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Star Wars : Episode I The Phantom Menace

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This article details a subject that is considered canon.

Star Wars : Episode I The Phantom Menace is a 1999 film written and directed by George Lucas , produced by Rick McCallum and starring Liam Neeson , Ewan McGregor , Natalie Portman , Jake Lloyd , and Ian McDiarmid . It is the first chapter of the Star Wars prequel trilogy , the fourth theatrical Star Wars release overall, and chronologically the first film in the Star Wars saga .

The Phantom Menace was released in theaters on May 19 , 1999, becoming the first Star Wars film since Star Wars : Episode VI Return of the Jedi , which was released sixteen years earlier. The release was accompanied by extensive media coverage and great fan anticipation. Despite mixed reviews from critics and fans, the film grossed $924.3 million worldwide, making it the second-highest-grossing Star Wars film when unadjusted for inflation. It was re-released on Blu-ray in September 2011 , and was re-released in theaters in 3D on February 10 , 2012 .

The film was the catalyst for fifteen years of Star Wars storytelling that would primarily take place around the time of the prequel storyline. The success of the film allowed for the next two chapters of the prequel trilogy, as well as the Star Wars: The Clone Wars film and television series .

  • 1 Opening crawl
  • 2 Plot summary
  • 3 Development
  • 4.1.1 Soundtrack
  • 4.1.2 Novelization
  • 4.2 Home video
  • 4.3 3D re-release
  • 5 Reception
  • 6 Deleted scenes
  • 7.1 Minature Construction and Photography Unit
  • 7.2 Special Effects Pyrotechnics Crew
  • 7.3 Second Unit
  • 7.4 Tunisia Shoot
  • 7.5 Italy Shoot
  • 8 Appearances
  • 10 Notes and references
  • 11 External links

Opening crawl [ ]

Plot summary [ ].


Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan prepare to fight their way out of the Trade Federation flagship.

Thirty-two years before the events of Star Wars : Episode IV A New Hope (thirteen years before the formation of the Galactic Empire), there is a trade dispute between the Trade Federation and the outlying systems of the Galactic Republic , which has led to a blockade of the Mid-Rim planet of Naboo . Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum , leader of the Galactic Senate , has secretly dispatched two Jedi , Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan , Obi-Wan Kenobi , to serve as "the ambassadors" to the Federation flagship , in order to meet with Viceroy Nute Gunray and resolve the dispute. Unknown to them, the Trade Federation is in league with the mysterious Darth Sidious , Dark Lord of the Sith , who secretly orders Gunray to invade Naboo and kill the two Jedi upon their arrival. When Gunray asked if that would be legal, Sidious says that he would ensure that it was.

The Viceroy locks the Jedi in the meeting room and attempts to kill them with poison gas while having their ship, the Radiant VII , destroyed in the hangar, but they escape. After battling through squads of battle droids, Jinn and Kenobi make their way to the command deck where Gunray is located, shielding himself behind blast doors . The Jedi are forced to flee upon the arrival of two Destroyer Droids and stow away aboard two separate Federation landing craft leaving for the surface of Naboo to begin the invasion.

Back in the command deck, Queen Amidala contacts Gunray to express her disapproval of their blockade, with Gunray explaining that they wouldn't have done it without the approval of the Senate. When she asks about the ambassadors sent by the Chancellor, Gunray claims that they have received no such ambassadors, leaving Amidala startled and suspicious. Gunray ends communications with her and informs his aide that they should disable all communications on the planet.

Meanwhile, Amidala is conversing with Senator Sheev Palpatine regarding the recent attempt at negotiations and how Gunray claimed that they did not receive any ambassadors. Surprised, Palpatine states that he had assurances from the Chancellor that his ambassadors did arrive. However, Palpatine is unable to finish his sentence as his hologram flickers out. Naboo Governor Sio Bibble suspects that an interruption of communications is a sign that an invasion from the Trade Federation is imminent.

TPM Cast

The Jedi liberate the queen and her guards from the battle-droid invasion.

On the planet's surface, Qui-Gon saves native outcast Jar Jar Binks from being crushed by a Trade Federation MTT . Kenobi appears, pursued by STAPs , which are destroyed by Qui-Gon. Jar Jar Binks shows the two Jedi the way to an underwater Gungan settlement, Otoh Gunga . Meanwhile, the Trade Federation occupies Theed , the capital city of Naboo, and captures Queen Amidala along with the rest of the government. In Otoh Gunga, the Jedi meet the Gungan leader, Boss Nass , and ask him to help the people of Naboo, but Nass refuses due to hate of the people of Naboo and sends them off in a bongo submarine . They are attacked by an opee sea killer and a colo claw fish but both fish are eaten by a sando aqua monster . The Jedi, with Binks in tow, arrive in Theed and rescue Queen Amidala. They depart for Coruscant , the Galactic Republic's capital planet, to ask for help from the Senate. As they attempt to run the blockade, the queen's starship is damaged by Federation battleships , but an astromech droid named R2-D2 manages to repair it and they narrowly escape.

Due to the damage to the ship's hyperdrive sustained in the attack, the Jedi decide to land on the nearby planet Tatooine for repairs. While searching for a new hyperdrive generator, they befriend young Anakin Skywalker , a slave boy, whose master is Watto , a Toydarian junk dealer. Watto has the required parts in stock, but Qui-Gon is unable to purchase them, as Republic credits are worthless on Tatooine.

Anakin Pod

Anakin races ahead of Sebulba during the Boonta Eve Podrace.

Anakin is gifted with piloting and mechanical abilities, and has built an almost-complete droid named C-3PO . Qui-Gon senses a strong presence of the Force in Anakin, and feels that he may be the Chosen One —the one who will fulfill a prophecy by bringing balance to the Force. By entering Anakin into a podrace , Qui-Gon orchestrates a gamble with Watto's chance cube in which " fate " decided that the boy (alone, since Qui-Gon was unable to include the youth's mother in the bargain) will be released from slavery while also acquiring the parts needed for their ship. The night before the race, Qui-Gon does a blood test on Anakin and discovers that the boy's midi-chlorian reading is off the chart.

Anakin wins the race (defeating his rival, Sebulba ) and joins the team as they prepare to leave for Coruscant, where Qui-Gon plans to seek permission from the Jedi High Council to train Anakin to be a Jedi. Meanwhile, Darth Sidious sends his apprentice, Darth Maul , to kill the two Jedi and capture the queen. Maul appears just as the group is leaving the planet, and duels with Qui-Gon. The fight is cut short when Qui-Gon escapes his black-robed assailant by jumping on board the Naboo Royal Starship as it takes off.


Amidala and Palpatine plead before the Senate to intervene with Naboo's crisis.

On Coruscant, Qui-Gon informs the Jedi Council of the mysterious attacker he encountered on Tatooine, coming to the conclusion that his attacker is a Sith , the latter being a religious order who were followers of the dark side of the Force and thought to have been extinct for over a millennium, much to the shock of the Jedi Council. Qui-Gon also informs the Council about Anakin, hoping that he can be trained as a Jedi. After testing the boy and deliberating with one another, the Council refuses, deeming him too old for training according to the Jedi Code . They are also concerned that they sense much fear in the boy, and that he has a clouded future.

Meanwhile, Senator Palpatine meets with Queen Amidala to warn of corruption in the Senate and advises that she may have to call for a Vote of No Confidence in Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum. When their petition to the Senate is refused, Amidala sees no alternative but to do just that. Palpatine is among the candidates to become the new Supreme Chancellor. The queen later announces to Palpatine that she will return to their home planet to repel the invasion of her people by herself. She is frustrated by the Senate's deliberation and lack of action, and feels that even if Palpatine is elected Chancellor, it will be too late. The Jedi Council sends the two Jedi to accompany the queen back to Naboo, hoping to shed light on any Sith involvement.

Nass on Sacred Place

Boss Nass at the Gungan Sacred Place

Amidala, back on Naboo, attempts to locate the Gungans at Otoh Gunga, but Jar-Jar, after searching the city, informs them that it has been abandoned. He then leads them to the Gungan Sacred Place , where he is certain the Gungans will be . The Gungans are initially distrustful, until the "handmaiden" Padmé reveals herself as the true queen and humbly begs for their help. She negotiates with Boss Nass to form an alliance and unite their peoples in battle against the Trade Federation. Captain Panaka and several other security forces were also dispatched to rescue anyone imprisoned in the Trade Federation's prison camps, although they were only able to successfully extract a handful.

Next, Amidala informs Qui-Gon and Nass of her battle strategy: with the Grand Gungan Army acting as a distraction to the bulk of the main Trade Federation forces, the Naboo resistance led by herself, Captain Panaka and the Jedi will infiltrate Theed via a secret entrance located inside one of the waterfalls. Nute Gunray, hearing reports of the Grand Army's assembly, informs Darth Sidious; Sidious orders Gunray to wipe out both the Gungans and the Naboo as the Trade Federation prepares for battle.

Captain Roos Tarpals orders the Gungan Grand Army to activate their shield , which protects them from ranged attack. OOM-9 has his tanks fire first, but seeing them fail to penetrate the powerful shield, orders them to cease fire. Daultay Dofine gives the command to activate the battle droids. These droids march through the shield and open fire on the Grand Army, soon destroying the shield generator. As the tanks cause heavy casualties among the Gungans, defeat for the alliance seems imminent.

However, victory comes when young Anakin Skywalker accidentally takes control of an N-1 starfighter and goes on to destroy the Federation's Droid Control Ship from the inside, killing Daultay Dofine and rendering the droid army useless. Meanwhile, Amidala and her force fight their way back into the royal palace and capture Nute Gunray.


Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan fight Darth Maul during the Battle of Naboo.

At the same time, in a Theed hangar bay , Darth Maul engages in combat with the two Jedi, using his double-bladed lightsaber . The battle moves from the hangar, across a series of catwalks, to the Theed Generator Complex. During the fight, Obi-Wan is separated from his master by being kicked off of a catwalk. He grabs the edge of another catwalk below and jumps back up to where Qui-Gon and Maul continue to fight. By this time, Qui-Gon and Maul have become separated by a force field in the entrance to the Generator Room. Obi-Wan catches up to them, but is divided from his master by four force fields. When the force fields deactivate, Jinn and Maul continue their battle while Kenobi remains divided from the battle by one force field when they all reactivate.

After a lengthy duel, Maul suddenly stuns Qui-Gon by hitting him on the chin with his lightsaber handle, then rams his blade straight into Qui-Gon's torso, mortally wounding him. Devastated and angered, Obi-Wan redoubles his assault upon Maul and chops the Sith's lightsaber in half, but Maul eventually overpowers and nearly kills Kenobi by Force pushing him over the edge of a seemingly bottomless reactor shaft. Obi-Wan saves himself from falling when he manages to grab onto a pipe protruding from the wall of the shaft. Maul kicks the Jedi's lightsaber into the pit and prepares to finish him off. After Obi-Wan calms himself, he uses the Force to leap out of the shaft and over Maul's head while summoning his fallen master's lightsaber to his hand. He lands behind the surprised Maul and cuts him in half; Maul's upper and lower body fall into the shaft.

