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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace Reviews

Page 1 of 1971
Matthew Samuel M

Super Reviewer

February 19, 2012
It's not a bad movie, just heavily flawed. Its acting and dialogue can be cringe-worthy, but its high points still make it an enjoyable cinematic experience. It is overall a visually-dazzling film with a stunningly complex plot and heart-pounding action sequences.

Super Reviewer

January 13, 2010
Filled with horrific dialogue, laughable characters, a laughable plot, ad really no interesting stakes during this film, "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" is not at all what I wanted from a film that is supposed to be the huge opening to the segue into the fantastic Original Trilogy. The positives include the score, the sound effects, and most of the visual effects, which provide some great eye candy for audiences, but if that's all the film has, then what the hell is the film's purpose? I don't have anything else nice to say, and I could rant for days, so I am stopping here. This film is a complete mess in every way.

Super Reviewer

March 28, 2007
Three Stars!!
Josh L

Super Reviewer

July 4, 2007
I'm in the minority on the new trilogy, but I enjoy them greatly. They never quite reach the heights of the one-two punch of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, but they are on par and sometimes better than Return of the Jedi. The Phantom Menace has a few problems, but it is great entertainment. The special effects finally are up to the standards George Lucas envisioned for his stories and they look light years ahead of the original trilogy. They still hold up well today. The added characters to the mythology are great, and the actors/actresses portraying them are even better than the originals (which was not a master class in acting, but they did their job well enough). I especially love Darth Maul, who gives the sith another great villain in the series. Obviously a big deal is made about how annoying Jar Jar Binks is, and while I won't say he isn't annoying (because he certainly is) I do think that entire thing is overblown way out of proportion. He doesn't destroy the film by any means. The story meanders for awhile and is probably the weakest of them all, but there's still plenty of incredible action and set pieces to hold on to. The finale with Darth Maul is just as rousing as anything in the series and the music is superb. The Phantom Menace continues the Star Wars legacy with aplomb and it only gets better from here.
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

August 31, 2012
Star Wars: Episode I has become my generation's equivalent of Highlander 2: The Quickening - it's the epitome of a filmmaker betraying his fans, the base line for terrible filmmaking, and the butt of everyone's jokes. It has been taken apart, deconstructed, ripped to shreds and seethed over by countless disillusioned fanboys, to such an extent that reviewing it seems redundant. What can I say that the likes of Red Letter Media have not covered in far greater detail, and with much better jokes?

Being someone who never likes conforming to popular opinion for its own sake, I went into The Phantom Menace with as open a mind as it was possible to have. Sure, it might be bad - but surely not as bad as its reputation would lead us to believe? Even as someone with mixed feelings towards the Star Wars phenomenon, I wanted to be the one defending the film, at least in some small way. But despite my best efforts, I am forced to concede and state the obvious: The Phantom Menace is horrendous.

It is rare that you come across a film so utterly inept that you don't know where to begin in criticising it. I have neither the time nor the patience to list every last plot hole, or criticise every single creative choice (if the word 'creative' is remotely appropriate). Nor do I have such low standards that I intend this to become a splurge of incomprehensible ranting about how George Lucas is the devil (he's not, he's just delusional). So forgive me in advance if this review feels a little cluttered or disorganised - at least it'll make more sense than The Phantom Menace.

It probably makes sense to start with the ways in which Episode I betrays the original trilogy, and therefore the fans that made Lucas immensely rich. The whole reason that the prequels exist, other than money, is because fan enthusiasm for the originals was so sustained. Lucas had planned the trilogy several years before the Special Editions, in light of the success of the Dark Horse comics and Timothy Zahn's novelisations.

The difficulty is that The Phantom Menace doesn't know who its core audience is - indeed none of the prequels do. It doesn't know whether it wants to be a direct throwback to the originals, replicating the trilogy's aesthetic warts-and-all, or whether it wants to bring in a new, younger audience who have no familiarity with the first three films. Lucas never comes down on one side or the other, resulting in a film which is too complicated for anyone older than then, but too infantile and stupid for anyone over that age.

The plot of The Phantom Menace is simultaneously too convoluted and too asinine. The originals were classic, Flash Gordon-style stories of good vs. evil, which drew inspiration from the westerns, matinee idols and adventure comics of Lucas' youth. They explored ideas of freedom, justice and redemption through epic dialogue and action scenes on a grand scale. This is a film about taxation, votes of no confidence, and pod racing. At best, it's not engaging; at worst, it's cataclysmically dull.

