In 1983, George Lucas, ended Luke Skywalker’s journey on a high note in Return Of The Jedi, the third entry of The Original Trilogy. During production of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas wrote a truckload Of notes on crafting an origin story involving Darth Vader’s past, unfortunately, he called it quits, due to the fact that Special Effects at the time, would be extremely impossible to create complex environments. A decade later, Lucas’ close pal, Steven Spielberg, released Jurassic Park, It was a monster hit in the Summer Of 1993. As a result, this movie encouraged Lucas to come up with a Film Treatment (blueprint for a screenplay) about Anakin’s early years as a youth, prior to becoming Darth Vader. After a year of extensive research, Lucas finished the screenplay in 1994 alongside two additional screenplays as follow ups to The Prequel Trilogy.
After a five year gap of pre-production, filming, post-production, editing, etc. George re-released The Original Trilogy in 1997 while filming The Phantom Menace as a way to spread the word surrounding his proposed Prequel Trilogy. Critics & fans bought their tickets and they were appalled on the changes George alterned certain scenes from each movie, including the infamous controversial “Han Shot First.” Despite the controversy surrounding the alterations, George revealed to the general public, a teaser trailer for The Phantom Menace. Fans were very excited to see Anakin Skywalker’s journey as a Jedi and the big reason is fans want to see how he went to The Dark Side in the first place.
Like The Original Trilogy, The Marketing for the film spread across the globe, spawning dozens of toys, lightsabers, video games, books, etc. When I was a five or six, my parents bought me all the toys to prepare for the movie as a way to keep me patient. I’ll have to give them credit for keeping me distracted, by using my imagination to come up with stories by making the action figures by creating specific roles for them as a way of being your own storyteller.
The Phantom Menace finally came out in May 19, 1999. Fans were literally camping outside many theaters wearing costumes to represent their love for the franchise. Look it up on YouTube, every fan was camping out, while nesreporters conducted interviews on pre and post-reactions. The film was a massive box office success almost earning a billion dollars. Until a 2012 3-D re-release passed the billion dollar mark. Making this the first Star Wars related film to earn this much at the box office.
At the time of it’s release, movie goers loved the film, not making his up, Roger Ebert himself liked the film. It’s a shame that Gene Siskel died of brain cancer, because he and Roger wanted to see the movie and I’ll have to give them credit for creating the first ever “Trailer Reaction,” way before Social Media was a big deal. If he were alive, he would’ve argued with Roger on each pro & con. However, long time fans of The Original Trilogy disliked it for many reasons. We all know what they are.
Now that The Last Jedi is coming out this December, I want to go back on each film in chronological order.
The following article contains potential SPOILERS. Read at your own risk.
Mesmerizing & Butt Ugly Elements
Mesmerizing: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, (one of my favorite actresses) Ian McDiarmid, & Ray Park, all did a wonderful job on their respective performances. Bonus Points for Ray Park for doing his own stunts as Darth Maul.
Darth Maul, hands down, has got to be my favorite Sith Lord of all time. Disney If you’re reading this, would you be so kind if you produce a solo spin-off involving Maul as a John Wick type of film set in space?
Fun Fact: Benicio Del Toro, was originally gonna take the role as Darth Maul, but he turned it down because Maul didn’t have enough lines. Several years later, Del Toro signed on board to participate in The Last Jedi.
Familiar characters from The Original Trilogy, show up in prominent roles and how they first met.
Action Sequences including, Lighstaber Duels, are more faster and agile than the Original Trilogy. A Space Battle was good showing star fighters and droid fighters engaging in aerial combat during “The Battle In Naboo.”
John Williams’ score gets an Extra Point for a Musical Piece called, “Duel Of The Fates.” There’s a music video of him conducting the score while behind the scenes footage of The Phantom Menace shows the process of the making of the movie.
Cinematography has a couple of immersive Exterior Shots with each planet’s unique environment.
The Podrace Scene was pretty cool. According to Lucas, the race is inspired by The Chariot Race from Ben-Hur, along with Lucas’ lifelong childhood obsession with fast cars.
Warwick Davis, (Leprechaun, Ewoks in Return Of The Jedi, & one of the Hogwarts teachers) makes a Blink & You’ll Miss Cameo, as a Podrace Spectator, sitting next to Watto.
Perhaps The Best Line in the film is “Fear is the path to The Dark Side, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate, leads to suffering.” In case you forgot, this line was delivered by Yoda, foreshadowing Anakin’s fateful transformation as Darth Vader. Yoda at first, felt reluctant to have Anakin as a Jedi due to sensing his power, until The Jedi Council approves Obi-Wan to to teach him the ways of The Force.
Prosthetic Makeup was used to apply various creatures including Darth Maul, Nute Gunray, his sidekick who looks like him and many others.
In every Star Wars tradition, a Wilhelm Scream is heard. You can’t have a Wilhelm Scream if you’re gonna make a Star Wars related film, television series, or video game.