Obi-Wan reaches Qui-Gon moments before he dies, as Qui-Gon instructs Obi-Wan to train Anakin to become a Jedi, reiterating that Anakin is the Chosen One. Obi-Wan gives his word that he will. Qui-Gon dies, leading to Obi-Wan to grieve for his deceased master. The newly elected Chancellor Palpatine arrives to congratulate Queen Amidala on her victory, as Nute Gunray is sent to stand trial for his crimes.

Naboo celebration

The Gungans and the Naboo celebrate their victory.

Later, in a room in the queen's palace, Yoda confers upon Obi-Wan the rank of Jedi Knight. Kenobi argues with Yoda about his promise to Qui-Gon regarding Anakin's training. Yoda is convinced it is dangerous to train the boy, but tells Kenobi the Jedi Council has allowed Skywalker to become Kenobi's apprentice. Later that evening, in a temple in Theed, Qui-Gon's body is cremated , and Mace Windu and Yoda agree that the Sith are definitely to blame for the tragedy. As there are only ever two Sith at any given time (a Master and an apprentice), both Masters believe that one must still remain.

The Naboo and Gungans organize a great victory celebration on the streets of Theed, in front on the palace. Obi-Wan and Anakin are present, the younger now wearing formal Jedi attire, and in his hair is a special braid : the mark of a Jedi Padawan. The film ends with Queen Amidala presenting a gift of appreciation and friendship to Boss Nass and the Gungan people.

Development [ ]

Along the lines of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles , all three prequel films were originally intended to be written and shot as one large production, and released back to back. [4] The first draft of the script was begun November 1994 . [5]

The role of director was offered to Steven Spielberg , Ron Howard , and Robert Zemeckis. According to Howard, Lucas didn't necessarily want to direct Episode I. He further commented that all three directors turned down the position as the film was Lucas's "baby." [6] The budget of Menace was estimated $115 million. Shooting took place from June 26 to September 30 , 1997 . As with Star Wars : Episode IV A New Hope , Episode I's main exterior filming locations were in Tunisia . The podrace was filmed in a canyon near Sidi Bouhlel and Oung Jmel . A set was built near Oung Jmel to represent Mos Espa on Tatooine. The Slave Quarters Row were filmed in ksour's near Tataouine and Ksar Medenine . Small parts were filmed in Royal Caserta Palace in Italy and Whippendell Woods in the United Kingdom , but Hever Castle was later cut. Studio work was mainly done at Leavesden Studios in the United Kingdom. [7]

Unlike the latter two films in the series which were shot on digital video , most of this film was shot in 35 mm, with a few scenes shot in digital video. [5]

This episode was also the first of the saga to be referred to primarily by its number ( Episode One ) by media and fans, in contrast to the original trilogy the public already knew. [ source? ]

Release [ ]


One of the most popular marketing posters for the film

The Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars film in 16 years. As a result, there was almost unprecedented interest amongst both fans and the wider public in the revival of the franchise. The film received enormous media-created hype, which made Lucasfilm's $20 million advertising campaign—with the distinctive artwork of Star Wars series artist Drew Struzan gracing the movie poster and other advertising—seem modest and almost unnecessary. Few film studios released films during the same week as the release of The Phantom Menace ; among the more courageous were DreamWorks and Universal Studios , with the releases of The Love Letter and Notting Hill respectively. The Love Letter was a box-office flop, whereas Notting Hill fared rather well and followed The Phantom Menace closely in second place. [8] Challenger, Grey & Christmas of Chicago, a work-issues consulting firm, estimated that 2.2 million full-time employees did not appear for work to attend the film, resulting in $293 million in lost productivity. The Wall Street Journal reported that such a large number of workers announced plans to view premiere screenings that many companies shut down on the premiere day. [9] Many fans began waiting outside cinema theaters as early as a month in advance of ticket sales. [10]

More theatre lines appeared when it was announced that cinemas were not allowed to sell tickets in advance until two weeks into the release. This was done out of fear that family theatre-goers would either be unable to receive tickets or would be forced to pay higher prices. Tickets were instead to be sold on a traditional first-come-first-serve basis. [11] However, after meetings with the National Association of Theatre Owners , Lucasfilm agreed to allow advance ticket sales on May 12 , 1999 , provided that there be a 12-ticket limit per customer. [12] As a result, however, some advance tickets were sold by " scalpers " as high as $100 apiece, which a distribution chief called "horrible," stating it was exactly what they wanted to avoid. [13] Daily Variety reported that theatre owners received strict instructions from Lucasfilm that the film could only play in the cinema's largest auditorium for the first 8–12 weeks; no honor passes were allowed for the first eight weeks, and they were obligated to send their payments to distributor 20th Century Fox within seven days. [14] Servers at the film's official website became gridlocked soon after the release of the first teaser trailer , [15] and many fans of the series paid full admission to see Meet Joe Black only to leave after the trailer had run. The same tradition followed months later when the theatrical trailer was featured in front of Wing Commander . [16] The theatrical trailer caused even more notable media hype, because it not only premiered in theaters, but screened at the ShoWest Convention in Las Vegas , and was aired on television on Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood . [17] An unusual marketing scheme was pursued across the United Kingdom , where the teaser trailer was released on December 2 , 1998 and then pulled from theaters six weeks later. [18]

Despite worries about whether the film would be finished in time, two weeks prior to its debut Lucasfilm pushed the release date up from May 21 to May 19 of 1999. At the ShoWest Convention, Lucas stated that the change was to give the fans a "head start" by allowing them to view it over the week and allowing families the chance to view on the weekends. In a nod toward his future with digital technology, Lucas stated that the film would be released on four digital projectors on June 18 , 1999. [19] Eleven charity premieres were staged across the United States on May 16 , 1999; proceeds from the Los Angeles event were given to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation with corporate packages available for $5,000–$25,000. [20] Other charity premieres included the Dallas premiere for Children's Medical Center , the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at the Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York, the Big Brother/Sister Assn. of the Philadelphia premiere, and the Children's National Medical Centre in Washington D.C. A statement said that tickets were sold at $500 apiece and that certain sections were set aside for disadvantaged children. [21]

Merchandise [ ]

Soundtrack [ ].

Two separate soundtracks were released for The Phantom Menace . One, a traditional soundtrack, contained seventeen tracks of selections from the score. The second, an Ultimate Collector's Edition Soundtrack, compiled the score as it was presented in the film (with several minor alterations) in sixty-eight tracks.

Major musical themes and leitmotifs were introduced in the film, including the droid march , " Duel of the Fates ," Qui-Gon's Theme , " The Adventures of Jar Jar ," Darth Maul's Motif , Anakin's Theme , Shmi's motif , " The Flag Parade ," " Escape from Naboo ," and the " Symponik Nabooalla ."

During the credits at the end of the film, young Anakin's theme is heard playing, but during the last moments of the film, this theme morphs into the first few notes of the Darth Vader theme during the Imperial March , and, as the last logos of THX are scrolling by, three rasping breaths from Vader's respirator can be heard, referencing Anakin's eventual change into Darth Vader.

Novelization [ ]

A novelization of the movie was written by Terry Brooks . It includes three entire chapters of material created by Brooks and unique to the novel. The first two chapters of the book concern Anakin's next-to-last podrace and its aftermath, while a later chapter describes an encounter between Anakin and a wounded Tusken Raider in the desert.

Brooks met with Lucas before writing the book and received his approval and guidance, including information about developments to come in Episodes II and III. This can be seen in such passages as the Tusken Raider scene, which ironically foreshadows the death of Anakin's mother in Episode II, and the passage leading up to Anakin's fight with the Rodian child Greedo , indicating that Anakin's anger derives from his anguish at Padmé's impending departure (foreshadowing the plot of Episode III).

The novelization is especially well known for a passage describing the history of the Sith, including Darth Bane . According to Terry Brooks' memoir, Sometimes the Magic Works , Lucas spent an hour on the telephone with him discussing the history of the Jedi and the Sith. Therefore, the information on this subject provided in Brooks' novelization might derive from Lucas himself. The novelization is also the first mention of the Stark Hyperspace War .

Brooks devotes an entire chapter of Sometimes the Magic Works to the writing of the Episode I novelization, which he claims to have been an extremely happy and fulfilling experience.

Home video [ ]


The Phantom Menace on DVD

The film was first released on VHS on April 4, 2000. There was a normal fullscreen release, and a widescreen collector's box set . The widescreen VHS contains an exclusive documentary titled "Filmmaking Has Turned A Corner." In addition the collector's set contains an excerpted version of The Art of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and a set of film cells from a scene in the film.

Star Wars : Episode I The Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars film to be officially released on DVD . This two-disc DVD was released on October 16, 2001.

The DVD features a commentary track by Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, editor Ben Burtt , animation director Rob Coleman , and visual effects supervisors John Knoll , Dennis Muren , and Scott Squires . It includes seven deleted scenes completed specifically for the DVD, and The Beginning: Making Episode I , an hour-long documentary film drawn from more than 600 hours of footage, including an insider's look at Lucasfilm and ILM during the production. The viewer can access a multi-angle storyboard-to-animatic-to-film segment featuring the submarine and podrace lap 1 sequences. The DVD includes two documentary sources, five featurettes exploring the storyline, design, costumes, visual effects, and fight sequences in the film, and an award-winning twelve-part web documentary series chronicling the production. The Duel of the Fates music video featuring John Williams was included on the DVD as well. The final special features included are a never-before-seen production photo gallery with a special caption feature, theatrical posters and print campaigns from around the world, a theatrical teaser and launch trailers, seven TV spots, Star Wars: Starfighter - The Making of a Game featurette from LucasArts , and a DVD-ROM weblink to exclusive Star Wars content.

The DVD became the fastest-selling DVD ever in the US, after 2.2 million copies were sold in its first week after release. [22] However, some reviewers criticized the DVD for the excessive use of edge enhancement that degraded the DVD's picture quality. [23]

At the DVD press conference for Revenge of the Sith , prequel trilogy animation director Rob Coleman confirmed that the animation department at Lucasfilm had replaced the Yoda puppet from the original version of the film with a digital Yoda. This was done to better match up the look of the Yoda from The Phantom Menace with that of the other two films of the prequel trilogy, as well as with the Yoda from the original trilogy. This change has been, for the most part, welcomed by fans, in contrast to the original puppet Yoda as seen in The Phantom Menace .

