Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace can be found here.

In a galaxy far, far away on the peaceful world of Naboo, Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his young apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) attempt to solve an interplanetary trade dispute with the Trade Federation, which has organized a blockade around the planet and is planning to invade. Aided by clumsy Gungan outcast Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and the droid R2D2 (Kenny Baker), they flee, along with Naboo Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) and her handmaidens, in the Queen's spaceship. But the ship is subsequently damaged by the blockade, so they are forced to land on the desert planet of Tatooine. While attempting to buy parts for their ship, Qui-Gon meets nine-year old slave boy Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) who has the highest blood midichlorian count ever seen before in a Jedi, and Qui-Gon considers training him to become a Jedi Knight.

The Phantom Menace is the first movie to be released in George Lucas' Star Wars prequel trilogy, preceded by the original trilogy—Star Wars (1977) (aka Episode IV - A New Hope), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)—and followed by Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005). The story and screenplay for The Phantom Menace was written by Lucas and novelized in 1999 by American fantasy fiction writer Terry Brooks.

The Phantom Menace takes place roughly 32 years prior to A New Hope.

Midichlorians are lifeforms found within every living cell, much like the mitochondria found in the cells of real life organisms. According to Star Wars lore, midichlorians are in a symbiotic relationship with the cell and are able to communicate with each other and with the Force. The amount of midichlorians in a person's cells determines his or her ability to understand, comprehend, and manipulate the Force. According to Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Anakin Skywalker has the highest midichlorian count, some 20,000 per cell, ever detected in any lifeform, "off the charts" and higher even than Yoda. Their information is based off analysis of Anakin's blood and records of analyses of other beings' blood. However, the Jedi Council shown is to prefer more practical assessments of beings' abilities to use the Force.

The Galactic Republic is the government of a nearly galaxy-wide union of the various autonomous societies throughout the solar systems of the galaxy. The Republic, however, functions like a commonwealth, a confederation or even a mere international organization (analogous the UN, the EU or NATO). Among the thousands of societies joined to the Republic are the Trade Federation and the Naboo, the latter being the inhabitants of a planet named Naboo. The various societies do not always agree on the meaning of law set forth by the congress of the Republic, and they do not always bother to try settling disputes through the services of the Republic, since resolution process is too slow amid resolutions that cannot admit of delay. Hence there is galactic "turmoil". (Throughout the movie series, no explanation is given as to whether the Republic's law is like civil law or like common law, but no impression is ever given that the Republic's law arises out of judicial precedent.)

As the opening crawl explains, the Trade Federation is violently obstructing all shipping to Naboo, over dispute surrounding the general idea that a government shall take money from the use of trade routes to outlying star systems. Naboo is located in one such outlying star system and is also home to the particular system's capitol. Whether the disputed taxation is being imposed by the Republic, the Trade Federation or the Naboo, or is going unpaid by one of these parties, does not matter (though it is later revealed to be, as anybody would guess, levied by the Galactic Senate). There is a dispute and, unbeknownst to the parties involved, two "guardians of peace and justice" are on their way to settle it. In the opening scene, the Viceroy of the Trade Federation is under the impression that he is being paid a visit by diplomats as ambassadors (of the Supreme Chancellor, the leader of the Republic), not potentially violent "guardians of peace and justice" (who also work with the Chancellor). He has no intention whatsoever of murdering them even when he finds out "the ambassadors are Jedi Knights", until contacting his mysterious acquaintance, Darth Sidious, over a hologram teleconferencing link, for advice in the matter after having panicked. Meanwhile, the Queen of Naboo is waiting for the ambassadors.

Furthermore, according to Star Wars: Episode I - The Visual Dictionary:


The shadowy figure of Darth Sidious has incited key individuals within the Neimoidian Inner Circle to take drastic measures in the pursuit of profit. When the Galactic Senate imposes taxation on the former Free Trade Zones of the outlying systems, Sidious goads the Trade Federation into aggressively blockading the planet of Naboo in retaliation—a measure by which he intends to force and end to the new regulations.
All of this is just the calm before the storm.

