Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) Poster

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A perspective after all the hype has died down
kylopod29 October 2005
Lucas may have problems as a director and writer, but I've always thought that those flaws are balanced by his great storytelling ability. The problem with "The Phantom Menace" is that he simply has no story to tell. The film merely adds an introductory chapter to a story that has already been told, and stretches it out into a two-hour movie. It is no accident that prequels of this kind are rare. They are very difficult to make properly. And apparently he's just not a sophisticated enough filmmaker to pull it off.

For one thing, this project is limited by the fact that anyone familiar with the first trilogy knows the story's outcome, and it therefore lacks some of the suspense associated with a gradually unfolding saga. More importantly, however, this situation leaves Lucas with very little freedom as a storyteller. It also encourages him to gloss over key events; because their outcome is a foregone conclusion, he forgets to bring them to life.

For example, we know there will eventually be a romance between Anakin and Padme. So Lucas has the two characters meet here and--surprise, surprise--they seem to like each other. Their developing friendship isn't portrayed that clearly, and their motivations for becoming close aren't explained. Because Lucas fails to make scenes like these believable, we can't help being conscious of how he's manipulating the plot in his effort to connect the two trilogies. Another good example of this problem is Anakin's portrayal as a potential Jedi. There doesn't appear to be anything about this kid remotely out of the ordinary, even though the other characters keep talking like there is. Our only reason for thinking he's special is that the plot requires it.

If the story fails to be engaging, it is because we never see the important events. Lucas makes a fatal error in not showing what's happening on Naboo, the small planet whose capture is the focus of the plot. Numerous atrocities are supposedly being committed against the planet's inhabitants, but we only know about this because the characters on screen refer to the events, usually rather woodenly.

The deadpan performances are a problem in themselves, but they only highlight our lack of involvement in the story. Think of Han Solo sweating in fear, then think of the emotional vacuums passing for characters in this film. Whenever any of the characters do express emotion, as in the scene where Anakin and his mom part, it still seems awfully restrained. Somehow, Lucas manages to keep the emotional reactions of his characters to a minimum, which gives the film an almost mechanical feel.

It's true that "A New Hope" never showed Alderaan's inhabitants, but we still could feel the tragedy of the planet's destruction through the horrified reactions of Princess Leia and Obi Wan. Moreover, there were many other involving events which we witnessed directly, such as the slaying of rebels at the beginning; the capture and torture of the princess; and the murder of Luke's foster parents. Furthermore, the major plot elements were intriguing in and of themselves. They weren't there merely to show us how they were to be linked to later events, which seems to be the case with the new film.

I suspect that Lucas was not as concerned in the first trilogy with what had to happen later in the story and was therefore able to focus his attention on the events at hand. The weakest segment was "Return of the Jedi," which had the task of bringing the story to an end. Only then did Lucas start to show signs of forcing plot points. In "The Phantom Menace," he gets so bogged down in the task of bringing his story from point A to point B that he ends up with only the bare bones of a plot, and none of it comes alive.

This is especially true of the characterization. In the old trilogy, characters like Yoda and Han reveal distinct personalities in their first few minutes on screen. This film goes for more than two hours and the characters, including the familiar ones, come off vague and nondescript. We aren't given much of a chance to experience their personalities in the way they interact. We must take Qui Gon's word for it when he describes Obi Wan as "headstrong." What's most odd is that the cartoons seem better developed than the humans. The scenes where Qui Gon negotiates with the birdlike slave-owner Watto are amusing and well-done--probably the movie's best scenes aside from the stunning action sequences--but they can't hold a candle to the constant interactions throughout the first trilogy.

One thing I cannot do is accuse the film of lacking creativity. The design of the creatures, the technologies, and the planets is impressive. Watching the film is sort of like reading a children's book that isn't very good but abounds with beautiful illustrations. There is certainly a "wow" factor in the movie's visuals, but the effect of it is short-lived.

I get irked when I hear fans talk as though the "Star Wars" movies were never about anything beyond special effects. While the inventive visuals are part of what made the originals so revolutionary, they're not what made the films so fun to watch. And in no way can they explain the trilogy's continuing popularity today. After all, many of the original effects look primitive by today's standards, and their novelty has certainly worn off. Only an enduring and compelling storyline could have allowed the first three films to become the classics they're almost universally acknowledged to be.
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recently rewatched and it's a pretty decent story
laura_brady_au29 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I recently rewatched everything Star Wars including this, the Clone Wars cartoons etc. In preparation for seeing The Force Awakens.

Well for someone who wasn't a huge fan of this initially I made a few discoveries and in light of the Force Awakens this movie is a cinematic masterpiece.

The story is really quite original (except for that main reactor bit). I really quite liked it and the politics is easier to follow after a few viewings. I remember being quite shocked when I found out the 'queen' wasn't always who we thought.

The sets and costumes are really beautiful.

JarJar isn't really that bad, let's face it he's there to keep kids happy and that's OK isn't it? Obi-Wan is great, I really liked seeing him younger.

I did feel quite sorry for Anakin this time around and I think the actor did quite well with the material he had.

Yes this movie has it's issues, it can be slow at times and the bit about Midichlorians still makes me cringe but at least it's original and had a story to tell. It does remind me that Star Wars was really Anakin's story told in 6 parts. The newest 7th 'instalment' is reductive and undoes a lot of the history.

Star Wars finished with return of the Jedi and most certainly after George Lucas left. the new Disney stuff has no heart.

Please come back George.
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The path of one person: the pool of fear
BiiivAL4 June 2018
"Episode I: The Hidden Menace" is perhaps the most ambiguous film in George W. Lucas's "Star Wars" series. Met by the rather coldly stern gaze of critics, the first film of the new trilogy can cause some confusion in the viewer. There are not many action scenes in it, there are many dialogues and just a leisurely development of actions, which sometimes may seem like a forced filler with a connecting function between fights and races. But this is only at first glance, because if you look closely ...