A preview of these changes can be viewed on the Revenge of the Sith DVD that was released on November 1, 2005. The clip is included as part of "The Chosen One" featurette. However, when Coleman announced the change, he didn't specify when the revised version of The Phantom Menace would be released. [24]

The Phantom Menace was re-released along with Episodes II–VI on Blu-ray in September 2011 . [25] For this release, the film went through a restoration process which restored the picture to its full frame (offering around 8% more picture than its DVD release). The Blu-ray release was also marked by the replacement of the puppet for the CGI model of Yoda used in Star Wars : Episode III Revenge of the Sith , as well as a few corrections of visual effects and technical errors.

On April 7 , 2015 , the Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, and Lucasfilm jointly announced the digital releases of the six released Star Wars films. As Lucasfilm had retained digital distribution rights to Episodes I thru III and V thru VI, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released The Phantom Menace for digital download on April 10 , 2015. [26]

Despite the Walt Disney Company's 2012 purchase of Lucasfilm Ltd. and the release rights to all future Star Wars films, Fox was to retain original distribution rights to Star Wars : Episode IV A New Hope , which they co-produced and co-financed, in perpetuity in all media worldwide. Fox was also to retain theatrical, nontheatrical, and home video rights worldwide for the franchise's five subsequent films, which Lucasfilm produced and financed independently, through May 2020 , at which time ownership was to transfer to Disney. This complex relationship between Fox and Disney, particularly in regards to Fox's perpetual rights to Episode IV, was to create an obstacle for any future boxed set comprising all nine films. [27] On December 14 , 2017 , The Walt Disney Company announced that it was acquiring most of Fox's parent company, 21st Century Fox , including the film studio and all distribution rights to A New Hope . [28] On March 20 , 2019 , the deal was officially completed. [29] On April 12 , 2019, a Blu-ray box set containing the nine main instalments of the Star Wars saga remastered in 4K was reportedly announced to be in development for a 2020 release. [30]

3D re-release [ ]

Episode I 3D poster

Official poster for The Phantom Menace 3D release

On September 28 , 2010 , StarWars.com and Lucasfilm announced that the entire Star Wars saga would be converted to stereoscopic 3D and re-released in theaters and IMAX 3D, beginning with Episode I . John Knoll and Industrial Light & Magic are supervising the conversion. [31] The stereo conversion process has been in the works for several years, however, with George Lucas showing tests of the Episode II speeder chase scene and a reel from Episode IV in 3D during 2005's ShoWest in Las Vegas, and the speeder chase scene was demoed again by Texas Instruments as an emerging technology at SIGGRAPH 2007 in San Diego.

Episode I's 3D release date, as announced by Lucasfilm on March 3 , 2011 , was February 10 , 2012 . [32]

On January 28 , 2013 , Lucasfilm announced that the 3D releases of Star Wars : Episode II Attack of the Clones and Star Wars : Episode III Revenge of the Sith were postponed. [33]

Reception [ ]

Critical and fan reaction ranged from high praise to outright derision. The much-hyped special effects, while generally viewed as groundbreaking in their sheer scope, were perhaps less impressive than anticipated simply because of high expectations. This attitude was confirmed with the rival film, The Matrix , winning the visual effects Academy Award for that year over The Phantom Menace . It was the first time a Star Wars film lost in that Oscar competition category. Many critics heavily criticized the acting of Natalie Portman and especially Jake Lloyd as the young Anakin Skywalker. Some aspects of the scripting and direction were also criticized. Extra venom was directed at the character of Jar Jar Binks , who was regarded by some fans as purely a merchandising opportunity rather than a serious character in the film. Fan reaction was mixed too, with some fans praising the film while others having a negative opinion of it.

However, despite some of the negative criticisms leveled at the film, many others gave praise to The Phantom Menace . William Arnold, of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer , commented that the massive of hype of the film may have caused much of the negative reaction to the film, saying "it built expectations that can't possibly be matched and scuttled element of storytelling surprise." He also felt "it's well made and entertaining" and believed it was much better than similar box-office fare released around that time period, such as The Mummy and The Matrix . [35] David Cornelius of efilmcritic.com remarked that the better moments of the film "don't merely balance out the weaker ones- they topple them." [36] Roger Ebert gave the film three and half out of four stars, calling it "an astonishing achievement in imaginative filmmaking," and stating that "Lucas tells a good story." Ebert comments that it was perfectly fine for the characters to be a bit less compelling, seeing that they were just being introduced, and stating to "give me transparent underwater cities and vast hollow senatorial spheres any day." [37] Mark Dinning labels The Phantom Menace "A great work from a great director, and a blockbuster of quite the most swashbuckling kind." Many fans and critics also agree that the lightsaber duel between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul—showcasing astounding choreography and Ray Park 's martial arts skills—is a high point, and one of the best lightsaber duels in the Star Wars saga. [38]

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards —Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects; however, it lost to The Matrix in all three categories. The film won Best Motion Picture at the People's Choice Awards. It was also nominated for the Saturn Awards on the categories of Best Science Fiction Film, Best Director (George Lucas), Best Actor (Liam Neeson), Best Supporting Actor (Ewan McGregor), Best Young Actor (Jake Lloyd), Best Young Actress (Natalie Portman), Best Supporting Actress (Pernilla August), Best Screenplay (George Lucas), Best Music (John Williams), Best Special Effects and Best Makeup. It won on the categories of Best Costume Design (Trisha Biggar) and Best Special Effects. [39]

Deleted scenes [ ]

  • The Waterfall Sequence —As Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Jar Jar arrive in the waterways of Theed, in the bongo, they surface just in front of a huge waterfall and have to vacate the vehicle in a hurry.
  • Dawn Before the Podrace —Anakin gets up early to prepare the pod for the race and has a brief chat with Padmé.
  • Complete Podrace Grid Sequence —This scene shows more of the participating racers and creatures in the crowd, later added on DVD.
  • Extended Podrace Lap Two —This lap shows some more of Sebulba's "creative interpretation of the rules" and further proof of just how special Anakin is, later added on DVD.
  • Anakin's Scuffle With Greedo —This was due to follow the podrace, to show Anakin's potential for aggression, but George Lucas cut it because he wanted Anakin to be shown as a genuinely good character who turns evil later in adulthood.
  • Farewell to Jira —This occurs as Qui-Gon and Anakin are leaving Mos Espa and Anakin stops briefly to say goodbye to Jira. One of Darth Maul's probe droids follows them for some time until Qui-Gon finally notices and destroys it before passing by the Dusty Duck .
  • The Air Taxi Sequence —The taxi ride shows us about ten more seconds of Coruscant, later added on DVD.

The Waterfall Sequence

Credits [ ]

Appearances [ ].

Canon characters

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Canon events

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Organizations and titles

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Weapons and technology

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Canon miscellanea

Legends miscellanea

Sources [ ]

Notes and references [ ], external links [ ].

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  • Star Wars : Episode I The Phantom Menace on Box Office Mojo (archived from the original on June 30 , 2020 )
  • Star Wars : Episode I The Phantom Menace on Rotten Tomatoes (archived from the original on August 10 , 2020 )


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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

1999, Sci-fi/Adventure, 2h 13m

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Critics Consensus

Burdened by exposition and populated with stock characters, The Phantom Menace gets the Star Wars prequels off to a bumpy -- albeit visually dazzling -- start. Read critic reviews

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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.

Rating: PG (Sci-Fi Violence|Sci-Fi Action)

Genre: Sci-fi, Adventure, Action, Fantasy

Original Language: English

Director: George Lucas

Producer: Rick McCallum

Writer: George Lucas

Release Date (Theaters): May 19, 1999  wide

Rerelease Date (Theaters): Dec 3, 1999

Release Date (Streaming): Apr 10, 2015

Box Office (Gross USA): $474.5M

Runtime: 2h 13m

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Production Co: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Sound Mix: Dolby SR, Dolby Stereo, Surround, SDDS, DTS, Dolby EX, Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio: Digital Projection, Scope (2.35:1)

View the collection: Star Wars Saga

Cast & Crew

Liam Neeson

Qui-Gon Jinn

Ewan McGregor

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Natalie Portman

Queen Amidala, Padmé Naberrie

Anakin Skywalker

Pernilla August

Shmi Skywalker

Master Yoda Voice

Ian McDiarmid

Senator Palpatine, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine

Oliver Ford Davies

Hugh Quarshie

Captain Panaka

Jar Jar Binks, Senator Voice

Samuel L. Jackson

Peter Serafinowicz

Darth Maul Voice

Ralph Brown

Terence Stamp

Chancellor Finis Valorum

Brian Blessed

Boss Nass Voice

Sofia Coppola

Kenny Baker

Silas Carson

Nute Gunray, Radiant VII Pilot, Ki-Adi-Mundi, Lott Dod

Dhruv Chanchani

George Lucas

Executive Producer

Rick McCallum

John Williams

Original Music

David Tattersall


Film Editing

Paul Martin Smith

Robin Gurland

Gavin Bocquet

Production Design

Phil Harvey

Art Director

Peter Russell

Peter Walpole

Set Decoration

Trisha Biggar

Costume Design

Mark Coulier

Special Makeup Effects

Paul Engelen

Key Makeup Artist

Hair Stylist

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Critic Reviews for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Audience reviews for star wars: episode i - the phantom menace.

Watching this thing years later, I can finally say, this is not a good movie. I liked it well enough as a kid as a charming little adventure, but as an adult it's kind of a hard watch. I don't know that I was ever bored by anything, but it's wildly inconsistent and just not well put together. The writing is bad, the directing is awkward, and the CGI is about on par with a PlayStation 1 cutscene, if not worse. On top of that, it's really just not necessary. What do we learn from this movie for the overall Star Wars mythos? Basically how Sidious rose to the status of chancellor. Even that is more of a background thing for all the other weird crap happening, and probably could just have been put in the opening scroll of the next film. So it's a bad film, and at times it's pretty cringey. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't at times an entertaining film. Not always for the right reasons, but it's got some fun stuff. I still like the podracing scene, and that final fight is as good as it was back in the day with some stellar choreography. It's got it's moments, I'll defend it a little bit, but overall it's pretty cringey and pointless.

the phantom nenace

This is a terrible, terrible movie. I'm amazed that A) Lucas made a film like this, knowing how beloved the franchise was, and B) that the franchise remained so beloved after this had come out... It introduced Maul though, who is my favourite Star Wars character. So points on that one.

Darth Maul, double bladed lightsaber, what could go wrong with this film?! Oh yeah, comic relief Jar Jar Binks and a Tatooine pod race that went about 7-10 minutes too long. It is unfortunate that they wasted arguably the 2nd best villain of the entire franchise in the first abysmal film. About 3 minutes into Jar Jar Binks' screen time you know that the script has a long way to go to dig itself out of that hole.

