Movie Review #363: Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Paves the way for future installments, sacrificing itself in the process

Let me just get this clear: Jar Jar Binks is no Chewbacca. He is a joke of a character that insults the intelligence of new and old Star Wars fans alike. He is neither funny nor interesting and it saddens me that George Lucas resorted to this to propel the story forward. Because no matter how fantastic the visual upgrade was compared to the original trilogy, its weak narrative prevents the film from joining the ranks of its predecessors.

The Phantom Menace is a filler movie. It establishes a foundation that eventually paves the way for the next two episodes that will bridge the gap between the old and the new. But in the process it becomes a sacrificial lamb. It’s almost as if Lucas wanted us to lower our expectations so that we would be able to enjoy the rest. It’s a big-budget mess that serves as a grim reminder of how visuals are recently prioritized over great storytelling. I found less importance watching the whole thing. After all, it’s not as if we didn’t have a clue of what was going to happen.

As for its characters, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) is the most charismatic. Obi-Wan (Ewan McGreggor) and Queen Amidala’s (Natalie Portman) youthful energy are refreshing, but I didn’t really connect with them as much. Jake Lloyd’s portrayal of young Anakin was much better, but is offset by a rather stale CGI Yoda. Plus there’s Jar Jar, who plainly tips the scale towards the unfavorable.

I have only recently seen this despite being released 12 years ago. The echoes of online fans had me doubting it from the start, but I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Coming in with low expectations, I was still quite disappointed. All things said and done, it’s unequivocally worse than any Star Wars film made before it.

GRADE: C

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