The Phantom Menace, directed by George Lucas is the start of his initially hotly anticipated prequel trilogy, the film stars Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Jake Lloyd, the stories follows two Jedi as they navigate a hostile situation as a federation sits on the brink of war with the republic of Naboo, meanwhile the Jedi come across a young child who may just bring balance to the force, though the Sith also arise.
The Phantom Menace is many, many things, often the go to film to criticize the prequels because things like of Jar Jar and some of the acting but for what it’s worth, this isn’t necessarily a bad film, the film throws you right into the plot and you know right away that this is a Star Wars films. Seeing the Jedi back in the story is great and Liam Neeson as Qui-Gonn Jinn and Ewan McGregor as Obi Wann is some great casting, if there was anything the original trilogy lacked it was more Jedi and the prequels definitely deliver on that, for better or for worse. The cast isn’t given a tonne to work with and most of the actors come across as a bit flat but from what I’ve heard with the films production, that have been more the result of George Lucas way of directing the prequels as opposed to the actors themselves, Jake Lloyd may not have been great in it but Liam Neeson certainly was.
Episode I gives the franchise a host of new planets, vehicles and an interesting new angle on things with the focus on Naboo and the trade federation, though the actual plot device of this ensuing war wasn’t that captivating but to a degree, the The Phantom Menace is fairly action packed. From the climactic final battle on Naboo itself, to the action set pieces involving Queen Amidala and her forces, there’s a lot to take in visually and it all looks great as well, the feeling of A New Hope is conjured up with the desert scenes on Tattooine and its homesteads, a planet populated with various alien races.
The pod racing sequences as well weren’t terrible in my opinion, though I know a lot of fans aren’t huge on it, I like that it showed a novel thing to do in the Star Wars universe that was made just for the prequels and I think the race itself was quite thrilling, as was John Williams triumphant return to Star Wars with a great soundtrack, matching certain scenes very well and adding quite a bit to them.
Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) is a big part of the story of course, as we follow his own personal arc, The Phantom Menace gives him centre stage a few times, in the podracing and climactic space scene and though these scenes are fun to watch, Lloyds’ acting wasn’t a highlight of the film. There’s an odd tone here as well, Lucas maybe made things feel too light and childish, there’s a distinct lack of tension through a lot of the action and the Gungans just felt like cartoon characters, taking you a bit of the more serious things shown like slavery and war. A highlight of the film comes in the form of villain Darth Maul ironically, a menacing and ruthless Sith who has great character design, while classic characters like R2D2 and C3PO also make their much welcomed returns. The Phantom Menace is a flawed entry to the prequels, not terrible or great as a Star Wars entry as a whole, it evokes some feelings from the original trilogy but doesn’t get close to matching their quality.
. Has some good set pieces
. Features one of the best lightsaber duels in Star Wars
. Some wooden acting
. Not all new characters work as interesting additions, Jar Jar, Nute Gunray