The motives in play among Sidious, the Viceroy, the Chancellor and others have to be inferred to a significant degree. It stands to reason that the Trade Federation has some kind of monopoly on trade and is willing to defend such at almost any cost. The tax upon trade routes albeit effectively upon the Trade Federation means that the the trade regime may have to shift the tax burden onto its trade associates, like workers and customers, contractors and subscribers. Invariably there would be associates (the Naboo possibly being among them) who would proceed to fire, quit or circumvent the Trade Federation, undercutting them, so as to avoid the burden, to which the trade regime reacts by creating obstacles to those associates at the same time as extorting political support from them, with the overall goal of urging the Senate to repeal the trade tax. The Chancellor, in all of his corruption, simply wants the problem to go away as quickly as possible, so he opts to secretly send Jedi Knights who have the ability to use mind tricks, extortion or even coercion to achieve their goals. When the captain of the Viceroy's ship says, "They're here to force a settlement", he has legitimate reason believe such is the ambassador Jedi's intention and that not only would those ambassadors be victorious but the Trade Federation's redress of grievances would also go unheard.

So, what's left to be explored are the multi-layered, threaded motives of Sidious. His ultimate objective is to rule the galaxy, and the main obstacle to him doing so is the the Jedi Order. At the very least, he would want to stay out of the Jedi's way, as he lives his life in peace. His original approach may or may not have been what ultimately winds up being implemented, yet it's clear that in both his concealed legal identity and his Sith persona, he disfavors the trade tax. Perhaps the tax interferes with his operations in some way, whether in economy or by simply making him more exposed to the Jedi. Once it comes time for him and the Viceroy to "accelerate" their plains, he is looking to reward the Trade Federation with Naboo's assets, capturing the territory and its resources, which would help him to accumulate the influence needed for conquest of even more planets or for forcing the Senate to make concessions. Either of two approaches would work: amassing a military force to eliminate the Jedi and overthrow the Senate; or exploiting crisis in such a way as to gain favor in the Senate (while ultimately manipulating it to approve of an alternative to the Jedi as the principal galactic security apparatus). In the distant future, the taxation of trade routes becomes irrelevant to him.

Although the striking image of Darth Maul (Ray Park) was often used in promoting the movie, leading to many people's assumption that the title was referring to him, "The Phantom Menace" is really referring to Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) whose involvement as a menace, Darth Sidious, is "elusive" like a phantom to all other characters but Darth Maul. The Viceroy of the Trade Federation is unaware of the identity of his special acquaintance, Lord Sidious, who while communicating with the Viceroy only appears in the form of a teleconferencing hologram, which is like a phantom. The heroes of the story are further unaware that the Viceroy even has such an acquaintance, as they question the motives of the Trade Federation. As Palpatine is the puppetmaster of the whole movie (and the entire prequel trilogy, for that matter)—orchestrating the Naboo invasion whilst befriending the Queen, playing both sides against each other for his own political gain, and introducing Darth Maul from the shadows—it is he who should be considered the chief villain of the piece, the true phantom menace. Of special note, at the ending of the movie, while Yoda (Frank Oz) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) discuss the Sith affiliation of "the mysterious warrior," the music ends on an unresolved chord while the camera pans to the newly selected Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.

"Sith" pertains to elite practitioners of the extreme dark side of the Force, who are extreme rivals of Jedi. Like "Jedi", as a word, "Sith" is an invariant noun like "deer". Just as a Jedi is a member of the Jedi Order, a Sith is a member of the Sith Order. While the Jedi have Jedi Knights, the Sith have Sith Lords. Upon introducing him, Lord Sidious refers to his apprentice, Darth Maul, as a Sith. Lord Sidious is himself also a Sith, but the only of one whom the Viceroy of the Trade Federation is aware, until Darth Maul is introduced. Multiple times throughout the movie, Darth Maul is referred to as "Sith," "Lord Maul" or "a Sith Lord." One of the members of the Jedi council mentions "the Sith," treating it as plural when mentioning the extinct status of the subject, and another member conflates the Sith with "the dark side" (of the Force). Only at the end of movie is it revealed that there are two Sith Lords, one being a master and the other being being an apprentice. Being that Lord Sidious is a Sith Lord's master, Lord Sidious is also a Sith Lord. In the sequel, Attack of the Clones, several mentions of "the dark lord of the Sith" are made, and Lord Sidious is unprecedently referred to as "Darth Sidious." No mention of Sith is made in the movies of original trilogy, but in auxiliary literature (The Star Wars Storybook) published within a year of the debut of Star Wars (1977), i.e. A New Hope, Darth Vader is described as "Dark Lord of the Sith."

