Movie Review: Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace

This content of this post originally appeared in the “JNL” section of the Janesville Gazette.

Following an interim of 16 years since the last “Star Wars” movie, creator George Lucas has returned with a vengeance and the 5 million ‘Phantom Menace.’ I loved it. After so much hype and exposure, I had felt that there was no way the movie could live up to expectations, but it definitely did.

A new “Star Wars” movie spurs many questions: “Wasn’t the trilogy over?” “Who are those characters?” Here’s the explanation: The first three “Star Wars” movies were actually episodes four through six of a six-episode series. “The Phantom Menace” is episode one, which takes place about 40 years earlier and shows how the
villain, Darth Vader, of episodes four through six grew up. Got it?

“The Phantom Menace” contains a few of the characters from the original movies, including Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. The plot deals with a ban on interplanetary trading in the galaxy and the growing up of Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd). The two main characters, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and his Jedi teacher Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), are ambassadors to negotiate the end of the blockade. Little did they know that the evil Federation is using the blockade to wage war. They stumble onto the plan and onto a clumsy, computer-animated, pop-culture-quoting alien named Jar Jar Binks. Jar Jar is the ultimate in comedy relief. He is always quoting many of the ’90s TV shows. Besides being a funny sidekick, he becomes a major character.

Many critics have said “The Phantom Menace” has too many computerized effects, a little over 200. Most movies have about 20. I saw no problem with this. The effects were great, and they seemed so real that you wouldn’t be able to tell that they were effects if you hadn’t known that whatever was happening was impossible.

George Lucas has lived up to the standards he set for himself with the first three “Star Wars” movies. The acting is great, the plot line pretty good, and the special effects unmatched.

I enjoyed the much-anticipated “Episode I” with a half-filled theater of cheering fans. So don’t be cautious about going out to see this movie. Even if you do have to wait, it will be completely worth it.


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