Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is the first movie in what is commonly referred to as the “Star Wars prequel trilogy”. Taking place long before the events of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and the Death Star, The Phantom Menace introduces us to a world before the evil Empire.
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Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Review
Generally speaking, The Phantom Menace exists as a precursor to the Darth Vader story, as we watch the events that led us there. With a slew of new characters (and the return of some old ones), The Phantom Menace welcomes fans back into the world of Star Wars. That said, is The Phantom Menace a worthy prequel to one of the best film franchises of all time?
The Phantom Menace starts out the trilogy with a story heavily based in politics. After unfair taxation laws cause dissonance between suppliers and merchants, two powerful Jedi knights attempt to reach a settlement between the Trade Federation and the Congress of the Galactic Republic.
After a negotiation goes sour, the Jedis take refuge on the nearby poverty-stricken Planet of Tattooine. There, they find a young slave named Anakin, who displays incredible potential as a user of the Force.
The Phantom Menace introduces quite a few new characters, as it takes place decades before the events of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. This includes the aforementioned Jedi knights, Master Qui-Gon (Liam Neeson) and Apprentice Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). On the opposite side of the Force, we see the rise of one of Star War’s most iconic villains, Darth Maul.
A menacing and memorable villain with a double-sided lightsaber, Darth Maul is full of mystery and style. Unfortunately, new characters also include the obnoxious Jar-Jar Binks, an alien creature with dwindling intelligence, an annoying voice, and a limited vocabulary. Thankfully we see the return of a few fan-favorite droids, as well as the origins behind some villains to come.
In terms of Star Wars stories, The Phantom Menace can be both exciting and exceptionally dull at times. The focus on politics makes it an odd narrative for kids, and the consistently goofy characters and moments keep it from being a serious drama.
There are moments of brilliance, including some fantastic lightsaber fights and an awesome racing segment. Unfortunately, a large majority of the 2-plus hour runtime can be quite dull. It sets up the story to come in an interesting way but takes its sweet time getting there.
As the monumental return of Star Wars in the 1999’s, The Phantom Menace underperformed. Years later, it still stands as a flawed but occasionally entertaining return to a galaxy far, far away. The plot may be dull, but signature Star Wars action keeps things interesting enough.
As a prequel, The Phantom Menace gets things moving, but at the expense of an anticlimactic story. The aged visuals don’t help things either, as Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace ends up being an ultimately underwhelming experience. That said, if you can’t get enough of Star Wars action, The Phantom Menace provides enough to satisfy the most insatiable of fans.
- Darth Maul is an exceptionally cool new villain
- The podracing sequence is exhilarating and intense
- Awesome lightsaber fights
- New characters like Jar-Jar Binks are annoying and feel out of place
- The plot is far too political for younger audience members to understand
- Slow paced and lacks the signature Star Wars fantasy element