Young Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his teacher, Qui-Gon Jin (Liam Neeson), go to negotiations with the Trade Federation, which threatens to blockade the peaceful little planet of Naboo. In Obi-Wan's eyes, his mind and vision are already visible, his movements are already full of courage and confidence. Confidence and powerful, unquestioning dedication are seen in the young queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) that she is ready to do anything to help her people, the inhabitants of the occupied world federation. It is in "The Phantom Menace" most accurately and correctly disclose the nature and fragile at the same time in BOGATYRSKY solid Padme: it is able to stand alone against the decision of the Senate, venturing recklessly brave adventures and combine intuitive dictates of the heart with equanimity of mind.

Qui-Gon Jin is unshakable and calm, in whatever situation he was. His eyes radiate wisdom and strength, a smile condescendingly reasonable, and the movements are smooth and weighed. But the main feature of Obi-Wan's teacher is not in these, of course, the most important qualities. Qui-Gon, first of all, is a man of exceptional faith. Some of his actions seem too risky and thoughtless, but somewhere in general they can be mistaken for a desperate bluff. But for him, extremely sensitive to everything around him, holding in an unsurpassed harmony the awareness of his own forces and the sense of difficulty of the tasks set, for him, who knows how to feel the situation on many, many forward steps, faith is the main tool. With her help, he stands unshakably on his feet, seeking his own, by all means.

Once having set a goal - to certainly train quite a young Anakin Skywalker - Qui-Gon will go to her persistently and steadily. He alone believes in the Prophecy of the great destiny of the boy, as if he did not hear the fears of the Jedi Council that Anakin's uncertain future could pose great troubles to the Galaxy. But the foresight and the unique sense of Qui-Gon's world allow him to see far further than to his eminent like-minded people and mentors, like Master Yoda and Master Windu. In addition, an extraordinary faith allows Qui-Gon to destroy any of his fears and doubts that can obscure his clear eyes. The moment of the film is very important, in which the wise Jedi tells Anakin about the medichlorians, micro-organisms existing in symbiosis with the cells of any living organism. Perhaps, in these mysterious media chlorians lies the human soul, elusive to the eye and non-existent for touch. Then the wise counsel of Qui-Gon Jinn and unselfish greed deprived the boy Anakin Skywalker, wanted to visit every planet in the universe, it seems quite clear and sharp, Go up to the call of the heart, and you go on the right path. And even though this road is lost in the darkness of the gathering clouds, there will always be someone who sees a little farther than everyone else, and builds on this sagacity its most powerful faith. Qui-Gon believed in Anakin from the first second and believed in him to the end; most likely he understood the suffering and upheavals that promised further training of the boy for the Galaxy and for himself, but in one thing he was certain that in the final analysis Skywalker would return the Force to equilibrium ...

Finishing on the major note of universal jubilation and festivities, "Episode I: The Hidden Menace" at first glance does not justify its mysterious and menacing title. But, having looked a little closer, we see that the holiday is just a calm before the storm, and a sweet truce is a tricky tactical ploy. It also becomes clear with horror that all the actions of all the heroes are quite comparable with the freedom to choose the actions of puppets tied to strong threads, for which someone is confidently pulling, able to control the movements of dolls by the easy fingering.

And the violent protest of Padme Amidaly at the Senate meeting, and the murder of the mighty Darth Moule, and the fiasco of the Trade Federation, and the heroic death of Qui-Gon Gin, are all foggings in the plan of the mysterious strategist who is still hiding far from the battlefields, its galactic war. And Anakin Skywalker's aching lead heart, which is filled with a burning, drying fear after the death of a Jedi so much loved by him, also lies in a small coin, albeit of a larger value than the rest, on a comprehensive battle map of the devilish clever and cunning puppeteer. The beginning of the saga is laid, the heroes are represented, the plot knots are tied. Star Wars Beginning
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Love this film
davekeanu13 June 2016
Honestly I don't get it why so many people hate this movie I can understand it is a bit too long but its not the weakest in the series, the weakest one in the series would have to be episode 2 Attack of the Clones, having too much romance in it. But I think this one is a lot more better then episode 2 in many ways. And also I think Jar Jar Binks is a rather underrated character I know he can be annoying at times but he did play a large role in this film which fans are missing the point. The pod race is problay the best scene in this whole film as it was rather enjoyable to watch over and over again on youtube. Soundtrack is amazing and very well done for this movie. I know some people hate this movie just because of one character but come on give this movie another chance it will surprised you in many ways.

overall Episode 1 is rather underrated and needs another chance

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This scapegoat of a movie definitely needs more appreciation.
billosaurus31 December 2015
I loved this movie as a kid. I still love it at age 21. Sure, it can be a bit sloppy at times, and it switches from plot a to plot b constantly.The stereotypes can be jarring at times. But you know what, it is still brilliant. The characters are likable. Even jar jar is not that bad. The acting is OK. Not great, but OK. The hate seems to stem from old trilogy fans, not knowing that this film was merely trying to be something different. Yes, if you want a film that feels like the old trilogy, this is not for you. But if you are looking for a fast-paced, lighthearted sci-fi action movie with one or two smart scenes, good scenery, and interesting alien designs, then this is for you.
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jonsefcik21 July 2020
Warning: Spoilers
There's not much I can add about this movie critically that hasn't already been said by thousands of other reviews. Instead, I'm just using this review as an excuse to tell an amusing story. This movie came out when I was very little and my mom took me to see it in the theater. There's one thing I remember from that screening back in '99: When Qui-Gon was fighting Darth Maul as Obi-Wan was behind the blast shield, my mom leaned in and said something like "he's a good fighter" referring to Liam Neeson and how he wasn't known for action roles at the time. Literally seconds later Qui-Gon got stabbed and I thought it was funny. LOL.
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The Beginning of the Star Wars Saga Introduces a Vivid New Universe and Celebrates the Innocent Fun of Star Wars, Despite Its Flaws
jaredpahl1 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
While it received generally positive reviews upon its release, and captured the imaginations of an entire generation of younglings, The Phantom Menace has garnered an almost toxic reputation on the internet in the years since. Sure, it's not a perfectly structured film, and yes, there are more than a few dopey decisions, but the sheer spectacle and sense of fun in Star Wars: Episode I cannot be denied. George Lucas' return to a galaxy far, far away is a triumph of creative vision. A movie that overcomes any and all of its narrative deficiencies through the pure drive of its creator to wow, thrill, and inspire.

