irritated by fans who act as if he "owes them" to handle all these movies a certain way (its HIS vision, as I'm sure he'd point out), and maybe it is unfair to whine about how Lucas could have / should have directed the story a different way. But the fact is that TPM is not a very good movie, and regardless of quibbles about overall direction of the story line, Lucas did owe it to fans to at least not make a stinker-roo that not only insults fans above the age of 8, but really tarnishes the legacy from the first trilogy. Lucas seems to think these movies are only for kids now, and has, at least in the case of TPM, clearly targeted them accordingly.

However, while I guess one could argue that adults should only go to see films like "My Dinner with Andre" or the oevre of Ingmar Bergman and leave anything less mature and intellectual to the kiddies, the fact is millions and millions of adults went to and enjoyed the first trilogy (and other action-adventure-fantasy films) and it is not unrealistic to expect millions of adults would have some interest in the Pre-Quel trilogy as well. Further, it is not unreasonable to expect those adults would have some expectation that the Pre-Quel trilogy would not only have something worthwhile for grown ups, but would also build and expand upon, in a worthy way, the original trilogy that was so well-liked. Lucas, frankly, dropped the ball on this one; contentions that it should be enough simply because it sprang out of Lucas' mind and vision are not sufficient.

One could even argue that Lucas now has more contempt than anything else for his adult audience and for the fanboys who gripe about things like "How could he make Greedo shoot first?" (the big Special Edition tweak that many felt was a poke in the eye.) Lucas seems to go thru great lengths to tweak things that don't need it and then ignores or is oblivious to things that are huge, infected carbuncles staring him right in the face, like crappy dialog, unrealistic plot devices, bad casting, and wooden acting. Its almost as if with TPM he's saying "Grow up, already! Trix are for kids! Don't forget to buy your kid a Happy Meal with an authorized LucasFilm toy on the way home!"

In short, Lucas seems to be taking his own films far less seriously than his fan base (and probably movie goers in general) does, and it clearly irritates the crap out of him (and/or he doesn't understand it). However, it also irritates the crap out of his fans and the audiences who loved the movies of the original Trilogy and expected more of the TPM. At worst, as some other harsh reviews have pointed out, TPM seems like just another cynical Hollywood-as-usual souless big money cash-in; was it so wrong for fans to expect something more than that? Until TPM, everyone felt that the Star Wars series was somehow different from the myriad of sci-fi / fantasy effects-laden movies (many of them awful; others: naked cash grabs) that its success inspired and spurred from 1977 onwards. The Star Wars series seemed to have a spirit of its own. The reason, whether Lucas understands it or not, for the vitirol spewed about TPM is many fans felt this "special-ness" was betrayed or sold short (either out of laziness, sloppiness, ineptitude, or worse, greed).

In short, TPM is a stinker. I surmise that even though he seemed to discount it in the press, Lucas took some of the fan reaction to TPM to heart as he stepped his game up somewhat with (the marginally better) AOTC and certainly with the much better (and darker, natch) ROTS. (Granted, no one is going to think ROTS was directed by Kubrick, but you get my point). Too bad TPM seems, still, like a serious and uncertain mis-step, almost like a rough draft concept that should have been abandoned and re-done from scratch. "Super Special Edition" anyone?
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51 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2000
Like so many others I waited fingernail biting for many years. Also like many old fans I was left sorely disappointed. Now I kept my expectations relatively low for the new movie-and still it was bad! (Really bad) Most of my friends desperately wanting to keep Lucas venerated had "it was alright/ had some cool effects" to say, only to later join my much stronger "I hated it" stance. I've heard plenty of negative criticism without some specifics, so here are some of the problems with Lucas' blunder as I see them:
-THE TARGET AUDIENCE: (it was kids!) Now I know the desire was to keep Star Wars available to all ages, but this failed. The original movies were mature enough in dialogue, mood, and detail to enthrall older ages, yet still accessible to younger ages (Darth is evil). This movie though, is kept accessible to its target audience while neglecting the majority of its fans.
-THE COMEDY: (cheap laughs and clowning) In keeping with making a children's movie, Lucas had to ensure that all of the comedy could be understood, therefore physical buffoonery was the only out. Would it have been too much to include some subtle banter (or any verbal comedy) like that found in the other movies? (and capable of entertaining audiences older than twelve). Really though, does anything more need be said than Jar-Jar? I don't think so.
