Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
|Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace|
It'd be more appropriate if Jar Jar took up the entire poster here.
|Directed by||George Lucas|
|Produced by||Rick "The Dense Saga Begins" McCallum|
|Written by||George Lucas, who really could've used a script doctor|
That Girl from Black Swan with the Weird Laugh
A Kid Whose Acting Career Never Existed Before or After the Release of This Movie
Definitely Not Darth Sidious, If That's What You're Thinking!
|Music by||John Williams|
|Cinematography||Jar Jar Binks|
|Edited by||Ben Burtt, who boldly jerked viewers around, but may've gone too far in a few places|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|May 19, 1999|
|A bit too long|
|Budget||At least a dollar|
|Box office||$1.027 billion big boomas|
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a 1999 American epic space opera film directed by George Lucas. It is the fourth film to be released in the Star Wars saga, the first of the prequels, the first in terms of the series' internal chronology, and the last in terms of everyone trying to convince themselves that the series hadn't lost it.
Set in 32 BBY, thirty-two years before the seminal original Star Wars, it follows Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi as they go on a monastic camping trip as a much-needed vacation, after they started to relapse and thought getting out of the big city would do them some good. They first go to Naboo to go fishing in the center of the planet, where they catch some big Neimoidian mudfish with insect robot-lures. They then go to the desert of Tatooine, where they pick up a young Anakin Skywalker — back when he was a race car-driving slave and flying ace orphan, still full of childish hope and wonder, blissfully unaware it would all be downhill (and into lava) from here — and go see Anakin win an auto race, as one big makeshift family with no father. The Jedi almost pick up a deranged hitchhiker with a glowstick before driving back to the city of Coruscant; however, the Galactic Senate are out of army surplus supplies for camping. Then it becomes a coming-of-age movie for Obi-Wan as Qui-Gon joins his nonexistent wife in... whatever it is the Jedi believe happens when you die (they never really say), when he's stabbed by that hitchhiker from before at the Naboo palace rave, while a laser light show goes on in a nearby field.
Lucas claimed he wrote The Phantom Menace with the intention of completing the Star Wars story, though others claim he had deliberate intentions to disappoint fans of the original trilogy with a slow, logicless plot about trade disputes and taxation, that even political science majors and economists can't explain the reasoning behind. The film truly pushed the boundaries of special effects; several CGI creatures, each more atypical and repulsive than the last, appear throughout the film to help or hinder our heroes, including the much-loved Jar Jar Binks, who was the first fully mo-capped character ever. This one is less "Brooding army men and rocket ships" like the following two entries and more "George giddily playing with his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures", as the fights at least have decent pacing and some traditional effects (when they don't involve wave after wave of CGI battle droids that look like they're attacking from another dimension), unlike the increasingly long and awkward-looking CGI greenscreen ballets of II and III's climactic lightsaber duels.
The Phantom Menace received mixed reviews from fans and critics, some comparing it to the likes of Batman and Robin and Showgirls, and others thinking it was only slightly worse than Return of the Jedi. Despite its massive unpopularity with older fans, a common refrain from younger fans is that "The prequels are superior, they had way more pew pew pew kaboom! You're just jelly that we had double-bladed lightsabers and the awesome Episode I Racer game, and you didn't." These Millennials are eagerly awaiting their own Force Awakens to rehash the events of Episode I and present the magic of ornate dresses and podracing to their own children.
After being taxed in response for their outrageous trade-ins, the Trade Federation retaliates against the Galactic Republic and sets up a blockade of battleships around the planet Naboo. The people of Naboo are starving offscreen, maybe: without intergalactic trade to sustain them, they would be forced to farm and fish their mostly-coastal paradise planet, under the iron flipper of the amphibian
Asian Neimoidian businessmen and their army of consumer electronic commandos. Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum, in response, has sent Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi to negotiate with the Federation leadership in order to make them realize that they are — and always have been — low-quality knockoffs, much like this movie. Ultimately, this realization would have the Trade Federation lift the blockade and, even better, provide fair trade-ins. Darth Sidious, a Sith Lord and secret adviser to the Federation, orders Nute Gunray to kill the two Jedi and invade Naboo with a massive army of cheaply-produced CGI battle droids which are like the AK-47 of robots, reverse-engineered from a grasshopper crossed with a terminator and a toaster. The Jedi are ambushed with poisonous gas after being served tea (which could've just as easily been poisoned, but apparently the Separatists have no common sense) by a protocol droid, but they escape and make faster work of the walls and floor than a Xenomorph via their lightsabers and Force Speed, a super-useful ability that they will never use again for anything ever. Jedi aren't very good space cops, as they don't bother contacting their superiors for an update on the situation, gather evidence of a crime being committed, or request any backup, preferring to sneak onto a troop carrier headed to Naboo's surface.