The Phantom Menace is chapter one of the Star Wars Saga, and it feels very much like the beginning of a larger story. It introduces all of the important players in the saga, including Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Jedi Council, and Anakin Skywalker, the tragic hero who we know will one day become the legendary Darth Vader. On a micro level, the plot revolves around an intergalactic trade war that leads to tensions between the Trade Federation and the inhabitants of the peaceful, Garden of Eden-like planet called Naboo. Jedis Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), and Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), are sent as peacekeepers to protect the planet's leader, Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) from the evil Trade Federation and the ancient Sith Lord, Darth Maul, one of the most frightening and iconic characters ever to come out of the Star Wars universe. The Trade Federation plot does not have the same level of buoyant escapism as the originals', but it's not far off. The politics are kept at a minimum, and they only serve to create bad guys for our heroes to fight. The more important element of Episode I's story is the extended introduction of young Anakin Skywalker to this new Star Wars universe. The most interesting beats of the story center around Anakin and his mother, and The Jedi council's trepidation regarding the boy Qui-Gon suspects is the Chosen One. You get the sense that there is something special, yet sinister about the young podracing phenom from Tatooine. It's a great aspect of the film that largely goes unrecognized.

None of the pieces of the plot really mean much for the prequel trilogy's overarching story of the downfall of Anakin Skywalker, but The actual conflict of Episode I is largely unimportant. At it's core, The Phantom Menace serves as a feature length introduction to George Lucas' new (old) Star Wars Universe. Episode I is the prologue to the Saga, telling a simple story that puts the pieces in place for later films while still standing on its own. On that level, it's kind of brilliant. Lucas takes a universe that was, as sweeping as it felt, still confined to a small collection of characters, and tears the lid off. The Phantom Menace does more to create a fictional history and detailed lore for the Star Wars universe than any other film. All of a sudden, this universe was no longer just a backdrop for the characters to play around in. It became a real place, with real politics, history, tradition, and age-old myths of its own. Remarkable if you ask me.

Next to their storytelling, Star Wars movies have always been known for their special effects. With 16 years between movies, George Lucas' ILM team had the chance to perfect all of their award-winning visual effects, and perfect they did. Incorporating a litany of techniques from miniatures and animatronics to innovative use of CGI, The Phantom Menace is a breathtaking film to look at. Every single shot of The Phantom Menace is a work of art, and the sheer amount of imagination put into the world is worthy of praise. From the environments to the vehicles, the costumes, and the creatures, everything in this universe is unique, and ILM and company craft them with an unrivaled eye for detail. So strong is Lucas' vision of this world, that the plotting and dialogue are almost unnecessary. The visual storytelling of The Phantom Menace is that uncommonly strong.

That expert craftsmanship extends to the action sequences. George Lucas' strengths as an editor and technician translate to more than a few show-stopping set-pieces. My favorite of which is young Anakin's bid for freedom, a kinetic and thrilling race across the vast deserts of Tatooine. The Podrace is a visually stunning and genuinely tense showcase of absolute speed. It still remains one of the most fun sequences in recent movie history. The same goes for the climactic three-way lightsaber duel at the end of the film. With brilliant visual effects, fast-paced and furious choreography, and a euphoric sense of scope, it brought something brand new to the Star Wars Universe, large-scale lightsaber duels. The battles, both in space and on land, stand out as old-fashioned, innocent fun. Despite a few silly moments, they tap into that Saturday matinee spectacle that resonates with the kid in us all.

I love The Phantom Menace, despite its quirks. The script is clunky, especially in the first act where the plot seems to spin its wheels. There are slow moments and plenty of silly gags that fall flat. But my God, this movie is fun to watch! The visual splendor, the larger-than-life action set-pieces, the grand fun of the whole thing, The Phantom Menace is irresistible entertainment. An event movie with this kind of innocent charm is something unique in Hollywood, and that child-like earnestness is what makes this movie particularly endearing for me. The Phantom Menace might be different from the original trilogy in certain aesthetics, but importantly, not in feel. For the majority of this movie's runtime, it exudes the same brand of vibrant movie magic that made A New Hope a beloved classic. I won't call TPM a classic. I have my hangups with it, but I personally cannot bring myself to dislike this movie. Star Wars: Episode I works as an introduction to a brand new world, and as a stand-alone adventure that celebrates the innocent fun of the Original Star Wars.

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Take it for what it is
jugophon9 January 2000
This movie, the most hyped movie of all time, has been put under the microscope and looked at in a variety of different ways. It seems that everyone had prejudged the movie before it was even released, and then strutted about claiming that they told you that it would be that way. There was the die-hards, who were impossible to dissapoint. There were of course the disenchanted and the unimpressible, who probably would not had conceeded the movie was good no matter what. There were the people who acted as if this movie symbolized their disapproval of media hype itself, and by principle decided to dislike the film. Looking over the other comments I see the opposing viewpoints clearly. OK, the movie was overhyped, but what do you expect in 1999, the year of hype? I was four years old when the A New Hope came out, and of course, I loved it. I was four, and a science fiction epic can have its way with a boy of that age. I think many people in the 20-35 age group expected to have that same life changing event that happened to them twenty years ago this time around. That is the equivalent of going to Disney World for the first time since you were a kid and being let down: Did you expect the impact to be the same? Take the movie for what it is. OK, it isn't just any movie, but it behaved like one, with strong points and weak ones as well. First the strong points.

1. All the acting was terrific, with the exception of Jake Lloyd. Many critics complained of the stiffness of the Jedi characters. What some people saw as flat acting I believe was well acted restraint by Neeson and Mcgregor. Their characters were kung-fu monks, not the pirate Han Solo and the upstart Luke. 2. All of the sets and costumes were beautiful. Even Oscar worthy. 3. The music was terrific. John Williams outdid himself with the otherworldly choir at the end. Breathtaking! 4. The fight scenes were excellent as well, better than the ones in the Matrix because they had less special effects woven in. 5. The plot had more substance than the prior three combined. The intricate dealings of politics, the metaphysical properties of the force, the nature of bondage and the messianic innuendos sent me reeling. 6. The pod race. Ben Hur for the Space Age.