-THE VIOLENCE: (can't have the kids see any) Now not that I advocate violence for its own sake, but in this film its a mix of clowning-robot breaking-safety. The first five minutes of A New Hope are more violent then this entire movie- Vader parading over the fallen bodies of the storm troopers and rebels (and this was '77, not the desensitized world of the millennium). Violence can be used as a tool to produce mood, enforce the gravity of a situation, or (as Lucas likes) a chance to have a clown dance around making light of a 'war' (I guess because we wouldn't want our target audience to become upset at all the violence)
-SELF-CONTAINED WORLD: (it was not) The movie has placible accents (that are also painful) and connections with the 'real world'- i.e. the steriotypical comentators during the pod race.
-THE CHARACTERS: (because I care) The characters and their interactions are boring and cardboard. The enemy is not built up at all. Sure old Mal looked pretty nifty, but what is he? The villain- he dies- oh well, whatever, nice and one sided (after all, the target audience will get it). The same emotional impact is felt when Qui-Gon dies: "oh well".
-UNBELIEVABILITY: (suspension of disbelief has limits) Anakin is in his fighter plane, avoids dying, and accidentally shoots what turns out to be integral to the station and thereby winning the battle being 'fought' on the planet. I'm sorry I just couldn't work with it.
-ANAKIN"S FOREIGN TOUNGUE: (why? why?) Petty, maybe. Integral to the story, no. Annoying? Hell ya! Whose idea was it to have Anakin speak his rhyming gibberish? Were they going for the 'hey this sounds made up' sound, or the 'are they doing this on purpose?' sound?
I apologize for not going into greater detail (because believe me, I could) but these are some of the more prominent problems to a movie that I would plan to watch again only to find all those faults that have been forgotten since seeing during its first week.
My conclusion: Lucas has become drunk with success and lost his mind.
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2000
When I first heard about these prequel stories back in 1980, I have waited since for this movie to come out. And now...here it is-here it is, indeed... Well, I must confess this Star Wars installment dose not have that same "edge" if you will, that the Classical Trilogy has. The acting by Jake LLoyd and Natalie Portman was not up to par-hardly. I think much more screen time should have been given to the evil Darth Sidious and Darth Maul- and less screen time given to Jar Jar Binks. Truth be told, this movie has more of a Disney look (shudder) than being a Lucasfilm. Now, with that said, there are redeeming factors to this motion picture as well. Clearly, the Pod Race scene was fantastic, cut straight from the grandiose cloth of Ben-Hur. The Lightsaber scenes-Federation Trade battle droids, Tatoonie desert, and finally Darth Maul on Naboo-were Magnificent. Also, the underlying plot with Senator Palpatine subtly manipulating the circumstnaces so he can position himself to become Chancellor was also impressive-an area which Mr. Lucas should of have greatly focused on. Finally, the scenes with Jedi Master Yoda(Frank Oz returning as Yoda's voice) were very welcoming. With those redeeming characteristics, I give The Phantom Menace 4 stars in the overall sense. And it must also be kept in mind that this movie is the set-up movie for the rest of the Star Wars Saga. Now as we go into Episode II, everything is now in place: Palpatine (aka Darth Sidious, if you ask me)is Chancellor. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are starting a friendship while the seedlings of romance with Anakin and Amidala have been planted. Just as the trailer pitch said "Every Saga Has a Beginning..." That is exactly how one should look at this movie-A beginning; a set-up story for something larger to come. Yes, Episode I dosen't own up to the substantial quality of the Classical Trilogy, that is certain. However, with everything taken into account, it does serve it's foundational purpose for those movies and the coming Episodes. Watch it as it is-the opening story to a larger saga-and enjoy.
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59 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2001
It was said that Star Wars wouldnt make its way to DVD for years to come. However the demand grew so intence, Lucas decided to feed our hunger, if only for a little while. I got this DVD early from a friend who works at Blockbuster...so i was very excited to be amoung the first to own this film on DVD.
Everyone has seen Episode 1 so I dont need to go on about the movie itself, but the special features instead.
Disc one has commentary with George Lucas and Crew, but no cast memebers. That itself is the only dissapointing thing on this DVD. It would have been nice to hear Liam Neeson, and Ewan McGregor talk about the experience. Also George Lucas pauses for long periods of time, before speaking again, I started losing interest into what he was saying, and more interested in watching the film again.
Disc two has all the good stuff, outside of the movie. You can view the deleted scenes seperately, or they are intergrated back into the movie, if you can catch them. The film itself has many extended scenes at Corousant, and The Pod Race at Tatooine. Each deleted scene comes with an interview with Lucas explainging why it was cut and so on.
