Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace
Reviewed by: Kyle Suggs
7 to Adult
Sci-Fi Action Adventure Fantasy
2 hr. 16 min.
Year of Release:
May 19, 1999 (wide)
December 3, 1999 (re-release)
February 10, 2012 (3-D version release) (wide—2,600+ theaters)
death of a friend
messiah / chosen one
divine conception—the real one
good versus evil
apprentices / mentor protégé relationships
“Star Wars” series movie reviews
“Star Wars” game reviews
“Every generation has a legend. Every journey has a first step. Every saga has a beginning.”
Once or twice in every generation there is, in the entertainment world, an event of such magnitude, publicity, and popularity that seemingly every man, woman, and child in the known universe is aware and tied in. When George Lucas released “Star Wars” in 1977, he catalyzed the birth of a pop culture phenomenon that would eventually affect and change the entire movie industry forever. To say that the hype leading up to this film far exceeded anyone’s expectations would be the understatement of the century. So with all of the massive expectations from the movie industry, today’s cynical media, and the rabid Star Wars fans across this planet bearing down heavily on this two-hour science fiction hunk of a movie, how would it fare?
Well, like the columns of the Parthenon, I must say very well indeed.
“TPM” is the first movie in a three-part trilogy, which predates the first “Star Wars” series by roughly 30 years and evolves around the 10-year-boy, Anakin Skywalker. Anakin will eventually (though not in this movie) become the infamous lord of the sith, Darth Vader. The planet Naboo, headed by Queen Amidala (Portman) is under attack by the Republic Trade Federation. This act of aggression is part of a larger conspiracy which her Jedi Knight protectors Qui-Gon Jinn (Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) attempt to unravel. Along the way they meet up with young Skywalker (as well as some familiar characters) and race to free the planet from the grips of the unknown aggressor. The movie picks up steam quickly and brings itself to a boiling yet brilliant three tier climax.
All of the technical aspects of the movie are literally breath taking. The special effects are the best that have ever been seen on film, period. John William’s score, the editing, color, art direction, costumes, and sets are all top notch. Neeson and Pernilla August (Anakin’s mother) all add adequate performances. Jar Jar Binks is the comedy side kick and is someone that the kids will simply love. Just as in 1977, Lucas has raised the bar and set the standard that all movie-makers of this genre will attempt to match.
There is no foul language or sexual innuendoes of any kind which will be refreshing to a lot of parents. However, there are a few intense scenes (any scene with villain Darth Maul) that will frighten small or sensitive children. The violence overall is kept to a minimum. Instead of humans, battle droids (robots) are what bite the dust in destruction. For the most part, this is a film that the whole family can enjoy.
As in all of the “Star Wars” films, the Force is an essential theme in the movie. The Force is an all powerful influence that surrounds everything and keeps all things together. By tapping into the Force, certain people are capable of extraordinary super human powers. Once one reaches a certain point in his/her knowledge of the force, he/she can be elevated to Jedi knight status. On the flip side, there is also a “dark side” which is easier to tap into because anger, fear, and aggression all lead to it. Only by staying calm, patient and passive can one avoid turning to the dark side. Obviously we need to teach our kids what the Bible has to say about all of this. We need to teach them that there is a real force and His name is Jesus Christ and in fact all things were created by Him (John 1:3; John 1:10) and through Him all things truly consist (Colossians 1:17)! Furthermore, they need to know that sin, which we have all committed, (Romans 3:23) leads to the “dark side” and we must accept Christ as Lord of ours lives to get us into heaven (Romans 6:23).
It should be understood that “TPM” is not your average movie, and it should not be critiqued as such. It is, in fact, one third of one. Just as in the first series, Lucas gives us bits and pieces of the overall story and plot and in doing leaves us craving and waiting impatiently for the next installment. With this in mind, any plot or story lapses, perceived or actual, should be taken under the premise that there is more to come. Lucas has once again shown himself to be not only a master story teller and fine director but also one who is willing to produce an action-packed epic suitable for the entire family and to take all the necessary risks and the negative attacks to get that accomplished.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
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