Perhaps no aspect of The Phantom Menace has gained greater notoriety than the concept of midichlorians. Put simply, in a single conversation Lucas changes the Force from a spiritual power into a biological phenomenon, caused by something as ordinary as bacteria. The Force is no longer something which can be controlled and mastered by everyone, given enough time and training: it is something that you can only use if you are genetically built a certain way. Not only does the concept not make sense, but it turns the Force into something elitist and aristocratic. While the originals were populist, making us believe that anyone could master the Force and become a Jedi, Episode I teaches us that Jedi are born, not made, so you may as well not bother trying to be one, or indeed care about them.

Everything written up to this point has been from a fan perspective. But even to the casual viewer, who may be coming to Star Wars for the very first time, there are many problems with Episode I as a piece of filmmaking in general. It's not just that it's a terrible Star Wars film, or a terrible prequel - it's a terrible film, full stop.

Firstly, as Red Letter Media have pointed out, there is no central protagonist to whom we can relate. This stems from the fact that the whole of The Phantom Menace, and the other prequels, are essentially backstory to get us to the creation of Darth Vader and the birth of Luke and Leia Skywalker. Since this transition would only take up one film at most, Lucas has to keep us distracted for more than five hours, introducing characters whose only purpose is to get us to that point. They have no personality or development outside of that - they just exist as dull, poorly-written, obvious devices.

Qui-Gon Jinn's purpose is to be killed at the end so that Anakin can be trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi. There is nothing else that he does in the film that couldn't have been done by Obi-Wan himself. Darth Maul does nothing but follow the Jedi and fight them, since his only purpose is to provide a climactic action sequence - which of course, ends with a big anti-climax. Anakin, Obi-Wan and Amidala are all completely in situ: they're only there because they have to be in the next two films. As an aside, the body double sub-plot involving the latter and Keira Knightley doesn't work - because they look nothing alike. Why not just create a CG duplicate of Amidala, like you did with the droid army?

This brings us onto Jar Jar Binks, a character who epitomises everything wrong with the film and the prequels in general. Not only is he poorly written, obnoxious and annoying, but he exists solely to appeal to very young viewers, patronising them with every word he says. That's not to mention the racial stereotyping of the characters, whose Jamaican-style dreadlocks and accent are partnered to a personality which is lazy, clumsy and cowardly. And Jar Jar is not the only blatant stereotype on show: the Viceroy, head of the Trade Federation, speaks with an oriental accent a la Fu Manchu.

The performances in The Phantom Menace are universally terrible. Liam Neeson spends the whole film speaking in monotone and looking into middle distance, like he really doesn't want to be there. Jake Lloyd is pretty poor as the young Anakin, though he's mildly less annoying here than in Jingle All The Way. Ewan McGregor does a half-decent Alec Guinness impression but it's all on one level, and Natalie Portman looks mopey and confused. Not even Brian Blessed and Terence Stamp can save this film: even if the latter started shouting "Kneel before Zod!", it wouldn't help.

If nothing else was true about the original trilogy, the action sequences were always exciting and engaging. But here not even the mindless action is remotely entertaining. Lucas has become so reliant on CGI that the battles have no physicality, and the lightsaber fights are so highly choreographed that there is no surprise or spontaneity. The editing is repetitive, Lucas' camerawork is lazy and his staging of every scene is broadly the same, with character either sitting and talking, or walking and talking.

There is no better example of a pointless action sequence than the pod race. Like so much of the prequel trilogy, it feels like we're watching someone playing a computer game - or that the film is essentially a long advert for said computer game. We sit there watching pods overtaking each other at random, enduring random explosions and changes in the course, until convention takes over and Anakin wins. In many ways, it sums up the film, being a long, tedious distraction with no narrative purpose, designed only to milk money from people who are mostly too young to know better.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace is a cataclysmic alliance of boredom and betrayal that will break the spirits of any Star Wars fan and put newcomers off the series for life. Every aspect of the film that you could possibly mention has something wrong with it, and all the pieces are barely held together by Lucas' horrible direction and lazy editing. It's a soulless and depressing experience, which leaves us not just reeling from its own awfulness, but from the knowledge that there are two more films to go before we get to the good stuff. Still, at least things can't get any worse - right?
Samuel Riley
Samuel Riley

Super Reviewer

August 21, 2012
The first out of the prequels is almost a poor start. It doesn't touch the questions or story of the original trilogy, such as the development of Anakin Skywalker. Some characters feel weak, however, the character of Darth Maul has become quite an icon. While it does feature some nice visuals and some stunning lightsaber duels, this maybe the weakest out of the Star Wars saga, but it might be worth a try.
Eugene B

Super Reviewer

July 27, 2012
Lucas provides a visually stunning back-story to the origins of Anakin Skywalker in Episode I. With brand-new modern-age technology (undiscovered in 1977) Lucas is able to present his vision of 'Star Wars' the way he intended. Though the execution may have fallen flat, the visual world of 'Star Wars' is given a completely different makeover with the CGI-improvement in this film. 4/5
Apeneck F

Super Reviewer

July 18, 2007
Cinematic cotton candy ... the visuals are out there, but the story takes itself way too seriously (and there ain't that much happening to be so smug about), and the actors merely poor props to that story. And worst (like Cameron's "Avatar") racial profiling that should embarrass.
Alexander D

Super Reviewer

June 14, 2011
An overly-long, often slow and boring start to the saga. It could be better.
Thomas A.
Thomas A.

