'Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace' Review By John M

An Oustanding Beginning To The Better Star Wars Trilogy.
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Directing
  • Visuals
Why does Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace receive so much undeserved venom from fans I don't understand. When I heard that George Lucas was making the prequel in the mid-1990's I was so excited. As I said in my three previous Star Wars reviews I loved the flawed Star Wars films and the universe it created, and I highly anticipated The Phantom Menace. At the time I didn't know too much about the cast. Liam Neeson was probably the biggest name I recognized. He was great in the underrated Darkman film. Then there is Schindler's List the film and his performance should speak for themselves, and finally Rob Roy which I saw with my mother and which I think is an unappreciated film. I had didn't know much about Ewan McGregor at the time or his best known film at the time Trainspotting. The only film had seen him in was Nightwatch which is a good thriller. When the film came out I rushed to see it, and loved it. I ended up seeing it 24 times in Alexandria, VA and here in Portland, OR loving it every time. It has its flaws with its biggest being Jar Jar Binks, but those small flaws don't take away from the really good Star Wars film

Everyone should know the plot of this film, so instead I'll talk about some of the complaints people had of the plot and my thoughts of the plot. The biggest outcry by fans and critics is the character Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best). They cry and wine that the character is added nothing to the story, was annoying and just a merchandising tool. First off yes I agree Jar Jar was annoying, could they have toned him down a bit yes, but he was no more annoying than R2-D2 and C-3PO or the Ewoks, but he is important to the plot of the films as a third string character. Finally he wasn't only added for a merchandising tool. I think people judge him way too harshly and rate the film lower because of the character. Sometimes that is the only complaint I hear from fans who hate the film and Lucas is the name Jar Jar Binks, and do you know what I tell them that they aren't true Star Wars fans then. Another complaint is the introduction of midi-chlorians. That I thought really wasn't necessary and took a little bit away from the spirituality of the force. Perhaps the biggest personal complaint I had was they killed off Darth Maul. Just like Boba Fett I loved the character and wish they could have used him in the sequels instead of Count Dooku or maybe they could have found a way to use both of them. The story on a whole was really good with Lucas show us his superb writing ability as he introduced us to classic characters from the original films in Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid who would become the future emperor) along with introducing us great new characters in Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), Darth Maul (Ray Park) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson). Lucas has an amazing way of writing and developing stories and characters, and he does a great but not perfect job with the Phantom Menace.

The acting job by the entire cast was excellent with Ewan McGregor stealing the show. He did a masterful job playing a young Obi-Wan Kenobi. The beautiful Natalie Portman also had a good performance as Padme, and would give even better performances in the sequels. At the time I didn't remember her being the kid in The Professional or Al Pacino's step-daughter in heat. She really had both beauty and brains which shows in all her acting performances. Ray Park was awesome as Darth Maul and so was Samuel L. Jackson. His character Mac Windo is another character I've come to love. Samuel brought his coolness and awesomeness to the role, and it was great. Just like the originals Frank Oz did an outstanding role as Yoda's voice. Of course Liam Neeson did a great job as the Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn. He displayed his emotion's beautifully from humor and banter with Obi-Wan and his believe in Anakin. Jake Lloyd did a decent but not great job as Anakin, though I wish George had found a better child actor for the role. On a side note I didn't know even till right before I did this review that Keira Knightley played Sabe (Padme's double).

The effects done by ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) were of course outstanding. Everything from the CGI characters to the droid army was done really well. The action was really good, but not great with the climatic lightsaber battle stealing the show. My brother along with some others have said that they thing the lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul was better than the one in Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. They were both outstanding, but I prefer the lightsaber battle in The Revenge of the Sith. I thought it was better and more intense, and maybe it was better because of the emotional impact. Still the lightsaber battle in The Phantom Menace was great and again Darth Maul is awesome.

The directorial job by George Lucas was good, but not great again proving his detractors wrong. Is he a masterful director no, but he does a good job with actors and story along with the effects. As you would suspect John Williams was great. His score throughout the film was brilliant culminating in the outstanding climatic score that brought to life the lightsaber battle and the battle in general perfectly.

There is no reason for the hatred The Phantom Menace or the rest of the prequels receive. It kind of reminds me of the venom pathetic fans spew about Mass Effect 3. Whining and bitching about the endings which were flawed but still good. They expect that the ending should be done the way they want them to be. Demanding that the ending be change and it worked which is a sad day for video game makers and artists in general. Just because you hate a character doesn't make the film bad. Get over yourselves. Was Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace a perfect or excellent film no, but overall it was a great film with a good story, great characters/acting, beautiful special effects, pretty good directing and excellent music. Overall a rating of 4.5 and the 3rd best Star Wars film.

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Comments (19)

  1. John M

    @skywise: Thanks glad you liked it. Oh I loved Xenogears. It's my one of my favorite RPG games and one of my favorite video games of all time. I even still play through the game about once every two years.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  2. John M

    @avian005: What Bioware is doing by changing the endings is selling out out their artistic integrity. Like said it's a sad day for artists everywhere. I lost more respect for Bioware because they succ*mbed to a few whining fans then their flawed but good endings.

