Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Star Wars

Released: 1999
Director: George Lucas
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan MacGregor

Enjoyable but flawed beginning of the great saga

With the release of the complete Star Wars saga on Blu-Ray imminent it seems like the perfect time to re-watch all six films.  In story rather than release order which is what I normally do (actually I tend just to watch the original trilogy and then forget the others).

I don’t know how easy it it’s going to be reviewing The Phantom Menace without bringing in all of my previous knowledge, I’m going to try though.  I think it’s the only fair way to look at the individual films.  I’ll do an article about the entire series once I’ve seen all the films again.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there’s a trading and taxation dispute taking place.  The planet of Naboo has been blockaded and two Jedi Knights have been dispatched to take control of the situation.  Instead of a peaceful resolution, war is threatened.   Naboo’s Queen Amidala escapes with the Jedi and ends up on the planet Tatooine where the group meets a very special young boy, Anakin Skywalker, who lives in slavery with his mother.  The Jedi also come to suspect the rise of an ancient and evil enemy – the Sith.

It may surprise you to learn that I’ve never written an epic space opera but I’m pretty sure that any I did write wouldn’t include trade and taxation matters.  It seems too mundane and ordinary a topic on which to base a great saga.  The only thing more dull than trade would be planning.  Can you imagine?  An intergalactic war breaking out because Mr Brown at No 47 couldn’t build his extension?

The character of Anakin Skywalker, the child prodigy who catches the eye of Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, is really really annoying.  Little Jake Lloyd who plays Anakin is very cute but couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag.  We’re supposed to believe that he is the one who can bring balance to the galaxy.   Yeah right.  Not if he is strangled for being quite so irritating first!

Ewan MacGregor is ok as apprentice Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, Liam Neeson as his instructor, Qui-Gon Jinn, brings the appropriate mix of gravity and rebellion to the role and Samuel L Jackson (Mace Windu) flashes his credentials as the coolest man in the world.  Natalie Portman is in feisty form as Queen Amidala – more comfortable with a blaster than in political negotiations.  The best performance in the film comes from Ian McDiarmid as the scheming Senator Palpatine.

I’m going to skip over the whole Jar-Jar Binks/Gungan fiasco.  Supposedly the comedy character, this CGI creation is merely irritating.  I know a lot of people regard Binks as a crude racial stereotype – I don’t agree with that but he is even more annoying than Anakin.

Where the film comes to life is the action sequences.  The droid army landing on Naboo is impressive and the fight between the two Jedi Knights and the Sith Lord Darth Maul is fantastic – the best part of the whole film.  His double-sided light sabre is a thing of beauty and he is masterfully portrayed by Glaswegian Ray Parks.

The Pod Race on Tatooine is amazing and the sports channel commentary by a two-headed alien is one of the funniest aspects of the film.  Much better than Jar-Jar.

As the first film in a saga I don’t think Phantom Menace holds our attention adequately but it was good enough to make me want to see the next installment in the series.  I’ll post my review of Attack of the Clones tomorrow.

Previous and next posts in this series:<< A cappella tribute to John WilliamsStar Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones >>
If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.


  1. Hey Louise, great review. My three year-old has been driving me nuts to watch this but we lent out our copy and it the only one we are missing out of the six. I am going to have to pick one up on Amazon. What’s your opinion on the changes Lucas has made in the new Bluray release, Vadar yelling NOOOO as hes tosses the emperor to his death etc..?

  2. Thank you. 3 is a great age to start on Star Wars – I must have been about that when I started watching them.

    I don’t think I like the Nooooooo but the blinking Wicket is quite sweet.

  3. Probably the best Light Sabre fight scene in all the Star Wars films, shame I just hated that pesky Anakin kid…..

Speak Your Mind