Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index

THE PHANTOM MENACE

Directed by George Lucas (1999, 20th Century Fox)
Starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels

An invasion and discovery of Anakin begin to throw the Galactic Republic into chaos.

 

 

4 stars

July 20th, 2014 on Blu-Ray for the 12th time  
   

I know that a lot of people don't like this movie, but I really do enjoy this film. There are many plot holes, which I've documented often enough below, but despite them, I've never hated Jar-Jar, nor the boy Anakin. I think the movie is well-paced, and as usual, the music is fantastic. As I've also said below, this movie contains what is probably my favorite lightsaber battle of the entire series. I remember seeing the double-bladed lightsaber for the first time, and being in awe. I still think it's great!

 

 

4 stars

February 4th, 2012 in the Theatre -in 3D, for the 11th time  
   

Although the 3D aspect of the movie was fun in some spots, I found that there wasn't enough of it to be worth seeing in this format. The movie was filmed in 2D, so the backgrounds are often out of focus, for example, and that makes the 3D part of it difficult to feel realistic. Often, I forgot that I was watching 3D, because there was nothing really interesting happening to showcase it. I thought the podracing course would be the best part, but it wasn't. Regardless, it was good to see the movie in the theatre again.

 

 

4 stars

September 25th, 2011 on Blu-Ray for the 10th time  
   

This is the first time I've watched the movie on my large HD screen, and it was beautiful. I especially liked the sound, whether due to the TV, or the new release, I don't know -but it was great.

In one of the interviews, Samuel L. Jackson discusses movie's effects on people, especially the young boys. He remembers watching a cowboy movie and then playing cowboy. With Star Wars, it's lightsaber battles, and that's exactly what happened with my son as he watched it with me for the very first time. Amazing!

I enjoyed the special features on the Blu-Ray disk, as well. The menu screens were magnificent, though the actual menus were annoying; they should be able to move to the "next" item after being viewed, like in The Lord of the Rings discs. 

 

 

4 stars

April 29th, 2009 on DVD for the 9th time  
   

While watching the movie for the 9th time, and thinking about all the things I normally do about this movie, most of which are listed below, I came up with another unanswered question. Why did the Gungans have such a powerful army? Who were they expecting to fight? I wondered if they were tribal, and the tribes fought amongst themselves, but they united to drive the Trade Federation away. I want to know!

I didn't find the lightsaber fight as great as previous times, though. It is apparent that Obi-Wan is the better swordsman of all three fighters. I wonder now if the one between Obi-Wan and Anakin in Revenge of the Sith will be my new favorite.

 

 

4 stars

April 30th, 2007 on DVD for the 8th time  
   

I still truly enjoy this movie. Despite the things I mentioned below, the poor dialog, the illogical plot points, and so on, it still stands the test of time (10 years ago!). Plus, that lightsaber battle was still great.

 

 

4 stars

May 15th, 2005 on DVD for the 7th time  
   

I found myself drawn to Qui-Gon Jinn this time around. He manages to have complete faith in the Force, and conveys a true leadership attitude. He is also, however, a Jedi, with the Jedi superiority complex and condescending attitude towards everybody else. Liam Neeson gives the character the perfect mix of careless and nonchalant dialog.

As far as the Jedi are concerned, they are so very arrogant, including Mace and Yoda. They are all so used to getting their own way, either through using the Force or by sheer intimidation. Obi-Wan learned that lesson well, as with his display on Otoh Gunga. I am not a fan of Mace Windu, either in this movie or Attack of the Clones.

Speaking of the Gungans, I really liked Boss Nass. He was funny while only being a little silly. They didn't have much character in the final battle, except for Jar-Jar and Tarpals, whom I also liked.

I want to reiterate that I still think that this lightsaber battle is the best one of all the Star Wars movies, with the possible exception of Revenge of the Sith, which I haven't seen yet.

With Episode III coming out this week (as I write this), I am looking forward to seeing how Anakin and Padmé's journeys progress.

 

 

4 stars

February 2nd, 2003 on DVD for the 6th time  
   

I was struck by the emotion conveyed by the actors in particular settings. They do a great job with moderate dialog. Shmi, Anakin's mother, for example, has great chemistry, does a great job of conveying a mother's sadness and joy at having her son leave for a better life. Padmé and Anakin also do a good job on the starship, with her saying "my caring for you will not change".

The middle of the movie is riddled with cheesy dialog, which makes it a little more difficult to sit through. The podrace is exciting, but goes on for just a little too long. I much prefer the battle at the end of the movie. It is well coordinated, and edited wonderfully between the four battles taking place.

