Best and Worst… Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Another week, another Star Wars re-release: this time it’s Episode I – The Phantom Menace, which is in cinemas in a few days. Yes, that’s right… the film most of you all hated is now in 3D! Brilliant! To mark this momentous cash-in/occasion, Ross McG takes a closer look at the first film (chronologically) in the series, pointing out both its Dark and Light sides of the Force. Or something.


5. The opening crawl

Picture the scene. You’re in a cinema. You’re excited. It’s been 16 years since Return of the Jedi. You’re about to get more Star Wars. The 20th Century Fox music toots up. Class. That eerie green LucasFilm logo hovers into view. Oh yes. Then, you get the blast of John Williams you’ve been waiting for. Brill. And then the Star Wars opening crawl scrolls in. It’s Episode I. That’s good, I’m in the right cinema screening. It says, ‘Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic’. Oooohhh… yes, this sounds tasty. What could have happened? Rogue Jedis killing people with mind control? A big space battle or something? Here it comes… ‘The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.’ Seriously? Are you kidding me? I’ve waited 16 years for this? Tax. Trade routes. Bloody hell.

4. Jar Jar Sodding Binks

No. We’re not going to do it. It’s like shooting a Gungan in a barrel. He’s terrible. Everyone knows it. We’re being nice to him today, he’s only at Number 4. Let’s move on.

3. Ewan McGregor

To be fair to him, McGregor got better as the Star Wars prequels moved on and he was able to put a bit of growth on his face, allowing him to channel a bit more of Alec Guinness into his Obi-Wan Kenobi. But here, with his terrible ponytail he just doesn’t quite (hair)cut it. It’s not completely his fault – you try to say, ‘If they find us, they will crush us, grind us into TINY pieces and BLAST us into oblivion!’ while retaining some gravitas – but the problem is he makes Obi a bit, well, dull. I always had this image of him as a slick smoothie, playing mind tricks on hot females while sleazing his way around the galaxy.

2. The Jedi

Which bring us to the Jedi themselves. In the original Star Wars movies, Jedi were fricking cool. And all the lore surrounding them gave them this strange mystique. It’s a crushing disappointment then to find out in TPM that they spent most of their time in council meetings, deciding which pot-holes in Naboo needed sorting. Don’t get me started on the Trade Federation.

1. ‘Are you an angel?’

‘No, I’m not an angel, I’m a very naughty girl. And when you’re older, Anakin, you’ll find that out when you watch me in Closer and Black Swan.’


5. Darth Maul

When it was released in 1999, I went along to see TPM just like everyone else. And you know what, I loved it. I was an idiot. Subsequent viewings have revealed itself to me to be absolute crud. But even a pile of crud can have flecks of gold, and this is no exception. Darth Maul isn’t the greatest of characters – we don’t really learn that much about him, for instance – but he always looks cool. Even when getting chopped in half. And that’s what Star Wars movies are all about. Being cool, not getting chopped in half.

4. Brian Blessed (voice of Gungan leader Boss Nass)

Because everything is better with Brian Bleedin Bleesed. See Flash Gordon, Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, All Star Family Fortunes…

3. The pod race

Yes, it goes on for about 95 minutes, but it’s great fun and reminds you why you went to see a Star Wars film in the first place. Thankfully, the sub-plot about Anakin’s vehicle’s fuel being delayed due to stock blockades imposed by the Trade Federation was written out of the script. It was, wasn’t it?

2. The final lightsaber battle

This is just great. Forget your Trade Federations and your angels for five minutes and bask in some classic strobe light action. Probably second only to the lightsaber duel in The Empire Strikes Back, this three-way (careful) between Obi, Jinn and Maul is great fun, and even packs an emotional punch, something you could argue the rest of the prequels fail to do (Should I care that ‘younglings’ have been slaughtered? Probably. Do I? No.). Whoever came up with the row of locking pink laser beams doors should get a medal.

1. Liam Neeson

You may know him now as a wolf-fighting, daughter-finding, A-Team-leading super action hero, but back in 1999 Neeson was just a humble Northern Irishman, single-handedly making sure the first new Star Wars film was a planet-sized mess, instead of a universe-sized one.



4 Responses to “Best and Worst… Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace”

  1. I’m with this all the way. Maul is a great villain and Park did a fantastic job of bringing him to life. The big set pieces (the final battle and the pod race) are really well directed. I’d perhaps add in to that the opening scenes where Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon escape the ship; thought they really captured what was great about Star Wars too. Then Jar Jar arrived…

  2. I stand by Barney’s robust defense of the prequel trilogy.

    “The first three barely mentioned the intricacies of intergalactic trade law.”

    Because that’s what we waited those fifteen years for!

  3. I’m with you on Darth Maul and Liam Neeson being awesome. But Jake Lloyd and Jar Jar Binks made me want to strangle someone.

    “Yippee!!” What? The future Darth Vader doesn’t say fucking “yippee.”

  4. WORST

    I’m with Brittani – ‘Yippee’ and other poor dubbing is the worst (almost ruined Darth Maul, don’t get me wrong, Peter Serfanocwiz is a great actor/voice, but the dubbing is badly out of synch). ‘Yippee’ is almost like a Wilhelm scream and is used at least twice (maybe more) for off-screen Anakin.


    The taxation stuff isn’t that bad – it’s a coherent, not cool, story.


    Palpatine. You may argue the saga is about Vader, but let’s face it, the prequels dropped the ball on Anakin. Instead, it is left to Senator / Chancellor / Master / Lord Palpatine to carry the overarching story by using everyone from Darth Maul to Luke Skywalker to bend the world to his will. Watching the whole saga through then returning to Phantom, with the final shot closing in on Palpatine’s evil mug hinting at a smirk – makes the whole film WORTH IT in the end.


    The 3D was neat, nice and subtle, but not worth the ticket price. These re-releases should not charge full price for 3D. There should be some recognition of the fact it is not originally 3D, even 25% off would be a good gesture and actually increase sales as people wouldn’t think “Oh, look, ANOTHER cheap cash-in” so much.

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