Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
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|Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace|
|Directed by||George Lucas|
|Produced by||Rick McCallum|
|Written by||George Lucas|
That Girl from Black Swan With the Stupid Laugh
A Kid Whose Acting Career Never Existed Before or After the Release of This Film
Antwan Dan Yells
|Music by||John Williams|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Release date(s)||May 19, 1999|
|Running time||A bit too long|
|Budget||At least a dollar|
|Box office||$1.027 billion|
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a 1999 epic space opera film directed by George Lucas, and the first of the Star Wars prequels. It is the fourth film to be released in the Star Wars saga, the second in terms of internal chronology, and the last in terms of everyone trying to convince themselves that the series hadn't lost it.
Set in 32 BBY, thirty-two years before the seminal original film, it follows Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi as they battle an army of zombie Gungans in space. It also features a young Anakin Skywalker, back when he was a young child full of hope and adventure, before he became Darth Vader (dun dun dun!).
Lucas began production of The Phantom Menace after realizing that special effects had advanced to the point where he could vomit CGI all over the place at the expense of the story. His new producer, Rick McCallum, was much more supportive compared to old producer Gary Kurtz, and gave George full creative control. Lucas claimed he wrote the prequels with the intention of completing the Star Wars story, but we all know he just wanted to disappoint fans of the original trilogy.
The Phantom Menace was panned by critics, being compared to the likes of Freddy Got Fingered and Showgirls. Despite its massive unpopularity with older fans, a common refrain from the younger generation is that "The prequels were good movies, you're just nostalgia-blind for the originals. Go suck my dick."
edit Opening crawl
After being taxed in response for their outrageous trade-ins, the Trade Federation retaliates against the Galactic Republic and sets up a blockade of battleships around the planet Naboo. Supreme Chancellor Valorium, in response, sends Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi to negotiate with the Federation leadership in order to make them realize that they are—and always have been—cheap. Ultimately, this realization would have the Trade Federation lift the blockade and, even better, provide fair trade-ins. Darth Sidious, a Sith Lord and secret adviser to the Federation, orders Nute Gunray to kill the two Jedi and invade Naboo with a massive army of cheaply-produced battle droids. The Jedi are ambushed but they escape to Naboo.
On Naboo, Qui-Gon saves Jar Jar Binks, the most annoying fucker in the history of film, and he tags along with him. Unfortunately, Qui-Gon doesn't kill him and Jar Jar tags along for the rest of the movie. Qui-Gon, instead of demanding common pay for his services of heroism, simply asks that Jar Jar take him and Obi-Wan to the Gungan leader Boss Nass in the underwater Gungan city. Over the next half-hour, viewers are treated to various scenes of Jar Jar falling, bumping into things, making funny faces, and running around with zany kazoo music playing in the background. Unable to convince Boss Nass to help them, they simply are given transportation to Theed, the capital of Naboo's surface. The people of planet Naboo are starving: without intergalactic trade to sustain them, they would be forced to farm and fish their paradisaical mostly coastal planet under the iron arm of the Asian businessmen invaders and their army of skeletal robot toasters. There, they rescue Queen Amidala, the pale, monotonous democratic dictator of Naboo, and scrape past Naboo's planetary orbital blockade on her star ship.
Held in the air by R2-D2 and unable to sustain the starship's hyperdrive, the group are forced to land on the desert planet Tatooine. Qui-Gon, Jar Jar, R2-D2, and Amidala's bitch Padmé visit Mos Espa to buy junk parts, where find a junk shop run by an obese flying mosquito named Watto. The mosquito also owns a nine-year old slave named Anakin Skywalker—little did they know this was the future Darth Vader—a grease monkey, genius, and a podracer who has never won a race let alone finished one. Evading a sandstorm, the boy leads the four to his home where he lives with his mother, also a slave, Shmidt. There, he shows the four his work-in-process: C-3PO, human-cyborb relations, his ticket out of having to do chores for his mom. Watto was so wealthy from his junk yard that even his slaves had their own robot slaves.
Qui-Gon senses that the Force is strong inside Anakin, and desires to abduct him into the Jedi Order. Fearing Anakin's slave master's retaliation, Qui-Gon strikes a deal with Watto: Anakin's freedom and a new hyperdrive—for the fortune Anakin probably won't win in the Mos Espa Podrace. In the end, Anakin wins after Qui-Gon most likely uses the Force to cheat Skywalker into victory off screen, and dozens are sacrificed in high speed flames before Anakins eyes in the name of blood sport. Unable to free Anakin's mother as well, Skywalker says goodbye and takes off. As they reach Amidala's starship, a satanic looking assailant named Darth Maul attacks Qui-Gon. However, he escapes the clutches of his foe and they escape Tatooine in style.