For some reason the army lands in the middle of wilderness on the other side of Naboo; the hourly parking fees for tanks are simply outrageous in the capital city of Theed. Qui-Gon saves Jar Jar Binks, the most annoying cartoon character in the history of film; unfortunately, Jinn doesn't kill Binks and he tags along with the Jedi for the rest of the movie as their peasant pet. Over the next hour, viewers are treated to various scenes of Jar Jar falling over, bumping into things, making funny faces, stepping in feces, getting farted on, and running around with zany kazoo music playing in the background; it's a good thing they don't let him drive like the nine-year-old. Instead of demanding common pay for their services of heroism, the Jedi simply ask Jar Jar to take them to his leader in typical first-contact fashion. They dive down a lake to the underwater Gungan city Otoh Gunga, an attempt by Grand Admiral Lucas to blow James Cameron's The Abyss and Titanic out of the water. The Gungan society is still in its isolationist Sakoku period, and the Jedi are unable to convince Boss Nass to help them, but are instead given transportation to Theed via a funnily-named bongo submarine. They travel through the planet's hollow core — as hollow as this film's message — to the capital, avoiding a series of increasingly bigger fish and withstanding Jar Jar's annoying screams of terror. Their mini-sub reaches the surface and pops out of the river in the middle of broad daylight, as hover tanks glide down the occupied streets; the Jedi are after all space samurai and not space ninjas.
In Theed, we see Queen Amidala, the pale, monotonous democratic dictator of Naboo, her palace adorned with beauty and wealth while her own people starve, kind enough not to revolt and go French Revolution on her. The Queen, her many body doubles — Sabé, Eirtaé, Rabé, Yané, and Fé — and her royal bodyguard Captain Panaka are being transferred to a prison facility, after she refuses to sign a legally-invalid treaty handing over her planet in exchange for the Trade Federation's beads. The Jedi descend from a balcony and rescue the Queen from the skeletal toaster-headed droids; however, Amidala refuses to leave until they grab her collection of expensive marble statues and some furniture. Escaping the palace aboard the Queen's precious metal-plated starship, they scrape past Naboo's planetary orbital blockade, which is as easy as a chrome-colored quarterback running into no man's land alone; the suspension of disbelief is already out the airlock at this point. Unfortunately the ship is damaged in the escape, despite the best efforts to hold it afloat by R2-D2, the sole repair droid to survive the blockade's barrage.
Unable to sustain the starship's hyperdrive, the group are forced to change course to the desert planet Tatooine, which is covered in rough, coarse, irritating sand that gets everywhere, like poetry. After they land, Jar Jar steps in Bantha poodoo in the middle of the street, and they visit Mos Espa to buy spare parts, where they find a junk shop run by an obese flying mosquito named Watto, a member of the shylock species. The mosquito also owns a nine-year-old slave named Anakin Skywalker, a grease monkey, genius, and podracer who has never won a race let alone finished one, like James Dean but half the size. Evading a sandstorm, which especially irritates Anakin, the boy leads the group to his home where he lives with his mother Shmidt, also a slave. There, he shows the four his work-in-process: C-3PO, human-cyborb relations, pieced together from parts of campy robot butlers found in a nearby sarlacc landfill. To poor Charlie—err, I mean Ani, this is his golden ticket out of having to clean the dishes with sand for his mom.
