Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Mace Windu: No. He will not be trained. He's too old.

Qui-Gon: NO!? Now listen here fuckers. I rightfully stole this slave from a greedy blue space bat using my Sith....*ahem* powers of persuasion. Anakin is the chosen one. I decided to make it canon whilst gazing at the night sky on Tatooine. I will train him in the S....*ahem* Jedi arts with or without your blessing. I'm not here to ask for your permission. I'm merely informing you of my plans. I said good day sir!

The actual balls on Qui-Gon Jinn to put Samuel L. Jackson in his place.

The last time I reviewed this film, I awarded it 4.5/5 stars. However, upon reflection, what are midichlorians between me and one of my favourite space operas? Every single Star Wars film is flawed. In hindsight, me relegating The Phantom Menace for negligible issues just seems like needless pedantism.

Whilst I maintain my stance that The Phantom Menace isn't objectively bad, there's so much more to film making than clinical parameters. To me, objectivity only matters if it diminishes your overall enjoyment of a film. In my last review, I got a little carried away with counter arguing several common criticisms of The Phantom Menace. As a result, I forgot to even mention why Qui-Gon is my favourite Jedi. In my prior review, I talked mostly about the world building, soundtrack, historical influences and Darth Maul's character. I'll refrain from repeating myself on those topics, so if you're curious to hear about them, I'll link my previous review at the end.

In many ways, The Phantom Menace was the most ambitious Star Wars film to date in 1999. As stated by George Lucas, "You know, we're pushing the envelope in a few places but the biggest issue is volume. Just the amount of stuff." The Phantom Menace had a relatively generous budget, but much of it was shot in an old Rolls-Royce warehouse and a set in Tunisia, which was completely ramshackled during a storm half way through filming. The fight scenes were like nothing fans had ever witnessed before and the entire Star Wars universe was propelled to new heights. My first introduction to Star Wars was when I was around four years old, two years after this films release. Even at such a young age, after seeing The Phantom Menace, I knew how exciting it was to be a Star Wars fan at the time. What I wouldn't give to have seen this at the midnight release.

For the first time, we see the planet Tatooine as more than just a desolate wasteland. It's still a impoverished shit hole, but it's also a bustling hub, the home of podracing and shady alien inhabitants. We have Watto, a greedy slave owner who may or may not have a gambling problem. Then there's Sebulba, a fully grown Dug, who apparently has beef with an actual fucking child. The place is so animated and painstakingly crafted, with many of the characters being created through elaborate costuming. Oh, and 3PO and R2's first encounter was precious.

In The Phantom Menace, we finally get to see aspects of Star Wars that were only merely mentioned in the original trilogy. Notably, we see our first established Master-Padawan relationship. Obi-Wan embodies the arrogance and myopia of the Jedi, whilst Qui-Gon is his wise, outlandish superior. Unlike in the original trilogy, good and evil aren't presented as rudimentary archtypes. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's dynamic is emblematic of much of the duality prevalent in the prequel trilogy. Lucas presents a multilayered and mature film that acts as a substratum for further thematic development in subsequent instalments; most notably Revenge of the Sith and The Last Jedi. Also, watching Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon underhandedly bicker amongst themselves for the majority of their shared screen time is highly amusing.

"Be mindful of the living Force, my young Padawan", retorted Qui-Gon, shutting down his pontificate apprentice. Qui-Gon doesn't acquiesce to the self-aggrandising beliefs of the Jedi Council. He's a trailblazer that forges his own path. Instead of measuring morality by the dogmatic views of the Jedi, he looks inwardly. He's unorthodox in his approach, and doesn't concern himself with strictly adhering to the Jedi code. He consistently uses Jedi mind tricks to get his own way, gambles with human lives/ships that aren't even his and isn't coy about undermining his fellow Jedi Masters in front of the entire council. He's dissonant but also compassionate, even extending his altruism to the buffoon that is Jar Jar Binks. I love how The Phantom Menace introduces the grey area in Star Wars and confidently explores murkier waters. Qui-Gon is a fascinating character, who arguably displays the most profound understanding of the Force in the franchise.

"Duel of the Fates", refers to Maul and Qui-Gon battling it out to determine the fate of young Anakin. Qui-Gon sees the failures of the Jedi, failings that are oblivious to even Yoda. It's his compassionate nature that has the propensity to turn the tides for Anakin. He's a much needed father figure for him, something that his stoic Padawan cannot provide. That's what makes this fight sequence the most emotionally charged scene in all of Star Wars for me.

Also, Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon and Darth Maul feel like three manifestations of my own personality fighting it out. I still to this day do not know who to root for. I equally love to laugh at how Qui-Gon's defiance and unwillingness to take no for an answer arguably lead to decades of intergalactic war. I'd like to think the real reason his force ghost doesn't materialise in Return of the Jedi is because it'd be way too triggering for everyone involved.

Bollocks, I'm also going to give the universally hated, well-meaning Gungan the humility he deserves. Jar Jar is such a pure soul and I simply cannot dislike him. Sure, he's the goofy jester of the Star Wars universe, but he's also a delightful dim wit. Even to this day, I still laugh at Jar Jar's stupid antics. He was intended as comic relief and he fulfills that role, it's really that simple. As far as I'm concerned, the galaxy is a better place for having a lanky, talking giraffe-lizard. Nonetheless, if you put any personal grievances aside, you cannot deny the truth. Jar Jar is an indispensable Star Wars character. Lucas himself said, "Jar Jar is the key to all this". Without him, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon would have been grinded into tiny pieces and blasted into oblivion, The Trade Federation would have won and Sheev wouldn't have been granted emergency power. Jar Jar made your beloved space operas from the 70s and 80s possible. For that reason alone, he deserves more respect. This uptight, toxic fanbase doesn't deserve the whimsy that is Jar Jar Binks.

I also wanted to talk about how great Natalie Portman and Jake Lloyd are in this, but I'll save that for another time; this review is getting out of hand. There are so many things I could perpetually waffle on about when it comes to The Phantom Menace. So, until next time, may the Force be with you my friends!

Now, to wrap this up, I'm all for healthy debates on here so I'm going open the floor to aggressive negotiations. So, who is really to blame for an entire 3 trilogies of intergalactic war? Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan or Jar Jar? Discuss.

Watto: I've lost everything!

Qui-Gon: Be a gambler my friend and eventually you'll lose.😎

My Star Wars Ranked List

My First The Phantom Menace Review

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