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December 8, 2017

Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace (1999) --- "Poor Kid Discovers He's Special After Winning A Race But His Mentor Meets An Unfortunate End."

Plot Summary
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is a young apprentice Jedi knight under the tutelage of Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson); Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who will later father Luke Skywalker and become known as Darth Vader, is just a 9-year-old boy. When the Trade Federation cuts off all routes to the planet Naboo, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are assigned to settle the matter. (1) 

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     I did not have the opportunity to see the original release of the first Star Wars trilogy on the account that I was not born yet but my father and his brothers did. And according to all those who did as well, it was said to be a cinematic experience unlike any other. Before Star Wars’ initial release in 1977, there never been a film that looked or sounded like this, despite being derived from past film and books. This is not very surprising because in 1977 special effects and CGI were rudimentary. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was one of the few films that made space travel convincing and plausible; alongside some of the Star Trek films before (1985). According to my father, Star Wars was something new and out of this world, audiences loved it, and it changed sci-fi films forever. Between 1978 and 1998 we had already seen countless sci-fi films with space battles, special effects, and even some space travel. Film such as (with exclusion to Star Wars and Star Trek films) Battlestar Galactica (1978), Superman (1978), Alien (1979), Flash Gordon (1980), Galactica (1980), Superman II (1980), Android (1982), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Dune (1984), The Last Starfighter (1984), Aliens (1986), Spaceballs (1987), Alien 3 (1992), Stargate (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Independence Day (1996), Alien: Resurrection (1997), Contact (1997), The Fifth Element (1997), Starship Troopers (1997), Armageddon (1998), and Lost in Space (1998).

     16 years after The Return of the Jedi (1983), George Lucas returns to the Star Wars (SW) franchise by presenting us with Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999). Now Episode I is not my favorite nor is it a complete masterpiece but it is a great start. As a Star Wars fan and movie buff, I was able to immerse myself into a mind-blowing experience that only George Lucas to create. The visuals and special effects are stunning, the main cast performed their roles beautifully, and the music was magnificent. Not only did Episode I live up the legacy of the first trilogy but like its predecessors, it further pushed the boundaries of how sci-fi films are made and look.
     For instance, Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), a CGI creation as well as a recognized comic-relief character, is a character that is the first of his kind in the Star Wars Universe. Among the many films that have inspired the characters in SW, the most common character is the ‘Jar Jar Binks’ of the film. As such Lucas wanted to replicate that in Episode I as well as the following SW films. For the most part, Lucas did not reach the same level of success in terms of dialogue/vocals for the annoying Jar Jar Binks. The reason why fans are annoyed with the effort he made with Jar Jar Binks is because they did not want a Star Wars by George Lucas but they wanted a Star Wars by the People; one that only exists in our minds and memory.
     Another idea that Lucas used to push the boundaries is the idea to make Anakin (Jake Lloyd) a small boy, which is new in-and-of itself because SW had never featured a boy character let alone that boy being a critical character in the story. Surprisingly the fans found issue with this idea because again they did not want Lucas to try new ideas; they did not want their idea of SW to be changed; which could never happen as it can only ever be improved upon. However and ironically he delivered what was expected of an exciting action sequence called ‘the pod race.’ This race is one of the best action sequences throughout the whole series – this is excluding the final light saber duel that carried great tension and eagerness  by making Darth Maul look like an animal stalking its prey.

     Sadly, the skilled CGI creation of Jar Jar Binks and the introduction of a young Anakin Skywalker could not stop SW fans complaints that Episode I is ‘looks like a remake film.’ I believe that the negative reviews of Episode I have more too due with fans putting limitations on the range of Star Wars and as such they have no grounds to really criticize the talents of George Lucas. Episode I is unique even in the Star Wars Universe and while some of the new ideas are not fully welcomed by some fans, I believe that with time those fans will come around and learn to appreciate the skill work of this film.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Film (2016)
Star Wars Episode IV: New Hope (1977)
Star Wars Episode V: Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Star Wars Episode I: Phantom Menace (1999)
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clone Wars (2002)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)

Star Wars Episode IX (TBA)

"Always two there are, no more, no less, a master and an apprentice."
- Yoda

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  3.5 of 5 star
Worth Buying:  3.5 of 5 stars

I hope you liked this post, subscribe to my blog via email HERE, send in your comments, and watch Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace (1999).