Butt Ugly: If you’re a long time Star Wars fan like me, you probably know what the most offender of them all. It’s Jar Jar Binks, the most annoying character in cinematic history, right next to other ones I despise such as, Willie from Temple Of Doom, Lex Luthor in Batman Vs. Superman & Patty from Ghostbusters 2016. Jar Jar’s role as a Comic Relief, was an epic disaster, all he does is scream, moan, complain, as if he’s Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element, and he doesn’t have any table manners! This is another level beyond “Capshaw’s Disease!” Like every fan of Star Wars, I’m gonna have to Triple Down this con for nearly ruining George Lucas’ image as a storyteller.
One of the gungans said that Jar Jar “Did some big doo-doo this time!” Seriously, was this written by a pre-schooler?
I swear to god! Jar Jar’s catchphrases are “Ex-Squeeze Me” and “How Rude!” Oh come on George! Have you been stealing from Wayne’s World and Full House? Show some originality, you were nominated for Best Original Screenplay at The Oscars, until Woody Allen robbed you for Big Pete’s sake! I’m surprised Mike Myers didn’t sue you for stealing Wayne Campbell’s catchphrase!
When Qui-Gon, Padmè, R2-D2, Jar Jar, are looking around to find a store to repair their starship, Jar Jar literally steps in poop. I’m not lying, he steps in a pile of poop. Again, George you were nominated for an Oscar!
C.G.I. looks very dated. I know it was The 90’s when C.G.I. became a groundbreaking phenomenon since Jurassic Park, but good lord, even the C.G.I. characters look ugly. This makes The Glob Monster from JumpStart, look pretty tame!
Oh Jeez! Anakin’s nickname is “Ani”, whenever I hear that name, I literally rolled my eyes in disgust. I prefer “Skyguy,” because Anakin’s padawan, Ahsoka Tano, is properly capable of making up nicknames. She should work as a part time stand-up comedian. Whenever I hear the word Ani, I can already think of Annie singing “The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow!”
The Force comes from a Jedi’s bloodstream, they’re called “Midichlorians.” At first, the concept of The Force was a mystery as some sort of unknown mystical power based on Monk culture. For the first time in Star Wars history, Lucas made The Jedi look like a bunch of Scientologists. Did Tom Cruise or John Travolta encourage George to come up with this idea? If so, I demand answers!
Jar Jar’s dialogue felt like it was written by a kid at any Day Care Center. Whenever Jar Jar meets Padmè for the first time, you can tell the look on Portman’s face, because she realizes that this film is gonna be a terrible case of colon clensing. As in Papa Klump farting in The Nutty Professor!
Speaking of farting, while setting up Anakin’s podrace, Jar Jar witnesses a camel like creature, farting next to him. Did that just happened in a Star Wars film? Good lord! George what the heck is wrong with you?
The majority of the picture, focuses on a Treaty between Naboo and The Trade Federation. When the main leads visit Corecaunt, it turns into an intergalactic version of CNN politics shoving way too much political themes down our throats. The Original Trilogy didn’t contain a bunch of political themes, they were used subtlety. As the original focuses on action, character development and a proper Three Act Structure on each entry that kept us movie goers/fans entertained.
Jake Lloyd’s performance as Anakin Skywalker, was stiff. Not decent from the beginning of his introduction. I didn’t feel his energy as an actor.
Boss Nass promotes Jar Jar as a general to his Gungan Army. Why is Jar Jar “qualified” as a general. He never displays any form of combat or gunplay. In Real Life, the military would never hire a person as a high ranking general without the intensive experience.
The film should’ve ended with a final shot of The Jedi, Naboo citizens, and the rest of the characters, mourning at Qui-Gon’s funeral. The Ending would’ve been appropriate, until the mood was ruined with a parade with Boss Nass’ last lines is “Peace!” I think that’s disrespectful for a funeral scene because it was poorly executed to end a film. What if the last episode of Breaking Bad shows us the last shot of the series until it cuts to a dance party resembling any animated DreamWorks film like Shrek or Madagascar?
The Final Verdict: C-
When I was a kid, I liked it, until I got older, I cringed throughout the entire picture, but I did like a couple of scenes such as Darth Maul, The Podracing Scene, And The Climatic Battle on Naboo. You think The Phantom Menace was an epic disappointment, the actors from the film expressed their real thoughts on participating in the project, including Natalie Portman, who really despises the Prequel Films, and she regrets on making them and she’ll never want to show this to her kids on how she became an international star. OUCH! Jake Lloyd retired from acting, due to being a constant victim of bullying from his peers. Poor Jake, he doesn’t deserve mockery.
What you just read is a result on what not to do when your making a prequel to a beloved franchise, and making a risky decision as an actor/actress, in order to establish him or herself as A-lister, that you’ll forever be adored or mocked. Please Hollywood, learn from your mistakes! We don’t want another franchise meeting the same fate as The Phantom Menace!