Star Wars: Episode One—The Phantom Menace (1999)
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd
Director: George Lucas
Synopsis: Jake Lloyd stars as a young Anakin Skywalker before he becomes his alter-ego, Darth Vader. In this fourth installment of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars Saga, two Jedi Knights (McGregor and Neeson) are assigned as ambassadors to resolve a trade dispute in the planet of Naboo. In their journey to acquire allies, they come across a young slave boy (Lloyd) who may bring balance to the Force, but the long idle Sith resurfaces to reclaim their throne.
In 1977, George Lucas released Star Wars, the ultimate sci-fi fantasy, money-making film franchise of all time. The Saga changed the shape of the film industry. After two successful sequels (The Empire Strikes Back 1980, and The Return of the Jedi, 1983) George Lucas took time off to work on other projects with mixed success. However, in 1999, to the happiness of fans, he resurrected the Star Wars series with the release of Episode I–The Phantom Menace. Rather than continue where the Return of the Jedi left off, Lucas decided to try a new approach. The Phantom Menace recounts the story of what happened in the intergalactic universe before Episode IV—A New Hope.
When a political trade dispute threatens the planet of Naboo, two Jedi Knights must travel to Naboo to secure allies and escort Queen Amidala to Coruscant in hopes of settling the dispute peacefully. In their quest they are joined by Gungan outcast, Jar Jar Binks, and a slave child, Anakin Skywalker, who seems to be unusually strong with the Force.
With an 8-year-old lead character, this movie is more suited for kid’s attention span. Devotees of the Force would agree with me when I say, of the prequel series, the Phantom Menace is by far the weakest. Technology trumped the story-telling, overall plot and character development. Lucas and his team brilliantly captured some amazing visual feats, especially during the pod race, but the other short-coming were noticeable. Jar Jar Binks for example is probably the most useless character. He seemed more of a filler and comedy relief if anything.
Consequently, the rebirth of the Sith is thrilling. Darth Maul is impressive; Coupled with his terrifying appearance and extraordinary skill with a dual-ended lightsaber, he is a force to be reckoned with. Likewise, Darth Sidious is electrifying, living a double life, as an evil Sith Lord with a master plan to overthrow the Jedi’s from within, and as Chancellor of the Galactic Republic.
Sixteen Years after Return of the Jedi, George Lucas comes back with an exciting family movie that leaves you hungry for more. This film served as great entertainment with exceptional visual effects and overall imaginative quality. With the help of modern technology, George Lucas brought superb state of the art special effects, colorful inventions and overall sense of fun into the Phantom Menace. This combined made up for the minor shortcomings. This is still a must-see film. True devotees will appreciate Lucas’s attempt to resurrect the series and continue the story that has captivated us since 1977.