The prize, however, still has to go to the Darth Maul/Qui Gon and Obi-Wan fight, which is so much better than any other lightsaber battle, including the one between Yoda and Dooku in Attack of the Clones.

I still believe this is a superior movie to Episode II, but I cannot really place exactly why. In general, the music is better, which makes me realize how much the music adds to the mood of a Star Wars movie. I think Anakin was better here, as the dialog fits nicely with the little boy that he is. The story flows better, without much coming out of the blue. The villain (Maul) is also better defined; he has a hatred of the Jedi. We don't know where that comes from, but it is his sole motivator. Only when the movie started going into politics did it start to drag a little. In general, however, I still like it a lot. To compare with its sequel, I will watch Attack of the Clones immediately after this. Last time, I found it boring for most of the movie. Unlike this one, where I didn't get bored.

 

 

4 stars

January 4th, 2002 on DVD for the 5th time  
   

I was reminded of my first time seeing this movie, in that I was not quite as impressed as the last time I watched it. I found the beginning to be slow, almost all the way to the podraces. I don't know why that is. Perhaps I was anticipating it too much, especially on DVD, and I was also very tired. 

As usual, however, the lightsaber fights were spectacular, both the brief one on Tatooine and the amazing final battle. The music is totally absorbing. but what I really noticed this time around were the sound effects. Not just the pod-racers, which has been stressed over the years, but other sounds, little clicks and whirls, footsteps, and the like. Very nice.

I noticed a lot of fragments of scenes that seemed new. The only official newly added scene is the Coruscant shuttle, but I noticed a lot of stuff during the podraces that wasn't in my video release. 

What I would really like to talk briefly about is the DVD itself. I spent three evenings watching the DVD extras (though I probably could have done it in less time)! There is so much to see. 

The documentary was spectacular. Unlike other documentaries (like the ones accompanying Star Trek: The Motion Picture), I could watch this one over several times. I was not anticipating it, knowing in advance that there was no continuity-holding narration. But it turns out that this technique worked beautifully! It was superb, even to the point of showing us just a little more footage that would have been cut from the film.

Speaking of cut scenes, all of the deleted scenes were spectacular. I can see why (also described in the documentary enveloping them) they remained cut, for the most part. But I think Anakin's fight with Greedo would have been neat to see (just for fun- because of A New Hope), contrary to my opinion in the novelization. And the scene where Qui-Gon destroys the Sith probe droid would have increased the tension, bridging the next couple of scenes. It would explain why Anakin and Qui-Gon were running to their ship, why Qui-Gon was suspicious, and why Anakin obeyed his "drop!" order so quickly without question when Darth Maul approached.

I remember watching some of Lynn's diaries on starwars.com years ago, and it was really nice to rewatch them here. I had never seen the featurettes, though, and was immensely intrigued by them. There was overlapping footage between many of them with each other and with the documentary, though, which I wish could have been removed for unique footage. 

I had copied the movie trailers to CD, but it is even better to have them on DVD now! The TV spots were typical, but the tone poems were fantastic! I had never seen these -they were beautifully scripted, especially Shmi's, and wonderfully in tune with the images (especially Anakin's). I have already watched them several times over. 

I have not been a fan of the technical aspects of filmmaking for a long time. I used to read all the guidebooks effects books, but currently I have no more than a passing interest in them. I took a look at the animatics, and they were neat, but nothing more. To other people, I'm sure they are fascinating. Same thing with the still pictures. I flipped through them and the posters very quickly.

I have only listened to a little of the audio commentary for the movie so far -that requires watching the movie and ignoring what is happening on the screen, and I'm not sure I am capable of properly doing that! But I look forward to doing it all the same. 

It is definitely worth seeing the DVD version of the movie, and for once, I think all the extras that come along with it are well worth it.  

 

 

5 stars

May 6th, 2001 on Video for the 4th time  
    Although there are things that get in the way of a perfect story, this movie is so well-made, and so overwhelming, that it blows any normal movies away. I still love this movie for the awe it gives me, with the beautiful effects, a story that doesn't slow for more than a moment, and engaging characters.

There are still some things that I didn't really like about The Phantom Menace, but they are gradually receding into the background, probably in a similar vein to the awkward moments in Star Wars that have vanished. Prime among these are bits of trite and often just goofy dialog, such as all of Anakin's talk when he was "flying" the Naboo starfighter. 