Qui-Gon senses that the Force is strong inside Anakin, and Obi-Wan confirms through a blood analysis that the brat has more midi-chlorians in his blood than urine in a public pool. This, coupled with the fact that Anakin has no father and his mother is a virgin, convinces Qui-Gon that Skywalker is the prophesied "Chosen One" destined to bring balance to the Force, and Jinn desires to abduct the boy into the Jedi Order, despite Obi-Wan's initial protests. Fearing the slavemaster's retaliation, Qui-Gon strikes a deal with Watto: Anakin's freedom and a new hyperdrive, for the fortune Anakin probably won't win in the Mos Espa Podrace. Dozens of generic alien baddies are sacrificed in high-speed flames before the boy's very eyes in the name of blood sport, as Anakin's pack of pint-sized street rat friends cheer on the carnage from the crowd.
In the end, Anakin emerges victorious after Qui-Gon most likely uses the Force to cheat him into victory offscreen. Unable to free Shmidt as well, Anakin somberly says goodbye to his mom and takes off to Coruscant, land of the free, promising to return and free her in the future when he has enough money to buy a ship (unfortunately, Anakin really likes ships and later spends all the money from the collection plate on his Azure Angel ride). As they reach Amidala's starship, a Satanic-looking assailant named Darth Maul attacks Qui-Gon. However, Jinn avoids the clutches of his foe, all without even having to throw sand in his face, and they escape Tatooine in style, as Maul presumably goes back to whatever rave he got his big glowstick from. Qui-Gon sprains his leg while Force-jumping onto the ship and inadvertently introduces Anakin to Obi-Wan; Obi-Wan puts on a fake smile and shakes hands with Anakin, but initially thinks the boy is "another pathetic lifeform" like Jar Jar.
Amidala is taken to Coruscant, the capital city–planet of the Republic, where she pleads her case to the glacially slow Senate. Naboo's Senator Sheev Palpatine persuades Amidala to make a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum, suggesting that galactic politics are bogged down by bureaucratic red tape and special interest lobbyists, and the only way to get the law to respond to a simple home planet invasion is to help elect Sheev Chancellor so he can drain the swamp. Meanwhile, Qui-Gon presents Anakin to the Jedi Council, who deem the boy vulnerable to the dark side of the Force and wisely object to training him. Qui-Gon rejects the Council's decision and promises to teach Anakin to become a Jedi himself. He also informs the Council of the assailant who attacked him, believed to be a Sith Lord; unfortunately, all of the other Jedi were as busy not doing things as the Senate, and no one had time to investigate the first report of their mortal enemies, the Sith, returning for the first time in a millennium, like finding a dinosaur. Thus they order Qui-Gon to return to Naboo with Obi-Wan and go on a Sith safari, seeing if they can bring back the specimen for the Republic's alien zoo; Maul doesn't talk much, so they assume he's just a Force-sensitive red Kowakian monkey-lizard who's been given a lightsaber.
The Queen leaves empty-handed, because someone forgot to do their job and gather evidence of the invasion. Amidala decides to take the law into her own hands, though she's still stingy and refuses to buy a droid army of her own; it's better that peasants and Gungans die as they are less expensive. She returns to Naboo with her party, which for some odd reason includes Skywalker (because who needs school or a legal guardian?), and for some odd reason the orbital blockade has mostly dispersed having better things to do presumably, like the Jedi, leaving a single command ship with all their eggs gathered into it. On Naboo, they attempt to persuade the Gungans into an alliance against the Trade Federation, but Boss Nass is having none of it. In a last ditch-effort, Padmé, one of the Queen's handmaidens, reveals herself as the true Queen Amidala but everyone finds it hard to believe. She shows them her birth certificate and various other forms of ID before they accept her revelation as truth, as Naboo's chief export appears to be politicians who lie all the time. Boss Nass decides to stop being an ass and the Gungans ensemble an army to square off against an invasion force of battle droids, throwing shiny marble-like plasma boomas at them from catapults, with spears and energy shields rather than blasters, as this is a family-friendly movie about war after all.
