The Phantom Menace takes place before the original Star Wars and tells us the story of Anakin Skywalker, along with Obi-Wan Kenobi, two characters we've already come to know and love. The plot deals with what appears to be the start of the Empire taking over the galaxy, but for the most part, plot is almost unimportant in this movie. We already know how all most of these characters play out, and in some ways that's half the fun. Looking at the play between the Queen and Anakin, knowing that soon they will have two children, Luke and Leia. Hearing that with the Sith, there are always two Darth's, one master and one apprentice. Knowing what happens to these characters before they do makes viewing The Phantom Menace more enjoyable in my mind.
But the reason Lucas waiting so long to make these prequels was because he wanted technology to catch up to his vision. And it was pretty evident that special effects were the name of the game here. I don't recall one scene in the movie that didn't involve some kind of special effect. And for the most part they were successful. But things like the beginning of the movie where we're introduced to two characters speaking with Japanese accents whose mouths don't move with the dialogue makes me believe that Lucas may have gone over the edge with trying to make the movie kid friendly. I thought the first hour of the movie was more like Muppets in Space than Star Wars. There were too many muppet like characters, and not enough humans. But after Anakin enters the pod races, the movie definitely picked up steam. I thought the races and the fight scenes with Darth Maul were by far the best parts of the movie.
As far as acting goes, I don't know many people that go to see Shakepearean acting, so in that respect the actors I felt held up well under what is tremendous pressure to perform. I though Ewan MacGregor and Natalie Portman were the standouts of the cast, which is important since we'll be seeing both of them again in 2002.
The problem I had with the film, like I said before, was that it was a little childish. I went in thinking it would be more action packed. I just finished watching the original Star Wars and I thought that while that one was also geared towards children, it also had a lot of adult elements. The Phantom Menace had a lot of cartoony characters that made it look like you were watching Saturday morning cartoons instead of the most anticipated movie of all time. And with some of these cartoon characters (one in particular) I had a really hard time figuring out what the hell they were saying.
But overall, who really cares what I have to say. I think everyone has to go see The Phantom Menace regardless of whether you like these movies or not. It's the ultimate in event films, and years from now when you're explaining to your grandkids the history of film, you're going to have to say where you were when The Phantom Menace came out. So take your children, your friends, your enemies, your dog, and go see the movie event of our lifetime.
Star Wars: Episode I -
The Phantom Menace
Star Wars Trilogy
The Stars of Star Wars:
Interviews from the Cast