Movies Similar 
John Carter (2012)
Rogue One (2016)
Star Trek 1 (2009)
Star Trek 2: Into Darkness (2013)
Star Trek 3: Beyond (2016)
Star Wars II: Attack of the Clone Wars (2002)
Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Star Wars IV: New Hope (1977)
Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi (2017) 

Cast & Crew

Directed & Written by George Lucas    
Produced by George Lucas and Rick McCallum
Music by John Williams     
Cinematography by David Tattersall
Film Editing by Ben Burtt and Paul Martin Smith
Casting By Robin Gurland 
Production Design by Gavin Bocquet   
Set Decoration by Peter Walpole
Costume Design by Trisha Biggar          
Liam Neeson                     ...      Qui-Gon Jinn
Ewan McGregor               ...      Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman              ...      Queen Amidala / Padmé
Jake Lloyd                         ...      Anakin Skywalker
Ian McDiarmid                 ...      Senator Palpatine
Pernilla August                ...      Shmi Skywalker
Oliver Ford Davies          ...      Sio Bibble
Hugh Quarshie                 ...      Captain Panaka
Ahmed Best                       ...      Jar Jar Binks
Anthony Daniels              ...      C-3PO (voice)
Kenny Baker                     ...      R2-D2
Frank Oz                             ...      Yoda (voice)
Terence Stamp                 ...      Chancellor Valorum
Brian Blessed                    ...      Boss Nass (voice)
Andy Secombe                  ...      Watto (voice)
Ray Park                             ...      Darth Maul
Lewis Macleod                  ...      Sebulba (voice)
Warwick Davis                 ...      Wald / Pod race spectator / Mos Espa Citizen
Steve Speirs                      ...      Captain Tarpals
Silas Carson                      ...      Nute Gunray / Ki-Adi-Mundi / Lott Dodd / Republic Cruiser Pilot
Jerome St. John Blake  ...      Mas Amedda / Orn Free Taa / Oppo Rancisis / Rune Haako / Horox Ryyder / Graxol Kelvynn / Mik Regrap
Alan Ruscoe                      ...      Daultay Dofine / Plo Koon / Bib Fortuna
Ralph Brown                     ...      Ric Olié
Samuel L. Jackson          ...      Mace Windu
Karol Cristina da Silva   ...      Rabé
Liz Wilson                          ...      Eirtaé
Candice Orwell                 ...      Yané
Sofia Coppola                   ...      Saché
Keira Knightley                ...      Sabé
Bronagh Gallagher          ...      Republic Cruiser Captain
John Fensom                    ...      TC-14
Greg Proops                      ...      Fode (voice)
Scott Capurro                   ...      Beed (voice)
Margaret Towner            ...      Jira
Dhruv Chanchani            ...      Kitster
Oliver Walpole                 ...      Seek
Katie Lucas                        ...      Amee
Megan Udall                      ...      Melee
Hassani Shapi                   ...      Eeth Koth
Gin Clarke                          ...      Adi Gallia
Khan Bonfils                     ...      Saesee Tiin
Michelle Taylor                ...      Yarael Poof
Michaela Cottrell             ...      Even Piell
Dipika O'Neill Joti           ...      Depa Billaba
Phil Eason                          ...      Yaddle
Mark Coulier                    ...      Aks Moe
Lindsay Duncan               ...      TC-14 (voice)
Peter Serafinowicz         ...      Darth Maul / Battle Droid Commander / Gungan Scout (voice)
James Taylor                    ...      Rune Haako (voice)
Chris Sanders                   ...      Daultay Dofine (voice)
Toby Longworth              ...      Sen. Lott Dodd / Gragra (voice)
Marc Silk                            ...      Aks Moe / Sil Unch (voice)
Amanda Lucas                  ...      Tey How / Diva Funquita (voice)

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