And for the weak points: 1. The flow changed speeds too often, making it seem somewhat unnatural. 2. Something did not work for me with Anakin's success at the end. It seemed more haphazard than the supernatural workings of the force. 3. Jake Lloyd is not a good actor. Period. the scenes between him and Portman awkward and seemed difficult. 4. The fact that some of the races of aliens resembled ethnic groups should not be considered offensive (I wasn't offended, and could have been). It does, however, seem like a lack of imagination.

Personally, I put this movie ahead of ROTJ, but behind the first two. It still definitely is worth watching. By the way, I was rather indifferent to Jar-Jar, as I was to the plight of R2-D2 and C3PO in all the other movies. I have a feeling history will smile on this movie as the story progresses in the future installments and we become more familiar with some of the new concepts introduced in this one. If you have decided not to go to any of them anymore, fine. That means just less of a line for me.
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A solid but flawed addition to the Star Wars Saga
wgh18 July 1999
Well, after waiting 16 years for his next installment, George has given us "The Phantom Menace". As a Star Wars fan I got what I expected - another chance to immerse myself in the Star Wars universe - a film whose sole purpose is essentially escapism. But as a movie fan, and judging it as I would any other movie, I frankly feel mildly disappointed. Any movie that's made can always be improved upon but I feel that this SHOULD have been better. Firstly the good points :

1) The visuals are stunning - a lot of love and hard work has quite obviously gone into the effects and the people involved can quite rightly be proud of their work

2) All the performances by the main cast were good. Particularly Natalie Portman and Pernilla August.

3) The Pod Race was exciting and amusing.

4) The final sabre duel was quite fantastic : Darth Maul prowling up and down like a caged tiger was a particularly excellent touch - it added real tension and anticipation to the scene.

5) The music as always was magnificent. The Star Wars saga would lose much of its charm and intensity without Williams' scores.

And now the negatives :

1) The pacing was too fast in parts! The first half hour of the film just left me cold - you weren't led into the story. You were dumped straight into the action. On paper I'm sure the first half hour looked fantastic but I found myself sitting in the theatre going - 'hey, great special effect shot there!' I wasn't involved in the story and the scenes lacked tension and danger.

2) The film only truly started for me on reaching Tatooine. I finally got a chance to get to know the characters. However there still was not enough character development in the film as a whole. For example, Obi Wan had nothing to do or say throughout the movie except flash his light sabre around from time-to-time. Who is Obi Wan??? After seeing the film I'm none the wiser. And the final sabre duel (good as it was) would have been infinitely better had the relationship between Qui-Gon and Obi Wan been explored past the mere mentor-apprentice motif. The final sabre duel lacked emotional involvement as a consequence.

3) Why did they make Jar-Jar so incomprehensible?? I found myself becoming annoyed at having to strain to understand his nonsensical utterings! (Having said that, he wasn't as annoying as I'd been led to expect) Why George used easily identifiable racial accents for his alien characters completely puzzled me. It just shows a lack of imagination!

4) Not enough Darth Maul.

5) What's with the biological exposition on the Force! Was that necessary? The first three films pointed to links between the Force and genetics but I don't need tiresome cold scientific explanations as to the Force's origin, thank you very much! It just ruins the mystique.

6) Can we have less of the mindless gaffes that occur in the final battle scenes (You know the ones that save the day!) Its an insult to the audience's intelligence (In a full theatre I swear I didn't see a single soul who looked under sixteen! - has George forgotten about the original fans). In the original trilogy there was none of this cringeful embarrassing material (Ewoks excepted!!)

Well I think I'll stop there. To summarise : a good movie that could have been a whole lot better. Perhaps there was too much story to cover in two hours? In which case the plot should have been shortened on the adage that "less is more". I've always thought that episode one was always going to be the lamest of the new films so I await the next installment with anticipation and hope .....
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Leave Your Preconceptions Behind
fung028 January 2007
I know it's fashionable to scorn the "prequel" trilogy, but if one stands back a bit, things tend to snap into perspective. Compare "Phantom Menace" to most any other fantasy/sci-fi film, and it has to rate very high indeed.

Plot: this is the more "adult" side of the Star Wars galaxy. The politics are remarkably credible, with the entire plot hinging on the result of a vote of no-confidence! How many adults even know what that is? (Hmm... maybe this explains the low ratings.) The relationships between the races on Naboo, the role of the Jedi... these things are established more clearly, and depicted more credibly than in any of the other five films.

Technical achievement: Lucas paints on a vast digital canvas, and creates a world of wonders that have simply never been imagined by lesser talents. This is a living, breathing, believable world, that makes the world of the original trilogy seem cartoonish and contrived by comparison. Naboo, from the city, to the underwater kingdom, to the rolling green hills, is one of the great fantasy worlds, up there with those of the Thief of Baghdad (both versions), Blade Runner, or 2001. And our first glimpse of Coruscant has got to be one of the most memorable "wow" moments in the history of the movies.

Characters: Liam Neeson's Qui Gon is one of the strongest characters in the Star Wars films, and Ewan McGregor's Obi Wan a worthy, more-dashing successor to the older version created by Alec Guinness. And Jar Jar Binks? Annoying? Not compared to the insipid C-3PO, or the insufferably perky R2-D2. Jar Jar is a fully formed character, with surprising depths. His manner is odd, perhaps abrasive, but he offers far more than the single note that Lucas used for his original comic-relief characters. And, of course, the fact that he is one of the first fully digital characters in film history has to be worth something. But Ian McDiarmid's Senator Palpatine is perhaps the most under-appreciated of all. This is an Oscar-worthy supporting performance, a character who is both frighteningly real and perfectly ambiguous. McDiarmid balances his performance on a knife's edge, managing to be both fatherly and deeply unsettling.

Yes, it may be that a certain human dimension is weaker here than in the original Star Wars. We don't have a clear "hero". There's no Luke, no Han. That's a valid point, but it is not inevitably a criticism. Qui Gon and Obi Wan aren't the comic-book heroes of A New Hope, but they are likable, heroic, and rich in characterization. If I had a choice between seeing 10 more episodes of the life of Han Solo or of Qui Gon Jinn, I'd choose the latter without hesitation.

