a critiQal film review Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Plot: The planet of Naboo is under attack by the Trade Federation, which is being run secretly by the Sith - the dark Jedis. Obi Wan (McGregor) and Qui Gon (Neeson) show up to negotiate a treaty between the Trade Federation and the Naboo. When negotiations fail, they must help Queen Amidala (Portman) defeat the Trade Federation for the control of the planet Naboo - and pick up a little boy named Anakin Skywalker (Lloyd) on the way.

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  • ...not nearly as much fun as fans were hoping for.

This movie was probably the most eagerly anticipated movie of the decade. With the phenomenal success that the original Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) trilogy has become, everyone has been hungering for a new movie for years, but most thought it would never happen.

Now it has. Heck, now it’s on DVD! That’s more that can be said for the original trilogy, which isn’t expected on DVD until 2004. A lot of people were disappointed by this episode, but what could have met the enormous expectations?

The characters were well acted, for the most part. Lloyd’s Anakin was a bit of a disappointment, but the others, especially Natalie Portman in her dual role as Queen Amidala and Padme, make up for Jake’s cue-card reading.

This is also the first movie to have a completely computer-generated main character (Jar Jar Binks). A lot of die hard Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) fans hated him, but I thought he was okay. The language was a bit cheesy, but hey, you can’t have everything!

The plot was very involved, which is typical of a Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) movie. Each episode is an epic and stands alone well, but also contributes to the overall storyline. The plot is a main reason that Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) didn’t just turn into a Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)-type movie, where the special effects overtake and outdo the rest of the movie. With the involved plot, you have to pay attention to what’s going on, so you don’t lose yourself in the sights, so to speak.

The special effects are truly amazing. There are not many scenes (if any at all) where special effects are not majorly involved. They tend to be background stuff for the most part, letting the characters act, rather than just re-act. There’s every type of effect here, from a gigantic fish reminiscent of Jurassic Park (1993), to a battle involving an entire computer-generated robot army!

The only place where the effects seem to fall a bit short is, inexplicably enough, in space. Some of the scenes are obviously in front of blue screens. You would think after the other three movies, most of the scenes of which didn’t look faked (and that was years ago), that they would be able to “do” space better. Things that make ya go hmmm, I guess.

If this hadn’t been a Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) episode, and the first one at that, this would have gotten better fan reviews. Even with the Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) mantle hung around its’ shoulders, the movie turns out OK. This is more of an updated version of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), rather than continuing in the same vein as the originals.

Imagine the original Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) with stars who are famous while the film is in theaters, and a bit of tongue-in-cheek attitude about the whole sensation that Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) has become, and you’ll be close to this movie.

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