Movie Review: "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace"

Updated on December 6, 2019
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There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Theatrical Release: 5/19/1999
Theatrical Release: 5/19/1999 | Source

Synopsis

In a strategic move for power, the Trade Federation has formed a blockade around the planet of Naboo, stopping shipping vessels from going in or out of the planet until their terms are met. This was a bold move by the Trade Federation, and the situation is very tense. Before a war breaks out, the Supreme Chancellor has sent two Jedi Knights to meet with the Trade Federation in an attempt to reach a peaceful resolution. The Jedi Knights are gifted in the ways of the force, but unfortunately, the Trade Federation have no intention of reaching a peaceful resolution.

Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) quickly find themselves in the middle of a war. After the Trade Federation attacks Naboo, the two Jedi Knights manage to evacuate Queen Amidala, but find themselves stranded on a desert planet called Tatooine. Their ship has been damaged, and with the Trade Federation searching nearby planets for the missing Queen, the group needs to lie low while they collect the parts needed to repair their ship. However, Qui-Gon Jinn discovers a mysteriously gifted young boy, named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd).

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The Pros
The Cons
Obi-Wan & Qui-Gon (+5pts)
Tatooine (-5pts)
Anakin & Podracing (+4pts)
Jar Jar Binks (-2pts)
Duel of Fates (+5pts)
The Trade Federation (-5pts)
All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.
Source

Pro: Obi-Wan & Qui-Gon (+5pts)

This was really the first time we got to see Jedi Knights in their prime on screen. In the original trilogy, Obi-Wan and Yoda were definitely far past their prime, and Luke Skywalker was only just starting to understand the force. In this movie, we see Qui-Gon Jinn, an experienced Jedi Knight, and his promising apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I liked the teacher-student relationship between these two characters and I really enjoyed seeing these two in combat.

From force dashes, to droid combat, and from Qui-Gon dealing with the blaster doors to of course the lightsaber duels (although I will get into that later in this review). It was really cool to see a couple Jedi Knights doing their thing, but what made these two characters work so well was their relationship with one another. The two characters have known each other for a long time. Qui-Gon has trained Obi-Wan, and he basically raised him as well. The two have known each other for a very long time, and the chemistry between the two actors made this believable.

Source

Con: Tatooine (-5pts)

The movie started off really strong. Right off the bat, there were Jedi Knights in action, a droid army invasion, and plenty of adventurous action. Once the protagonists got to Tatooine, however, the movie slowed way down. That is not to say that this story should have been all action, all the time. That would actually get old quick, but the filmmakers could have done a better job of spacing the action out.

Instead, the protagonists got to Tatooine and the story came to a screeching halt. Sure, we meet Anakin, and see what his life was like on Tatooine, but there was no reason for this to have been dragged out as long as it was. There were some good things in here, and the movie ends up picking back up again with the pod racing, but the Tatooine stuff was just too long. It was all fine, it just stayed too slow for too long, and none of it felt relevant to the Trade Federation’s invasion on Naboo. The filmmakers clearly needed to force Anakin into this story. Rather than leave the audience wanting to learn more about Tatooine, the filmmakers went with the opposite approach, leaving audiences wanting desperately to get off the desert planet.

Source

Pro: Anakin & Podracing (+4pts)

While the introduction of Tatooine slowed the movie way down, it did introduce a couple things that worked really well for the movie. Seeing young Anakin and his lifestyle on Tatooine was fascinating because we know what this character would one day become. This made it interesting to see this innocent version of the character, and it was cool to see his lifestyle, as well as his relationships on this planet. The young Jake Lloyd did a really great job of bringing this character’s innocence to the screen in an entertaining way. I liked everything about this character, I just wish the filmmakers had the hindsight to notice that the Tatooine portion of the story could have been trimmed a bit.

The whole Tatooine portion of this story built toward the pod racing, and it delivered in a really big, really effective way. The pod race was different, it was very entertaining, and it was really memorable. It was a really neat concept, and it was entertaining in the most suspenseful way. It added suspense, hooked me into caring about Anakin, the feud between Anakin and Sebulba was entertaining, and the stakes of the race were really high. It also introduced a number of interesting aliens in a really entertaining way, while also effectively showing the culture of Tatooine. I could really go on and on about how much I liked the pod racing sequence. To put it simply, I was totally invested in the race, and found it very entertaining and am on the edge of my seat whenever I watch it.

Source

Con: Jar Jar Binks (-2pts)

Many may think that this character was more of an issue. I definitely think this character was one of the movie's weaknesses, now that I am an adult. However, I remember seeing this movie as a kid, and I remember loving this character from that perspective. Is this character annoying to adults? Yes. Does the character feel like an insult to diehard Star Wars fans who were excited for this movie? Maybe, but the character was not intended for adults or diehard fans.