A technical achievement in visual effects, makeup, art direction and score that is muddled by a lackluster script and poor acting. The fight scenes, while impressive and tons of fun, lack depth and emotion, and the characters feel like the SparkNotes version of much better characters.

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A Popular Star Wars Game Comes to PS4 and PS5

Posted: January 14, 2024 | Last updated: January 15, 2024

A classic entry in the Star Wars franchise, PS1's original Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, is on its way to PS4 and PS5 for PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers.

PlayStation announced that Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace will be released on Jan. 16, as part of the console's Classics Catalog for PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers. The Phantom Menace is a tie-in to the much-maligned Star Wars prequel film of the same name. Still, the game saw middling but consistent reviews at launch and still proved popular among fans, solidifying it as a staple of the original PlayStation's extensive library of games.

Hasbro Goes Full 90s Throwback With Retro Series Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Figures

The game puts players in the roles of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as they don their Jedi attire and lightsabers to reenact key events and plot points from the original film in a top-down action-adventure title. On top of this, the game also features an expansive list of side quests, mini games and other content to keep players engaged either after or in the midst of the game's main story.

However, the game comes with a catch, as it is only available for subscribers of the highest tier of PlayStation Plus -- the Premium tier, which grants access to the Classics Catalog along with all the perks of the two tiers before it. The Classics Catalog offers a variety of games from the original PlayStation and the PS2 for free download for subscribers, with PS3 games also available to stream.

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Like many classic PS1 games on modern consoles, The Phantom Menace will run using Sony's in-house emulation software, which means it will likely have a few quality-of-life improvements, such as a rewind function and a save state system. For those looking for a more fast-paced Episode I experience, the catalog also offers Star Wars Episode I: Racer, a racing title based on the pod-racing scene from the film.

As for other Star Wars games, the PS Plus Premium tier also offers classics like Republic Commando and Bounty Hunter as downloadable games along with both The Force Unleashed titles, which are available through streaming. For more modern titles, fans can pick up Star Wars Jedi Survivor or look forward to Ubisoft's upcoming open-world title Star Wars Outlaws , which is set to release later this year.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace debuts on PS4 and PS5 on Jan. 16

Source: PlayStation

A Popular Star Wars Game Comes to PS4 and PS5

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Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace Joins PS Plus Premium Next Week

  • January 10, 2024
  • Theo Litston

the phantom nenace

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace joins PS Plus Premium next week on Tuesday 16th January! Sony has confirmed it, which means it’s time to start destroying droids once again!

The action/adventure game, based on the movie of the same name, originally released on PlayStation and PC back in 1999 to coincide with the launch of George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel.

Sony revealed that Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace will join the top tier of their subscription service earlier today in a post on the PlayStation Blog .

The game closely follows the events of the film and allows players to take control of Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn, his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi, Queen Amidala and Captain Panaka. Unfortunately Jar Jar Binks isn’t playable.

The game received mixed reviews upon release with critics citing dull hack n’ slash gameplay and basic puzzles as substantial issues with Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace.

Other retro games launching on the service next week include Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Collection, Rally Cross, Legend of Mana and Secret of Mana.

Now This Is Podracing!

Star Wars Episode 1: Jedi Power Battles - the phantom menace joins ps plus

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace wasn’t the only tie-in game for the biggest movie of 1999 with Star Wars Episode 1: Racer releasing on PC, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Colour and Dreamcast and Star Wars Episode 1: Jedi Power Battles arriving on PlayStation and Dreamcast the following year.

The former allowed players to experience the speed and excitement of podracing. Podracing was arguably the highlight of the film and saw Anakin Skywalker racing across the deserts of Tatooine.

Jedi Power Battles on the other hand, wasn’t particularly fun or exciting but gave gamers their first opportunity to play as Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu in game. Somehow, the team at LucasArts managed to omit Mace Windu’s iconic purple lightsabre from the box art as you can see above.

I was the perfect age for Star War when Episode 1 was released in ’99 and while nothing can hold a candle to the original trilogy, and especially Empire, I have fond memories of playing Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace on the PS1 and am thrilled to see it join PlayStation Plus Premium next week.

Since the late nineties we’ve played and enjoyed plenty of Star Wars games and the future is looking bright for the franchise with several other big budget Star Wars games set to release in 2024 and beyond .

This article may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to purchase an item we may earn a commission. Thank you for your support.

Theo Litston

Theo first fell in love with gaming when he sped through Green Hill Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog back in 1991. Theo has previously provided reviews, news coverage and articles for The Games Cabin and enjoyed producing comedic Let’s Plays on his own personal YouTube channels.

A huge Kingdom Hearts and Metal Gear fan, Theo enjoys deep gameplay mechanics and complex storylines. A completionist by nature, Theo has earned over 140 platinum trophies including top digital trinkets for Stardew Valley, The Witness, Bloodborne and a plethora of GTA games.

Outside of gaming, Theo can often be found riding his motorbike, headbanging at gigs or out in the countryside exploring nature and marvelling at the ‘realistic graphics’.

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Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

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Classic Star Wars PlayStation game is coming to PS4 and PS5

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace arrives this week in the PlayStation Plus library

By Hope Mullinax | 11:42 AM EST

Photo: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999).. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Heads up, Star Wars gamers, because a classic Star Wars PS1 video game arrives this week for PS4 and PS5. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace will be released on January 16 on the Classics Catalog for PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers. This is just in time for the film's 25th anniversary this year.

As reported by CBR , there are some caveats to the video game's release. Only fans with the Premium tier of PlayStation Plus will have access to the game. However, it might not be a bad thing to invest in as other classic Star Wars games, such as PlayStation 2's Bounty Hunter, Nintendo 64's Star Wars Episode I: Racer, and Xbox's Republic Commando , are also available in this tier. The Premium tier offers a wide variety of Star Wars games, old and new, and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is the latest to join its library. CBR also added their speculation that the game would have improvements as it will be running on "...Sony's in-house emulation software, which means it will likely have a few quality-of-life improvements, such as a rewind function and a save state system."

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a fan favorite classic game, though at the time some of the game play was criticized. It was the first time a 3D Star Wars game offered lightsaber duels as part of the combat. Players could play as Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padmé Amidala, or Captain Panaka as they worked through the various levels from the movie. Jake Lloyd reprised his role as Anakin Skywalker, and this was also the first Star Wars project from longtime Lucasfilm Animation voice actor, Grey DeLisle, who portrays Padmé.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace arrives on PS4 and PS5 on January 16 as part of the Classics Catalog for PlayStation Plus' Premium tier.

Ubisoft corrects Star Wars Outlaws release window. dark. Next. Ubisoft corrects Star Wars Outlaws release window
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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

A Jedi attempts to protect Naboo from the greedy Trade Federation and, as they soon learn, the Sith. A Jedi attempts to protect Naboo from the greedy Trade Federation and, as they soon learn, the Sith. A Jedi attempts to protect Naboo from the greedy Trade Federation and, as they soon learn, the Sith.

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  • 8 User reviews
  • 1 Critic review

James Warwick in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

  • Anakin Skywalker

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Ahmed Best

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Andy Secombe

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Whatever Happened To The Cast Of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace?

Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn

There wasn't a more  hotly anticipated film in 1999 than " Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace ." It had been 16 years since the last cinematic visit to George Lucas' galaxy far, far away, but in that time, "Star Wars" had only grown more popular, with scores of novels, comic books, video games, and toys all coming out through the 1990s. Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox had primed the pump for a new "Star Wars" film by releasing CGI-enhanced "Special Editions" of "Star Wars" (1977), "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), and "Return of the Jedi" (1983) into theaters in 1997, giving audiences a taste of what a brand new sequel with state-of-the-art special effects could look like. Fans' expectations were understandably high — perhaps too high.

"The Phantom Menace" was released to great fanfare, incredible box office returns, and decidedly mixed reviews . Its innovations have influenced Hollywood storytelling for decades, with prequels of existing film franchises now commonplace and CGI becoming a standard tool for blockbuster movies to build sets, costumes, and even entire characters from scratch. For many members of the film's cast, however, the whiplash of success followed by fan ridicule was a lot to navigate, with some bearing the brunt of the backlash more than others. Now, over two decades later, let's take a look at what happened to the cast of "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace."

Pernilla August

Swedish actress Pernilla August stars as Anakin's saintly, virgin mother Shmi — a slave on the desert planet Tatooine who dreams of a better life for her son. When Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) tells her that her son is unusually strong in the Force, she agrees to let him go to Coruscant to receive training. August would reprise her role in the next film, 2002's "Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones," as well as on an episode of the animated series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" in 2011.

August's brush with blockbuster American filmmaking turned out to be brief. Later in 1999, she played a different virgin mother in the Hallmark TV movie "Mary, Mother of Jesus" opposite Christian Bale. She soon returned to Sweden, however, where she remains one of the nation's most beloved actors . In 2002, she starred in a Stockholm production of Henrik Ibsen's classic play "Ghosts" directed by the legendary Ingmar Bergman, who August had already worked with earlier in her career. Her 2010 directorial debut "Beyond," starring Noomi Rapace, was a festival favorite that year. August continues to be a mainstay in Sweden, both in front of and behind the camera. In 2021, she lent her voice to the family film "The Ape Star" and appeared in the coming-of-age television drama "Young Royals."

There are essentially two ways of looking at the character of Jar Jar Binks, played by Ahmed Best  in "The Phantom Menace." As an early example of how motion capture technology can render a live-action performance in CGI, it's a triumph, paving the way for everything from Andy Serkis' Gollum to Josh Brolin's Thanos. As a character the audience should be able to tolerate for more than five seconds, though, Jar Jar is a disaster — a childish bumbler whose long dreadlock-style ears and patois-like speech edge uncomfortably close to racial caricature. None of this should have been blamed on Best, but unfortunately, the actor became an easy target for fans' ire.

The New York-born Best was plucked from the touring ensemble of the Broadway hit "Stomp," with "The Phantom Menace" being his first credited film role. Despite the backlash, Best appeared as Jar Jar in the next two films and voiced the character in video games and animated series, but he had difficulty finding meaningful work beyond Lucasfilm. In a wide-ranging 2017 interview with Wired , Best admits to feeling frustrated and depressed that he did not have the immediate success that some of his co-stars enjoyed. Feelings about "The Phantom Menace" and Jar Jar have softened a bit in recent years, however, and Best was given a hero's welcome by convention-goers at the 2019 Star Wars Celebration Chicago. In 2020, he donned his own set of Jedi robes as host of the Disney+ kids competition series "Jedi Temple Challenge."

Brian Blessed

British actor Brian Blessed was already a veteran of stage and screen when "Star Wars" came calling, with credits going back to the early 1960s. Blessed voices Boss Nass, the head Gungan in charge of the amphibious race's underwater civilization on planet Naboo. At first, he refuses Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's entreaties to help his above-ground human counterparts in their struggle against the Trade Federation, but he later sends a full army to repel the Federation's battle droids, unintentionally turning Jar Jar into a war hero.