Story: The storyline in this film seems more real, more substantial than in the other five. We have the perfect sense of scale, from human drama to global (or interstellar) conflict. The one quibble might be the pod race. It's certainly entertaining, but does it go on too long? I think perhaps so. This is a structural weakness, but not a huge one. (Does Luke spend WAY too long on Dagobah, listening to warmed over Zen platitudes from that rubbery little jerk Yoda? Yes! Yet this is in the film most viewers seem to, unaccountably, pick as the "best" of the six. Clearly, there's some latitude for narrative digressions...)

And then there's the climactic sword fight. I'd rate the three-way duel in Phantom Menace as the second-best sword fight in the Star Wars series, close after the finale of Return of the Jedi. The latter has a wonderful mythic quality, but this one is more visceral, more scary... partly because Darth Maul is such a cold, merciless villain, and partly because you know from the outset that the outcome is genuinely in doubt, that one of the Good Guys really could die. And the staging, using three master swordsmen, each with very different technique... This is just about as good as action film gets. Only two or three other movie duels come close: Rob Roy, again with Neeson, oddly enough; Scaramouche; Robin Hood... I can't think of a fourth. The closing duel ALONE should raise Phantom Menace into the front ranks of action and fantasy films.

Bottom line: there is so much to enjoy in this film, so much to see, so much to feel, that it is amazing how anyone can possibly rate it below a 7 or 8. This is a scale of film making that few have ever attempted, let alone pulled off so beautifully. Perhaps that's the film's biggest fault: Lucas makes it all seem too easy.

But, of course, we all know the REAL reason people can't give this film the 10 it richly deserves. That reason lies within themselves. Viewers in 1999 (let alone 2007) just couldn't feel as young, as innocent, as optimistic as they did when they saw the very first Star Wars. (Especially if they saw it way back in 1977, 30 years ago). Star Wars hasn't changed, George Lucas hasn't changed, nearly so much as the audience has changed. Alas. Moviegoers who are truly so jaded that they can't feel the passion and revel in the breadth of vision of The Phantom Menace have my sincerest sympathy. Yes, you can be ever so-o cool by putting down the prequel trilogy, but missing one of the best movies of all time is a very high price to pay.
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good story
mazarmishaw-7250429 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This movie begins the back story of anakin skywalker and obi wan (amongst other characters).

This movie has received a lot of criticism over the years, including some recently with the release of Ep 7 in the franchise (although to be honest I won't ever count that as canon.

Having just seen The Force Awakens I had to come home and rewatch this. It is certainly not a perfect movie, some of the dialogue is awkward and George Lucas has tried to explain stuff that didn't really need explaining and it's a bit too 'american pop culture' in parts for me but the story is good.

The story of Anakin being taken away from his mother (albeit with good intentions) is a good story and the young actor who plays him is quite likable. Natalie Portman is great.

All in all a much better movie than it is usually given credit for
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A great addition to the Star Wars legacy
zaldymir26 December 2001
After a long delay (and much anticipation) we finally got the first part of Lucas's story, and where the trouble all began. Many other people viewed it as a rather sub-par attempt, uncreative and unsurprising. I couldn't disagree more. One could go with the impressive state-of-the-art digital effects, one could go with the great cast of new characters (the awesome Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn, for instance), the return of old favorites (Kenny Baker as R2D2 or Frank Oz as Yoda), John Williams' ever-wonderful score, the complicated story (I won't bother discussing the plot; everyone knows what it's about by now) or the awesome action sequences (the light saber duel at the end of the film is the best!). It's obvious this film was misunderstood by many, and too many movie-goers set their expectations too high, which is unfair to Mr. Lucas to say the least. I was excited for the chance to see a new Star Wars film, but I took no expectations into the theater with me -- I went in ready for nothing and walked away very satisfied. I saw this film four times in the theater, something I don't do much of these days. Lucas did a great job, and since this film is really only exposition for the overall series, how can one expect it to be a topper to the original trilogy? He's just setting everything up! Give Mr. Lucas a break. If this film had been released first, it would have been the rage of ages just as A New Hope was when it first came out. Everything in this film was very nicely done; the cast and crew all performed their jobs exceptionally. The story was far more complex and interesting than usual, with more going on and more problems to solve. By the way, everyone, the "Phantom Menace" referred to by the title is so obvious that very few people truly understood what it was... the Phantom Menace was the orchestrator of the evil deeds, the driving force behind the attacks, the central villain of the picture... a character we see mainly as a hologram (only once otherwise): Darth Sidious. Darth Sidious is the Phantom Menace, and the evil single man who drives the entire plot. The movie was perfectly named. I loved this movie, and it has become one of my favorite Star Wars films (alongside A New Hope). I can't wait for Episode II!
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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (Short Movie Review)
Cirene4041 June 2019
  • Planets design
  • Some of the action scenes
  • Darth Maul
  • Musical score

  • Story
  • Pacing
  • Characters
  • Acting
  • Writing
  • Dull cinematography
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Highly Underrated...
dead_pool096 January 2010
and this is coming from a huge fan of star wars BEFORE the prequels. These are all the same thing..cheesy dialogue? yup, the OT had that too...bad acting? I fail to see it...Music? Once again, an overly exceptional score by John Williams as always..the prequels aren't perfect by any means, but the hate for them is absolutely ridiculous. These are the backstory to Lucas original ideas. whether you hate them, that is your opinion, but this was Lucas' original intent, and for better worse, this is what they are. For those who say he raped your childhood, well, I guess that sucks for you, but let those who aren't little babies enjoy these. Another solid addition to the Star Wars franchise. 9/10
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Let's stop playing games - bad is bad
Spleen6 August 1999
The main line of defence seems to be: lighten up, it's just entertainment / just a kid's movie / just a special effects flick. Pausing awhile to note that people who run this line of defence have all but conceded that the film is, in fact, bad, let's take these points one by one - shall we?

As entertainment it's poor. Dialogue is flat and perfunctory (don't expect to be dazzled by repartee); the story lacks the beauty of the first Star Wars film and the tension of the second ... and then there's the magical `character development' everyone complains about. We must distinguish character development from character delineation. The former is nice, but the latter is absolutely essential, and it's the latter that's missing from `The Phantom Menace'. Jar Jar, the young Obi Wan, Darth Maul, Armidala, Annakin - all are scarcely characters at all, and are very difficult to get enthused about. Jar Jar in particular is a collection of mannerisms, nothing more. This lack of character doesn't just prevent the film from becoming the darling of the intellectuals - it makes it dull. There are hundreds more entertaining films. Only those people who entered the cinema carrying plastic light sabers, grimly determined to enjoy themselves, failed to notice this.

