RELEASED: May 19th 1999
DIRECTED BY: George Lucas
WRITTEN BY: George Lucas
PRODUCED BY: Rick McCallum
MUSIC BY: John Williams
STARRING: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGreggor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ahmed Best, Ian McDiarmid, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Pernilla August, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Oliver Ford Davies, Hugh Quarshie, Terrence Stamp, Silas Carson, Keira Knightley, Ray Park & Peter Serafinowicz
After a sixteen year absence, Star Wars finally returned to the cinemas with The Phantom Menace, the first film directed by George Lucas in 22 years. And unfortunately, that shows. However, before we discuss the problems with this film (and there are several), we should first look at some of the great aspects that Lucas did bring back with him from his hiatus.
The film follows Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, as they are assigned by the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic to resolve a trade dispute between the Trade Federation and Queen Amidala of the Naboo. In this adventure, they meet the clumsy Gungan Jar Jar Binks, the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO and Anakin Skywalker, a boy whom Qui-Gon believes to be ‘the chosen one’.
Just looking at that synopsis, you can see that one thing The Phantom Menace does right is build up Star Wars lore exponentially. Whereas in Episodes IV-VI, we got a vague idea of how the Galaxy worked, for the most part, the focus was just on Luke, Han and Leia’s adventures. Here, we get to see everything: the Galactic Senate, the Jedi Council, the Outer Rim areas where Republic influence doesn’t reach. We get to see leisure activities like pod-racing, and inter-species relationships between the people of the Naboo and the Gungans. Flora and fauna is also shown in abundance. And (for a nineties film, anyway) it’s all pretty beautiful.