The Queen's group head to Theed Palace to hunt down Nute Gunray as he hides in the throne room, and Padmé and her guard succeed in capturing him as they repel down. Anakin finds a child-sized helmet inside a starfigher with the keys left in it, and accidentally activates the ship and flies into space, which he finds to be quite similar to podracing. Using the good trick of spinning, he accidentally blows up the Federation command ship which inadvertently kills hundreds of Neimodians and disables the battle droid army, allowing Bombad General Jar Jar to fumble his way to victory on the field. At this point the tapestry of narrative has unraveled into four separate threads of lasers and explosions, with the main attraction being the final fight between the two Jedi and Darth Maul in the bowels of the palace's reactor core. Obi-Wan proves himself incapable of keeping up with the action when Qui-Gon and Maul enter some laser-shield hallway, preventing him from helping his master tag-team the Sith; it's too bad he used up too many Force points in the fight already to use Force Speed. Maul fatally stabs Qui-Gon with his double-sided Sith baton before Obi-Wan can reach the two; Kenobi, pissed off to new degrees, clashes with Maul and defeats him with the ol' bisection, causing the Sith Lord to plummet down a shaft. Somehow, Maul survives getting cut in half and falling several stories, returning in later installments with robotic spider-legs. Before Qui-Gon croaks, Obi-Wan promises him he's gonna bust ass, ace his Jedi Knight entrance exams, and train Anakin.
For being the first Jedi to bisect a Sith in 1,000 years, Master Yoda promotes Obi-Wan to the rank of Jedi Knight and reluctantly accepts Anakin as his apprentice, but warns Obi-Wan to be careful with the boy, as the Jedi Church doesn't need another abuse scandal. Qui-Gon's body is cremated at a funeral where all the Jedi get high from the fumes, and Obi-Wan tells Anakin he will train him and he doesn't have to go to an orphanage planet. Yoda and Master Mace Windu agree that the Sith are to blame for this tragedy, not their department's gross incompetence or the Senate's; being that there are only two Sith at any given time (a Master and an apprentice), they wonder which one still remains. The camera then pans over to the newly-minted Chancellor Palpatine, who looks creepily at Anakin like he's a Paige in the Galactic Senate, and acts like he isn't going to turn into an evil Emperor in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. On Naboo, a peace treaty is signed between the Gungans and Theed's leaders, opening up trade and allowing for cultural diffusion, while the Neimoidians have been sent to white-collar jail for nearly starting a war, and everyone celebrates with a parade more vibrant than the Mardi Gras.
Then, the credits roll. Of course, few viewers make it to this point, as most of the audience has either left the theater or fallen asleep at this point, being haunted by nightmares of Star Wars dying in prequelbirth and wishing things like politics, adventure, magic, and invisible armies added in post-production could be as simple as it is for Sinbad the Sailor or Jason and the Argonauts.
Cast and characters
- Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn: A Jedi Master and Obi-Wan's master, Father Jinn was formerly the boy's sponsor from when he recently quit heroin and joined the Church. Something happens to him at the end of the movie.
- Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi: Qui-Gon's apprentice who kills Darth Maul. If you look closely, you'll notice that it isn't Alec Guinness.
- That Girl from Black Swan with the Weird Laugh as Padmé Amidala: The pale makeup-wearing Queen of Naboo who gets captured, gives a speech, and fires a grappling hook gun in acts 1, 2, and 3 respectively.
- A Kid Whose Acting Career Never Existed Before or After the Release of This Movie as Anakin Skywalker: Portrayed by an unknown homunculus, it was hard for many fans to believe this kid becomes Darth Vader in Episode III.
- Definitely Not Darth Sidious, If That's What You're Thinking! as Senator Sheev Palpatine: This guy pulls all the strings. He's the biggest prick in the galaxy, the Galactic Republic just doesn't know it yet.
- Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks: An annoying orange amphibian whose voice resembles Elmo on some sort of mind-altering substance. He tries so hard to be a funny and lovable iconic bumbling idiot, it's amazing he didn't have a laugh track to go along with his Full House-esque catchphrase ("How wude!").
- Ray Park as Darth Maul: A Sith Lord who's cool as ice, despite only having three lines, and has a gnarly dual-ended lightsaber. Lucas chose Ray Park to play Maul due to his strong resemblance to the Devil himself, because he felt that Star Wars lacked the "holy vs. hell" element that fans demanded. "By having Jesus Christ star as Qui-Gon Jinn, Satan was an obvious choice for the role of Darth Maul," said Lucas.
- Antwan Danyells as C-3PO: Anakin's prissy protocol droid that he
builtreassembled himself. Yes, a nine-year-old reassembled a fully-functioning, multitasking android. Smart writing, George.
- A Midget as R2-D2: An astromech droid that appears in every Star Wars film. He's awesome.
- Pernilla September as Shmidt Skywalker: She doesn't get freed in this movie. When you think about it, it kinda sucks. Why? Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. That's why.
