Saturday, October 17, 2009

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

Director: George Lucas
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman & Jake Lloyd

In the midst of a trade war, Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi are stranded on the desert planet Tatooine, alongside Queen Amidala. They enter a store seeking replacement parts for their ship, where they meet Anakin Skywalker. Immediately, Qui-Gon Jinn recognizes the child's potential. Qui-Gon Jinn uses Anakin's help to get his ship back in the sky by means of a racing bet, and finally begins Anakin's adventures that we know will soon transform him into Darth Vader.

As the first of the prequels, I hoped for something a little simpler. Rather than introducing countless new droids and species, why not elaborate on the origins of those that we're familiar with from the originals? I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that most of this film was made simply to use special effects. Even with so much emphasis on visuals, we're left with what looks like a huge video game.

I'll be blunt: the script is awful. I don't know who thinks it's still a good idea to use words like "Yippee!" and "Ouch!" in a more serious script, but whoever they are, they need to get their heads out of the 1950's sitcom.

The characters aren't relatable. Not-a-one of them. If I had to describe these characters in one word, this is how it would go:

Anakin - Young
Qui-Gon Jinn - Wise
Obi-wan Kenobi - Training
Queen Amidala - Decorative
Darth Maul - Gingivitis

One of the highlights of the film is Anakin's pod-race. While watching it, I couldn't help but think back to the Ben-Hur chariot race. It's a bit pitiful when there's more suspense in an action sequence from a film nearly half a century prior to this one. Even with all they're special effects, even that scene didn't seem all that exciting.

Probably the only good thing to come out of this film is Duel of the Fates. You can always count on John Williams to put a little good in a film.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • George Lucas made a similar deal as he did in the original Star Wars (1977). Both Lucas and Fox Studios agreed that he would forego his salary as a director provided he owns the entire negative of the final cut of the film as well as ancillary rights of all toys and commercial tie-ins.
  • There is only one shot in the film to which no visual effects were added at all: the shot of the dioxis gas pouring out of the vent in the meeting room.
  • During filming Ewan McGregor made lightsaber noises as he dueled. It was noted and corrected during post production.
  • The name used by the Queen while in disguise (and, later, after her term as Queen ends), "Padme", is the Sanskrit word for "lotus". "Yoda" is also derived from the Sanskrit word for "warrior".
  • In the German language version of the film, the collaborating Trade Federation leaders have a French accent, while in the Italian language version they have heavy Russian accents. They also have Russian accents in the Czech version, except for the Viceroy, who speaks fluent Czech for reasons unknown.


  1. Yeah, Richie, this solidly doesn't belong on any list of good movies.

  2. Agreed. It looks like I'm through the majority of shitty films on the list, which is nice to know. Although, Eps 2 and 3 still loom ahead..

  3. they put them ahead of episode one? seriously?

    however, the lightsaber fight between ewan mcgregor and ray park at the end is pretty sweet.