Super Reviewer

February 10, 2012
First off the 3d was mostly disappointing, it looked good at times, the pod race etc. but most of the movie it was barley noticeable. Seeing as this was the main reason for the re-release it seems odd. As for the movie everyone had already seen it. The pod race and lightsaber battles are great but not much else. The trade and diplomacy plot seems even more ridiculous and out of place as ever. Jar Jar Binks is ridiculous but seems to be on screen way more then he should. Sure there can be a goofy sidekick but they seem to stick him in scenes that don't need any comic relief and these ruin the flow and tone of the film.The film is still star wars, and enjoyable but the plot seems lazy and the Gungan aliens (Jar Jar's tribe) ruin the movie with terrible dialogue and accents and lame fighting. Probably best to pass on the first three films going to be released and wait until the original trilogy comes to theaters, if only to see how a 70's movie converts to 3d.

Super Reviewer

October 30, 2006
If you think that the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise is popular, or that The Dark Knight was hotly anticipated you'd be right, but they are NOTHING compared to the impact of the original Star Wars films at the time they were made. Star Wars was not so much a film franchise, but a virtual way of life to a whole generation. The Phantom Menace was THE most anticipated film ever made, and by that measure, George Lucas had one HELL of a lot of expectation to live up to. And, well, we all know what happened...But now all the hype has died down and this film can be looked at rather more objectively, and there's actually a lot to be admired about it. Lucas obviously surrounded himself with some of the best cinematic talent around. The effects are fantastic, the fight choreography excellent and best of all, the production design is magnificent. It starts fairly well jumping straight into a decent action sequence, and it was hard not to feel a collective tingle up our spines when we heard the sound of a light sabre igniting for the first time in 14 years. And then "oh lordy lordy, where am dat warty melon mazzah?" it's Jar Jar f***ing Binks. We then spend the time in which a planet is being invaded by a droid army watching computer generated fish eating each other while a fish-faced Burt Kwouk impersonator talks about trade embargoes. And there's nothing more magical and awe inspiring than a good trade embargo, eh? There are some decent sequences, particularly the exciting Ben Hur-esque pod race and the space battles but it's obvious that Lucas' technical staff were responsible for those because the rest of the film is just a load of dreary sentiment, dull political manoeuvering and feeble slapstick. We know the likes of Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman can act, so to blame them for their performances is like blaming a jockey for not winning a race when he's handed a three legged donkey. All the faults with this film can be laid squarely at the door of Lucas and his feeble script, and the best analogy I can think of when comparing the original Star Wars to The Phantom Menace is it's like comparing Let It Be to The Frog Chorus.

Super Reviewer

June 21, 2007
Very impressive and exciting sci-fi/fantasy/adventure I ever saw since 16 years to know all about future Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker in this prequel. Awesome special effects including an exhilarating desert race (that scene reminded of Ben-Hur in chariot race) and stunning space city vistas. Glad to see George Lucas returned to his own directing on this film.
Tyler R

Super Reviewer

January 11, 2012
I very recently saw the trailer for the re-release and my first reaction was "I completely forgot about that movie, it's been years since I've seen it." I discovered an old VCR of it and decided to watch it just to see if it was worth seeing on the big screen again. After watching it again, I can't help but question why they would do this. If you're gonna re-release the Star Wars series, release them in theatrical order rather than chronological order. Show the original trilogy from the 70's and 80's, don't start off the re-release by showing the worst movie in the series. So, here's my review. Rather than focusing on rebellion, honor, and good vs evil like the original trilogy, this one focuses on space. Yeah, because watching movies about politics set in the present day wasn't bad enough. Alot of the plot centers around trade and signing a treaty, but one thing in the plot that stands out is the revelation of Anakin Skywalker, the boy destined to become Darth Vader, one of the greatest villians of all time. But Anakin in this movie is just boring. He has some of the worst dialogue and the child actor playing him is very bland. The prequel trilogy specializes in bad dialogue. Nothing interesting was said in this movie. Everything seemed so forced and badly written. The characters in this movie are boring. Qui-Gon had no personality, Obi-Wan did almost nothing, Yoda I couldn't focus on because I was too appalled by how horrible his puppet looked, and everyone else I couldn't care less for. But the one character who puts the nail on the coffin is Jar-Jar binks, one of the most annoying, unneccessary, pathetic, dependant waste of special effects ever to be put on the big screen. His character served no purpose, he kept getting into trouble and needed someone to save his ass. ( Like Bella from Twilight, but Bella is 10x worse.) I could barely understand what he was saying, most of the time he just made a bunch weird screeching yells. On a more positive side though, the action scenes in this movie were pretty good. Some of them were kind of standard and forgettable, but the major ones were fun to watch. I have to give credit where credit is due and praise the special effects team. That's it. If you're a Star Wars fan, you might have to watch it to understand the later films in the series, but if you want to watch it for the sake of watching it as a stand-alone film, I'd pass on that. It's a very boring movie, though it is a shame because it had alot of potential.
Albert K