- Frank Oz as Yoda: Puppet Yoda looked deranged in this movie, I'm glad they made him CGI in the 2012 re-release.
Themes and symbolism
The Phantom Menace, despite appearing simplistic at first glance, is full of rich symbolism that makes it seem like a real auteur film. The scenes of occupied Naboo mirror the occupation of France, Spain, and Italy by fascists during WWII, with filming being done in Britain, Spain, and Italy, Theed being inspired by France, and with a blockade instead of an air blitz. Although, Queen Amidala dresses like she's a geisha, and the Trade Federation is forcing them to open trade, or charging them to use their hyperspace toll road or something, so maybe Naboo is Japan and the Federation represents the black ships of Commodore Perry and American venture capitalism opening them to trade? Or perhaps the Federation represents the Mongolian invasion of Japan, with their technologically-superior gunpowder being represented as battle droids? That, or maybe the Trade Federation is just a clumsy ripoff of the Spacing Guild from Dune, except that in Star Wars that doesn't make sense because space travel isn't monopolized by a guild of space-folding drug-addicted wizards; the Federation's only monopoly is on droid armies. We never actually see them "trade" anything; this really sounds like a mafia shakedown on a local business that the space cops ignored, except what does Naboo trade?
The characters of Nute Gunray, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul are meant to represent the three prongs of our politics (right-wing capitalists, leftist stoner hippies, and disaffected juvenile delinquents). There is also Queen Amidala, who represents the emancipation of women of the 20th century and their desire to become Barbie dolls, replete with boring politics and pretty clothes. Via the character Jar Jar, the film could be seen as a message of peace and vis-à-vis foreign tolerance, and the hook-nosed, greedy, slave-owning character of Watto could be seen as, uh... more tolerance? Furthermore, during the podrace scene, Anakin first encounters the turban-wearing Tusken Raiders, whose deep religious views would conflict with his own. This encounter is expanded upon in the next episode, where the Sand People kidnap and murder Anakin's mom Shmidt in order to prove their religious teachings, though not a realistic scenario by any means.
Star Wars philosopher Abel G. Peña argues that The Phantom Menace is a philosophical treatise on the psyche of man. It focuses on Anakin, a complex character who ponders self-vs.-society in a troubled inner battle of his own creation. As a child, his complex questions of "right" and "wrong" are redefined completely, and in this we get our more modern treatise on philosophy, Qui-gonus Demonstratum. Anakin's future master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, argued strongly against his Padawn's views, saying "The will of the people is not manifest in the greed of one's own design"; to-wit, Anakin later killed Obi-Wan after becoming Darth Vader. The film's title, The Phantom Menace, refers to how there is always "something" bothering or menacing people, but they oftentimes ignore it or decide it doesn't exist, thereby being a phantom of their collective imaginations (so far as they have any).
Believe it or not, The Phantom Menace was not the first time George Lucas pulled a Jedi mind trick on his fans. In retrospect, Return of the Jedi, made two decades prior, could be seen as the beginning of Star Wars's decline; "I thought it would really enhance the climactic feel of the movie by introducing silly new creatures that kids love," Lucas said in an interview, chuckling, "So that's when I came up with the Ewoks. Picture the Teletubbies, except instead of four, there's a whole army of them, and every one of them has fur that they never shave or brush." Lucas thought it would be hilarious to introduce these oversized teddy bear-gerbils and watch the fans' reactions, as he clearly thought they would love the Ewoks. Unfortunately, many fans thought the Ewoks were possibly the most preposterous creatures ever put on screen (that is, until the Gungans came along), especially after they defeated the Empire using nothing more than sticks and stones, and sang "Yub Nub", the most irritating song ever written, at the end of the movie; devastated fans wanted nothing more than to watch the forests of Endor burn to the ground. However, this did not deter George; "Well," Lucas elaborated, "Enhancing the end of the Star Wars story clearly just wasn't good enough for me. I want to make the beginning the best it can possibly be."
