In preparation for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.
Title: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Release Date: May 19, 1999
Director: George Lucas
Production Company: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Twenty years ago I joined a friend at a movie theater in Bowling Green, Ohio to watch the first new Star Wars film in 16 years. Like many people, I’d loved the original trilogy of Star Wars movies in my childhood and greatly anticipated its return to the big screen. Sitting there in that movie theater, I started to get a bad feeling in my gut, and by the time Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) said “There’s always a bigger fish!” I’d realized that this was not a good movie.
The many flaws of The Phantom Menace include wooden dialogue, plodding plotting, overwhelming comic relief that isn’t actually funny, alien characters acting with racial stereotypes, an overlong podracing sequence, midi-chlorians, the lack of moral urgency regarding slavery, and an over-reliance on CGI effects that don’t look natural. Rather than go into all of these flaws again, I decide that while watching the movie for the second time ever, I would seek to find
5 Nice Things I Can Say About The Phantom Menace
- Unlike the original trilogy where most of the cast were relatively unknown (except Alec Guinness), The Phantom Menace is loaded with veteran talent. Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Samuel L. Jackson all put in fine performances with the material they were given to work with.
- The sound design is remarkable.
- The choreography of the duel between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul is well done, one of the best fight scenes in all of Star Wars.
- One of Yoda’s (Frank Oz) all-time best quotes: ““Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
- I remember being delighted to see Coruscant for the first time – a city that coves a whole planet, with lines of flying vehicles everywhere – and I still think it’s a great place in the Star Wars galaxy.
None of this, of course, is enough to make The Phantom Menace a good movie. I do have to say that perhaps by having low expectations that I did enjoy it more the second time around. Perhaps I’ll like it even better in 2039?