Super Reviewer

November 28, 2011
Kid annoyed the hell out of me and same with Jar Jar Binks, but the action was great. Visually dazzling.
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

November 1, 2011
The Phantom Menace is my least favorite of the overall groundbreaking franchise. It's a disappointing start to the long awaited prequel trilogy.
Shawn E

Super Reviewer

March 21, 2011
It's really easy to criticize the first prequel to the legendary star wars trilogy because the original star wars films were absolutely amazing. The few positives about this film are the visuals and the pod racing scene.

The visuals in this movie are fantastic, and are a big leap from the last star wars films. The space scenes and epic battles look stunning with all the dazzling effects. The few action scenes such as the pod racing bring the film to life. There is so much excitement during the pod race with all the fast shots of racing space cars. The thrills of the pods making near misses and seeing the pods make wrong turns and exploding into shrapnel are a lot of fun to watch.

Apart from the visuals and action scenes, the plot and character development are disappointing. The use of unnecessary goofy characters seems more annoying than funny. The always clumsy Jar Jar Binks character is the films attempt to reach a younger audience which seems unfitting in a Star Wars film. Even through this films flaws, the film is still plenty watchable with it's appealing visuals and fun nature.
Phil H

Super Reviewer

August 8, 2007
Looks great, love Mos Eisley, easily recognised as the Star Wars universe and always looks good. There's also an excellent pod race sequence which is the highlight of the film really, apart from that its pretty average but for the exciting Sith lord 'Darth Maul', he really saves the flick when it could of been a complete throw away, even though it is too childish in many places, Maul's prescense is golden and the fact he dies in such a meaningless way really sums up the disappointment with this film.
Not as bad as they say, better than most sci-fi flicks even so but with lame characters like 'Jar Jar' and his alien species and other poor designs like the battle droid army and various spacecraft I wonder how this survived, very off and on.
It still does well simply due to it being Star Wars, but its heavily flawed.
Matt G

Super Reviewer

January 21, 2011
The first movie to be recorded in Dolby Digital Surround EX and was visually one of the coolest films I've seen in my life. Having said that, I wasn't very impressed and walked out of the silent theater in 1999 very disappointed along with many others. After multiple viewings, I came to enjoy it though, especially on the mind-blowing Blu-ray.

After yet another viewing, I fell in love with this film. It's spectacular. Call me crazy, but meesa likes it!
Lewis C

Super Reviewer

June 21, 2007
"The chosen one the boy may be. Nevertheless, grave danger I fear in his training."

In the years since I've seen Episode I, I had forgotten how close Jar Jar Binks comes to ruining this entire movie. I was even looking forward to seeing it again, since I've only watched it once before and had forgotten most of it. But then, Jar Jar popped up on the screen and opened his mouth, and I was re-introduced to the single most stupid and annoying character in the history of science fiction. I can't imagine even young children enjoying his insufferable shrieking. Sigh.

As for the rest of the movie (other than some occasionally suspect acting), it's actually okay. The pod racing is still fun to watch today, there was some exciting action scenes, and Darth Maul was cool enough to almost make up for all the Jar Jar. The story isn't the best the series has to offer, but it's good enough to be a worthy addition to the Star Wars mythos. If the blatant efforts to make Episode I as appealing to kids as possible could have been toned down some (trust me, they would have liked it anyway), this probably wouldn't have been considered the ugly step-child of the Star Wars franchise. As it is, though, The Phantom Menace is a flawed movie that manages to overcome that and be entertaining, anyway. I guess that's the power of the Star Wars legacy; this universe is so rich that even lesser entries are hard to not like.

Super Reviewer

January 7, 2008
Natalie Portman's cute face (when she's not covered in all that stupid make up and costumes) barely kept me awake while watching this. Jake Lloyd is probably the worst kid actor i have ever seen, then again, Lucas insipid writting doesn't help at all. The biggest and most obvious problem with this is just how boring and tedious it is. I never bothered with the other prequels, seeing how putrid they are, just saw some parts of Clones and was enough to stay away from them. I was never that much into the original trilogy, so that helps me not caring one bit about these movies.
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