Words: Kieran Webber | Illustration: Joe Pearson
Director: George Lucas
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid.
I remember my first Star Wars experiance as I am sure all of us do whether it was positive or not. My mother used to work lates and would leave me and my dad at home, the moment she left the house what would ensue is an educational geek fest. One particular night my the chosen educational tape was Star Wars: Episode 4 A New Hope from that day on I was hooked on anything and everything Star Wars related.
Fast forward to 1998 when the announcement of a new Star Wars film was made, my little boy body couldn’t handle the excitement shaking at the very thought of hearing another ‘vwhooom’ of a lightsabre. The prospect of knowing more about what happened before the Empire, knowing more about Anakin Skywalker’s life, what did the Republic look like before it was wrapped in evil? and everything else was making my mind run wild.
To some people this film was a total shit show and over hyped which to some extent is very true. Still out of the trilogy in my opinion it stands pretty tall and is a solid Star Wars film.
The opening scene starts in the traditional method of having a ship fly into focus throwing you into a nostalgic spazm. The subtle and simplistic introduction to Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan Obi Wan Kenobi is fantastic and done in a way that pulls you into the film. The subtlety rug is quickly pulled before your feet though as the untrusting and paranoid Trade Federation beleive the Jedi sent as ambassadors are a threat and will possibly kill them. Within moments you are shown how competent, strong and highly regarded Jedi’s were prior to the Empire. It is when they land on the planet of Naboo that things start to take a turn, running through the woods they bump into an unlikely sapient creature who goes by the name of Jar Jar Binks an exiled Gungun. Although I acknowledge that Jar Jar is pivotal to the films story line (without him they would never have found Gungun city and gotten transport to the Naboo capital) but he ruins so many scenes with his ridiculous behavior and childish demeanor. Not to mention his complete incompetence with well, everything.
With his annoying presence aside the film stands tall with many memorable scenes for example the pod racing scene is completely amazing. For the entire duration of the race you are subject to intense merriment and enjoyment, the effects even by today’s standard are pretty bloody impressive too.
Although in between this it is important to phase out Jake Lloyd’s awful acting, I cannot say how much I detest the candy Anakin that he portrays. Although this may not be solely his fault being that the script and screenplay is written by George Lucas.
Another stand out scene is the battle scene between the Gungan Army and the Trade Federation’s droid army, although the CGI does look dated now it still has a certain charm. This distraction plays out whilst Qui Gon and Obi Wan and their ensemble that includes Captain Panaka and Queen Amidala make their way through the palace to take out/subdue Nute Gunray to put an end to the Trade Federation’s Blockade. However Qui Gon and Obi Wan would not make it to their destination as the sith Darth Maul arrives to take on and kill the two Jedi’s, it is my firm opinion that the lightsabre battle that ensues between the three is arguably one of the most amazing and epic fights in the Star Wars series to this day. The lightsabre battle is full of emotion, passion and Jedi skillmanship that for obvious reasons the other films could not portray. Not to mention that how perfect a villain Darth Maul is again I would argue he is the ultimate Sith, quiet, calm and collected. In fact he has a total of three lines through the whole film. The mystery that surrounds this character is fantastic, so when he comes out swinging in the sabre battle it makes it all the more enjoyable.
To sum up The Phantom Menace has much to be disappointed and frustrated about, from the terrible delivery from certain actors, Jar Jar Binks, midichlorians and Jar Jar Binks (it seemed necessary to mention him twice). But inbatween the shit there is some golden nuggets of sweetcorn. The set and planet designs were amazing, the jungle of Naboo looked lush and green and the Gungan city was majestic and mysterious. Whilst the Naboo walked around with an almost renaissance era clothing and similar architecture to boot, it was simply beautiful and well thought out. The space-druid demeanor of Qui Gon Jinn presented by Liam Neeson was splendid as well as Ewan McGregor’ young Obi Wan. The sith pairing was utterly alluring, Darth Maul goes down as one of the most interesting villain there has been in a Star Wars film. As a whole I enjoy The Phantom menace even to this day albeit with a pinch of salt.