Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace

Liam Neeson, R2-D2, Jake Lloyd, and Ewan McGregor in Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace.

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace takes us all the way back to the start of Anakin Skywalker’s story as the saga begins.

Long before there was ever a Darth Vader to taunt the galaxy, there was a young kid named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) living in the Outer Rim territories on Tatooine.  All young Anakin wanted to do was to escape this planet and become a pilot.  Life isn’t easy, my young friend.  But in order for Anakin to ever get off the planet, another thing has to happen first: the Trade Federation’s boycott of Naboo.  Without this boycott, Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) never makes her way off of Naboo with a pair of Jedi Knights, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor).

It’s through this film that we learn the origins of both C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker).  We also learn that Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) shares the same planet as Queen Amidala.  The film also introduces us to a new Sith Lord: the red-and-black Darth Maul (Ray Park).  Always two there are.  No more, no less.

It’s on Naboo where we get introduced to the Gungan species.  Ahmed Best has received a lot of crap over the years but that shouldn’t be on him.  Sure, Jar Jar Binks is far from a fan favorite but that’s no reason to take one’s scorn out on an actor.

All in all, Anakin Skywalker is believed to be the chosen one to bring balance to the Force.  We only know that its a prophecy.  On top of this, there’s also this theme of duality going on.  Palpatine certainly acts like the phantom menace he is.  After all, he is playing both sides here–the Republic and the Trade Federation.  Neither side know this, of course.  And yet, he starts to lay his roots in rising to power as Supreme Chancellor of the Republic.

The visual effects are stunning as they usually are for a Star Wars film.  The script by George Lucas is, well, another story.  That and John Williams’ contributions are among the very few highlights in The Phantom Menace.  “Duel of the Fates” makes its first appearance here and will later appear in the next two prequel installments.  But alas, aside from this, there isn’t much else to enjoy about the film.

The prequels don’t happen without Jurassic Park.  The Steven Spielberg-directed film is what showed that the needed technology was available.  For better or worse, it’s only advanced since that point in time.  Whether this is a good or bad thing, I’ll just leave it up to you.

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace gets the saga off to a bit of a rough start.

CAST:  Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Pernilla August, Frank Oz

20th Century Fox opened Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace in theaters on May 19, 1999. Grade: 3/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.