Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman
Director: George Lucas
Running Time: 136 mins
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is an American film and the fourth in the Star Wars saga. After remaining dormant for eras, the Sith return, and threaten to disturb the peaceful world the Jedi have created, however Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn find a young boy who could save them all.
Well, the reputation that The Phantom Menace has gathered in the years since its release is now pretty cemented as one of the worst Star Wars films. It’s definitely a mess, with crazy characters and a slow-moving, meandering and convoluted plot, but there are a lot of advantages to this film that you still can’t avoid.
So, let’s start on the positive side, by saying that, all in all, The Phantom Menace isn’t an atrocious film. In comparison to the original trilogy, it’s desperately disappointing, but it has some outstanding features, one of which is actually the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Despite being very secondary to Qui-Gon Jinn, Anakin and Padmé, Obi-Wan Kenobi is easily the most fascinating character here. He’s a young apprentice who hasn’t yet learned the greatest virtues of the Jedi, and his occasional hot-headedness and over-enthusiasm in comparison to his wise master is intriguing to see at first, and then even more fascinating to see him develop over the course of the story.
Along with that, this film succeeds in two other aspects. Firstly, the climactic sequence is absolutely thrilling to watch, with palpable emotion and tension that the entire rest of the film lacks. Secondly, John Williams’ score is possibly the best it has ever been, and, had it not been tarnished by The Phantom Menace’s reputation, should be considered on a par with the music for the original trilogy – it’s that good, and by far the best of the prequels.
However, in the end, the film is a pretty big disappointment, most significantly because of its convoluted plot and atmosphere. In truth, the whole story is a mess. There are so many different things going on, with mysterious forces at play along with the central plot that it’s often very difficult to actually focus on what you need to.
Throughout, there are so many awkward moments where the film briefly cuts away to these side-plots, but never features enough information to actually care about them, therefore really disrupting the flow of the film as a whole and your interest in the main plot.
Beyond that, it all moves far too slowly. Although the finale is pretty exciting, it takes over an hour and forty-five minutes to get to the point where anything is really thrilling, and far too much time is spent earlier on covering the meeting of Qui-Gon and Anakin on the planet of Tatooine, which could have all been wrapped up much quicker, and in a more interesting way.
Finally, the tone of the film is just as much of a mess. Slightly similar to Return Of The Jedi, it maintains the dark, brooding intensity of the Sith threatening the Jedi, but it’s generally far too silly. There are too many weird, unnecessary characters (including heesa who must not be named), and it comes across as nothing more than a dumb kids’ film, instead of a genuinely emotional and intelligent space opera like the best originals, and that’s why The Phantom Menace gets a 6.8 from me.