Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is healthier and worse than you keep in mind

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan duel Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
twentieth Century Fox

This month marks the twenty fifth anniversary of Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. The movie, the opening installment in George Lucas’ Prequel Trilogy, was the first Star Wars movie in 16 years when it was launched. Shortly after it hit theaters in May 1999, although, it turned the goal of loads of vitriol and criticism. Star Wars followers went into it anticipating a prequel that felt of a chunk with the franchise’s Original Trilogy. Instead, what they bought was a CGI-heavy, polished, and unexpectedly stiff epic about, amongst different issues, baby slavery, commerce legal guidelines, and senatorial politics. In quite a lot of methods, the movie couldn’t have been extra completely different from 1977’s swashbuckling, fairy tale-like Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope.

Over the previous few years, quite a lot of Star Wars fans have adopted a a lot kinder tone when discussing The Phantom Menace and its fellow prequels. That’s been due, in no small half, to the lackluster high quality of Disney’s Sequel Trilogy. For most of the viewers who had been launched at a younger age to Star Wars by means of the prequels, the movies additionally maintain a particular, nostalgic place of their hearts. With that in thoughts and, in honor of its forthcoming anniversary, it’s value asking: Is The Phantom Menace actually as unhealthy as so many followers keep in mind? Or is it nearly as good as a few of its youthful supporters consider?

Having just lately rewatched it, this author would argue that it’s neither. The Phantom Menace might, in all actuality, be one of many largest combined baggage in blockbuster film historical past.

The good, the unhealthy, and the ugly (not essentially in that order)

Anakin stands before the Jedi Council in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
twentieth Century Fox

To be completely clear: The writing and performing in Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace is actually unhealthy. Lucas, for all of his many strengths, has by no means had a terrific ear for dialogue (as each Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford have publicly noted), and that’s on full show in The Phantom Menace. His incapability to actually talk with actors leads to distractingly stiff turns from Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Samuel L. Jackson, and loads of others, too. Only Ewan McGregor and Ian McDiarmid handle to offer memorable performances and emerge from The Phantom Menace unscathed.

While Ahmed Best additionally didn’t deserve any of the hate that he bought from Star Wars followers after The Phantom Menace‘s release (nor did any of the film’s actors), Jar Jar Binks is distracting. The CGI that was used to carry the character to life hasn’t aged nicely, and The Phantom Menace by no means fairly figures out easy methods to have his goofy character make sense inside its comparatively darkish bigger story. It’s clear that Lucas felt like he needed to loosen up the movie one way or the other, however a lot of his makes an attempt to take action don’t in the end land.

Fans have, after all, been stating these flaws in The Phantom Menace ever because it was launched. Not all of the criticisms which have lengthy been levied towards the movie appear as legitimate whilst you’re watching it, although.

The film’s visuals are massively underrated

Padme stands in front of a window in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
twentieth Century Fox

The Phantom Menace has typically been criticized for its vivid, polished aesthetic, which instantly separates it from the gloriously dingy look of the Original Trilogy. But, regardless of what these criticisms would possibly recommend, The Phantom Menace is continuously astonishing to have a look at. David Tattersall’s cinematography stays appallingly underrated. Together, he and Lucas fill the movie with graphic, painterly pictures that not solely mesmerize, but additionally reinforce the movie’s themes of systemic corruption. Notice, as an illustration, how the shadows of the Jedi Council’s assembly room on Coruscant betray how removed from the sunshine the Jedi have fallen by the point the movie begins.

Other photos carry a number of meanings, just like the above shot of Padmé, which spotlights how small she is in comparison with the dimensions of the establishments that encompass her and concurrently positions her within the heat glow of a window’s mild — supporting the movie’s view of her as an angelic determine. The under picture, in the meantime, visually incorporates Darth Sidious’ (McDiarmid) existence as a double agent for the Sith and foreshadows how he retains the complete scope of himself and his plans from even his apprentice, Darth Maul (Ray Park).

Darth Maul looks at Darth Sidious in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
twentieth Century Fox

Outside of its nonetheless pictures, The Phantom Menace additionally delivers sequences of beautiful, transportive magnificence and magnificence, like Obi-Wan (McGregor) and Qui-Gon’s (Liam Neeson, long before he was an elderly action star) underwater journey to the glowing metropolis of Gungan City. John Williams’ rating, one of many Star Wars franchise’s finest, solely additional elevates many of those moments, together with The Phantom Menace‘s unforgettable, thrillingly well-choreographed and paced climactic lightsaber duel between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Maul.

Time has a behavior of being both exceptionally sort or to not movies like The Phantom Menace. twenty-five years after its launch, it’s clear now which of the criticisms that had been instantly levied towards it held actual weight, and which had been simply indignant outbursts from followers who had been upset that they didn’t get A New Hope 2.0.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – Trailer

George Lucas clearly went into the movie desirous to make one thing completely different than the unique three Star Wars motion pictures, and that intent is obvious — for higher and for worse — in each second of The Phantom Menace. It’s a enormously flawed blockbuster, however one that’s nonetheless able to creating unforgettable moments and pictures, which is greater than could be stated about among the Star Wars titles which have adopted it.

Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace is streaming on Disney+. It can also be at the moment taking part in in theaters nationwide.

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