Blessed is known for his roles in classic BBC shows like "I, Claudius" and "Z-Cars," as well as "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" and "Flash Gordon." He's provided vocal performances for video games too, such as the "Warhammer" series and "Kingdom Hearts" (reprising his role from Disney's 1999 adaptation of "Tarzan"). Kids and parents might also recognize him as the voice of Grampy Rabbit on "Peppa Pig." In 2015, Blessed  collapsed on stage during a performance of "King Lear," and though he was able to finish the performance, he eventually withdrew from the production. 2018 saw him return to Sherwood Forest as Friar Tuck in the adaptation "Robin Hood: The Rebellion." Despite being well into his eighties, Blessed continues to work steadily and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Oliver Ford Davies

From the very first "Star Wars" film in 1977 up through "The Rise of Skywalker" in 2019, the series has often filled out its ranks of supporting characters, aliens, and monsters with acclaimed British actors. Oliver Ford Davies is one of them, turning up in all three prequels as Sio Bibble, governor of Naboo under Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman).

Born in 1939, Davies was performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company as early as age 20. Many of his most notable onscreen roles have been in televised adaptations of RSC productions, such as "Richard II," "Henry V," and "Troilus and Cressida," all within the 2010s. "Game of Thrones" viewers might recognize Davies as the duplicitous Maester Cressen from the Season 2 premiere "The North Remembers," while Rowan Atkinson fans may know him as the Archbishop of Canterbury in Atkinson's popular James Bond parody "Johnny English." In 2021, Davies played celebrated 20th-century author Graham Greene in the filmed stage play "A Splinter of Ice." He has been nominated for an Olivier Award for his stage work three times, winning once for the David Hare play "Racing Demon."

Samuel L. Jackson

"I didn't know what I was doing." That's what  Samuel L. Jackson told Seth Meyers in 2016 when he was asked about being cast in "The Phantom Menace." Fresh off the success of "Pulp Fiction," Jackson mentioned in a talk show appearance that he would love to work with George Lucas on the new "Star Wars" movie, and soon after, he was called to a meeting at Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in northern California. Jackson hadn't seen so much as a script before heading to London to begin filming. In fact, it wasn't until his costume fitting that he learned he would be playing the skeptical Jedi council member Mace Windu.

Jackson would play Windu again in both "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," wielding his famous purple lightsaber. He soon followed one major franchise with another, ushering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Nick Fury in 2008's "Iron Man," whom he has played more than a dozen times and counting. Jackson has also indulged in some non-Marvel superhero action, appearing in 2004's "The Incredibles" and its 2018 sequel, as well as Frank Miller's "The Spirit" in 2008. Despite his skill in effects-heavy blockbusters, Jackson has stayed true to the more personal films that defined his early career, reuniting with Quentin Tarantino on "Inglourious Basterds," "Django Unchained," and "The Hateful Eight."

Keira Knightley

British actress Keira Knightley was still in her teens and had just a handful of acting credits when she was cast in "The Phantom Menace" as Sabe, Queen Amidala's handmaiden and occasional decoy. It's a small role, which is perhaps why her time in "Star Wars" is little more than a fun footnote in what has become a massively successful career in film.

Knightley wouldn't have to wait long after "Star Wars" to become a household name. In 2002, she starred in Gurinder Chadha's sleeper hit "Bend it Like Beckham," and she followed that up with megahits like "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" and "Love Actually." Knightley would return to the "Pirates" franchise throughout her career, most recently in 2017's "Dead Men Tell No Tales," but otherwise she's mostly eschewed those sorts of big effects-heavy spectacles. Her collaborations with director Joe Wright on "Pride and Prejudice," "Atonement," and "Anna Karenina" are some of her most celebrated roles. "Pride and Prejudice" netted her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, and she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the 2014 Alan Turin biopic "The Imitation Game." In addition to her film work, Knightley has long been the face of Coco Mademoiselle perfume.

Aside from Ahmed Best, no one faced more ridicule or scorn for their performance in "The Phantom Menace" than actor Jake Lloyd , who was only 10 years old when the film premiered in 1999. As Anakin Skywalker, the weight of the entire film — if not the entire franchise — rested on his young shoulders, with little help from a script that gave him "Yippee!" as a catchphrase and a director who has been credibly accused of being more interested in effects than actors. Months before the film even opened, the unflattering nickname "Mannequin Skywalker"  was already making the rounds, prompting  an angry letter in Lloyd's defense from former child star and future "Solo: A Star Wars Story" director Ron Howard.

Prior to his debut as Anakin, Lloyd had recurring roles on "ER" and "The Pretender" and had starred in "Jingle All the Way" with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the pressures of fame coupled with the negative reaction to his performance led him to leave acting behind . His last non-Anakin role was in the 2001 sports drama "Madison." Lloyd moved to Chicago after high school to attend Columbia College. After a domestic violence incident was followed within months by a reckless driving arrest in 2015 (per TMZ), Lloyd's family released a statement to Geek News Now  that he'd been diagnosed with schizophrenia several years earlier, and he was eventually admitted to a psychiatric facility for treatment.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website .

Ian McDiarmid

Scottish actor Ian McDiarmid is one of the few stars of the original "Star Wars" trilogy to reprise their role for the prequels. His "Return of the Jedi" character, Emperor Palpatine, was played by Clive Revill in the original release of "The Empire Strikes Back," with McDiarmid taking over the role for the third film under a heavy layer of makeup (and replacing Revill in subsequent versions of "Empire"). For "The Phantom Menace," released 16 years later, he played a younger, healthier Palpatine, making power plays behind the scenes as Naboo's delegate in the Galactic Senate while secretly manipulating events as the sinister Sith Lord Darth Sidious.

Palpatine's rise to power is one of the better-executed plotlines in the often shabby prequel trilogy — a cautionary tale of a society sacrificing freedom for security. McDiarmid guided the character from a backstage schemer to a full-bore dictator, then reprised the role one last time (presumably) in 2019's "The Rise of Skywalker." In between "Star Wars" gigs, he's been a frequent presence on British stages and television sets, starring in the 18th-century crime series "City of Vice" in 2008 and playing a featured role in the 2017 historical adventure series "Britannia." In 2006, McDiarmid won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for the revival of Brian Friel's "Faith Healer," opposite fellow Tony winner Ralph Fiennes.

Ewan McGregor

In many ways, Ewan McGregor had the biggest shoes to fill of any actor in "The Phantom Menace." Though Jake Lloyd was playing the boy who would one day be Darth Vader, it was a version of the character that had never been seen in the original trilogy. McGregor, on the other hand, was stepping straight into the Jedi robes of Obi-Wan Kenobi, memorably played in the first three films by Sir Alec Guinness. McGregor makes the role his own with a twinkle in his eye and a slight Guinness-y lilt to his voice, managing better than most of his co-stars to find the humor and pathos in the prequels' frequently clunky dialogue.

McGregor had previously made a name for himself in the breakout Scottish indie film "Trainspotting." His post-"Star Wars" career has been a similar mix of bold, challenging work, like the black comedy "I Love You Phillip Morris," and occasional blockbusters, such as "The Island" and "Big Fish." Some of his most acclaimed roles have been on television, however. He was Emmy-nominated for his role as a pair of ne'er-do-well siblings in the third season of FX's "Fargo," and he won in 2021 for his lead role in the Netflix limited series "Halston." McGregor reprises the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the 2022 Disney+ series of the same name, which picks up from where the character left off at the end of "Revenge of the Sith."

Liam Neeson

Prior to "The Phantom Menace," Irish actor Liam Neeson was best known for sensitive performances in prestige dramas like "Schindler's List," "Nell," and "Michael Collins." Only a couple of credits on his resume, like Sam Raimi's gonzo superhero flick "Darkman" and the Scottish rebel biopic "Rob Roy," would suggest the two-fisted man of action he has become on film in the last two decades. The role of Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn splits the difference between these competing trends in Neeson's career, both meditative and forceful (no pun intended) and, it must be said, perhaps not the brightest lightsaber in the Jedi Temple. When his padawan Obi-Wan utters the series catchphrase "I have a bad feeling about this," Qui-Gon responds with "I don't sense anything," moments before they are attacked.

Neeson would take on a similar mentor role in the 2005 comic book reboot "Batman Begins," but his "ass-kicking dad" era wouldn't begin in earnest until 2008's "Taken." Since then, Neeson has released a new action feature every year or two. Titles like "The Grey," "Unknown," and "A Walk in the Tombstones" lean on his aging gravitas in the service of revenge plots, thrillers, and survival tales. He's also willing to lampoon his own image, as in 2014's "The Lego Movie" and Seth McFarland's parody Western "A Million Ways to Die in the West."

Scottish actor and stunt performer Ray Park  studied martial arts since he was a boy , and he hadn't been working in Hollywood long when he was cast as the horned and tattooed Sith Lord Darth Maul. Park's acrobatic skills set the tone for the prequel trilogy's lightsaber duels, which were far more fast-paced and kinetic than the ones featured in the first three "Star Wars" films. Even at the height of anti-prequel discourse, when everything about the films was fair game for ridicule, "Star Wars" fans could all agree on one thing: Darth Maul was really cool.

Park followed up "The Phantom Menace" by playing the Headless Horseman (alongside Christopher Walken) in Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" and mutant villain Toad in the first "X-Men" movie in 2000. He appeared on Season 4 of the NBC superhero series "Heroes," played Chuck Norris in a 2008 Chinese miniseries based on the life of Bruce Lee, and donned the black mask as ninja villain Snake Eyes in "GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra" and its 2013 sequel. Over the years, Park has returned to the role of Darth Maul several times, most notably in the 2018 prequel "Solo: A Star Wars Story." He was originally intended to reprise the role in "Obi-Wan Kenobi," but his role was reportedly cut out when the series' scripts were heavily rewritten before filming began.

Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman made a name for herself at a young age with a series of affecting turns in heavy adult dramas like "The Professional" and "Heat." Those were the types of roles she generally played before being cast as Padmé Amidala — Queen of Naboo and future mother to Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia — and for the most part, they're the types of roles she's played since. Like co-star Ewan McGregor, Portman's time in a galaxy far, far away is a foundational part of her stellar career, but it's also just one chapter of it.

As large as "Star Wars" looms on her resume, Portman is arguably just as iconic (for better or worse) as  Manic Pixie Dream Girl Sam in Zach Braff's 2004 hit "Garden State." In the 2000s, she worked with directors like Wes Anderson, Wong Kar-wai, and Mike Nichols, among many others, receiving her first  Academy Award nomination  for Darren Aronofsky's 2010 psychological thriller "Black Swan." She won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2017 for playing Jackie Kennedy Onassis in the biopic "Jackie." In 2010, Portman joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in "Thor" as the God of Thunder's love interest Jane Foster, reprising the role in the 2013 sequel "Thor: The Dark World." Though Portman skipped the series' third installment, she is set to return in 2022's "Thor: Love and Thunder." Outside of her film work, Portman is an animal rights activist , a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement, and a surprisingly good rapper .

