Star Wars—Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

star wars episode i the phantom menace poster 1999 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 8/10

Darth Maul battle, Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan

Anakin Skywalker, Jar Jar Binks, midi-chlorians

Movie Info

Movie Name: Star Wars—Episode I:  The Phantom Menace

Studio: Lucasfilm

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  May 16, 1999 (Premiere)/May 19, 1999 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG

star wars episode i the phantom menace qui-gon jinn obi wan kenobi jar jar binks

Master Qui-Gon…if this is the crap we have to deal with, I don’t want to be a Jedi

The Trade Federation has set up a blockade around the planet of Naboo, and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) are attempting to negotiate a treaty.  When the Trade Federation tries to assassinate the Jedi Knights, they are forced to flee to the surface of the planet and manage to escape with Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) and a Gungan outcast named Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best).  The group is forced to land on the desert planet of Tatooine where they meet a young boy named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), and Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon realize he could be the one destined to bring balance to the Force.  Hunted by a Sith named Darth Maul (Ray Park), and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan realize that there could be more to the embargo than meets the eye.

Directed by George Lucas, Star Wars—Episode I:  The Phantom Menace (sometimes just seen as Star Wars I:  The Phantom Menace) is a fantasy adventure.  Following Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi in 1983, the highly anticipated film was met with mixed to negative reviews.  The film was nominated for Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects but it also received a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actor (Ahmed Best) with nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Supporting Actor (Jake Lloyd), Worst Supporting Actress (Sophia Coppola), Worst Screenplay, and Worst Director.

star wars episode i the phantom menace pod race


Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi was released when I was getting out of kindergarten, and Star Wars—Episode I:  The Phantom Menace was released when I was graduating college…so the anticipation of the wait was palpable.  While I was happy to have Star Wars back, it was a bit of a bittersweet return.

Despite a lot of problems, there are a lot of good things in The Phantom Menace.  The opening scenes, the pod-car race, and some of the battles are quite good.  The improvements in special effects and more fluid movements and choreographed fight scenes make the lightsaber battles some of the best in the series.  The final fight between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul, I think might be the best in the whole series…though it could be a bit longer.  The tension is high and Darth Maul is a great villain (too bad he gets wiped out in this movie).

star wars episode i the phantom menace padme natalie portman queen amidala

Will the real Queen Amidala please stand up, please stand up!

The problem lies in (of course) Jar Jar Binks and Anakin Skywalker.  Most scenes with Jake Lloyd feel like he is simply reading the script and not even trying to act or trying too hard to act.  The speeches he gives like the speeches about angels really are grating and just don’t work.  Jar Jar Binks is just bad all around.  His dialogue is awful and his plotline is almost non-existent.  If he were eliminated from the script, it would have run just as smooth…not even kids thought he was funny.

That points back to the real problem…George Lucas.  The first Star Wars was kind of a dream project to him and was realized as a cultural phenomenon.  He always claimed that the prequels existed, but it just seems doubtful that this is how the prequel really went.  These just seem like money makers.  It not only wasn’t a good movie but negated a lot of the other film…like the Force is governed by midi-chlorians?  Ok, it went from being an energy source that some can learn to tap into by some bad infection what gives you psychic and telekinetic powers.  It was also unfair of Lucas to make Jake Lloyd and Ahmed Best the targets of attacks since they obviously struggled with the roles and were in a whole new world of criticism with the rise of the internet.

star wars episode i the phantom menace qui gon jinn obi wan vs darth maul ewan mcgregor liam neeson ray park

Still one of the best fights in all the films

It just feels that there are too many people around him saying “That’s a good idea, George” and no one saying “wait a second, that sucks”.  He says that he made the new movies for kids and not fans.  The story is overly complex with the trade embargo and the plans to stop the Trade Federation…no kid is going to get that.  The first movies also were made for kids, but it didn’t demean people with bad stand-up comedy.  Sure R2-D2 and C-3PO provided comic relief but it was tempered with tons of action between…not some running laugh track.

Star Wars—Episode I:  The Phantom Menace is an average movie.  There are some really good points and nothing was more exciting than seeing “A Long Time Ago” scroll onto the screen sixteen years after Return of the Jedi.  For fans waiting for the prequel they always wanted however, it was a big letdown…and for better or worse, Lucas had two more sequels to try to get it right.  Star Wars—Episode I:  The Phantom Menace was followed by Star Wars—Episode II:  Attack of the Clones in 2000.

Related Links:

Star Wars—Episode II:  Attack of the Clones (2002)

Star Wars—Episode III:  Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Solo:  A Star Wars Story (2018)

Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story (2016)

Star Wars (1977)

Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi (1983)

Star Wars:  The Force Awakens (2015)

Star Wars:  The Last Jedi (2017)


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response