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Star Wars I The Phantom Menace (1999) - Illustrated Reference
Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace was directed by George Lucas and premiered on 19th May 1999. Starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Pernilla August, Hugh Quarshie, Ahmed Best, Terence Stamp, Brian Blessed, Ray Park and Samuel L. Jackson. Screenplay by George Lucas. Music by John Williams. 136mins.
- Episode I – Opening Title Roll -
"Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.
Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo.
While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict..."
Anakin: You're a Jedi Knight, aren't you?
Qui-Gon Jinn: What makes you think that?
Anakin: I saw your laser sword. Only Jedi carry that kind of weapon.
Qui-Gon Jinn: Perhaps I killed a Jedi and took it from him.
Anakin: I don't think so. No one can kill a Jedi.
Qui-Gon Jinn: I wish that were so.
Liam Neeson (1952-) / Qui-Gon Jinn
Born in Northern Ireland, Liam Neeson has been Oscar Nominated Best Actor for Schindler’s List (1993), his films include – Excalibur (1981), Krull (1983), The Bounty (1984), The Mission (1986), Suspect (1987), The Dead Pool (1988), High Spirits (1988), Darkman (1990), Rob Roy (1995), Michael Collins (1996), Les Miserables (1998), The Haunting (1999), Gangs of New York (2002), Love Actually (2003), Batman Begins (2005 as Ra’s al Ghul), Seraphim Falls (2006), Taken (2008), Clash of the Titans (2010 as Zeus), The A-Team (2010), Unknown (2011), Wrath of the Titans (2012) and Battleship (2012).
Obi-Wan: The boy is dangerous. They all sense it, why can't you?
Ewan McGregor (1971-) / Obi-Wan Kenobi
Born in Perth, Scotland, Ewan McGregor’s films include – Shallow Grave (1994), Trainspotting (1996), A Life Less Ordinary (1997), Rogue Trader (1999), Moulin Rouge (2001), Black Hawk Down (2001), Attack of the Clones (2002), Big Fish (2003), Revenge of the Sith (2005), The Island (2005), Deception (2008), Angels & Demons (2009), The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009), The Ghost (2010) and Haywire (2011).
Queen Amidala: I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee!
Natalie Portman (1981-) / Queen Amidala / Padme
Born in Jerusalem, Israel, Natalie Portman won a Best Actress Oscar for Black Swan (2010) and was Oscar Nominated Best Supporting Actress for Closer (2004). Her films include – Leon: The Professional (1994), Heat (1995), Mars Attacks! (1996), Attack of the Clones (2002), Cold Mountain (2003), Revenge of the Sith (2005), V for Vendetta (2005), The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), Brothers (2009), No Strings Attached (2011) and Thor (2011).
Jake Lloyd (1989-) / Anakin Skywalker
Born in Fort Collins, Colorado, Jake Lloyd’s films include – Unhook the Stars (1996), Jingle all the Way (1996) and Madison (2005).
Pernilla August (1958-) / Shmi Skywalker
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Pernilla August’s films include – Fanny and Alexander (1982), Attack of the Clones (2002), The Bomber (2001), Everybody Loves Alice (2002), Daybreak (2003), Day and Night (2004) and Mouth to Mouth (2005).
Palpatine: And you, young Skywalker; we shall watch your career with great interest.
Ian McDiarmid (1944-) / Senator Palpatine / Darth Sidious
Born in Tayside, Scotland, Ian McDiarmid’s films include – The Awakening (1980), Dragonslayer (1981), Return of the Jedi (1983), Gorky Park (1983), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), Restoration (1995), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005)..
Hugh Quarshie (1954-) / Captain Panaka
Born in Accra, Ghana, Hugh Quarshie’s films include – The Dogs of War (1980), Highlander (1986), Nightbreed (1990), Wing Commander (1999) and To Walk With Lions (1999). TV series Holby City (2001-2012).
Jar-Jar: Mesa called Jar-Jar Binks. Mesa your humble servant.
