Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

30  JUL
Every generation has a legend. Every journey has a first step. Every saga has a beginning.

Directed by  George Lucas
Written by  George Lucas
Starring:  Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn)
Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
Natalie Portman (Queen Amidala/Padmé Naberrie)
Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker)
Ian McDiarmid (Senator Palpatine)
Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker)
Ray Park (Darth Maul)
Runtime: 136 minutes

Although I've never been a Star Wars fan, I'm pleased to say that I enjoyed the view of Star Wars: Episode I more than I enjoyed the re-screening of Star Wars two years ago. Probably if I had reviewed the original trilogy 20 years ago I would have been impressed by the special effects and fascinated by that mysterious universe in the same way I've been impressed by them in this pre-quel now!

If you are not familiar with the original Star Wars trilogy you probably don't know that the 1977 movie was the fourth chapter of a saga whose beginning hadn't been filmed yet. Hence, as the title suggests, Star Wars: Episode I is a pre-quel that basically deals with the beginning of the story that will lead to the training of Anakin Skywalker to the use of the Force and then to its 'corruption' to the Dark Side.

Although a knowledge of the Star Wars trilogy will help the audience to fully appreciate the movie, it is not actually needed in order to understand the plot. All the characters of the original movies are either much younger or are not even born when the events described take place while most of the non-human characters only performs in cameos (including Jabba the Hutt and the droids). While it shouldn't have been easy to play the character of Obi-Wan (once played by Alec Guinness), Ewan McGregor does a rather good job and makes up a nice duo with Liam Neeson.

The most obvious feature of a science fiction movie are the special effects and in this case there are plenty of them! Almost every scene seems to have some digital effect, be it the background, a machine or a character. However, while the backgrounds and most of the characters are perfect, a fairly important character named Jar Jar Binks is not perfect in its movements and interaction with other 'real' characters and, moreover, is very annoying (and incomprehensible!) with his silly way of speaking and its childish actions.

Incidentally, this is the most important criticism I can do to this movie. It seems that many parts have been thought for an audience of children, there are many silly and pointless details that are simply irritating for an adult. Similarly, the race scenes and the incredibly high amount of weird aliens that populate the planets may seem catching and funny for kids but in the end they are somewhat annoying. On the other hand, the presence of the young Anakin Skywalker didn't bother me at all because his character is rather mature and serious.

My main criticisms to Star Wars were the presence of too many plot holes and sometimes the dullness and lack of action. Fortunately Episode I doesn't seem to have so many flaws in the story while the silly events that obviously weaken the credibility of the plot are not so fundamental, after all. Moreover, the action scenes are well made and keep the movie lively. I cannot avoid to mention the great fight between the two Jedis and Darth Maul that with his double lightsaber matches and probably even beats Darth Vader as the most charming and powerful warrior belonging to the Dark Side.

If you are looking for a movie based on actors, on a solid and 'adult' story or if you simply cannot handle many funny scenes, then you'd better avoid this movie. Otherwise, even if you are not a fanatic of science fiction and even if you missed the original Star Wars, I think you can't miss it. It won't probably be the best movie you've ever seen (it's not even the best movie I've seen during this year) but it is an event that cannot be ignored.

Rating: 7.8  ****

Links:  Official Site



© Copyright Sergio Monesi, 1997-1999.
Last updated: 20 Aug 1999