This review may contain mild spoilers
Never did it cross anyone’s mind when Star Wars first release on theater in 1977, it would be a massive hit, a legendary saga, then a movie legacy everyone (especially sci-fi lovers) must see. Or did it? A masterpiece of George Lucas’s, Star Wars has emerged as the most epic space flick many likely to choose over the TV legacy, Star Trek and even Ridley Scott’s Aliens.
Simultaneously, Star Wars was hit by huge response; commercially success with widespread cultural impact. Hence, many watched the saga for times, got addicted, and named themselves fanboys (including us). And suprisingly, such phenomenon still occurs these days, especially during the hype of upcoming Episode VII.
Back then, the journey was started in a galaxy far, far away and within a quite unique timeline. It’s started in a dusty misty planet called Tatooine where we’re first introduced to a teen hero, Luke Skywalker, in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Set between the rise of the Sith and the seeking of a new hope to revive the Force, Lucas in fact allows us to time travel across the saga, see how the journey continue and end in the next 2 sequels, and revisit in a prequel trilogy.
Divided into 2 eras of trilogy, the plot of entire Skywalker family thickens when it comes to the prequels, specifically Episode I which the main antagonist, Darth Vader, still has the good AKA the Force in him. And here’s exactly where we start reviewing the saga.
Menaced by Weak Plot
Given a subtitle The Phantom Menace, this episode release’s aroused the hibernating excitement of Star Wars fans. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long and even turned into disappointment due to the weak plot.. We regret the fact that this episode should have been the backbone of the entire saga but failed its duty and even affected the rest episodes in the trilogy.
Set 30 years before A New Hope, the galaxy is in a government form of Galactic Republic with Finis Valorum (Terence Stamp) as the Supreme Chancellor and Jedi knights as their peace guardian. Unfortunately, the peace they live and behold suddenly turns into a chaotic turmoil as an impact of taxation on trade routes led by the greedy Trade Federation organizing a blockade of battleships around the planet of Naboo.
Under such situation, Valorum then dispatches Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his young apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to negotiate with the Trade Federation, thus end the blockade in peace. Too bad the negotation is to no avail and a battle is inenvitable. What’s worse is Senator Palpatine (later becomes Darth Sidious) (Ian McDiarmid) wants Jin and Kenobi to be dead.
Deviating From Its Route
Besides the Jedi knights and some political figures, we’re also introduced to young characters who later are responsible for the rise of the Sith and the birth of Darth Vader. It’s started when young Naboo’s future leader, Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) meets young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) in Tatooine.
Despite age difference, both are seemingly to be good friends and finally grow a forbidden love, the love which leads to Amidala’s death, devastates Anakin, and turns him into a iconic helmed Sith Lord. Although often their love story is disregarded; too cheesy for an epic like this, it’s what actually makes this saga complete and classic.
However, we hardly tolerate the rest; alien-like characters (especially the aimless talker Jar-Jar Binks) with silly, no substance dialogue and the unfocused plot lines. Rather than deeper exploration into Skywalker’s background and Jedi’s Force, Episode I is more into a political space arena with those blockade and tax issues. To wrap it up, Episode I brings up a quite high dose of confusion and felt too forceful (no pun intended).
We know that Lucas wants his audience to understand the political situation of this space saga, but the result show too much unnecessary details and loses the importance. Plotwise, Episode I is simply an introduction which is set to be made without caring much on how easy it’s enjoyed by the fans, while technically, it doesn’t show a set of expert skills either (read: take a closer look on the angle taken during podracing scene).
Lucky that Lucas ends the menace well with top-notch battles; Gungans VS Droids and of course, Obi Wan-Qui Gon Jinn VS Darth Maul which both satisfy our nerdy self reactor.
Anakin, the Phantom Menace
Besides the battle scene (along with epic scoring by John Williams), the solid performance of the ensemble cast is also worth a watch. Mostly fit their roles well, especially Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor. Neeson is a real Qui-Gon Jinn. He’s humble, wise, yet badass. His apprentice ain’t different. McGregor plays a naive yet cautious and skillful fighter.
Playing young Anakin, Lloyd as the youngest in the ensemble, doesn’t disappoint either. With that cute and innocent look, Lloyd can still act smart and tough, hence brings a playful energy to the Force. Young Anakin is already a virtuoso; skillful pilot and mechanic. He creates the famous protocol droid, C-3P0, flies a Jedi Starfighter, and even has the Force runs in his blood.
Adding Yoda’s doubt on his potential, unfortunately the Master of all Jedi knights is right about the kid. Although he’s not certain yet, with the Force, Yoda knows that Anakin is the menace of the saga. If you have the Force running inside, you must have sensed him too.
Director: George Lucas
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Lloyd
Duration: 133 mins