The rest is all normal features. There are 5 documentaries and a bunch of other toys to play with. Its really a great DVD, with hours of fun. Also each time you put it in, the menu screen changes to a different scene. Its really nice looking.
It sounds great, picture looks great. Feels like your back in the theatre again..all you need is movie popcorn.
GO GET THIS ONE.
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28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2000
First off some simple facts. Number one: Star Wars is a science fantasy, not a science fiction. The difference? Science Fiction is the projection of possible future worlds and technologies. (Some one give me a buzz when a super world power creates a death star as a deterrent to war as the atom bomb was in the beginning, or when some one has full mastery of the force.) Number two: Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace is not a fully stand alone movie, rather it is a chapter in much bigger story. A story which, until now, was told with no real history or origins. The Phantom Menace is the first of three chapters that will explore the rise of Anakin Skywalker (played by Jake Lloyd) to greatness as a jedi to his eventual downfall and metamorphosis to legendary villian, Darth Vader. This movie is only the first of three, but it has already begun to establish certain key elements of the original trilogy. Such as Senator Palpatine's (Emperor Palpatine) manipulation of galactic politics concerning the invasion of Theed, and the emotional issues surrounding the young Anakin as he seeks to become a jedi. Idealy, the story is simple in execution and follows the same saturday matinee formula that made the original movies a success(i.e. a winning formula), boasting outstanding visual effects, that when put in it's proper place along side the original three, it becomes all the more understandable and all the more enjoyable. A great addition. Now all we need is Episodes two and three.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2000
I loved this movie. It is a movie that the whole family can enjoy together, a myth for our times you might say. Unlike most movies out today where they're either specifically directed at small children, teens(who seem to have nothing but partying on thier minds), or adults, the Phantom Menace has appeal for all moviegoers. Although there is violence in the movie, there is no "gore"(blood or body parts shooting all over the screen) so even small children can enjoy the story. It enabled me to enjoy an epic tale of good versus evil with my children(they loved it)one that was a huge part of my life when I was young. The whole order of the Jedi and the way they view the universe is definately a positive influence for a child, unlike the meaningless fighting in "pokemon" or similar popular icons. What it boils down to is the fact that it is an excellent all around movie building on characters that we all know and want to know more about, and giving us a little taste of who and why the "Jedi" are. On a final note jar-jar is not that bad, if you look back through the other 3 films you'll see that r2 & 3po are a sort of comic relief.......the case is the same for jar-jar.
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28 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2000
This film is really just a large bundle of errors and pointing them out individually is akin to sifting chaff for chaff, but here are a few: 1) The Force is genetic, the result of (or interpreted by) some sort of cooties. Is it contagious? Can you get blood transplants? 2) Anakin = Jesus. 3) Amphibians have hooves and enormous floppy ears, and display no discomfort after spending days and days on a desert planet in scorching sun and heat. 4) Every single time Jar Jar lurches onto the screen, he does something stupid. What he does is unpredictable, the fact that he will do it is not. 5) The N64 20-minute pod racer game came out the same time as the film, which features a 20-minute pod racer scene. Also note the albino bounty hunter (again on a desert planet with 2 suns) who appears because LucasArts was pondering a Tomb Raider spin-off. 6) There is no superfluous dialogue. An economy of speech and action moves the plot along like a 1-act play with 4 different scenes.
Basically, Lucas' genius is in marketing, not in film-making. What he failed to understand was that had he made a film that pandered to anyone over the age of seven, an entire generation of Star Wars fans would _have brought their children with them to the theater anyway_. He bricked an assured lay-up.
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2001
Int. evening - A dimly lit room.
George: The movie must have a child-friendly comic relief, and we also need some clever doll to sell afterwards... hmmmmm... Jar Jar Binks!
George: Wait it can't be too child-friendly or we'll loose the fans! Throw Maul into the ring, oooooh he's scary... hmmmm... we'll cut his dialogue down to three lines so the action figure can contain them all!
George: Liam Neeson is starting to complain about his lame character and dialogue... hmmmm... let's just give him a noble death at the end of the movie... wait we've already done that.. aaah what the hell! Everybody loves a cliché!
George: Wait! The script is a little thin... hmmmmmmm... Wait I own this cool Special FX company they'll fill out the holes!
George: All the cool authors have expanded my universe making it diverse and colorful... but let's just focus on places we know... like Tatooine!
