A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: George Lucas
Produced By: Rick McCallum
Written By: George Lucas
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman
Running Time: 133 Minutes
After immense success struck the original trilogy, a follow up prequel story was nothing but an inevitability. A way of linking the origin story of everything and everything already established within the mythos of Star Wars, 1999’s Episode I – The Phantom Menace missed the mark on a colossal scale, yet, staggeringly, the worst was still to come.
A major misstep in the iconic series, the first ever in fact, Episode I was not without its redeeming qualities. Like they always say, a freshly dropped piece of faecal matter can still have somewhat of a shine to it, even though it remains a freshly dropped piece of faecal matter…
With the world at his feet, salivating over the thought of a new Star Wars picture, George Lucas gave the world something rather unexpected. Trade disputes, racial stereotypes and a talking rabbit named Jar Jar Binks are just a selection of what Episode I presented us with. Within the first twenty seconds following the iconic and spine-tingling opening credits and score, something doesn’t quite seem right.
We hold our breaths as strange oriental aliens stroll around a spacecraft discussing trade negations and the incoming Jedi Knights, hoping it will stop and the real Star Wars will kick in.
Sadly, only a sprinkling of what we hoped for is what we receive in The Phantom Menace, yet that particular sprinkling packs a significant punch, one that almost forgives some of the major indiscretions, but definitely not all of them.
Attempting to encompass and emulate everything about the Jedi mythology, two central performances from Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor are relatively bland and uninspired, however the actors are not to blame.
The dialogue within this film is so painfully mundane, so painfully monotonous and so painfully unnecessary, the inner optimist in all of us see it extend the level of appreciation for the film’s best character, Darth Maul.
A menacing, fearsome antagonist, Maul (Ray Park) sends chills down the spines of audiences through his demonic appearance, threatening presence and most importantly, unnerving lack of dialogue. Maul’s journey is explored through various cutaway scenes in the film, most of which show him either arriving at a location, looking distinctly evil or challenging the Jedi Knights with his never before seen double sided light sabre.
Darth Maul remains one of the highlights of the entire series, particularly given that his makeup, stature and overall presence are to this day, truly scary.
John Williams’ unparalleled music returns in all of its intergalactic glory, encapsulating everything Star Wars with each beat.
Although the music is something quintessentially Star Wars and is a guaranteed source of satisfaction for fans, where it works exceptionally well is during a scene in which it is completely absent. The pod racer sequence is thrilling and entertaining, standing out considerably above the other scenes involving Anakin Skywalker (played by Jingle All the Way’s Jake Lloyd). A scene that for some could drag on, the pod racer scene is energetic and pulsating, especially given its radical departure in tone and pace from neighbouring trade negotiation scenes.
Performances are stale, the story is uninteresting, the reliance on special effects is overbearing and detrimental to the film whilst the choices to establish the forthcoming shift in a young Skywalker seemed to be the wrong ones. Episode I did not bring hope to the follow up prequel films and truly broke the hearts of millions of people, however it is not entirely flawed.
With a solid central antagonist and an engaging score, The Phantom Menace serves as a reminder of the brilliance of yesteryear and an example of what not to do with a property such as this.