It's a kid's movie. Well, yes, in a sense - but not a good sense. Good children's movies form a proper subset of good movies - simply because adults have access to all childhood emotions and desires, but not vice versa. So in one sense a `kid's movie' is just a movie that can be understood and apperaciated by children (as well as adults). Is this a kid's movie in that sense? Maybe. But it's also a kid's movie in the bad sense: it's deeply witless, and inexperienced children might - I say, MIGHT - fail to notice just how witless it is. Children may - I say, MAY - ignore the fact that Jar Jar Binks is a deeply irritating non-character because he is all colour and movement and he speaks funny. Is this really all we want?

Special effects. These aren't so hot, either. George Lucas has fallen in love with computers and failed to notice that his digital animals don't move at all in the way that real animals move - worse still, they don't move like any kind of physical object at all. Nor do most of the alleged physical objects. Compare the trundling white juggernaut at the start of `Star Wars' - a convincingly solid model - with the insubstantial collection of pixels that darts past us at the start of `The Phantom Menace'. The special effects have actually deteriorated, and to make matters worse, there are more of them.

So the defence that `The Phantom Menace' is allowed to be a poor movie because it really wasn't trying to be something great in the first place, just won't wash. Especially so, given the ludicrous claims George Lucas has arrogantly made, again and again. So Jar Jar Binks is the first digitally created main character? Rubbish - the dragon in `Dragonheart' predates it (and, one might add, is at the very least a genuine character). So George Lucas is pioneering a new kind of filming-making, more like painting and less like photography, than the old? Absolute twaddle - Walt Disney did THAT in the 1930s. I'll tell you what IS new. Never before has there been so much sizzle, and so little sausage.
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Visually a marvel to look at, disappointing in terms of story
TheLittleSongbird24 October 2009
Star Wars: Episode 1- The Phantom Menace is definitely worth a watch, but I do think it is one of the weaker movies of the Star Wars saga. I will admit I wasn't expecting much after reading some very negative reviews on IMDb, but I do think this particular instalment did in some ways exceed my expectations and disappointed as well. On a visual and technical level, it looks absolutely fantastic, with splendid special effects, stunning cinematography and fine scenery and costumes. The script is fairly decent, perhaps lacking the sophistication of Empire Strikes Back or New Hope, but does have some memorable lines. The action is constantly exhilarating, and Darth Maul, well played by Ray Park is a very good villain. Of course though, Darth Vader is better. Most of the performances are very good, especially Natalie Portman as Queen Padma who looked stunning and Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker who shone with his confident charm. And Jar Jar Binks is okay on the most part, and you have to love Yoda. And the music score by John Williams was outstanding, definitely one of his best works. The quality of sound and direction are also impressive. However, there were things about this film that did disappoint. One is despite the awesome visuals, strong music score and good characters, the story never quite distinguished itself. It did take a while to get going, and when it did try to get going and you could tell it wanted to, it was further disadvantaged by the uneven pacing. Liam Neeson is a fine actor, his performances in Kinsey and Schindler's List are proof of that, and I do like Ewan McGregor. But as Qui-Gon Jin and Obi Wan Kenobi, both stars give unusually wooden performances, and at times looked even embarrassed. And as I said, the pacing is very uneven, there are some slow moments, and one or two scenes felt rushed. All in all, maybe disappointing for fans of the saga, but it cannot be denied that visually it is an accomplishment. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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i liked it
pollycamplin31 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
It's interesting how times change. It's very fashionable to hate this movie and give it one star (and no one calls anyone a troll) and it's very unfashionable at the moment to give TFA one star (and lots of people call you a troll).

This just shows the power of group-think and marketing.

This movie has a new story to tell and if you remove the dialogue in your head about everyone hating it (JarJar, trade federation etc) it has some great bits.

Darth Maul is great and would easily kick the butt of the newest 'villain' in the series in about two moves. The music is amazing, particularly Duel of the Fates.

It doesn't appear to have the heartless grab for cash in the form of new toys and other useless bits of plastic that no one needs that is all the craze at the moment.

I believe this movie is made because George Lucas, who is and always was the heart of Star Wars, had a story to tell. Unlike recent efforts which are clearly just there to make money.
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One of the best thought through movies.
Dukat-44 November 1999
I disagree completely with all the people, who criticize the film, because there's nothing really bad in it. George Lucas and all of the others worked very hard on TPM, and it shows. After seeing the film a couple of times, I am more and more amazed, how good the script is. GL really thought all details through to make an entertaining experience, and there ARE NO PLOT HOLES. I know that a lot of people out there disagree with me on that, but all of the little problems a lot of people have with the plot can be explained with a little thought, and I believe that GL really thought everything through -- he just didn't tell us the whole story. What surprised me was the German dubbing -- it's really good, and sometimes even better than the original version (I've seen both). Unfortunately we all have to wait too long for the next two episodes...
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A very lacking addition to the Star Wars saga....
chrisbrown64533 September 2000
Warning: Spoilers
For 6 months I longed to watch Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, and for 133 minutes I was absolutely blown away with how well the movie was put together. I saw it on opening day of course, and I now understand why I have waited so long to write a review of it. If I had written this review right after I watched the movie, I would have written a review influenced by the months and months of anticipation. I feel now, after 17 months and countless 1000's of times watching all or some of the movie, I now feel that I can review this film free of influence.

***Warning, this review is full of spoilers!***

The Phantom Menace is a film that had virtually years between conception and completion and it's a horrible shame that they spent most of that time deciding whom to cast. On top of that, it now is clear to me that George Lucas spent much of the time filming this movie on certain parts, and not enough on others. For instance, the pod-racing scene is unbelievably awesome, and it is evident that Lucas spent a long period of time on this scene alone. The final battle between Qui-Gon Jin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul is another prime example, I mean just to think up something like the long corridor with those strategically placed force fields must have took a lot of time and imagination. On the other hand, scenes like when Qui-Gon is explaining to Anikin what the `force' is should have been a little more elaborate, and in this case re-written and re-shot.