    Yes I will let you know when my reviews for The Attack of the Clones and Th Revenge of the Sith are up.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  3. skywise

    Oh and as for ME3. I just got done playing the game with both the original endings and the extended endings.

    I had no problem with the originals. It was a very interesting way to end the weries and I feel the creators said exactly what they wanted to say. the extended endings were fantastic though. I cant remeber a game besides maybe Xenogears that had such a long finale. But having said that, it did not really add anything necessary to the proceedings.

    2 years agoby @skywiseFlag

  4. skywise

    @john-m I pretty much agree with everything you said here in your review. Personaly i was most interested to see Natalie Portman who I had kept a close eye on since her debut in The Profesional and Ewen McGregor who is in one of my top 5 movies of all time, Trainspotting.

    I definatly understand why Jar Jar gets so much hate. But I do not feel that it was as bad as so many make it out to be. I think the problem arises from the nostalgia factor. We were all kids when we saw the original series and nothing...NOTHING was going to top that experience now that we are all grown up (for those that are). I think people wanted a hard core sci fi epic forgetting that SW was never really hard core to begin with.

    Hell, I didn't even mind the scientific explanation for those who wield the force. The only real complaint I have is for the actor who play Anakin, as you mentioned above.

    The only other thing I could complain about is that aside from a very memoriable lightsaber duel the film was kind of boring. All this talk of Federations and trade routes and all these scenes of people sitting around discussing these things makes for some rather odd pacing issues. However, that is a small detail.

    Another fair and well written review.

    2 years agoby @skywiseFlag

  5. jasdjqs

    I totally agree with you. Plus killing off Darth Maul was heartbreaking for me. When i was watching the Movie, I was thinking of part 11 and the great battle he could of have with the clone army, At least kill him off there or somewhere in part 111

    2 years agoby @jasdjqsFlag

  6. Avian

    @john-m Correction: When ME3 first came out the endings were absolute crap, but Bioware is slowly making it better with more DLC, and already made them "decent" in my book with the last two story-based DLC. That's as far as I'm willing to go on the issue, and I'm glad you're able to like the endings where I am not.

    Also, please send me a link to your next two Star Wars reviews, I'm really liking these.

    2 years agoby @avian005Flag

  7. John M

    @bawnian-dexeus: Thanks glad you liked it.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  8. John M

    @crypt: Thank you. I thought about rating it 4 stars for a moment, but I liked the film to much.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  9. Dark-White-Knight

    I agree with you all the way, I remember when this came out, I was 6 years old and I believe it was the first biggest movie I saw in theater that had left a huge impact on me, and that battle b/w Darth maul and obi-wan was the best sci-fi action scene at that time

    2 years agoby @Dark-White-KnightFlag

  10. John M

    @avian005: The Mass Effect series is one of the best video game series of all time, and it's only had three games. The ending did fit the universe, and I liked the dark endings. I never expected a happy ending. I love the dark ending. Sure they didn't explain everything perfectly, but they did a good job letting you know where the Reapers came from and the choices and consequences of each choice.

    A for my review thanks glad you liked it.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  11. The Cryptkeeper: Resurrected

    @john-m Great review. I enjoyed this movie; perhaps a little less than you, but still a great film nonetheless.

    2 years agoby @cryptFlag

  12. Sean

    @john-m You're welcome :) .

    2 years agoby @themoviefanaticFlag

  13. Avian

    I agree 100% with this review except for the ME3 ending, which doesn't fit into the ME series at all and fails to be a ending for an RPG. I don't whine about though because I don't care for Mass Effect anymore.

    Anyways, great review. It's not the best Star Wars movie but it is my favorite. Oh, and you should really watch TCW, especially season three and forward. They've done such a great job with Darth Maul that it makes his "death" justified IMO.

    2 years agoby @avian005Flag

  14. John M

    @themoviefanatic: Thanks glad you liked my review.

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  15. John M

    @the-movieghost: I seen a few episodes of the Clone Wars, but I haven't watched it on a regular basis. How the heck did they bring him back he was cut in half?

    2 years agoby @john-mFlag

  16. Bawnian©-Dexeus

    Wouldn't call it the better series, but good review

    2 years agoby @bawnian-dexeusFlag

  17. Sean

    @john-m Great review! I think Star Wars Episode 1 is one of my favorite Star Wars movies. I noticed that you mentioned in this review, that Keira Knightley played Sabe which was Padme's double. I actually didn't know that until a couple of years or so, until after it was released to theaters. I guess that's because of all that white paint on her face that made her unrecognisable.

    2 years agoby @themoviefanaticFlag

  18. the MovieGhost

    @john-m I don't know if you've been following The Clone Wars animated series that plays on Saturday mornings, but they've brought Maul back in that and, as someone, like you, who loved the Character in Episode I, I think they've done a great job so far. Sam Witwer voices him and he's fantastic. If you haven't paid much attention before, I'd suggest you try now. The 5th Season is only 3 episodes in, but it's looking to be great.

    For me, the best part of Episode I was the two-versus-one lightsaber duel between Gui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Maul. It still gets my blood pumping whenever I watch it.

    2 years agoby @the-movieghostFlag