The motivations for the Sith's revenge is never clearly stated in the movie or its sequels, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. However, the Sith have a deep-seeded hatred of the Jedi from thousands of years of conflict against each other. In Revenge of the Sith, Mace Windu exclaims that "the oppression of the Sith will never return", which indicates that the Sith used to be the ones in political power. The Sith, however, ultimately destroyed themselves a millennium before this film takes place; most turned on each other out of mistrust and greed for power, and the remaining ones were most likely wiped out by the Jedi. The democratic Galactic Republic (which has also stood for a thousand years) and the Jedi Order as an official apparatus of the government were probably founded out of the ashes of this battle, to prevent a dictatorship from ever arising again. Since then, there was "the rule of two", and while there have undoubtedly been Siths during the past millennium, there were never more than two, since they would always struggle for power until only a master and an apprentice remain, and sooner or later, the apprentice would overthrow the master and take a new apprentice. This phenomenon had probably kept the Sith in check for all those centuries, with the result that, as voiced by Ki-Adi Mundi at the first Jedi Council meeting seen in this film, the Sith are believed to have been extinct for the past thousand years. It is most likely that Darth Sidious and Darth Maul blame the Jedi for the ultimate fate of the Sith, and the fact that they had to live their lives in secret, instead of being able to rule the galaxy with an iron fist and absolute power, as the Sith crave.

Anakin's mother, Shmi (Pernilla August), tells Qui-Gon that there was no father and that she raised her son all by herself. She means this literally: at one point she got pregnant and really did not know how it was possible. In the film's second sequel, Revenge of the Sith, it is revealed by Chancellor Palpatine that a legendary Sith Lord had the power to create life. It is hinted that Anakin was created by this Sith Lord. It is also possible that Palpatine, who is hinted as being the apprentice of the aforementioned Sith Lord, caused the pregnancy himself. An early version of the screenplay makes this clear, in an exchange wherein Palpatine tells Anakin, "I arranged for your conception... You could almost think of me as your father." This more specific declaration was eventually dropped, possibly to avoid feeling like a retread of the famous reveal of Luke's parentage in The Empire Strikes Back. This movie makes a stronger allusion to the fact that Anakin was conceived by the the Force itself (as spoken out by Qui-Gon), as a way to defeat the Sith and bring balance to the Force. This sort of "divine" conception in order to create a redeemer is a popular theme seen in many cultures, like Christian religion (Jesus was said to be conceived this way) and Roman mythology (Romulus, founder of Rome, and his brother Remus, were supposedly fathered by Mars, the God of War).

There are different stages in the training of a Jedi. As we find out in the sequel, Attack of the Clones, Yoda teaches Younglings (very young children and underdeveloped aliens to become Jedi), it is likely Yoda taught Obi-Wan when Obi-Wan was a child. Later, Younglings become "Padawan" learners and are assigned to a Jedi Knight as a form of internship. Obi-Wan was assigned to Qui-Gon when he was old enough. Just like today's students have several teachers, Jedi are trained by several masters, and Yoda was simply one of them. We also find out, at the end of the movie's second sequel, Revenge of the Sith, that Yoda is about to teach Obi-Wan how to communicate with Obi-Wan's "old master" (Qui-Gon) through the "netherworld of the Force". So, even beginning Jedi Masters can still receive training and instructions from their more experienced colleagues.