Casting was, for the most part, well thought out. In the usual ‘Star Wars' way, the main actors and actresses were not the usual $20 million dollar actors and actresses. In choosing Liam Neeson for the role of Qui-Gon Jin was anything but dull, and Ewan McGregor as the already introduced Obi-Wan Kenobi was even more brilliant. When choosing the eventual mother of Luke Skywalker (Queen Amidala), Natalie Portman was a unique choice. Even having the impressive Samuel L. Jackson in this movie was a great chance to see him along side Yoda. As I am pleased with all the previous choices, the most important of casting decisions in the past few years was not thought out well enough. Jake Lloyd was horribly miscast in the role of Anikin Skywalker. It almost hurt to listen to him present his lines. From the first `Uh oh, this isn't good..' to the `I'm going to be a jedi knight?' his delivery is incredibly lacking of feeling. I would have to say that Jake Lloyd alone is a big part of why this movie will get a lower than usual rating from this viewer. As far as the villains in this movie, and there were many, Darth Maul must have sounded great on paper, but there must have been much lost in the translation onto the screen. He is neither terrifying, nor powerful like the eventual Darth Vader will be. Not until the final battle scene do we begin to somewhat fear him. Throughout the first three movies, we learned piece by piece about Darth Vader. We hated him since we first were introduced to him in ‘Hope', and we grew to love him by the end of ‘Jedi'. The problem with ‘Menace' and Darth Maul, is that he wasn't introduced until at least 30 minutes into the film, and we never learned anything about him.

The movie was indeed full of action, and I especially liked the use of CGI alongside the natural environments. The decision to include Jar Jar Binks, and fully computerized sidekick, was not necessarily a bad one, I just think that a few of his lines were a bit irrelevant to the story. I especially like Watto, and the scene with him and Qui-Gon Jin discussing payment for the part to Qui-Gon's ship.

The use of ‘wipe' transition from scene to scene is a classic ‘Star Wars' piece. The lighting is also unique to the ‘Star Wars' family of movies, as is the bland good vs. evil plot.

If not for the pod racing scene (roughly reincarnated from Ben Hur), and the final three-way fight scene, ‘Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace' would have earned a disappointingly low grade due to the lack of casting, and very obvious rush to get the movie completed.

Please let this be known, this is the most expensive ($115 million) independent film ever created. It was fully funded by George Lucas himself. With this said, ‘Episode I' is not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, just an average sci-fi film that just happens to have the words ‘Star Wars' in the title. After all this I must admit that I, once again, will probably be waiting for months to see the next film on opening day; let's just hope that we wont be let down again.
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Star Wars: An Incredible Beginning
pip-79 March 2001
When I was a small kid, I used to wonder what the Star Wars universe was all about. Imperial soldiers, droids, flying spaceships and starfighters, Jedi Knights, Darth Vader, etc. I was curious with all of these stuff but when I watched all the three Star Wars movies, I began to understand what George Lucas, the creator of the popular sci-fi saga itself, was trying to accomplish: explore the awe and wonders of our ever expanding universe. And now, 22 years after the release of the first movie, George Lucas and his entire crew at Lucasfilm bring the most anticipated movie of 1999, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I am truly impressed with this incredible film despite its noticeable flaws. The evil Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the peaceful planet of Naboo. To resolve that matter, the Galactic Republic decides to dispatch the two Jedi Knights, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn to the Trade Federation Battleship to arrange a negotiation with the Neimodians. Unfortunately for our heroes, the negotiation never takes place and so they fight face-to-face with thousands of battle droids, escape to Naboo, and there they meet the annoying yet kind-hearted Gungan, Jar Jar Binks as well as the beautiful Queen Amidala (ok, I know some of you out there complaint about her make-up). Later, our heroes meet Anakin Skywalker, a mysterious boy who is believed to bring the Balance to the Force. In my opinion, Anakin is such a cool person because he is a great podracer who never wins a single match until his recent confrontation with rival Sebulba (he is going to fly a Naboo starfighter too during the battle of Naboo. Bravo to Jake Lloyd!). You need to see the rest of the film if you haven't watched one yet. Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a very enjoyable movie that may even attract those who are not widely known to the Star Wars universe. I especially like the locations on some planets (the Naboo Palace and the wondrous city of Coruscant) as well as its awesome special effects. To heighten up the action, Darth Maul makes an incredible performance during the climatic battle with the Jedi Knights. However, I never say that The Phantom Menace is a 100% perfect movie. The storyline is pretty weak (gee, I wonder what George Lucas is thinking) and some characters aren't well developed. Still, this IS just only the beginning, and perhaps there will be a major improvement by the time Episode II is released.
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Dear God No.
fraserstewart10 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was crap, and I really mean crap. What was Lucas thinking having Anakin as a little boy? I remember the stories that Obi-wan told about how he first met Anakin to Luke during the original trilogy.

"When I first knew him, your father was already a great pilot, but I was amazed at how strongly the force was with him. I took it upon myself to train him as a Jedi." To me, I imagined a young man, probably an army officer in some sort of air force, meeting a 40-50 year old Obi-wan, who is a proper Jedi NOT A LEARNER. Obi-wan befriends then offers to teach the young man about the force, much like he did with Luke, only the young man is much more aggressive than Luke was. Why have such an obvious plot contradiction? Then there is my biggest beef, remember the line that Obi-wan gives Luke in A New Hope? When he sees Luke with R2D2 and C3P0, what does he say? "I don't remember ever owning a droid." Yet R2D2 saved his life in this film and C3P0 was supposedly built by Anakin skywalker! WTF!!! Do you not think that Obi-wan would remember that? Maybe he's getting senile in his old age? Another thing in Empire Strikes Back Obi-wan clearly states that Yoda was his master. Remember how he persuades Yoda to teach Luke all about the Force? "Was I any different when you taught me?" Of course it's perfectly conceivable that Obi-wan had more than one master, but it's made perfectly obvious in this film that Qui-Gonn was his ONLY master. Jesus, George didn't you watch the first three films? I've explored the plot contradictions that destroyed what could have been an amazing series of films, but that isn't the only thing that destroyed it. The acting was wooden and rubbish, Yoda saying everything backwards, (which he didn't do in either Empire Strikes back or ROTJ), gets horribly boring and annoying after a while. However the lightsaber fight at the end was reasonable, which is why this film gets 2 stars instead of 1.