George: Anakin is really smart... we'll let him build C-3PO... wait why doesn't Vader recognize him later? Oh yes... he's just been ignoring him... heh heh...
George: Oh yeah I've also invented these midiclorieans... which they for some weird reason haven't heard about in the original episodes... well the knowledge has just been lost in the huge Jedi massacres later on!
*George continues like this for months*
Actually I'm a Star Wars fan... and I like Episode I because of the cool action scenes, spectacular special FX and I actually don't think that the acting is so bad, and Jar Jar is pretty funny at times. I just have this love/hate thing for this episode. The whole Star Wars spirit, the innovation behind the old trilogy has been replaced by some kind of Disney oriented commercial family pack! To much money (minus 1 star)too little creativity (minus 1 star)... and George you better clone Darth Maul in Episode II and make it bloody and horrible for Anakin, and realease the original episodes on DVD (and not make 6000 special editions), or I'll cut off that beard of yours while you sleep! (can you get sued for this?)
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81 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2000
Hmmm. What to say about `The Phantom Menace'? I waited how many years to see this "grand vision" of George Lucas?
I will make this as short, sweet and painless as possible. Let's start out just by saying this has got to be THE biggest disappointment in film history. Mr. Lucas, claimed on `Episode IV' that there was more to the story to bring us up to the 1978 masterpiece `Star Wars' (and I'm not talking about the tainted Special Edition version either.). With the coming of `Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace', this film has proved to me that there was no story of the sort. I feel that what was once a grandiose, intricately visioned perception of an outer-worldly saga is now all worth nothing.
`Phantom Menace' starts out with the traditional mammoth text run. The almost-holy yellow letters that grace the screen and flow upward into space accompanied by the magic theme that millions of people have grown to love. What could go wrong...right? This unfortunately proves to be the best part of the whole film. The damage could be seen within a few short moments. Before we know it, Ewan McGregor appears on screen as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi and utters the now famous line, "I've got a bad feeling about this." Well let me tell you, as I sat in the theater in anticipation, $10 ticket-stub in hand, third row from the front, opening night, a tiny voice in my head whispered, "So do I, Obi-Wan...So do I."
With acting bad enough to make you cry, a COMPLETE lack of plot and absolutely tasteless "looky-what-we-can-do" effects this piece of trash carries on and on getting worse by the minute forming a self-satire, if you will, a cartoon of the modern myth Lucas has created thus far. Goofy, English speaking aliens with ethnic accents and an immaculate-conception `shocker!' idea for the birth of Anakin Skywalker are just two things that make this movie flat-out absurd. `Episode I' quickly develops into a silly, mocking rendition of what the original three were. `Phantom Menace' is like a `Diet Star Wars'. A mini-version of the real `Star Wars' dipped in undiluted liquid brainlessness, hung out to dry for an hour and sold in a shrink-wrapped container with a cardboard backing. A `Star Wars' that I wish would just admit, "Just kidding! This isn't REALLY a full installment of the best science fiction series ever."
The Players:
Jake Lloyd trots his dry, barely television commercial-caliber talent as the young Anakin Skywalker. A new standard of awful is achieved with his two-dimensional portrayal of the young boy who eventually becomes the silver screens' most notorious villain. Sad.
Liam Neeson is notably repulsive as Qui-Gon Jin, the Jedi mentor whose force mind-control attempts never quite work on anyone. (? ) It makes you wonder, "Ha, ha, ha! This isn't really part of the script, ...is it?"
Ewan McGregor solely puts a worthy performance into his character, the young Obi-Wan Kenobi. Part of me feels sorry for McGregor though in this case, because from viewing his effort in this film shows that he has had hope for `Phantom Menace' throughout production. But now seeing the first nightmarish results of this movie, he may understand now what the next two episodes will bring.
Natalie Portman plays the poorly written part of Queen Amidala (or is it Padme now! I'm not quite sure!), Anakin's future love-interest, and future mother of twins Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. Um... yeah.
R2D2 and the skinless C3PO make their inevitable appearance and we observe how they meet. Seeing the familiar duo again made this movie worth not walking out on. But their cameos made it clear that Lucas really had no clue where he wanted this movie to go and thought he would throw them in somewhere to give the audience some kind of closure with the story.
The 30-some year younger Yoda is seen in all his high glory. Yoda seems awkwardly misdirected in his few scenes. What, I guess, develops into a highly intelligent and focused being...well...seems to start out here as a confused and bewildered (not to mention badly constructed) puppet. I dunno, you figure it out.