Ahmed Best (1973-) / Jar-Jar Binks
Born in New York City, Ahmed Best’s films include – Friendly Criminal (2002), Attack of the Clones (2002), The Stockholm Syndrome (2003), There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute (2003), Revenge of the Sith (2005) and Open Window (2006).
Boss Nass: Yousa no tinken yousa greater den da Gungans? Mesa like dis. Maybe wesa being friends.
Brian Blessed (1936-) / Boss Nass
Born in Yorkshire, England, Brian Blessed’s films include – The Last Valley (1971), Man of La Mancha (1972), Flash Gordon (1980 as Prince Vultan), Henry V (1989), Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996), Disney’s Tarzan (1999), Alexander (2004), As You Like It (2006) and The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012).
Terence Stamp (1938-) / Chancellor Valorum
Born in London, England, Terence Stamp was Oscar Nominated Best Supporting Actor for Billy Budd (1962). His films include – Modesty Blaise (1966), Far from the Madding Crowd (1967), Blue (1968), Superman (1978 as General Zod), Superman II (1981), The Hit (1984), The Company of Wolves (1984), Legal Eagles (1986), Link (1986), The Sicilian (1987), Wall Street (1987), Alien Nation (1988), Young Guns (1988), Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), The Limey (1999), Bowfinger (1999), Red Planet (2000), The Haunted Mansion (2003), Elektra (2005), Wanted (2008), Get Smart (2008), Valkyrie (2008) and The Adjustment Bureau (2011).
Samuel L. Jackson (1948-) / Mace Windu
Born in Washington D.C., Samuel L. Jackson was Oscar Nominated Best Supporting Oscar for Pulp Fiction (1994). His films include – Do the Right Thing (1989), Sea of Love (1989), Goodfellas (1990), Patriot Games (1992), Loaded Weapon 1 (1993), Jurassic Park (1993), Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995), A Time to Kill (1996), The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), Jackie Brown (1997), Sphere (1998), The Negotiator (1998), Deep Blue Sea (1999), Shaft (2000), Unbreakable (2000), Changing Lanes (2002), Attack of the Clones (2002), Basic (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Revenge of the Sith (2005), Snakes on a Plane (2006), Black Snake Moan (2006), 1408 (2007), Jumper (2008), The Spirit (2008), The Other Guys (2010) and The Avengers (2012).
Darth Maul: At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge.
Darth Sidious: You have been well trained my young apprentice. They will be no match for you.
Ray Park (1974-) / Darth Maul
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Ray Park’s films include – Mortal Kombat Annihilation (1997), X-Men (2000), Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever (2002), G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra (2009) and Hellbinders (2009).
After Star Wars VI Return of the Jedi (1983) it would be 16 years before George Lucas (1944-) released a new Star Wars adventure to theatres. Originally planned as a 9 episode saga with the middle trilogy already filmed, Lucas changed it to a 6 episode saga.
Between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace Lucas kept busy by producing other films such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Howard the Duck, Labyrinth, Tucker: The Man and his Dream, Willow and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He also produced the TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992-1996).
In 1997 he successfully released Special Editions of the original Star Wars trilogy into theatres, they included remastered picture quality, new added scenes and visual effects replaced by CG effects.
Lucas started writing Episode I in 1994 with filming beginning in June 1997 ending in September giving Lucas plenty of time to complete visual effects, sound, music and editing before its 1999 release.
Kenneth Branagh was at one time considered for the young Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Benecio del Toro was considered for the role of Darth Maul.
The Phantom Menace has only one shot where no special effects of any kind were added, a shot near the beginning where poison gas is seen coming out of a vent.
There are over 2000 effects shots in the film, a record at the time.
One shot where Qui-Gon, Padme, Anakin and Shmi are having dinner was digitally manipulated so that the head of each actor was blended in seamlessly from different takes during filming, Jake Lloyds mouth and eyes were separately added from various takes to complete the required ‘performance’.
