Looking back on the Star Wars movies, some of them were great and others were not so much. As we head into the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, let’s take a look back at some things that made Episode 1 a success. After all, fans of Star Wars know to love the series as whole. These are the things that made The Phantom Menace a good movie.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was one of those movies that could be seen as both a failure and as a success. This movie served as the beginning of the story that creator George Lucas wanted to tell. The story to the Skywalker family that fans would always recognize. Since there are so many articles and videos talking about what was wrong with the movie, I want to talk about things that I actually enjoyed. I’ll try my best to stay in order in accordance with the movie.
Within the first few moments, I’m already feeling the differences between the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. We get introduced to two ambassadors of the Republic who turn out to be Jedi Knights named Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. At the time period of A New Hope, the Jedi were all but gone. With negotiations about stopping the blockade of Naboo by the Trade Federation, things start to go wrong, the two Jedi must defend themselves against the Federation’s battle droids. This is one moment that separates the prequels from the original movies. The lightsabers came to life and the Jedi started taking down the battle droids to protect themselves. The little kid in me was happy to see this on a big screen.
Skipping past everybody’s most hated character from the prequels (Jar Jar), the Jedi wouldn’t be in action again until they save the queen of Naboo (Padmé Amidala) from the invading droid army. As the queen, her royal escort, and the two Jedi leave the planet, our heroes are attacked by the blockade. The hyperdrive to the ship is damaged. A batch of astromechs, including fan favorite R2-D2, is called up to repair the damage caused by the Trade Federation. R2 got a semi-origin story here. He was in service to Naboo. Seeing the other astromechs, as well as R2, as they attempted to repair the ship made me realize just how important astromechs are to the Star Wars universe.
This next part is where I tend to get into debates with some other fans. I like the majority of the plot that happens on Tatooine while some others don’t. The heroes land on the planet to find a way to fix the broken hyperdrive on the ship. They start heading towards the nearest settlement. This is where we meet the young boy that will eventually become Darth Vader. Anakin Skywalker is at his most innocent during this time. Once he figures out that Qui-Gon is a Jedi, we learn of what this young boy dreams of. He wants to become a Jedi and free every slave. While on Tatooine, we get to see Anakin use Jedi-like skills to participate in a Podrace. Little does he know that Qui-Gon has bet on him winning so he could free him. Anakin wins the race and is allowed to leave with the Jedi to begin his training. As our heroes begin to leave the planet (thanks to also getting a hyperdrive from a local shopkeeper), Qui-Gon is introduced to a figure in a black robe. The lightsabers ignite and we get our first Jedi versus Sith fight. Qui-Gon is able to get away from the Sith lord and our heroes make their way to Coruscant.
We land on Coruscant where most of the politics take place, so I won’t spend much time here. We do get to meet the Jedi Council for the first time as well. It is here that we learn that Anakin is too old to begin his training to become a Jedi. Qui-Gon believes that Anakin is the chosen one of a prophecy that tells of one who would bring balance to the Force. The council is unsure of that idea even though Anakin is extremely gifted with the Force.
After leaving Coruscant, our heroes head back to Naboo. This where the movie starts to pick up. There is a war between the Gungans and the battle droids of the Trade Federation, Padme and the royal security attempt to take back the throne room, and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan get their showdown with Darth Maul. As the Jedi begin to fight their adversary, the greatest musical accompaniment that has ever been in a movie starts up. Duel of the Fates fits so perfect in this spot but is so often overlooked due to the hate that The Phantom Menace usually receives. Darth Maul is able to get the upper hand and separates the two Jedi. Obi-Wan rushes to catch back up to Qui-Gon and Maul but is stopped by an energy field. He looks on helplessly as Darth Maul impales Qui-Gon with his unique dual-bladed lightsaber. Obi-Wan gets free and strikes down the Sith Lord sending him tumbling down a shaft. Meanwhile, the famous Skywalker luck that Luke had shown in A New Hope is used by Anakin as he destroys the Trade Federation’s command ship and saving the day.
The Phantom Menace ends with the Jedi Council finally agreeing to let Anakin be trained as a Jedi. This task would fall on the shoulders of Obi-Wan. He informs Anakin of this decision at the funeral pyre for Qui-Gon. As the movie ends, the citizens of Naboo celebrate the victory over the Trade Federation.
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace has garnered a lot of hate since it released, but does it truly deserve it? I think that it doesn’t. The dialogue can be a bit iffy at times, but the additions to the overall Star Wars universe wasn’t all that bad. Something like podracing is an event that no human could even attempt. Anakin was able to control the racer and even win the race. That’s not too bad for a human child. The introduction of Darth Maul and his double-bladed lightsaber was a neat little addition since it paved the way for something other than the traditional lightsaber styles. While the movie can be heavy on the politics at times, it shows us a time in the Star Wars universe before the time of the Galactic Empire. It sets things in motion that wouldn’t really be complete until the end of Episode 6. I feel like The Phantom Menace is a great addition to the Star Wars movie family.
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