Amidala is taken to the capital city of the Republic, Coruscant where she pleas her case to the Senate. At the same time, Qui-Gon presents Anakin to the Jedi Council. However, the Council deems Anakin vulnerable to the Dark side of the force... and they're right. Qui-Gon rejects the Council's decision and promises to teach Anakin to become a Jedi himself. Queen Amidala finally works out a deal with the other senators and they return to Naboo with Jinn, Kenobi, Binks, and for some odd reason Skywalker.
On Naboo, Padmé reveals herself as the true Queen Amidala but everyone finds it hard to believe. She shows them her birth certificate and various other forms of her ID and they accept her revelation as truth. Boss Nass stops deciding to be an ass and the Gungans ensemble an army to square off against an invasion force of battle droids. The group head to Theed Palace to hunt down Nute Gunray, and succeed in capturing him as Anakin blows up a space station that disables the battle droid army which allows Jar Jar to stop trying so hard—boooring.
The stuff people actually care about is the duel between the two Jedi and Darth Maul. In this fight, Obi-Wan proves himself incapable of keeping up with the action before Qui-Gon and Maul enter some laser-shield hallway. Maul repeatedly smashes Qui-Gon in the face with a double-sided Sith baton before Obi-Wan can reach the two. Kenobi, outraged, runs up to Maul and pushes him down a shaft. Before Qui-Gon croaks, Obi-Wan promises him he's gonna bust ass and train Anakin.
Qui-Gon's body is cremated at a funeral. There, Obi-Wan tells Anakin he will train him, while Senator Palpatine looks creepily at the boy and acts like he isn't going to turn into an evil Emperor in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. On Naboo, a peace treaty is signed on Theed between Nass's people and the leaders of Theed and everyone celebrates with a parade more vibrant than Mardi Gras.
Then, the credits roll. Of course, most of the audience has either left the theater or fallen asleep at this point.
edit Cast and characters
- Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn: Jedi Master and Obi-Wan's master. Something happens to him at the end of the movie.
- Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi: Qui-Gon Jinn's apprentice. He kills Darth Maul. If you look closely, you'll notice that it isn't Alec Guinness.
- That Girl from Black Swan with the Stupid Laugh as Queen Padmé Amidala: I'd bang Natalie Portman...
- A Kid Whose Acting Career Never Existed Before or After the Release of This Film as Anakin Skywalker: Portrayed by an unknown homunculus, it was hard for many fans to believe this clown becomes Darth Vader in Episode III.
- Definitely Not Darth Sidious, If That's What You're Thinking! as Palpatine/Darth Sidious: This guy pulls all the strings. He's the biggest prick in the galaxy, the Galactic Republic just doesn't know it yet.
- Ahmed Worst as Jar Jar Binks: He's annoying.
- Ray Park as Darth Maul: A Sith Lord who's cool as ice, despite only having three lines. Lucas chose Ray Park, the brother of Rosa Parks, to play Maul due to his strong resemblance to the devil himself, because he felt that Star Wars lacked the "holy vs hell" element that fans demanded. "By having Jesus Christ star as Qui-Gon Jinn, Satan was an obvious choice for the role of Darth Maul", said Lucas.
- Antwan Dan Yells as C-3PO: Anakin's protocol droid that he built himself. Yes, a nine-year-old built a fully-functioning, multitasking android. Nice writing, George.
- A Midget as R2-D2: A robot that appears in every Star Wars film. He's awesome.
- Pernilla September as Shmidt Skywalker: She doesn't get freed in this film. When you think about it, it kinda sucks. Why? Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. That's why.
- Frank Oz as Yoda: Yoda looked horrible in this movie, I'm glad they made him CGI in the 2012 re-release.
edit Themes and symbolism
The Phantom Menace, despite appearing simplistic at first glance, is full of rich symbolism that makes it seem like a real auteur film. The scenes of occupied Naboo mirror
Germany's Japan's occupation of France during WWII, with Britain Spain Italy France being where Naboo was filmed.
The characters of Nute Gunray, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul are meant to represent the three major aspects of our society (capitalists, leftist hippies, and juvenile delinquents). There is also Queen Amidala, who represents the emancipation of women of the 21st century and their desire to become Barbie dolls. Via the character Jar Jar, the film could be seen as a message of peace and vis-à-vis foreign tolerance, and the hook-nosed, greedy, slave-owning character of Watto could be seen as, uh...more tolerance?