Watch out for a group of Steven Spielberg's E.T.s making a cameo during the Galactic Senate scene, see screenshot right.
Denis Lawson, who played Luke’s friend Wedge in the original trilogy, is Ewan McGregor’s uncle.
Anthony Daniels only voiced C-3PO in this film, the unfinished robot was controlled by a puppeteer.
Darth Maul was played by martial arts expert Ray Park, who has a second degree black belt in Wushu. Darth Maul’s voice was dubbed by Peter Serafinowicz.
Yoda: Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.
Yoda was originally a muppet controlled and voiced by Frank Oz, Lucas wasn't happy with the puppet used in The Phantom Menace, which looked a little weird and slightly cross-eyed, he replaced it with a computer generated version for later DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film.
Music maestro John Williams (1932-) started work on the music late 1998. One epic track that was singled out by fans and radio stations (and has its own Wikipedia entry) was “Duel of the Fates”.
The Phantom Menace was Oscar nominated for Best Sound, Best Sound Effects and Best Visual Effects. The Matrix won all three categories that year.
It was also nominated for 7 Golden Raspeberry awards winning for Worst Supporting Actor, Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks.
One of the most anticipated films of all time Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace ended up costing $115m to produce and opened in theatres in May 1999. It's opening weekend total in the US was $64.8m which amazingly wasn't a record, Steven Spielberg's The Lost World had opened with $72m in 1997.
Star Wars Episode I's total box office gross by the end of the year was an astounding $924m worldwide. The release of a 3D version in 2012 took its total to over 1 billion dollars.
But to many fans the film was seen as a major disappointment. Jar Jar Binks came under heavy criticism for being a goofy, stupid character, the voice work for Jar Jar and other aliens were criticised for sounding like racial stereotypes.
8 year old Jake Lloyd as the “whoopee-ing” young Anakin was another cringe factor for fans and movie critics.
Charismatic young actors Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman came across as stiff and wooden, Liam Neeson had presence and dignity as Qui-Gon Jinn.
On the plus side the visual effects were fantastic, the pod race was exciting and the final duel with Darth Maul one of the highlights of the entire saga.
The Star Wars Saga would continue in Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002).
The Critics Wrote –
"It sustains the gee-whiz spirit of the series and offers a swashbuckling extragalactic getaway, creating illusions that are even more plausible than the kitchen-raiding raptors of Jurassic Park." (Janet Maslin, New York Times)
"Despite its many shortcomings, "The Phantom Menace" is certainly adequate, and given the story's strong core idea and the residual power lurking in the Force, it's not necessary to dismiss it out of hand. It's just that the tale it tells isn't all that interesting; in fact, if Lucas wasn't partial to the idea of trilogies, "Phantom" could have been condensed down to a brief prologue tacked on the beginning of the next installment." (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times)
“Is The Phantom Menace worth seeing? What a question! Of course it is. It is a stunning spectacle, maybe even Industrial Light & Magic's greatest special-effects achievement. But creator George Lucas has left a lot of room for improvement, particularly for character development and emotional juice, in this beginning of the second trilogy.“ (San Francisco Chronicle)
"This isn't a film that will change history the way the first Star Wars did 22 years ago." (Julie Hinds, San Jose Mercury)
"Seems designed more as a promotion for Lucasfilm's billion-dollar merchandising concerns than a meaningful chapter in the Star Wars canon." (Hollywood Reporter)
"A highly entertaining and visually breathtaking movie, capable at times of rocking and delighting you." (Chicago Tribune )
"It is neither captivating nor transporting, for it lacks any emotional pull, as well as the sense of wonder and awe that marks the best works of sci-fi/fantasy." (Todd McCarthy, Variety)
"The actors are wallpaper, the jokes are juvenile, there's no romance, and the dialogue lands with the thud of a computer-instruction manual." (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)
"Despite its faults, this is an extraordinary feat of cinematic creativity. There are sights here that you won't have seen before, and deserve to be experienced on the big screen." (Chris Tookey)