I also can't figure out why they would go through the planet's core, which means that the invasion fleet landed really, really far from the palace. This is fine, because I assume the Naboo have cities around the planet, and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan might have boarded a transport not going where they wanted to go. Except that Qui-Gon didn't say he wanted to go to the palace, and it is implied in the rest of the movie that the palace is the ONLY city on the planet (especially with only one droid control ship left in orbit)!

I noticed this time around how much swearing goes on in this movie, though it is not translated into English for us to hear explicitly. But we know it's there, because the seedier characters, like Sebulba, and even more familiar characters, like Jar Jar, say things like poodoo, which has an obvious connotation. That wasn't present in the last trilogy, and I wonder why it comes about now...

I still love the lightsaber battle at the end. It plays out with incredible speed and energy, and it's exhausting by the time it pauses. I really noticed the music this time around, especially in the previously mentioned scene and just before the podraces. This movie gives us something really big to explore, with lots of action, scenery (including space and city), and it plays our moods.

I don't know if the characters will ever engage us the way Luke, Han and Leia have for the last 25 years (almost), and I can see many more flaws with this one than the last trilogy, but it is wonderful in its own way, and it still leaves me awestruck.
 

 

4 stars

April 7th, 2000 on Video for the 3rd time  
   

The Phantom Menace relies heavily on visuals.  This is something I discovered while watching it for the first time on video.  The transfer from the big screen to my little screen was disappointing.  I think the rating will flip-flop every time I see this movie, but for the moment, I thought it wasn't quite as good as the last time. 

The visual splendor just does not come through on a TV screen.  The incredible outdoor scenes on Naboo were nice, but it didn't feel like I was immersed in them.  Coruscant was a jumble of lights, without the over-awing sense of scale.  The one place that did come out better was Otto-Gunga, the city of the Gungans. 

The story was nice and simple.  It has complex undertones, which will undoubtedly be explored in Episode II, but for now, it is about the Queen and Qui-Gon.  The Queen wants to save her planet, and she does so in a very convincing manner.  All of her actions were perfectly prescribed.  Qui-Gon also acts as he must.  If he has to defy the council, then that is the way of things.  He knows that Anakin is special, and that he must be trained, even if his future is clouded. 

Anakin shows his stuff in the pod race, and in his cool demeanor as one of his engines fails.  I did think, though, that he should have been farther behind by the time he got the engine started again. 

The lightsaber battle at the end was the real climax.  The Gungan battle was cool, and the Queen's capture of the Trade Federation leaders was spectacular, but the lightsaber battle was the best of the lot. 

One thing I think I should mention, is the single Trade Federation control ship in orbit.  It seems strange that they should withdraw all their forces in orbit, because if they had to leave, they would need to recall all their droid armies.  But in the book, the Naboo pilot notices that there is only one control ship left.  Obi-Wan notes that you don't need a fleet to hold onto the invasion once the planet is pacified. Unfortunately, that isn't quite true.  Unless they were using the planet's own communications relays on the surface, they would need at least two, preferably three control ships to relay messages to the droids all over the planet.  Presumably, Theed and Otto-Gunga are not the only cities on the planet, and there were armies all around the globe. 

In the end, the movie did the three things that it had to do.  One, and most importantly, it put Palpatine in charge of the Republic Senate.  Two, it brought Anakin and Padme together, in what appears to be a binding relationship, even now.  And three, it resolved the crisis shown at the beginning, freeing Naboo from the blockade.  There was setup, crisis, a large struggle against the odds, and a definite win at the end.  That's all a Star Wars movie has ever been.

 

 

5 stars

June 8th, 1999 in the Theatre for the 2nd time  
    I was completely hyped for this showing!  The graphic novel had me remembering things, and gave me another perspective on things I had seen, and things I had missed.  I could understand the Gungans' every word, as well as every other alien.  The sound system was a lot better in this theatre, and the cinema was full.  The pod race was great, I didn't find any of the Naboo stuff slow, and I realized that Anakin actually flies well into the Trade Federation ship before he blows it up by accident.  I loved it!  

 

4 stars

May 21st, 1999 in the Theatre for the 1st time  
    I'm sure the rating will go up on a second viewing.  There is no way this movie could live up to the hype.  Even going in with what I thought was no expectations, there were a few disappointments.  I found the beginning slow, and I'm hoping that was because I was with a less than enthusiastic crowd.  The ending seems contrived.  I hate when important things get done by accident.  I'm sure I'll be able to live with it later, but for now, they are major weaknesses.  The best actors I thought were Portman and Lloyd.  
   

Back to Top

All reviews and page designs at this site Copyright (c)  by Warren Dunn, all rights reserved.