This film is unforgivably bad, what's worse is that nobody can sense the force within Palpatine (even though he is a Sith Lord). God I could go on and on, but please just save yourself and the memories of one of the greatest film trilogies ever made, I mean the unmolested, unraped, untouched, virgin original trilogy.
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One of the better Star Wars.
pecr00724 March 2006
This chapter in the Star Wars Sage is vastly underrated, and is always given the short end of the stick by the so-called Star Wars purists.

These are the people that live for the original trilogy and will never ever realize the flaws those movies have, but will always look for anything to criticize about the new ones.

That is the wrong attitude to take towards this movie.

If you hate the movie because you hate Jar Jar and the Gungans, then you are required to hate The Return of the Jedi because of C-3PO and the Ewoks. Both are equally annoying, yet no one seems to have a problem with the ever obnoxious C-3PO simply because he is in the original. And come on... Ewoks? But I digress...

Also, you may hate Jake Lloyd, in which case you should hate Mark Hamill in A New Hope. Bot are equally high pitched and annoying. And both their acting can be criticized to the extreme. At least Jake Lloyd was in only one movie...

This movie boasts the best lightsaber duel in the entire Saga, and has the best villain after Darth Vader. The music is flat-out amazing, and the special effects are dazzling.

It brings new elements into the Star Wars universe while staying true to old elements. Yoda is still a puppet here, and that counts for a good amount of nostalgia.

Criticizing it because the special effects are too good for what is supposed to be a prequel? Come on people... that is lame.

Anyway, the reason this movie is so criticized is because people are comparing this one movie to the entire original trilogy instead of looking at it as a stand-alone movie. Which, let's face it, is what it was meant to be.

If you come into this movie expecting a fresh, new take on Star Wars which broadens the universe, then you won't be disappointed. If you came here expecting it to be a rehash, remake-style of the originals with no innovations, then why on earth are you still watching movies?

Take the movie for what it is, not what you want it to be. Watch it without bias (if that is possible) and you will see that it is brilliant.

Why in the world does Episode I have a lower score than Episode II?
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When does the hurting stop?
Grifter8411 October 1999
This movie is a perfect example of when what could have been one of the most brilliant movies ever is made, through the incompetence of only one man, into one of the worst. I cannot list in detail the number of ways this movie could have been made better, and they are all mind-bogglingly simple and all George Lucas's fault. Even so, I will try to condense them into a short list.

1. Actors/Casting - I have to give all of the actors credit for this because I know they tried their best, even Jake Lloyd. The movie did not give me a single reason why I should have cared for any of the characters and I can't explain why I did anyway.

I can't count how many times people have told me how much better Haley Joel Osment would have been in the role, and I am almost inclined to agree with them. Supposedly there's something dark and ominous about the Anakin character that all of the Jedi council can see, after all, he's gonna be Darth Vader, right? Osment projects that fear which leads to anger which leads to etc., and Lloyd just looks like your run-of-the-mill blond California Cabbage Patch kid. I'd call Jake Lloyd a terrible actor if it weren't for what the great sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card, who personally knows Lloyd, observed: "Jake Lloyd's a good actor, and it's a pity you didn't get to see that on-screen, since he had no direction or screenplay. In the same way, Liam Neeson is a great actor, but you didn't see that onscreen because he had no direction or screenplay."

Which brings me to my second fault:

2. Direction - Let's face it, George Lucas has lost it. He has gone from the great actors' director he was when he made American Graffiti to a special effects artist gone wildly out of control. I do give him some credit: It takes a lot of deliberate effort to sap all of the energy and life out of Ewan McGregor.

3. Screenplay/Plot - This is the section that really makes me wince, and proves that there is nobody left in Hollywood with the courage to tell George Lucas that he can't write. I mean, logical inconsistencies aside, this dialogue is simply ridiculous. If a first-grader were called in as a script consultant, he could most likely have improved this movie.

There are a thousand instances of questionable logic in this movie like, why did Queen Amidala reveal herself when she did? Why did she want to go back to Naboo so badly if it would do no good whatsoever and she would probably just get killed? Are we supposed to believe that a ten year old is going to have twins with her eventually? Why is she called a Queen anyway, if Naboo is supposed to be a democracy? Do the natives of Naboo share one collective brain cell to elect a teenager to run their planet? And what kind of name is Naboo anyway?

Beyond that, it doesn't even make sense in terms of the rest of the established Star Wars universe. For example, the shields that repelled blaster fire, obviously added so the death count would be lower and they could appeal to the 'family' market. Why do we not see them in the later episodes, when they seem to be of immeasurable tactical value?

As for the so-called 'Phantom Menace' conspiracy, does the initiation into the Jedi knighthood include an IQ curtailment? Why didn't those clods figure out at once that Palpatine was behind it all along? In the end, I found myself rooting for Palpatine/Sidious, simply because he was geometrically more intelligent than any of the other characters and would probably do a pretty good job of ruling the universe. At least he would be a better emperor than George Lucas is a screenwriter.

Well, it seems that I didn't do a very good job at condensing, but oh well.

I am ashamed to say that I saw this movie three times and hated it more each time. That it has grossed over $400 million makes me wonder that the entire American society doesn't grind to a halt as soon as someone sees a bright shiny object. Did I mention that the special effects were too amazing for their own good?
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Fantastic movie - worthy addition to the star wars saga
mrochette12 June 2001
Unlike some other viewers or critics who underrated this movie (and sometimes reviewed before having seen it and made Lucas very angry) I believe it's a fantastic movie, a successful addition to the saga.

It's full of action, adventure, incredible jedi-battles with a refreshing hint of politics and diplomacy. (These last two points were absent from the originals since the Empire and the Rebels were in a state of civil war. Check out Star Wars' introduction.)

We can see at last see the "old" republic and how it worked and functioned; in fact setting the background for the events to come.

We have in this movie all the elements of the originals with touches of Lucas' magic: the queen's incredible dresses, the computer generated characters which completely blend in the action, Darth Maul's painted face (which has some asian influence in it) and the human interactions master/student conflicts, tricks, jokes and deceptions.

All in all a 10-star movie!
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