Episode I: The Phantom Menace | History of Star Wars


Pierce Turner, Features Editor

Welcome to Spinnaker’s History of Star Wars! To celebrate the upcoming release of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, we are looking back at the past seven episodes as well as Rogue One all leading up to the review of the new movie. Every day from Dec. 7 to Dec. 15 a new review will be posted. So enjoy, and may the force be with you. Always.

“You hear that? That’s the sound of a thousand terrible things coming this way.”

It was May, 1999. 16 years had passed since the last Star Wars movie released and the excitement for the first prequel had fans camping outside theaters like it was a new IKEA. However, the hype couldn’t save the aptly named film, which was a true menace to Star Wars fans.

Now, it’s common knowledge that the Star Wars prequels suck, with Episode I being the worst of the bunch. Everyone seems to have a different way of fixing them though. Make it a more traditional good vs. evil story, cut out the political drama, or put Jar Jar in carbonite and send him into the nearest sun.

For me, the film’s biggest problem is it’s just boring. A two hour movie feels like three hours with endless debates, standing around, sitting around, and staring vacantly into space. It’s a shame because there’s a lot of talent in The Phantom Menace. Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, a young Natalie Portman, and Samuel L. Jackson to name a few. Unfortunately, all of these actors are wasted with what seems like deliberately bad directing.

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The most underwhelming meeting of mortal enemies ever. Lucasfilm

George Lucas takes the directing helm for the first time since the original, and he fits like a Wampa on Tatooine. Actors are directed to act flatly, showing as little emotion as possible and keeping a monotone voice throughout. It’s actually baffling. He also wrote the film, and what an exciting script it is. Trade routes, taxes, chancellors, elections; Episode I is more like watching C-SPAN than Star Wars.

The rest of the narrative is a mess too. I actually can’t tell who the main character of the movie is. Is it Qui-Gon? Obi-Wan? Anakin? Who knows. Even the villain, something the original trilogy nailed perfectly, says about five words in the entire film. That being said, the fight with Darth Maul is extremely well choreographed. It’s exciting to watch, but because Darth Maul has no personality, it doesn’t work as well as Luke vs. Vader.

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Incredible choreography. Lucasfilm

There’s a sense of laziness behind the making of the film. Nearly all practical effects are replaced with primitive CGI from the late ‘90s that couldn’t look more dated. Instead of an alien being in front of the actors to interact with, they’re digitally inserted in post, with the actors having to awkwardly act to empty space. This was a problem of all action movies at the time, but because of Star Wars’ amazing practical effects legacy, it stings the most here.

There’s nothing I can say about The Phantom Menace that hasn’t already been said. It’s a dark stain on the legacy of Star Wars filled with literal poop and fart jokes. Bad poop and fart jokes. It is the perfect example of how not every great story needs a prequel.


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