Lucas conceived The Phantom Menace after tearing up and clapping at recent blockbuster movies like Independence Day, Terminator 2, and Jurassic Park, which caused him to realize that special effects had advanced so far that he could vomit CGI all over the screen at the expense of a story and millions of dollars. George held a raffle ticket contest among his director friends to see if anyone wanted the job; the three winners, Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, and Ron Howard, all ultimately declined, believing that only Father George knew what's best for his work. Lucas was a bit like an old droid left to rust in scrap piles; he had not directed anything since the original Star Wars in 1977, and during the interim produced flops like Howard the Duck and Radioland Murders, a dark omen that his affinity with the filmmaking Force had faded. Lucas attempted to hide this weakness using the aforementioned millions of dollars of state-of-the-art CGI technology, sort of like when a superhero loses their powers and gets a bunch of guns or a robot suit to compensate for their lost manhood.
Lucas thought it would be immensely difficult to pull off this inspired conceit, but to his shock, 20th Century Fox provided him with an unlimited-budget contract the moment he set foot in their glittering underwater offices, believing he could do no wrong (being that he created Star Wars and all, which, up to that point, had been at least marginally awesome). His newly-selected producer, Rick "It's So Dense, Every Single Image Has So Many Things Going On" McCallum, crowned Lucas with full creative control and was far more supportive compared to previous producer Gary Kurtz, who attempted to usurp King George's Ewok-carved throne during Return of the Jedi but failed. Lucas's first and foremost idea for the film was Jar Jar Binks, a comic relief creature even more lovable than the Ewoks. Allegedly, Lucas accidentally smeared scented markers on the storyboards, and when the artists tried to clean it up he said "No, keep it. Jar Jar is the key to all this, if we get Jar Jar working." When the artists asked "Who's Jar Jar?", Lucas said, "Jar Jar's a funnier character than we've ever had before, yes he's a character now, now get on animating him you worthless cogs." Lucas originally wanted to make Jar Jar the main character and only introduce Anakin in the last twenty minutes of the film, but McCallum, in a rare moment of disagreement with The Maker, talked him out of this. George did, however, make sure that at least half of the movie's playtime would be devoted solely to scenes of Jar Jar falling down, blowing things up, and performing other wacky antics sure to please the kiddies, but disappointingly, there was no scene of Jar Jar turning a key on the planet All This.
Lucas claimed that long ago he had written the prequels in tandem with the originals as part of a well-rounded Star Wars story, allegedly an allegory of Vietnam and WWII only fought by celibate Buddhist Catholic monks with laser swords and spaceships. However, other fans weren't so sure of this, claiming George just winged it as he went along and wrote The Phantom Menace's script the night before filming began, during which he got swept up by the magic of reading the first Harry Potter novel, while the C-SPAN in the background slowly melted into a poetically dense blur of geopolitical issues like trade embargoes, child slavery, illegal immigration, third world wars, and for some reason the words "They fight" repeated. After the script was completed, Lucas threw together a team of actors, many of whom were famous for starring in better movies. The actors found him to be very uncommunicative towards them, with his only directions generally being "faster", "more intense", "more dense", or "more like poetry, it rhymes"; at one point, when Lucas temporarily lost his voice, the crew provided the actors with a board with just those four sayings written on it. These unorthdox directing methods resulted in all of the film's characters giving stilted, monotone, "elegant" performances, as though they were in a modern-day Flash Gordon movie combined with a Shakespearean stage play.
“I'm not afraid!”
“You will be. You will be...”
The Phantom Menace received mixed reviews from critics. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 53%, with the critical consensus stating, "The movie's ability to show off eye candy special effects does not make it intelligent." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 51 out of 100, indicating "Wesa gonna die!"
Joe Everyman of IGN wrote: "The only redeeming factor in this film is the fact that Natalie Portman is kinda cute. But she's barely in it. Thankfully, that wacky Jar Jar is on screen a LOT, and he's pretty cute too... oh, that glistening Gungan's skin fills mesa with PASSION!" Marc Bernardin of Entertainment Weekly graded the film a "C–", calling it "haplessly plotted, horribly written, and juvenile. Did Lucas bludgeon these excellent actors in the head until they had forgotten how to act properly?" Khameir Sarin of Salon.com wrote "Wasting Samuel L. Jackson's awesomeness is a path to the dark side, and a crime punishable by getting a scathing review upside your head, motherfucker." In many countries, the film has been outright banned due to its tendency to cause vomiting amongst fans of the original trilogy; these countries are also expected to ban the next prequel, Attack of the Clones, which actually caused several angry fans to burst into flames after witnessing the movie's wooden "love" story, much to the amusement of Mr. Lucas.