Terence Stamp

Classic British tough-guy actor and erstwhile General Zod Terence Stamp plays Chancellor Valorum in "The Phantom Menace," the weak-willed leader of the Galactic Senate who proves no match for the shady maneuverings of Senator Palpatine. Stamp was famously not a fan of his time in the "Star Wars" universe (per IndieWire ). He's criticized George Lucas' obsession with special effects, as well as his paltry salary, which included a stencil set as payment for an extra day of shooting. Stamp has said that he only took the job because he had a "crush" on Natalie Portman — a somewhat problematic claim given that she was roughly a third his age at the time of production.

Known for 1960s Mod classics like "Poor Cow" and "Modesty Blaise," Stamp was on something of a comeback streak in 1999, appearing in Steven Soderbergh's "The Limey" that same year and in the drag classic "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" just a few years before. Afterwards, Stamp appeared in comedies like "My Boss' Daughter" and "Yes Man" and dramas like the Mormon western "September Dawn" and Tim Burton's "Big Eyes." He returned to the world of Superman in 2003, voicing the Man of Steel's birth father Jor-El on more than 20 episodes of the WB/CW teen series "Smallville." In 2021, Stamp appeared in Edgar Wright's Mod throwback thriller "Last Night in Soho."

Hugh Quarshie

Ghana-born British actor Hugh Quarshie appears in "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace" as Captain Panaka of the Naboo royal guard, who accompanies Queen Amidala to the planet Tatooine while on the run from the Trade Federation. Panaka also gets the honor, so to speak, of introducing R2D2 to the "Star Wars" universe.

A member of the Royal Shakespeare Company since 1981, Quarshie is another of the many well-versed British thespians who've filled out small roles in the sci-fi franchise. Arguably best known to American audiences for his roles in "Highlander," "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," and two episodes of David Tennant-era "Doctor Who," he's known to British audiences for his nearly two-decade turn on the long-running BBC medical drama "Holby City." Quarshie's surgical consultant Ric Griffin was introduced in the show's fourth season in 2001 and bowed out some 500 episodes later in 2020. Since then, he's appeared on the comedy series "Breeders" opposite Martin Freeman and in the 2021 true crime docudrama "Stephen."

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20 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Making of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

{:title=>"Behind the Scenes", :url=>"https://www.starwars.com/news/category/behind-the-scenes"}

20 things you probably didn’t know about the making of star wars: the phantom menace.

Kelly Knox

You’ll never watch Episode I the same way again.

Twenty years ago, Star Wars : The Phantom Menace graced movie theaters with an excitement level that’s still talked about fondly today. But it wasn’t an easy path to get there. From developing completely new film techniques and technology that seem commonplace now, to a massive storm wiping out most of the Mos Espa set in Tunisia, there’s more to the story of making of Episode I than you probably know.

The Making of Episode I: The Phantom Menace , written by Laurent Bouzereau and Jody Duncan, was also released in 1999 and features candid tales of the production direct from writer and director George Lucas, the cast, and the crew of one of the most anticipated films in history. In addition, Lucasfilm produced a number of behind-the-scenes features for web and home video that explored the making of the movie.

Here are 20 behind-the-scenes facts and anecdotes straight from the people who were there!

1. George Lucas wrote the Episode I script by hand with just pencil and notebook paper. In fact, he writes all of his scripts this way.

2. One of the biggest influences on the making of The Phantom Menace was The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles . Not only did a significant number of the television series’ crew and production team later work on The Phantom Menace , some of the techniques they perfected while filming the series were then used on Episode I . Rick McCallum, producer of the prequel trilogy, called the show a “testing bed to learn a new way of making films.”

A concept model for Jar Jar Binks.

3. Jar Jar Binks was originally designed with green skin. The design team later realized that most aquatic creatures on our own planet don’t sport green hues, so they changed his skin tone to orange instead.

Concept art by Iain McCaig

4. Yaddle is actually an early “young Yoda” design. Concept artist Iain McCaig began designing the Jedi Master’s younger look as an eight-year-old version of the character. “That concept eventually became another Jedi in the film, Yaddle ,” he revealed.

5. The moving mechanism inside Threepio’s head is a missile gyroscope . Chief Model Maker Lorne Peterson had found it and let the effects team borrow it, he said in the making-of featurette “Discoveries from Inside: Models & Miniatures.”

Concept sketch by Doug Chiang

6. The design of the heavy troop transport in The Phantom Menace , the MTT, was inspired by elephants. In the featurette “Conversations: Doug Chiang Looks Back,” the concept artist talked about using familiar shapes to help the audience understand a design on a basic level. “If you look at the front of the MTT , the tiny little slits represent the elephant’s eyes and his forehead,” said Chiang. “And the trunk, I turned into the door, and the tusks actually become the two guns on the sides. “

Queen Amidala in The Phantom Menace.

7. Costume colors are specific to the planets of the galaxy far, far away. Iain McCaig and costume designer Trisha Biggar worked together to create the palettes: gray, brown, and black for Coruscant, green and gold for Naboo, and sun-bleached sandy colors for Tatooine.

Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor).

8. Ewan McGregor had dialogue coaching to prepare for his role. He worked hard to capture the calming tones and inflections of Sir Alec Guinness to best play the character, which he called “quite tricky.”

Samuel L. Jackson.

 9.  Samuel L. Jackson got the role of Mace Windu in part through an appearance on the British talk show  TFI Friday to promote a different movie. The casting director for The Phantom Menace , Robin Gurland, heard that Jackson made his wish to be in the new Star Wars known while chatting on the talk show, and the rest is history.

10. Ahmed Best was discovered through his performance in the theater show Stomp . Gurland happened to catch the show and spotted Best in the cast. His energy and performance made her realize, “He’s Jar Jar!”

the phantom nenace

11. Greg Proops and Scott Capurro recorded their podracing commentary in prosthetics and makeup. The footage would later be used as reference for their digital characters, Fode and Beed .

12. Plo Koon was named after the son of creature effects supervisor Nick Dudman. “I decided to call one of the Jedi Plonkoon, because we called my son that during his first year of life,” he said. “I wrote down Plonkoon, George crossed out the n and Plo Koon was born!”

13. The three Wookiees in the Galactic Senate all wore the same Chewbacca costume from the Lucasfilm archive. The actor in the old suit was filmed three different times with slight adjustments made to the hair. “When the shots were put together, we ended up with three different Wookiees out of one suit,” said Dudman.

Palpatine and Darth Maul talk on a balcony on Coruscant.

14. The very first scene of The Phantom Menace  that was filmed featured Darth Sidious and Darth Maul. Their balcony chat on Coruscant marked the beginning of production in 1997.

15. After a monstrous storm destroyed almost everything on the Mos Espa set, the Tunisian army helped rebuild it. Thanks to the fact that one set was luckily left in one piece -- the landing ramp of the Naboo Royal Starship  -- plus the efforts of the entire crew and local helpers, production continued without delay.

A behind-the-scenes look at Duel of the Fates.

16. The Jedi and Sith went through three hundred aluminum lightsaber blades while filming The Phantom Menace . Stunt coordinator Nick Gillard helped build the new lightsabers for the physically and mentally intensive duels.

A concept painting of Watto.

17. Watto only has one full tusk so the audience can see his mouth move accurately when he speaks. The Toydarian was originally designed with two large tusks on either side of his trunk-like nose, but they would have prevented his lips from fully shaping words with an  m or a  b . One tusk was broken off and his lopsided smile was born.

18. Watto was also the first CG character that the effects team went to work on. Through his design and motions, the team quickly learned how to achieve what they wanted on featured digital characters. Even just the cord on his tool belt had to have its own computer program written to simulate its movement properly. (The same program would later be used for Jar Jar’s flapping ears.)

19. Some of the audience members at the Boonta Eve Classic podrace crowd are colorful cotton swabs. Sometimes practical effects work best to achieve just the right three-dimensional look for faraway shots, and a model maker had the creative idea to use the swabs in the arena models.

A scene from The Phantom Menace.

20. Some of the cheers and jeers emanating from the audience at the podrace are from a San Francisco 49ers game. Sound designer Ben Burtt recorded crowd reactions at the football game himself.

Want even more behind-the-scenes from The Phantom Menace ? You can find the complete featurette The Beginning: Making Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace on the official Star Wars YouTube channel to see the results of that disastrous storm, Ewan McGregor choosing his very own lightsaber hilt, and much, much more.

Featured concept art by Iain McCaig.

Kelly Knox is a freelance writer who loves creating  Star Wars  crafts with her daughter and spouting behind-the-scenes movie facts. Follow her on Twitter at  @kelly_knox .

Site tags: #StarWarsBlog

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Screen Rant

Star wars’ the phantom menace title explained: who it really is.

George Lucas tantalized viewers when he named the first film of the prequels "The Phantom Menace." But just who was he actually referring to?

The title of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace has a double meaning. George Lucas returned to Star Wars in 1999, finally revealing the history of the galaxy he had created and the true story of the Clone Wars. The title of the first film, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace , immediately led to intense speculation in the fanbase around who exactly the titular Menace could be.

The Star Wars Expanded Universe had flourished since 1991, with the release of the comic book miniseries Dark Empire and the New York Times-bestselling " Thrawn Trilogy " of novels. At Lucas' insistence, these stories had explored the post- Return of the Jedi galaxy; he felt he was unlikely to ever make a sequel trilogy, but he continually toyed with the idea of the prequels. Modern viewers tend to forget just how little audiences knew about the galaxy's past back in 1999, and even how little they knew about the Sith. Most had assumed the Sith were a race of Force-sensitives commanded by Darth Vader (who, after all, was dubbed " Lord of the Sith ").

Related: Star Wars Confirms The Sith's Origins In Canon

Curiously enough, there's a sense in which the concept of a phantom menace defines Star Wars . So many of the Sith's plans operate in the shadows; from Palpatine's machinations in the prequels to the Death Star trap in Return of the Jedi , from Supreme Leader Snoke's holographic presence in Star Wars: The Force Awakens to the emergence of the resurrected Palpatine in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker . But, in this case, the title was designed by George Lucas to refer to two very specific individuals – Darth Sidious and his apprentice, Darth Maul.

