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Vulcan Stev Family Movie Review: Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace

Liam Neeson …  Qui-Gon Jinn
Ewan McGregor …  Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman …  Queen Padmé Amidala
Jake Lloyd …  Anakin Skywalker
Pernilla August …  Shmi Skywalker
Frank Oz …  Yoda (voice)
Ian McDiarmid …  Senator Palpatine
Oliver Ford Davies …  Gov. Sio Bibble
Ray Park …  Darth Maul
Hugh Quarshie …  Capt. Panaka
Ahmed Best …  Jar Jar Binks (voice)
Anthony Daniels …  C-3PO
Kenny Baker …  R2-D2
Terence Stamp …  Supreme Chancellor Valorum
Brian Blessed …  Boss Nass

Synopsis from IMDb:
The evil Trade Federation, led by Nute Gunray (Carson) is planning to take over the peaceful world of Naboo. Jedi’s Qui-Gon Jinn (Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) are sent to confront the leaders. But not everything goes to plan. The two Jedis escape, and along with their new Gungan friend, Jar Jar Binks (Best) head to Naboo to warn Queen Amidala (Portman), but droids have already started to capture Naboo and the Queen is not safe there. Eventually they land on Tatooine, where they become friends with a young boy known as Anakin Skywalker (Lloyd). Qui-Gon is curious about the boy, and sees a bright future for him. The group must now find a way of getting to Coruscant and to finally solve this trade dispute, but there is someone else hiding in the shadows. Are the sith really extinct? Is the Queen who she really says she is? and what’s so special about this young boy? All these questions and more in the first chapter of the epic Star Wars.

Reviewers VS, PIT #1, PIT #2, PIT #3

VS: 1.75 pointed ears
I don’t understand the hate bestowed on this movie by supposed fans.  Yes, Jar-Jar was annoying.  Yes, the acting was wooden and yes, George Lucas proves once again that his skills lie in story telling and not in directing.  Watching this movie again I was struck by the fact that the CGI characters are more “animated” than the actors.  Check out Sebulba’s introductory scene and the cut-scenes of Qui Gon’s party  during the pod race.  Sebulba is all over the place and his humanoid dining companions just sit there.  Jar Jar is moving all over the booth while the humans sit there motionless.

The more obvious points of Lucas the story-teller are when we’re told that Obi Wan is headstrong instead of shown.  Being told about the suffering on Nayboo instead of being shown the suffering.  The movie has lots of “Wow!” moments.  However “wow” moments do not make a movie continuable watchable.  That said, this is still a fun family friendly flick and is not deserving of the “hate”.

PIT #1 – 1.75 pointed ears
Die Jar Jar die (this review was tweeted in and that is the sum total of the review)

PIT #2 – 2 pointed ears
This was a very nice start to the saga.  I like looking for the subtle hints and foreshadowing that Lucas interspersed throughout.  I’ve been playing Lego Star Wars with PIT #3.  Some of the scenes make a heck of lot more sense now that I’ve refreshed my memory on the movie.  Pod racing is harder than it looks.

PIT #3 – 1.9 pointed ears
This is my introduction to the Star Wars.  I don’t remember watching the other Star Wars movies until after I’d seen this one.  Qui Gonn Jinn is my all time favorite Jedi.  It was a shame that he had to die.

Overall 7.4 out of 8
As far as prequels go I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse.  This movie could’ve been a heckuva lot better with some editing or if it had been cut to about 45 minutes and combined with II.  Thank you Lord that Abrams didn’t follow Lucas’ formula with the Trek reboot.

If you’re the type that buys DVDs you probably already own this one.  If this is your first exposure to Star Wars, don’t judge the rest of the saga by this opening round.

June 6, 2009 - Posted by | Movie Reviews | , , , , , , ,


  1. I disagree. The casting is atrocious. The directing is inexcusable. That lack of animation is exhibit A for bad direction. CHANCE CUBE?! Horrible dialogue compared to the OT. I know it’s a space fantasy with impossible laser swords and all, but I just couldn’t accept the moppet Anakin as instant fighter ace.

