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Star Wars The Phantom Menace Review
Picture the scene, the 20th Century Fox logo pops up onto the screen, and then the legendary shimmering Lucasfilm logo appears to present the most important film in the Star Wars series. Controversial, I know, but let’s face it it’s the start of the saga, and lays the groundwork for the series, except that it wasn’t really since episodes 4, 5 and 6 came before it.
The Phantom Menace hasn’t been given the kindest of reviews in the past, but is it honestly that bad? The answer is no. It had an excellent action scene at the start, and continued at a smooth pace for the rest of the film. Alright, Jar Jar Binks was in it, and he’s about as popular as venereal disease.
The film focuses on the uprising of the Sith, with Senator Palpatine becoming more politically powerful, seemingly for the greater good of the Galaxy. This is all thanks to the Queen of his home planet being held to ransom, leading to her escape from the planet, and being stranded on Tatooine when accompanied by two Jedi. Whilst I don’t want to spoil the story for those that haven’t seen it, it’s the encounter with Anakin Skywalker on Tatooine that’s pivotal to the series, and sees him starting out on his Jedi training. As it becomes apparent in the later episodes, this chance encounter on Tatooine will have serious repercussions on the entire galaxy.
The film itself has some stellar moments, including the podrace on Tatooine, as well as the final duel between Qui Gon Jin, Obi Wan and Darth Maul. With regard to the special effects, they stand out above and beyond the other films that were released in 1999, and the recent Blu-Ray recent has spruced up the original print, with the flight sequences and lightsaber battles looking particularly amazing.
John Williams should also be commended on his score for the film. He always excels himself, and I’ve yet to listen to a score he’s composed and be disappointed. Duel of Fates in particular is a spine chilling piece of music, and it suits the scene perfectly at the climax of the film.
Now, the acting isn’t always the best at time. Yes, Jar Jar Binks is a complete pain in the arse, but in a way, it’s part of his charm. Jake Lloyd also came under a lot of criticism at the time. Looking back though, it was a good choice on George Lucas’ part. Jake often portrays a young, frightened, and at times annoying child, which does suit the bill for the character of Anakin. Ok, so at times he was just too much like a cheesy American, but it wasn’t as bad an effort as originally made out to be.
The same goes for Natalie Portman. She has some amazing scenes, and yet at times her dialogue is so cheesy, and she delivers it terribly. Does she deserve to be slated over this though? No, again she’s acting the part of a young Queen, who you’d expect to be a bit up themselves anyway.
I think that one of the reasons why The Phantom Menace received such harsh criticism is that the fans were expecting so much of it after the excellent episodes 4, 5 and 6. Whilst it certainly didn’t set the world on fire, this film was necessary to set up the back story on how the evil Empire came to power. Give this film another shot, like a fine wine, it’s became better with age.