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Aug 01

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace

starwars4Genre: Sci-Fi
Year: 1999
Country: USA

Director: George Lucas
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid

 

Every generation has a legend. Every journey has a first step. Every saga has a beginning.

 

The Trade Federation is an alliance within the Republic. When they start a conflict with the peaceful planet Naboo, the Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi heads over to see if they can resolve the issue, without being successful.

They believe that Queen Amidala is in great danger, so the two take her to safety on the small planet Tatooine. On this planet they also encounter a young, special slave boy named Anakin Skywalker, who Qui-Gon believes has the force within him. They take him with them and gets ready for the battle against the Trade Federation.

Star Wars is back! Phantom Menace became the first out of three new Star Wars movies that all take place before the events of the original trilogy. Instead of keeping things very simple like in the original, this one and the new trilogy as a whole focuses more on politics and the hunger for power. That’s a more adult story and that’s ok I guess since the fans of the originals will have become grownups by the time this arrived.

But on the other hand they didn’t want to let go of the younger generation either and included cartoonish character such as the much hated Jar Jar Binks and still have a lot of action scenes that aren’t going for realism. What they ended up with is a movie where only hardcore fans will keep track of the storyline and who’s saying what, while the more casual moviegoers will focus on the flashy and expensive action scenes.

Another problem I had with the film was the characters. There isn’t a lot of charming ones in this film like Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia was in the original films and some of the new ones are downright annoying. I’ve mentioned that the Jar Jar Binks character has gotten a lot of hatred from the fans and I agree, the CGI Gungan is very annoying and obviously made to cater to the younger ones in the audience. He is a child, so I won’t put the blame on him but young Jake Lloyd was anything but convincing as Anakin Skywalker. You can have as much special effects as you want, but when one of – if not the most important character of your film is badly acted then your film will suffer.

The rest of the actors are experienced and handle their job well. It is a little weird to see Samuel L. Jackson in the part of Mace Windu, a member of the Jedi Council. I would have prefered to see a lesser known actor in this part to be honest. Something that is done better in this film than the original is the decision to create Yoda in CGI since the original puppet wasn’t all that great. A new menace is introduced in Darth Maul, but he seems to come and go before the audience becomes familiar with him, failing to leave an impression on anybody.

George Lucas decided that it would be a good idea to direct this one himself. I don’t know if I agree with him and I think it could have been better to let someone who wasn’t this close to the story do it instead. The visual look is a little more distant than magical this time around thanks to all the CGI work. The CGI was state of the art back in 1999, but a lot of it looks dated after the fourteen years that has gone by us. He is apparently also a fan of the animated Norwegian classic Flåklypa Grand Prix (Pinchcliffe Grand Prix), since the racing scenes (that go on for too long) is almost a downright ripoff of the film, or homage as it is usually called when it’s done by on a big Hollywood film.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace isn’t a very well crafted piece of film and you would expect a better story and more charming characters from the Star Wars universe. It’s flaws are very much in your face the entire time and it is only saved by the high-tech action scenes that at least prevent it from becoming boring.

 

 ★★½☆☆ 

 

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