Believe it or not, The Phantom Menace was not the first time George Lucas pulled a trick on his fans. Have you ever noticed how all the best performances from actors happened in The Empire Strikes Back, one of two films Lucas did not direct? It's not a coincidence. George may have a knack for creatures and spaceships, but he's absolutely horrible at coaxing good performances from actors.
In retrospect, Return of the Jedi could be seen as the beginning of the decline. "I thought it would really enhance the climactic feel of the movie by introducing silly new creatures that kids love," Lucas said in an interview, chuckling. "So that's when I came up with the Ewoks." For the three or four readers here who haven't seen the movie, Ewoks are possibly the most preposterous creatures ever put on screen. Picture the Teletubbies, except instead of four, there's a whole army of them, and every one of them has fur that they never shave or brush. Yeah. Seriously.
Lucas thought it would be hilarious to introduce these oversized gerbils and watch the reactions to the fans, who he clearly thought would be devastated. Unfortunately, many fans loved the Ewoks, even after they sang the most irritating song ever written at the end of the series. "Well," Lucas elaborated, "Fixing the end of the Star Wars story wasn't enough for me. I want to make the beginning the best it can be."
Believing he could do no wrong (he created fucking STAR WARS, after all), 20th Century Fox provided Lucas with a million-dollar contract the moment he walked into their office.
Using this money, Lucas assembled a team of
yes-men supremely talented writers. Lucas's Their first idea was Jar Jar Binks, a creature even more lovable than the Ewoks. The writers originally wanted to make Jar Jar the main character and only introduce Anakin in the last five minutes of the film, but Lucas's agent talked him—err, I mean THEM, out of this. They did, however, make sure that at least half of the movie's playtime would be devoted solely to scenes of Jar Jar falling down, blowing things up, and performing other wacky antics sure to please the kiddies.
After the script was written, Lucas threw together a team of actors. The actors found him to be very uncommunicative towards them, with his only directions generally being either "faster", "more intense", "more dense", or "more like poetry, it rhymes". At one point, when he temporarily lost his voice, the crew provided the actors with a board with just those four sayings written on it.
The Phantom Menace was poorly-received among critics. Joe Everyman of The New Yorker wrote: "The only redeeming factor in this film is the fact that Natalie Portman is kinda cute. But she's barely in it. Thankfully, that little boy who plays Anakin is on screen a LOT, and he's pretty cute too... oh, that glistening little boy's skin fills me with PASSION!" In many countries, the film has been outright banned due to its tendency to cause vomiting amongst fans of the original trilogy.
Months after The Phantom Menace was released, Lucas was questioned over whether or not he'd considered remaking it to "actually be a good movie." He responded: "You basement-dwellers need to grow up. If you want to relive your childhood, go watch the originals and quit whining. This is my story, not yours."
Some critics were more positive on the film, however. John Q. Public of The Wall Street Journal said that "Aside from the lack of plot, proper character development, coherence, setting, or dialogue of any kind, it was decent. I liked the credits!" Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times awarded it 5 out 5 stars, claiming it was "Easy to sleep through." Alan Smithee of AOL News even went so far as saying that Jar Jar Binks was "the best character in the movie"; this review was never published, as immediately after typing it, hundreds of fans broke into his house and tore him limb from limb, chanting "Jar Jar Binks is an abomination, Jar Jar Binks is an abomination."
In 2012, The Phantom Menace was converted to 3D and re-released to theaters. Lucasfilm utilized $3.5 million dollars in changes, including more droids in the battle scenes, altered dialogue regarding midi-chlorians, remixed soundtracks with louder sound effects and Kanye West songs replacing John Williams's original score, puppet Yoda being converted to CGI, Jar Jar's eye color being changed, orangutans, breakfast cereals, fruit bats, and large chu. Producer Rick McCallum handed out "Dense-O-Vision" 3D glasses at theaters for viewing of Episode I, giving viewers the chance to realize how every single image in the movie had so many things going on. Despite earning $73.4 million at the box office, however, this re-release knocked the film's Rotten Tomatoes score from 63% down to 57%; it seems that critics who initially liked the movie, or were in denial about it being bad, had finally come to their senses.
After Disney bought the franchise, the 3D re-releases of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were postponed; Disney claimed they were doing it to "look to the future" and "focus more on Episode VII", but most fans know the true reason behind this (i.e. because the prequels were terrible).
- ↑ Time in the Star Wars universe is reckoned using as a basis the exact moment in A New Hope when the Stormtrooper entering the control room on the Death Star bangs his head on the door and yells. Using this system, events occurring before this moment are designated BBY (before bang/yell), and events after ABY.
- ↑ The rest of the review is illegal in most countries, so it will not be duplicated here.