Why do banks have armed security guards? In the Star Wars saga, many organizations and societies are on their own as far as protecting assets (transmittable or receivable) from space pirates or other interstellar bandits goes. The Trade Federation, which is led by a viceroy of all things, likely exists for that very purpose while securing assets of astronomical scale. This Federation is run and staffed by members of a migrant species known as Neimoidians, who are too ambitious—perhaps too greedy—to inhabit the unsavory Neimoidian homeworld or consider themselves above doing so. To that end, the Trade Federation is a sovereign nation, therefore it having a military is a given, but the moniker by which is goes is not all too different from the general style of names like "Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries".

No. It was another Rodian named Wald and not the same one as Greedo, who later became a bounty hunter who threatens Han Solo to pay back Jabba the Hutt. Greedo appears in a deleted scene where he has a fight with Anakin. Wald addresses Greedo by name, thus clarifying the identity of the other Rodian.

In a deleted scene, as Anakin and Qui-Gon exit Mos Espa, on the way to the Queen's ship, Qui-Gon senses he is being followed. Turning with his lightsaber ignited, he cuts down one of Darth Maul's probe droids which had been tracking him. It is here that Qui-Gon realises he may be in danger and therefore insists he and Anakin get to the ship as quickly as possible.

Simply by receiving the transmission from Naboo, the recipient's location is revealed. Most likely the location is identified when the signal is acknowledged as having been received on Tatooine, and this confirmation (along with location) is sent back to Naboo. The location would then have been passed on to Darth Maul. Another possibility is that the hyperdrive engine of the Queen's ship leaves some kind of unique particle or chemical trail that can be tracked. As the Trade Federation has blocked all other transport to and from Naboo, this trail should not be hard to follow. This is a less likely option, though, because if chemically tracking a ship was possible, then the Galactic Empire could have easily found the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back, by following its trail after it vanished from sight. However, it is feasible that: because the hyperdrive was damaged and leaking, it was the leak that was traced, whereas the Falcon's hyperdrive was not leaking but rather inoperable. Also, Qui-gon contacted the Jedi council. It is quite possible that Senator Palpatine has spies in the Jedi temple or is monitoring the communications to and from the temple. He is, after all, a Sith and wants to keep his presence unknown to the Jedi. Spying on them makes sense, as he would want to know if they are aware of him before he is ready to strike.

Without a doubt, her choice not to is strikingly dissimilar from what we would expect in the legal proceedings of democracies in our world, but there may be an explanation for it other than that she had not thought things through. Since Supreme Chancellor Valorum covertly dispatched Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to begin with, as a measure of addressing the blockade of Naboo by the Trade Federation, it stands to reason that he would not allow them to testify, especially if for some reason he had lacked the legitimate grounds to have covertly commissioned their mission in the first place. Thus, in a way, he was done in by his own corruption or alternately his own foolishness, albeit in political and legal system that was wrought with chronic faults. There is no way to know how the Senate would have responded had she made a mere mention of the Jedi who helped her escape the blockade, regardless of what Valorum, Palpatine or the Jedi asked of her.

In the comic book series Star Wars Tales, there is a story in which Darth Maul is ordered to kill a Jedi Master living in a forest but thwarted when facing the Jedi, as he can only hit the Jedi with the butt of his lightsaber. Furious, Maul returns to his master and modifies his saber by adding another blade to the end. He returns to the Jedi and with all the same moves is once again standing with the butt resting on the Jedi's chest, but to the Jedi's surprise, Maul presses another button and the Jedi is killed. In the movie, during their confrontation, Obi-Wan cut through the Maul's double saber hilt, possibly closer to one end than the other, damaging the mechanism for one blade but not the other. It is also possible that Obi-Wan cut the hilt directly in the center (as it appears to be in the movie), and since it has two ends that can be activated separately, there is probably some divider in between the two parts. Maul simply held onto one end and lost the other half which automatically deactivated upon releasing. The fight was so fierce that he could not pick up the dropped half of the double saber to use it in the battle.