The intent of this character was to keep kids entertained during the film's slower, more boring sections. In that respect, this character worked. As an adult, however, I find this character to be too silly, to a cartoon-ish extent. The character works at keeping kids' interest, but it does so at the cost of annoying the more mature viewers. The ideal version of the character would have been one that was dialed down a bit, to find the sweet spot somewhere in the middle of entertaining kids without annoying adults. Due to the fact that I can recall both perspectives of my opinion of this character (both from the perspective of a child and an adult), I think Jar Jar was an issue for this movie, but I do not think he was a major one. He annoyed adults, sure, but he was effective at entertaining kids, which is what the character was intended for.

Source

Pro: Duel of Fates (+5pts)

The Duel of Fates. When you think back on this movie, this has to be the first thing you think of, right? I mean it certainly is for me. Throughout the climax of the movie, the filmmakers kept cutting between the Duel of Fates, the Gungan vs. Droid battle on Naboo, the dogfight between the droids and Naboo starfighters, and the Queen's mission. I thought the Gungan versus Droid battle was entertaining, with the shield generator, the droid tanks, and the Gungan's orbs. I kind of did not care about the Queen's mission at all, and could have done without it. Then there was the dogfight between the Naboo and Droid starfighters, which was nothing special, but was tied to the Gungan battle, so I get having it in there.

The best of these sequences, by far, was the Duel of Fates. From the iconic reveal of Darth Maul's double-bladed lightsaber, to the incredible choreography, and the epic soundtrack to go along with it all, this was easily one of the best (if not the best) lightsaber duels that we have ever seen on-screen. The battle was epic, as it saw two skilled Jedi Knights going up against an extremely dangerous Sith lord. Darth Maul was familiar with the ways of the force, but he was an incredible lightsaber duelist who was able to go up against two Jedi Knights at the same time, and seemed to be comfortable doing so. Simply put, this duel was epic and was my favorite part of this movie by far.

Source

Con: The Trade Federation (-5pts)

This was an area of the plot that definitely needed some work. The filmmakers did a pretty poor job of explaining who the Trade Federation were and what their goal was. This made their role in this movie unclear, and made the entire plot of the movie feel random. The movie is about the beginning of a war. One side of the war is being oppressed, the other side is doing the oppressing, and that was really all the filmmakers felt we needed to know.

It was not really that their motives being unclear is what I had issue with. Instead, it was that their actions seemed to have no outcome that seemed to work to their benefit. It was just one random act after another, all just so that the story could move in the filmmakers desired direction. It was almost as if the entirety of the Trade Federation and their droid army were all just one massive plot device. The problem here, was that I had no investment in what they were trying to accomplish. It was just hard to get invested in the Trade Federation versus Naboo conflict, which is what this entire movie was about.

Grading Scale

Grade
Category
Points
A+
Amazing
95-100
A-
Great
90-94
B+
Good
85-89
B-
Decent
80-84
C+
Average
75-79
C-
Watchable
70-74
D+
Bad
65-69
D-
Terrible
60-64
F
Garbage
45-59
Source

Grade: C+ (77pts)

The prequel trilogy has received a lot of hate over the years, but there was a lot about them that I enjoyed. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace had a lot of firsts for the Star Wars franchise, and had a lot of now iconic moments. Did it have a great plot? No, the movie suffered from some pretty significant plot issues, but there were a lot of great and really entertaining moments throughout the film.

The Trade Federation was an incredibly underdeveloped group, which made it hard to get invested in the main conflict of this story, and the portion of the movie that took place on Tatooine suffered from some major pacing issues that made the movie feel really slow in this area. However, it was really cool to see two experienced and talented Jedi Knights doing their thing (with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan), the podracing was wonderfully entertaining and suspenseful, and the whole movie led to an incredibly epic lightsaber duel. The duel was between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and the very dangerous Darth Maul. It was also easily the best part of this movie, and will go down as one of the most iconic lightsaber duels in a franchise of filled with great duels. Again, the movie had some pretty major plot issues, but there were a lot of really entertaining scenes and memorable Star Wars moments scattered throughout this movie.

Best of the Star Wars Franchise

Rank
Movie
Points
1
Star Wars: Episod V - The Empire Strikes Back
95pts
2
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
92pts
3
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
89pts
4
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
87pts
5
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
83pts
6
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
79pts
7
Solo: A Star Wars Story
78pts
8
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
77pts

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