Twenty-two years ago, in theaters around the nation, a movie was released which captured the imaginations of millions and inspired countless movies for years to come. Then three years later, a second movie came out. And three years after that, a third movie came out, establishing a legacy of stunning visual effects, thrilling action sequences, and epic stories which tell a simple tale of good versus evil.
Living up to the legacy of Star Wars, which is perhaps one of the best known stories ever to come out of Hollywood, is by no means an easy task, and having to tell a tale which will set the stage for that well known story is a monumental task. Yet despite the size of the task he created for himself, George Lucas took the challenge and created Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
The Phantom Menace contains amazing special effects, from the high-speed race scene through caverns and canyons on a desert planet to the invasion army plowing through a forest, sending the native animals running for safety. It is obvious that a great deal of effort went into making this movie visually appealing, and that effort was well worth it. The breathtaking visuals shown on screen will undoubtedly again inspire countless minds with their quality and variety.
These effects are put to good use in the numerous action sequences which are found in this film. The movies climax seamlessly integrates four separate battles into a flowing sequence which takes ones breath away with it’s speed and choreography.
Despite the amount of action found in The Phantom Menace, there is really very little violence, and the movie is suitable for all ages. The most common target in the movie is the robot army, whose movements and synthetic voices are so clearly not human that the audience feels little reason to sympathize with them.
Even the human characters of the movie, however, were hard to empathize with. So much effort was spent in making the movie visually exciting and making the story fit into the existing framework, the characters in the movie seemed to have almost been added as an afterthought. The actors did their part well, but only so much can be done with dialogue that is stiff to begin with. This is easily overlooked, however, because some of the characters have already been developed in the original movies, and the movie is exciting enough that when you walk out, you’d rather be remembering what the characters did than who they were.
The story of this Star Wars movie, unlike the ones that came before it, is not so nearly clear cut as Good versus Evil. The story pivots around politics and ploys for power, where bad guys often appear as the greatest allies, and those who are apparently the enemy are only pawns of a larger power.
The Phantom Menaces also casts a new light on the classic Star Wars trilogy, and watching those movies again will never be quite the same after watching The Phantom Menace. Darth Vader, one of the best known symbols of modern evil, is seen in The Phantom Menace as a hopeful and innocent young boy who helps others without any thought of himself. This, along with other dichotomies, makes the Star Wars universe much less black and white than it once was, and everything is now tinted with shades of grey.
The Phantom Menace, despite the difficulty of its task, manages to be a thoroughly enjoyable movie which successfully integrates into the existing story while laying foundations for the upcoming Episodes II and III. However, if you’re out to critique the movie, you will find flaws to pick on.
Buy Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace on VHS from Amazon.