Yes, The Phantom Menace Is Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious

As George Lucas explained in an interview with Vanity Fair , " The phantom menace is a character named Darth Sidious, " who Lucas described as " the last of the Sith. " It's interesting to note that, at the time this interview was conducted, Lucas didn't acknowledge Darth Sidious was in fact Palpatine. This led to speculation Palpatine was a pawn of the Sith , rather than the fulfillment of their millennia of planning. This, of course, was probably why Lucas was so careful with his wording in the first place; he wanted viewers to speculate as to the true identity of the Sith Lord, just as the Jedi would do over the course of the prequel trilogy.

The idea of a " phantom menace " perfectly defines the Baneite Sith. Darth Bane reinvented the Sith, turning them into agents of darkness who operated in the shadows, their very existence unknown to the Jedi. For a thousand years they had plotted and schemed, working to undermine their ancient enemies, and at last they would have their revenge. As the culmination and climax of Darth Bane's Sith , Palpatine was the ultimate phantom menace.

Darth Maul Is Also The Phantom Menace (According To George Lucas)

Lucas hinted the title actually had something of a double meaning. As Lucas explained in his interview, the concept of " menace " should be broadened to include Darth Maul - the brutal Sith Apprentice who threatened Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Maul stood front and center in marketing for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace , with Lucasfilm well aware his terrifying appearance had potential viewers hooked. He appeared in almost all the posters and even in the film's trailer. " At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi, " Darth Maul seethed, in words filled with dark promise. " At last we will have revenge. "

Related: Star Wars Hints The Sith's Jedi Plan Was Even Bigger Than You Realize

It's certainly true that stunt actor Ray Park's portrayal of Darth Maul exuded menace. Park created a whole new fighting style for his double-bladed lightsaber; during practice duels to familiarize the actors with the choreography, he and Ewan McGregor struck with such ferocity and enthusiasm that they kept bending their practice swords out of shape. This ultimately led to duels that had a brutal, visceral edge, thrilling audiences as they watched combat far more ferocious than anything seen in the original trilogy.

Darth Maul perfectly encapsulates the nature of the Baneite Sith. When Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace ends, he is dead; the Sith who stepped out of the shadows, who became a concrete menace rather than a phantom one, is slain. The implication is that the Sith can only defeat the Jedi when they remain true to Darth Bane's guidance, manipulators and schemers rather than aggressive forces of rage and wrath. Darth Bane's fall proves the Sith must always remain the shadow working covertly against the light - a true phantom menace.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

The old Star Wars magic is gone.

In its place is something new: something in a way as revolutionary as the first Star Wars film all those years ago, with its breakthrough special effects and zooming camera techniques.

Artistic/Entertainment Value

Moral/spiritual value, age appropriateness, mpaa rating, caveat spectator.

Eagerly anticipated after a sixteen-year hiatus, relentlessly overhyped and overmarketed, 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace — the first installment in a new trilogy of "prequels" to the original films — was praised by some and derided by others. Both had plenty to work with: The first film written and directed by Lucas himself since the 1977 original, Episode I features Lucas at his visionary best and at his maddening worst. No Star Wars film is more flawed — and no film, not even the original Star Wars trilogy, has ever before taken us to imaginary worlds at once so boldly conceived and so grandly realized, so vast in scope and so persuasive in detail, so rich and diverse in color and texture and ornamentation. As Roger Ebert aptly put it, this movie doesn’t just take us to new places, but to "new kinds of places."

There’s the many-domed skyline and Greco-Roman marble columns and statues of the Naboo capital city, commandingly situated atop lofty cliffs amid a shower of waterfalls. The underwater Gungan city, with its Atlanteanesque bubble chambers and semi-permeable walls that admit solid bodies but repel the water. The galactic capital planet-city Coruscant, a classic fantasy cityscape vision recalling every sci-fi skyline from the silent classic Metropolis to Blade Runner to The Fifth Element , yet somehow for the first time delivering something that was only promised in those earlier films.

Add to these the enormous racetrack stadium on Tatooine, the seemingly infinite galactic senate chamber on Coruscant, and the vertiginous network of catwalks somewhere in the Naboo capital in which the climactic lightsaber battle takes place, and you’ve got a film that’s a wonder to behold — an awe-inspiring achievement of imagination and next-generation effects wizardry.

Lucas and his team lavish as much attention upon each locale as if it were the only setting in the film — and indeed any one of them could serve as a satisfying setting for an entire film. There’s an almost insolent prodigality to the way Lucas introduces us almost in passing to one vision after another of piercing beauty and arresting power, all the while hardly pausing to linger on any of them, as if none of it were any big deal. It’s like a master chef preparing a gourmet seven-course meal, then serving it up like popcorn at a movie theater during a lightweight action flick. It’s all so amazing, you just wish you had the leisure to appreciate it. (Happily, this wish is granted in Episode II — Attack of the Clones , which revisits the locations developed for the first film at more satisfying length.)

In and around an area known as a Gungan "sacred place" — Gungans are polytheists, incidentally; Jar Jar speaks of "the gods" — we see what look like colossal stone figures almost completely buried in the earth. Only the tops of the heads can still be seen. I mention them because no one in the film does; they serve no plot function, they’re simply there, giant statues built thousands or hundreds of thousands of years earlier, and slowly, inexorably swallowed by the earth. Here we are at the beginning of the Star Wars saga, and here, amid this hugger-mugger of Gungans and Naboo, we find mute monuments of ancient cultures long since gone and forgotten. That’s the kind of detail that makes George Lucas’s fantasy worlds so vivid.

Lucas’s restless invention doesn’t end with landscapes and architecture. The Phantom Menace continues the tradition of imaginative character design pioneered in such characters as Darth Vader, Yoda, and Jabba the Hutt. Most striking in the new film is Vader forerunner Darth Maul, played by martial artist Ray Park ( X-Men ). With his frightful crown of horns, spidery red-and-black facial paint, black Jedi-like robes, and wicked cool double-bladed lightsaber, Maul cuts a positively satanic figure as an adversary tough enough to take on two Jedis at once.

Unlike Vader, this Darth is a man of simple motivations and few words: a mere pawn of his master, the man who will become the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid, reprising his role from Return of the Jedi ). Hatred and violence, not ambition or power, are his motivating passions. Some were disappointed that Maul turned out to be so one-dimensional — yet the Star Wars prequels are concerned with the origins of Darth Vader, not with Darth Maul. Maul is what he is, a fearsome-looking, formidable action villain who’s never more effective than when simply pacing back and forth like a caged tiger, wordlessly exuding malevolence and contempt.

A major advance in Star Wars character design is the race of the Gungans, members of which include comic, pratfalling Jar Jar (voice of Ahmed Best) and obese, spluttering Boss Nass (voice of Brian Blessed) — the latter being my favorite of the film’s supporting characters.

Although humanoid, the Gungans aren’t built like humans, and don’t move like them; they could never have been portrayed by humans in costumes, or by any other conventional technique. Only unprecedented achievements in computer imaging allowed this race to be brought to life. Whatever one may think of Jar Jar as a character, the sheer presence of the Gungans on the screen is a triumph worth noting.

On Tatooine particularly, especially during the pod race, Lucas goes hog-wild fashioning characters and races of all conceivable shapes and sizes — many unfortunately as preposterous-looking as the silliest Muppets in Jabba’s retinue from Return of the Jedi . Like the much-derided Ewoks, Episode I ’s wacky creatures are meant to appeal to kids — which, to be fair, they do. Since the film’s protagonist, young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), is only about ten years old, it’s reasonable that The Phantom Menace particularly should be pitched to children. Alas, this means we now have a Star Wars movie with poop and fart gags.

Yet these kid-centric elements only aggravate other problems in the film. For example: If Episode I is more aimed at kids than other Star Wars films, why is the tone so much more serious and weighty, the characters so stiff and charmless, the dialogue so formal and devoid of the lighthearted banter of the first trilogy? True, there are comic-relief characters such as Jar Jar, but why are Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and Amidala, to put it bluntly, so much less fun than Han and Leia and Luke?

More seriously, why kick off this kid-centric opening chapter to the Star Wars saga with such a complicated and abstruse conflict over — of all things — taxes and trade routes?

In the first trilogy, conflicts and motivations are fairly strightforward and easy to explain. Even young kids can follow plot points like "Luke wants to get the Death Star plans to the Rebellion leadership so they can blow it up"; "Vader is using Luke’s friends as bait to catch him"; "Han needs to pay back money to Jabba so Jabba won’t send any more bounty hunters after him."

Yet when it comes to the conflict in Episode I , we’re left struggling over questions such as who is taxing what, whether the Trade Federation favors or opposes the taxes, how the blockade around Naboo advances their cause, and precisely what they think invasion is going to accomplish.

The relative complexity and obscurity of the conflict means more exposition — lots of it. Discussions, explanations, meetings, and negotiations bog down much of the film. Even the Jedi council, whom we would have loved to see in action, just sits around talking. (Here once again Episode II delivers what was missing in Episode I .)

The middle act, particularly, drags. After some rousing action sequences on and around Naboo, our heroes go off planet, heading first to Tatooine and then to Coruscant before finally returning to Naboo. In this entire round trip, there’s only one action sequence of any substance: the pod race.

Unfortunately, the pod race sequence, though technically impressive, I find to be dramatically inert, without a shadow of the excitement of the great X-wing assault on the Death Star. (One reason why: Luke destroyed the Death Star by making a fateful decision to switch off his targeting computer and use the Force. Anakin, though undoubtedly relying on the Force, solves his problems by repeatedly flipping switches and throwing levers — a general strategy that also comes in handy during the trip through the Naboo planet core.)

Other than the pod race, the middle act is just a lot of talking. Addressing the Senate, Amidala has a line that anticipates Han Solo’s quip from The Empire Strikes Back about not having time to "discuss this in a committee." This was funny when Han said it, because he was only talking to Leia, who retorted, "I am not a committee!" It’s not funny when Amidala says it, because there really is a committee, and lots of discussion.

Only the return to Naboo at the end of the second act brings the story back to life. Thus, when Jar Jar leaps up and joyfully exclaims "Weesa going home!" — for once I completely share his sentiments.

This of course raises the specter of the most cordially disliked character in the Star Wars universe: Jar Jar Binks, with his high-pitched patois speech, pratfalls, and other mannerisms. Once again, like the unpopular Ewoks, Jar Jar represents the kiddie factor, but older viewers in large numbers find him extremely irritating.

It doesn’t help that the film often seems not to know what it wants out of the character. For example, preparing to depart from the underwater Gungan city, Qui-Gon comments to Obi-Wan that they’ll "need a guide", and arranges to bring Jar Jar along. Yet not only does Jar Jar offer no guidance, Qui-Gon later says that "the Force will guide us." (Jar Jar himself doesn’t seem to know his role in this sequence; his reaction to the Jedi’s proposal is almost schizophrenic in its incoherence.)