Anakin destroys the control ship's reactor, deactivating the droid army and blowing up the ship from within. Obi-wan defeats Darth Maul by slicing him in half with Qui-Gon's lightsaber. With his dying breath, Qui-Gon makes Obi-Wan promise to train Anakin as a Jedi. Palpatine is elected as the new Supreme Chancellor and promises to bring peace and prosperity to the republic as well as to watch Anakin's career with great interest. Obi-wan is raised to the position of Jedi knight and takes Anakin as his Padawan, against Yodi's warning that he sees grave danger in Anakin's training. At the burning of Qui-Gon's body, Yoda and Mace Windu agree that Darth Maul was a Sith, but Yoda points out that there are always two Siths a master and an apprentice. 'But which was destroyed,' Windu wonders, 'the master or the apprentice?' The final scene is a celebration of the defeat of the Trade Federation and the alliance between the Naboo and the Gungans.

Although it was never completely explained in the prequel movies, basically the Force is the energy that gives life to all living things and binds everything together. When a person dies, his or her essence or soul is released, and this energy is absorbed into the Force. The same happens to Qui-Gon but, later in the saga, he is able to "return from the netherworld of the Force", as Yoda says. Apparently, during life, Qui-Gon mastered the Force enough to not completely dissolve into it after his death and was able to partially hold onto his own identity. He was able to communicate to Yoda and Obi-Wan, who he could teach how to retain their own individual Jedi essences. How and why this entails complete disappearance of the body was never mentioned, however. It could be theorised that only Obi-Wan and Yoda learned this power. When Darth Vader strikes down Obi-Wan, in A New Hope, he seems baffled that Obi-Wan's body vanished completely.

For its home video release, several scenes have been added by George Lucas, particularly during the podrace. There is also an extended scene following the landing on Coruscant. A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here.

In The Phantom Menace, Palpatine begins his ploy to gain control of the galaxy as follows:

Step 1: Under the guise of Darth Sidious, he manipulates Viceroy Nute Gunray of the Trade Federation into creating a trade boycott on the planet Naboo.

Step 2: When the Jedi get involved, Sidious orders the Viceroy to begin invading Naboo. In order to make the invasion legal, the Viceroy needed to force Queen Amidala of Naboo to sign a treaty, however the Jedi had helped her escape the planet.

Step 3: When the Queen arrives on Coruscant, Senator Palpatine convinces her that Supreme Chancellor Valorum is powerless against the bureaucrats, who are on the Trade Federation's payroll, and to start a vote of no confidence in the Galactic Senate against Valorum.

Step 4: After the vote of no confidence passes, Palpatine informs the Queen that he was among the three candidates nominated to replace Valorum. Instigating the invasion of Naboo was to help generate sympathy in the Senate to garner his nomination and election as Supreme Chancellor.

Step 5: The Queen insists on heading back to Naboo, and Palpatine pleads for her to stay, presumably hoping that the conflict will escalate and create a schism within the Senate itself. However, she refuses to abandon her people. So as Sidious, he informs the Viceroy to wipe out all the resistance and to capture the Queen.

Step 6: After the Trade Federation unexpectedly loses the battle, the Viceroy and his staff are sent to stand trial in the Senate. With the power of the Trade Federation temporarily broken, the balance of power within the galaxy has been restored for the moment. This is a setback for Palpatine, now Chancellor: with his apprentice, Darth Maul, dead as well, the political instability he was hoping to exploit is averted, and he needs to bide his time for when another opportunity arises. However, he befriends Anakin, seeing potential in him as a future assistant in his scheme.

There is only one change that is noticeable. The puppet of Yoda has been replaced by a CGI counterpart that looks much closer to how Yoda looks in the sequels. This was likely to address the wide-spread fan complaints that Yoda was made to look too young in this film and the puppet did not look like Yoda at all. A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here.

Aside from the 3D effects themselves, no. If you have seen the Blu-ray version of the movie, then you have seen the 3D theatrical version of the movie.

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