Quarantine Reviews With Jack: The Phantom Menace

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In honor of Star Wars Episode IX: Rise Of Skywalker coming to DVD early because of the coronavirus, I have decided to write a movie review on each of the Star Wars films, including Solo and Rogue One.

I will also review any and all movies on Disney Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Additionally, I will review shows, albums, and most anything else I can critique. That being said, let’s start the reviews with the official beginning of the Star Wars franchise, Episode One: The Phantom Menace.

Released in 1999, TPM was the beginning of the new trilogy known as the “Prequels.” This trilogy turned the story of Stars Wars from Luke Skywalker defeating the evil Empire to the tragedy of Darth Vader, which was the story George Lucas originally wanted to tell. TPM faced the difficult task of satisfying adult Star Wars fans and introducing a younger generation to the franchise. Upon its release, the movie was picked apart by the older generation quite intensely. I’m here to tell you that the movie isn’t as bad as you’ve been told to believe.

In many ways, this movie is meant to serve as an introduction to the younger generation. The intrepid Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi pick up Padme Amidala, Jar Jar Binks, and Anakin Skywalker along their journey. They travel from the peaceful and Earthly planet of Naboo to the familiar desert planet Tatooine to the city planet of Coruscant, and then eventually back to Naboo. The biggest introductions of this movie was Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in their youth.

Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, a character who would return in all six pre-Disney movies, was the casted character that sold the movie. McGregor was intended to play a younger Alec Guinness, the British actor who portrayed Kenobi in the original trilogy. Although he would eventually mentor Luke Skywalker, Kenobi is seen as a padawan under Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn in TPM, the unlikely duo that anchors this film. McGregor brings the essence and subtlety of Guinness and brought a youth that the character never had. Kenobi’s presence in this movie is especially felt in the beginning and end of the movie, but Qui-Gon leads this movie from start to finish.

Natalie Portman’s Padme Amidala centralizes the plot, as her home world is attacked by battle droids and a deadly Sith Lord, Darth Maul. Amidala is fourteen in the film, and Portman delivers a believable fourteen year old queen. Jake Lloyd’s Anakin Skywalker also is a very believable nine year old. Skywalker’s “Chosen One” plotline is introduced, and his journey to become Darth Vader begins on Coruscant. These two characters drive the plot through the middle stages of the movie, and youthful arrogance is ever apparent in both of them. What people most overlook is that youthful arrogance drove characters like Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa in the original trilogy. Overall, the acting and dialogue is exactly what you’d expect from a Star Wars movie: cheesy, convoluted at times, and occasionally strange. Compared to Episode IV: A New Hope, there is little difference in the acting level. Unfortunately, Jar Jar Binks isn’t on the same scale as C-3PO in terms of comic relief, and people didn’t know the full story of Darth Vader until after Episode Three: Revenge of the Sith came out. Consequently, people have judged TPM for years without fully understanding the importance of George Lucas’s creative choices.

TPM is a fun, action-packed movie, filled with plenty of lightsaber dueling, space battling, podracing, and the telling of a compelling story. It was intended to tell a completely different story from a completely different point of view, introduce characters and future plot lines, and that’s exactly what it did. George Lucas sprinkled in references to the original trilogy, as he presents Emperor Palpatine’s original rise to power, Yoda as the Grand Master of the Jedi Order, and Anakin Skywalker’s beginnings as a Jedi. In context of the entire saga of Darth Vader’s redemption, this movie sets up Episode Two: Attack of the Clones well, and serves as an excellent set-up movie for the rest of the trilogy. Overall, I’d give this movie an 8.5/10.