    All of these things take me right out of the movie, but I can go on.

    There is zero chemistry with anyone in the cast except for occasional moments between McGregor and Neeson. The shiny CGI effects completely fail to recapture or express the lived in feel of the OT. I know, were supposed to get a sense that the galaxy fell on hard times. Well, it didn’t work for me. Why is Jar Jar the only member of his species that has the accent? What the heck is Boss Nass? He clearly isn’t a gungan. The pseudo medieval energy ball weaponry of the gungans just seemed silly to me. Pretty, but silly. Like much of the rest of the movie.

    I’m not done.

    Why would a robot army ever need to speak? With all the communication technology at their disposal, why would they need to speak? This drives me nuts. And, they look like a strong wind could end the war. He (Lucas) killed Darth Maul. He dubbed over Ray Park’s voice. Cause, you know, a quiet English voice coming out of that face wouldn’t have provided the same sort of… ungh.

    Two-headed announcer guy feels like a character out of the old Droids animated cartoon. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I liked that cartoon. I’ve incorporated elements of it in my Star Wars RPGs, but in this case… I didn’t like it. Didn’t like Watto either.

    What I DID like.

    Gungans as a species are kind of cool. Jar Jar is just childishly insipid in a way that even the Ewoks never were. But, Gungans are neat. I would play one in an RPG.

    The Pod Race & Sebulba.

    Uhmmm… The wife loves the final duel, but I’m merely lukewarm to it. Excellent score.

    It is not only my least favorite Star Wars movie (seriously. I would rather watch the TV Ewok movies. Remember the one with Wilfred Brimley?) But the only one I actively HATE. I have watched it twice now once in the theater, and once because my cousin insisted I give it another watch. This second time on DVD I spent so much time with my jaw clenched that I had a head ache by the end.

    Nothing apotheosizes my disappointment in the prequels like episode I. Nothing. Well… Except Obi-wan and Anakin’s FINAL scene.

    I’m putting a blaster to this rant before I really get going.

    Comment by drcheckmate | June 6, 2009

  2. @Dr C. – Don’t hold back. Please tell us how you feel. 😎

    You make good points. In fact most of your rants I agree with. My point is that those things in and of themselves do not change the fact that this is a fun family friendly film.

    Does the film have problems? Yes. Does this make the film as horrible as of Superman IV? Bangkok Dangerous? Dune? Anything by Roger Corman? No.

    Comment by Vulcan Stev | June 6, 2009

  3. Rationally? I know you are right. But, this movie eviscerated my hope. It completely and utterly failed to live up to any expectation I had for it. And honestly, was Dune really that bad, or did it just not live up to expectations of fans of the book?

    I would rather watch Corman than Episode I. ANY Corman.

    Comment by drcheckmate | June 6, 2009

  4. Dune failed miserably in the fact that so-o-o-o much of the story was cut out that if you hadn’t read the novel you had NO idea of what was happening on screen.

    If you had read the novel you had no idea of how they got to that point of the story.

    Dune should’ve been a 6-hour mini-series.

    Comment by Vulcan Stev | June 6, 2009

  5. I had no problem following the story and I STILL haven’t read the book.

    BUT, I agree that a miniseries works (and worked) much better for the material.

    Comment by Dr. Checkmate | June 7, 2009

  6. You, my friend, are not most people and I do mean that in a postive light. When I saw it in the theater, I watched it with my HS gaming/SF/geek club The Intergalactic Hitch-hikers. Half of us had read the novel, the other half had not.

    The half that read the novel were in a constant state of “Whutthe… how did we get here?”

    The half that hadn’t read the novel were in a constant state of “Whutthe… What is that? Who is that? Why is that?”

    The general public avoided the movie altogether.

    Comment by Vulcan Stev | June 7, 2009

  7. Hang on.

    I actually like a lot of Roger Corman stuff.

    Like, Death Race 2000 (not family-friendly, though), his The Raven with Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Peter Lorre and (I think) Bela Lugosi. Seriously.

    Comment by Hank Harwell | June 7, 2009

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