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

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.

Theatrical Release: 5/19/1999

Theatrical Release: 5/19/1999

Synopsis

In a strategic move for power, the Trade Federation has formed a blockade around 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. In an attempt to prevent a war, the Supreme Chancellor has tasked two Jedi Knights with meeting the leaders of the Trade Federation and trying to facilitate a peaceful resolution. The Jedi Knights are gifted in the ways of the force, but unfortunately, the Trade Federation have no intentions of resolving things peacefully.

Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his Jedi 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 the Queen (Keira Knightley), but the group finds 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. Qui-Gon Jinn chooses to explore the desert planet. He is joined by a Gungan from Naboo named Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), one of the Queen's handmaiden named Padme (Natalie Portman), and a surprisingly resourceful astro-droid named R2-D2. The group goes into town with the hopes of finding the parts to fix their ship, but they stumble upon a mysteriously gifted young boy, named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), with gifts that have caught Qui-Gon Jinn's attention.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

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.

The ProsThe Cons

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

Tatooine (-5pts)

Anakin & Pod-racing (+4pts)

Jar Jar Binks (-2pts)

Duel of Fates (+5pts)

The Trade Federation (-5pts)

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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 well past their prime, and Luke Skywalker was only just starting to understand the force. In this movie, we saw Qui-Gon Jinn, an experienced Jedi Knight, and his promising young 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 blast doors to of course the lightsaber duels. It was really cool to see a couple Jedi Knights doing their thing, but what made these two characters work so well was the two actors in the roles and their dynamic together. The two characters had known each other for a long time. Qui-Gon trained Obi-Wan, and he basically raised him as well. The two knew each other for a very long time, and the chemistry between the two actors made this easy to believe.

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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.

The protagonists got to Tatooine and the story came to a screeching halt. Sure, we met Anakin, and we saw 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 ended up picking back up again with the pod-racing, but the Tatooine stuff should have been trimmed down. 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, and rather than leave the audience wanting to learn more about Tatooine, the filmmakers left me desperate to get off the desert planet.

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Pro: Anakin & Pod-racing (+4pts)

Seeing young Anakin and his lifestyle on Tatooine was interesting because we knew what this character would one day become. It was interesting to see this innocent version of the character, and it was cool to see his lifestyle, as well as his relationships on Tatooine. 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, but the filmmakers definitely did not need to spend as much time on Tatooine as they did.

The whole Tatooine portion of this story built toward the pod-racing, and it delivered. The race was different, it was entertaining, and it was memorable. It was a really neat concept, and it was entertaining in the most suspenseful way. It added suspense, it 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, while effectively showing the culture of Tatooine. I could really go on and on about how much I liked the pod-racing sequence, but simply put, I had a really good time with this part of the movie.

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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. Was this character annoying to adults? Absolutely. Did 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 movie's slower and more boring sections. In that respect, this character worked. The character was effective at keeping kids' interested, but came at the cost of annoying more mature viewers. The ideal version of the character would have been one that was still silly, but dialed down. Due to the fact that I can recall both perspectives of my opinion of this character, 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 was what the character was clearly intended for.

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Pro: Duel of Fates (+5pts)

When I think back on this movie, this duel is the first thing I think of. Throughout the climax of the movie, the filmmakers kept cutting between the Duel of Fates, the Gungan versus Droid battle on Naboo, the space fight over Naboo, and the Queen's mission. I thought the Gungan versus Droid battle was entertaining, I kind of did not care about the Queen's mission, and the space fight was nothing special, but it 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 there were two skilled Jedi 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 at the same time, and he seemed to be comfortable doing so. This duel was simply epic and it was easily my favorite part of this movie.

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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 it made the entire plot of the movie feel random. The movie was about the beginning of a war. One side of the war was being oppressed, the other side was doing the oppressing, and that was really all the filmmakers felt we needed to know.

It was not really that their motives were unclear. Instead, it was that their actions seemed to in no way get them closer to their goal. The filmmakers wanted there to be a war, and rather than give us a war in which both sides and their goals made sense, they delivered one side—the Trade Federation—who seemed more concerned with starting a war than actually achieving their goals. It was almost as if the entirety of the Trade Federation and their droid army were all one massive plot device. I therefor had no investment in what they were trying to accomplish, which made it hard to get invested in the Trade Federation versus Naboo conflict, which is what this entire movie was about.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

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

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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 it delivered 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 movie anyway.

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. Nonetheless, it was really cool to see two experienced and talented Jedi doing their thing, the podracing was wonderfully entertaining and suspenseful, and the whole movie led to an incredibly epic lightsaber duel. The duel between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and the formidable Darth Maul was easily the best part of this movie, and it is 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 still a lot of really entertaining scenes and memorable Star Wars moments scattered throughout this movie.

Best of the Star Wars Franchise

RankMoviePoints

1

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

95pts

2

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

93pts

3

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

92pts

4

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

90pts

5

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

89pts

6

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

87pts

7

Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker

86pts

8

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

83pts

9

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

79pts

10

Solo: A Star Wars Story

78pts

11

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

77pts

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