The cheaply horned and "lets just throw some paint on his face" foe Darth Maul, played by a professional martial artist I-forget-his-name fights a lot. The fight scenes are cool... Yep... that's about it.
And ahhhhhh who could forget `Star Wars's' worst addition since the Jabba the Hutt/Han Solo scene in `Star Wars: Special Edition', Jar-Jar Binks. What needs to be said about Jar-Jar that hasn't been said already? All I can say is I would rather have my fingernails ripped out one by one with pliers than experience Jar-Jar Binks again. What was George Lucas thinking! (Um... Did he just say ex-squeeze me?)
--`Episode I' ultimately collapses into a pile of mindless drivel, insulting the `Star Wars' name and losing at least my personal faith in hoping for a redemption in future episodes. With its expensive Saturday morning cartoon-like effects, the movie fails to be crutched by anything to aid it from self-destruction. From the yawnable pod race scene to the paper-mache robot army, this movie has got TERRIBLE written all over it. George Lucas, the man who brought us `THX-1138', `American Graffiti' and the flawless `Star Wars' Trilogy has plopped one of the worst movies ever made into our laps after 16 years in the waiting. I would say that `Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace' is just like any other Hollywood piece of junk being cranked out nowadays, but I can't, simply because of the huge runway of potential it had to run on. What had the best possibility of being the greatest and most loved science fiction film, resulted in the worst possible execution. For big fans, the dawning of `Episode I' is truly that of mourning. I don't think I will be buying anymore action figures.
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36 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2001
Ok, it's not perfect, but neither was the first one. Episode one is just more of what we already expect from Star Wars. It has a story that can only happen in the Star Wars universe. It has a strong female role and a lot of fast moving vehicles. What it is missing is the in depth story that was already established with the first Star Wars movie in 1977. In that movie, there had already been a war (the clone wars), Luke's parents were dead, his mother a mystery, his father a hero (at least at first), the Senate was disbanded and this seemingly all powerful empire controlled everything. We were thrown into the middle of it all. Now where do start all this? George has done a good job but it's obvious he had a better idea of Vader's prime and his demise then he did of his beginnings. With `Attack of the Clones' (oohh, that title) being released next summer I believe he will get into the thick of it now that we have an origin established. Episode One is a beginning, the beginning of a much larger story. In a nutshell, a corrupt trade federation is blockading an innocent planet in order for the council to debate the status. Queen Amadala is the newly elected leader of her planet. Young and beautiful, and slightly naïve, she is being manipulated by Senator Palpatine in a ploy to get himself elected to a higher position by forcing her hand. This is where Episode 1 is most intriguing. The underlying deceit of this Senator, who we all know the fate of already, is nothing less than evil. We see what he is doing, and we hate him for it. It is actually a very complicated political scheme; Senator Palpatine blockades her planet secretly because he needs her vote to eject the current counselor so he can move in on his position. We see the workings of a brilliant manipulator starting and unfortunately we know how it ends up. Thankfully, Lucas doesn't try to hide it from us as if we are new comers. It's subtle enough to not grab our attention, but clear enough to make sure those of us who know the truth are not having to search for it. The entrance of the Jedi Knights (McGregor and Neeson) is a monkey wrench in the works of this deceit and suggests someone in the council is at least partially aware of the plans of the Senator. Moving on from the political aspect, there are plenty of marketable creatures to make action figures from and despite Jar Jar's annoying personality, the rest of the movie is still very well done. The affects are awesome, nothing less can be expected from the creator of ILM, and the action scenes are spectacular. The lightsaber dual at the end is hands down the most awesome melee ever put on film. One gripe is the fact that Anakins actions at the end of the movie saved everyone, and he did it by accident...maybe George believes we will chalk it up to subconscious use of the force. The actors are all good. The boy is a bit of an amateur but he holds his own. You couldn't have found a better likeness for Obi Wan then Ewan McGregor. Liam Neeson is so charismatic and powerful that you have no choice but to believe in him. Natalie Portman is a heartbreaker and she plays her role of Royalty with every bit of forcefulness as Carrie Fisher did for Leia. You can really believe that this girl is her mother. The pod sequence is another foray in Lucas' obsession with speed and it will most likely be outdone in the next movie. Overall, you have to cut Lucas some slack, he hadn't directed since the first Star Wars movie. The story line is thin but it is the beginning of a much larger story. When all is done, it will be considered a part of whole and then I think it will be seen in a better light.
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