Jar Jar’s slapstick reaches a crescendo during the big Gungan-droid battle sequence toward the end, during which — in Forrest Gump fashion — everything he does miraculously turns out right; every trip and fumble harms the enemy and helps the Gungans. In fact, despite an earlier warning that "many Gungans could die," we see no injuries of any kind among the Gungans, let alone fatalities.

The glaring falsity of this battle sequence contrasts unfavorably with the Ewok struggle against Imperial forces in Jedi , in which Ewoks died and Ewoks mourned, and comic pratfalls were at least as likely to backfire on the Ewoks as to work in their favor.

After Jar Jar, the most picked-on character in Menace is, unfortunately, Anakin Skywalker, the boy who grows up to be Darth Vader. Young Jake Lloyd is enthusiastic and sincere in the role, and at times he’s up to the modest acting standards required for a Star Wars movie; but other times his lines fall flat, and a few are glaringly awkward. (Among the weakest: "Yippee!" and "Now this is pod racing!")

When the film was first released, some found Lloyd’s acting limitations even more glaring by contrast to another 1999 performance by a child actor of exceptional ability: Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense . While this is an unfair comparison, and while it’s true that acting has never been a strong point of the Star Wars franchise, it must be admitted that Lloyd’s uneven performance is a liability.

Still another widely derided element of Episode I is the concept of "midi-chlorians," microscopic life forms that in name and description sound suspiciously like mitochondria. In the Star Wars universe, we learn, these tiny creatures live in the cells of all living things — and the more of them one has, the more sensitive to the Force one is. Thus, for example, Yoda has a higher midi-chlorian count than Obi-Wan ; and Anakin, who may be a kind of prophesied Jedi messiah (see "Moral and Spiritual Issues in the Star Wars films" for more on this messianic imagery), turns out to have the highest midi-chlorian count of all.

The introduction of midi-chlorians has been widely felt to demystify the whole business — to replace "The Force is strong in this one" with "His midi-chlorian count is off the charts." One feels it should be more spiritual and elusive than that — just as there is no blood test to differentiate a mystic or saint or priest from an ordinary person.

On the up side, it’s nice to learn that one’s physical body does have something to do with one’s ability to interact with the Force. An overly spiritualistic mysticism can lead to a gnostic-leaning contempt for the flesh. "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter," Yoda once told Luke, pinching his shoulder. If nothing else, the midi-chlorians are a kind of vindication of "this crude matter."

Despite its flaws, The Phantom Menace remains a visionary and enjoyable film, one that succeeds in establishing the foundations of the Star Wars universe for the rest of the films.

For example, in the original trilogy the Jedi are a fallen order whose "light has gone out of the universe," represented only by two old masters in hiding and one apprentice in training. In Menace , for the first time, we get to see powerful, competent Jedi knights fearlessly going about their business at the height of their order’s power, acting as the defenders of peace and order in the galaxy they’re meant to be. For those of us who’ve always yearned for a glimpse of that "more civilized time" wistfully referred to by Ben Kenobi in the first film , this is a satisfying thing.

We also begin to see how the Empire will come to be. The whole business about the Trade Federation and the invasion of Naboo is only a ruse, if an unwieldy one, to advance the career of the man who will become the Emperor. Menace also develops the mythology of the Sith, the dark counterparts to the Jedi, and we begin to grasp a bit more about what precisely is going on in episodes V and VI with Vader and the Emperor each courting Luke, each inviting him to destroy the other.

Besides all this, the film’s final act is highly entertaining, with several overlapping conflicts, the highlight of which is the dazzlingly choreographed lightsaber battle between Darth Maul and the two Jedis. The last act also gives Amidala — who until that point has been given little to do but change clothes and discuss things in a committee — a chance to finally take action the way we would expect of a Star Wars heroine, especially one who happens to be the mother-to-be of Leia and Luke. Kids will also pick up on the moral theme of overcoming prejudices and uniting to oppose a common threat.

The film’s greatest strength remains the imaginative force of its fantasy worlds and the technical virtuosity with which it realizes them. Other Star Wars films set impressive standards in this regard, but Episode I doesn’t just raise the bar, it makes the bar obsolete and takes off into the stratosphere. The old Star Wars magic may be gone, but there’s a new magic at work here… and it’s still Star Wars magic.

Episode I — Final Thoughts (Circa Episode III)

For a critic, revisiting a review written a few years earlier (even months or weeks may be sufficient) can be a gratifying experience or a humbling one, depending on how well he feels his critique holds up in retrospect. In this case it is both.

Rereading my review above, I find that I still basically agree with what I wrote at the time. I’m thankful to see that I wasn’t blind to most of Episode I’s dramatic and structural faults, though I wasn’t fully conscious of its most grievous shortcomings until after seeing Episode III — Revenge of the Sith , the film that The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were supposed to set up, and essentially didn’t.

I still admire and value Lucas’s visionary world-building in Episode I. What I now appreciate more clearly is that, however thrilling these excursions into fantasy worlds may be on initial viewings, in the long run they pale unless the worlds are the setting for a more compelling story, with more involving characters, than Lucas was able to muster.

This is where the original trilogy delivered and the prequel trilogy substantially doesn’t. It’s not just that the banter and camaraderie of Luke and Han and Leia was so much more fun than the often wearying interactions of Anakin and Amidala and young Obi-Wan — though that’s part of it. More importantly, the stories themselves largely lack the strong center of good versus evil that was the heart of the original trilogy.

In the original series, the Rebel Alliance were the good guys, the heroes. They were brave, noble, and dedicated, and their cause was our cause. Episode I fails to establish either the Republic or the Jedi themselves as a comparable institution for whom we can enthusiastically root. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan as individuals demonstrate valor and selflessness, but the Jedi Council as an institution doesn’t display the kind of manifest wisdom, nobility, or compassion from needed to establish them as our heroes. And the Republic, embodied by the lugubrious Senate, is simply a flawed, bureaucratic political machine. Maybe it’s better politics than the original Star Wars … but it’s terrible mythology.

Had Episode I established Coruscant, galactic capital of the Republic and the Jedi, as a glorious, Camelot-like center of justice and peace and order, we would have had something to work with dramatically. And the fall of the Republic and the Jedi order in Episode III would have had far more emotional resonance.

On a fundamental level, Episode I disappoints simply because it fails to behave like the first chapter in a story. Not just because it’s already got so much back story, but because it doesn’t function as an introduction to the world and circumstances and mythology of what is to follow.

In the original Star Wars , the viewer starts out along with Luke Skywalker as an outsider regarding the rebellion against the Empire and the mythology of the Jedi and the Force. As the film progresses, the viewer is gradually initiated along with Luke into the ways of the Force and the struggle against the Empire.

None of this happens in Episode I. The viewer is simply thrown into the deep end of the pool without explanation or introduction. He has no peer in the story, no Luke Skywalker to identify with, but is instead expected to relate to a pair of experienced Jedi knights. (It’s also been noted that there is no Han Solo, no skeptical perpetual outsider to stand between the viewer and the Jedi, but I think that the absence of a Luke figure in the first act of Episode I is even more detrimental.)

In A New Hope , when old Obi-Wan explains to Luke how Darth Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force, Luke asks, "The Force?" prompting Obi-Wan’s famous description of the "energy field created by all living things" that "binds the galaxy together."

By contrast, in Episode I, when young Obi-Wan says, "But master Yoda said to be mindful of my feelings," and Qui-Gon answers, "Be mindful of the living Force, my young padawan," it’s simply taken for granted that we already know who Yoda is and what the Force is.

Granted, that’s almost certainly the case. But shouldn’t we at least feel, watching Episode I, that we could have begun the story there for the first time and watched straight through to the end of Return of the Jedi , and it would have made sense? Shouldn’t we even feel that, in principle, Episode I could have been made first, as if Star Wars really were one of those old serials that Lucas loved as a boy, and this really were the first episode?

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Now Playing

Hasbro Goes Retro With 'Star Wars: The Phantom Menace' 25th Anniversary Figures

They're figures from the '90s in the style of the '70s!

The Big Picture

  • Hasbro is releasing a new set of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace figures in celebration of the film's 25th anniversary next year.
  • The Retro Collection set features six characters from The Phantom Menace , designed in the style of the original Kenner figures from the 1970s.
  • Each figure comes with an accessory, and the set will be packaged in a box resembling vintage Star Wars packaging. It will retail for $60 USD in the spring of 2024.

As time inexorably marches on, Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace turns 25 next year. Hasbro is ready to celebrate with a new multi-pack of figures from their popular Retro Collection.

Gizmodo has a first look at the new set, which features six figures from the 1999 film: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn , Queen Amidala, Darth Maul , Jar Jar Binks, and a Battle Droid. The set is from Hasbro's Retro Collection , which features Star Wars figures designed in the style of their original Kenner Star Wars figures from the 1970s, with five points of articulation and minimal paint and accessories - although, of course, The Phantom Menace was released in 1999.

Each figure, save for Amidala, comes with an accessory; Kenobi and Jinn come with lightsabers, Binks and the Battle Droid have blaster rifles, and Maul has his signature double-bladed lightsaber. The set will come in a box designed to resemble Kenner's vintage Star Wars packaging, and inside each figure will be individually packaged on a retro-styled cardback, as well. The set will retail for $60 USD, and will be released in the spring of 2024.

What is 'The Phantom Menace'?

As it was the first new Star Wars movie in over fifteen years, and George Lucas ' first directorial effort in over twenty, anticipation for The Phantom Menace in 1999 was enormous. The movie centers around two Jedi Knights, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi ( Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor , respectively) who undertake a diplomatic mission to the planet Naboo. The escape the sinister Trade Federation and their army of battle droids with the planet's ruler, Queen Amidala ( Natalie Portman ) and alien tag-along Jar Jar Binks ( Ahmed Best ) in tow, ending up on the planet Tattooine, where they meet Force-sensitive slave boy Anakin Skywalker ( Jake Lloyd ). Soon, they have to face off against the diabolical Sith Lord Dark Maul ( Ray Park ), as the real "phantom menace", Darth Sidious ( Ian McDiarmid ) manipulates events from afar.

Reactions to Phantom Menace were mixed at the time, with fans criticizing Lucas' awkward script, reliance on digital effects, and some unfortunate racial caricatures among the movie's new aliens. However, a generation of younger fans who grew up on Phantom Menace and its two sequels have embraced them as part of the larger fabric of Star Wars . Earlier this year, Collider's Thomas Butt argued that, of the prequel trilogy, Phantom Menace "shares the closest resemblance to Lucas' overarching vision, and ultimately, operates as the most purely cinematic."

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Two Jedi escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to claim their original glory.

The Retro Collection Phantom Menace multipack will be released in the spring, and will retail for $60 USD. Stay tuned to Collider for future updates, and watch the somehow nearly 25-year-old trailer for The Phantom Menace below.


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