Some critics were slightly more positive on the film, however. Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times awarded it 3.5 stars out of 4, calling it "an astonishing achievement in lucid filmmaking" and said "Lucas tells a narcotic story. The lack of exciting plotting, proper character development, coherence, and good dialogue of any kind, combined with the allure of video game cutscene settings like transparent underwater cities and vast hollow senatorial spheres, makes it easy to sleep through. I liked the credits!" Alan Smithee of the Los Angeles Times even went so far as commenting that Jar Jar Binks was "ironically the best character in the movie. At least he had some kind of clear motivation and a character arc"; this review was never published, as immediately after typing it, hundreds of fans broke into Smithee's house and tore him limb from limb, chanting "Jar Jar Binks is an abomination, Jar Jar Binks is an abomination."
Months after The Phantom Menace was released, Lucas was questioned over whether or not he'd considered remaking it to "actually be a good movie." He responded curtly: "Of course not! You basement-dwellers need to grow up. If you want to relive your childhood, go watch the originals and quit whining. This is my story, not yours. Remember, I make these movies for 12-year-olds, and I laugh at you people who take them seriously. And I'm also making these prequels so I can make enough money that I'll be able to drag Harrison Ford out of the retirement home for a fourth Indiana Jones movie."
In 2012, The Phantom Menace was converted to 3D and re-released to theaters. Lucasfilm utilized precisely $1 million dollars in changes, including more droids in the battle scenes, altered dialogue regarding midi-chlorians, remixed soundtracks with louder sound effects and Kanye West songs replacing John Williams's original score, puppet Yoda being converted to CGI, Jar Jar's eye color being changed, the CGI aliens' racist accents being digitally altered to sound like Englishmen, and the sharpening of a magnetic wand on Anakin's podracer during the podracing scene. Producer Rick McCallum handed out "Dense-O-Vision" 3D glasses at theaters for viewing of Episode I, giving viewers the chance to realize how every single image in the movie had so many things going on. Despite earning $102.7 million at the box office, however, this re-release knocked the film's Rotten Tomatoes score from 63% down a whopping ten points to 53%; it seems that critics who initially liked the movie had finally come to their senses after years of podracer binder-shock therapy.
After Disney bought the franchise, the 3D re-releases of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were postponed indefinitely. Disney claimed they were doing it to "look to the future" and "focus more on Episode VII", putting Jar Jar and Watto next to Song of the South in the Disney Vault.
- Jason and the Argonauts – Sword-fighting skeleton warriors seem a lot more intimidating and interesting than slow-moving rank-and-file insectoid CGI robots that look (and are) about as threatening as toaster ovens.
- Time in the Star Wars universe is reckoned using as a basis the exact moment in A New Hope when the stormtrooper entering the control room on the Death Star bangs his head on the door and yells. Using this system, events occurring before this moment are designated BBY (before bang/yell), and events after ABY.
- Interestingly enough, the two Jedi Knights actually did fight toasters in the original script, though Lucas changed it at the last minute.
- It would've been far more believable if instead of the Federation's entire navy not being able to shoot down one ship, the Jedi just used the Force to sink the Trade Federation ships using a comet like it was a giant iceberg, or controlled the particles from the Sun in the planet's magnetosphere and used the Force to act as a kamikaze typhoon of high-energy signal interference.
- Queen Amidala could've probably sold one of her dresses to pay for it or offered Watto some land, but she's stingy.
- It was a shot in the dark anyways; the Republic hasn't had a military for over a thousand years, so there's not much they can do if someone wants to invade a member world anyways. They're as powerless as the UN, and she should've just married a prince of a neighboring world for military support like most royals.
- This gives credence to old space sailor's tale of mysterious ship disappearances in the Space Bermuda Triangle that Naboo occupies.
- That's filled with maybe blast doors or radiation shields or something.
- Obi-Wan is unable to bring back Maul's corpse for dissection, though the Jedi Church officially oppose dissection by anatomists, to identify his unknown alien species — Zabrak, who are a matriarchal society ruled by the Force-sensitive Nightsisters, like the dark elves of Star Wars.