Friday, January 30, 2015

Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace (1999)

Director: George Lucas
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Pernilla August, Oliver Ford Davies, Hugh Quarshie, Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Terence Stamp, Ray Park, Samuel L. Jackson
Voices of: Frank Oz, Brian Blessed, Andy Secombe


Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Neeson) and his apprentice Obi-Wan (McGregor) are sent to negotiate a treaty with the Trade Federation but are lead into a trap and forced to take refuge on the planet of Naboo. Rescuing Queen Amidala from the Federations ambush, the group land in Tatooine to make repairs to their ship and take in a young slave Anakin Skywalker (Lloyd) who Qui-Gon believes is the chosen one who will bring balance to the Force.

Written, produced and directed by Lucas, the first of the prequel trilogy can be taken on very different levels. Sit back, relax and try not to take it too seriously and you'll be able to see it's adventurous side and melodramatics that make for an old-fashioned sc-fi popcorn movie. Look a little deeper and you'll find a film plagued with inconsistencies, some terrible performances (Lloyd, McGregor) and franchise characters - so hated was Jar Jar Binks (Best) that he only made a small cameo in Episode 3.

The winning feeling comes from veteran actor Neeson who was sorely missed from the rest of the series. Portman also has her moments but one can't help being weirded out by the forming relationship between Padme and Anakin, especially given what is common knowledge from the progression it takes. Among the many smaller roles, look out for the likes of Dominic West, Sofia Coppola and Keira Knightley.

All of this accounts for the simple fact that Lucas rehashes the same basic plotlines and has no skill handling actors of a lower calibre. The only thing specifically working in Lucas' favour are the special effects designs that would progress throughout the series and his sense of adventure and wonder is certainly still intact.

3/5

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