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Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Ray Park, Ahmed Best

Review by John Beachem
3½ stars out of 4

I will assume that the majority of the movie going public have either already seen this film, or aren't going to see it at all. Therefore, I'm going to keep the rather confusing plot summary quite brief.

Trade routes have been further taxed by the Galactic Senate. The Trade Federation, in an attempt to remove the taxes, has boycotted the small planet of Naboo, ruled by the benevolent (and elected) Queen Amidala. The Senate hopes to resolve this by sending two Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi to force a settlement out of the Federation. That about sets up the film, and I don't wish to give much more away. Let's just say they go to several different planets and pick up young Anakin Skywalker, who will one day be Darth Vader along the way.

Suffice to say that I loved this movie. I've always been something of a Star Wars fanatic, so I went in fairly certain that I would enjoy the film. This is not to say the film is flawless, but then, few films are. However, in my personal opinion, the movie's strong points outweigh its flaws considerably. First, I'll go through the things I thought were truly great in the movie.

1) I must say would have to be the acting. Particularly that of Liam Neeson, as the righteous, kindly Jedi Master; Ian McDiarmid, as the slimy Naboo senator and Natalie Portman as the strong willed Queen.The other actors, I should mention, are quite good. 2) The Pod race, at about the midway point is really quite spectacular. A wonderful sci-fi version of the Ben Hur chariot race. 3) The final half hour is remarkable. Four seperate conflicts taking place at once. The most amazing of which, would have to be the lightsabre duel, which puts those in the other three movies to shame. 4) The effects. I know this is obvious, and that everyone has said it, but I felt obliged to repeat this. 5) John Williams's new score "Duel of Fates", which was played during the sabre duel is truly phenomenal.

Now come the points whish I did not personally find so wonderful.

1) Jar Jar Binks. I know this poor fellow has been much maligned, and I did in fact find many of his antics quite amusing. However, there also lies the problem. A Star Wars character is not supposed to have antics. He simply doesn't fit into the Star Wars universe. 2) I rather wish Lucas had stuck to his original idea of Aliens either speaking in a subtitled dialect, or in one that we simply weren't meant to understand. Having them speak in a strangely accented form of English did not seem quite right. 3) More screen time for Darth Maul would have been quite nice. He was a wonderful character in the grand tradition of Boba Fett from "The Empire Strikes Back", and I wish we'd been able to see more of him. 4) Lastly, I do wish Lucas had not given the force a scientific explanation.

So, is The Phantom Menace the best Star Wars movie ever made? no, that title still belongs to "The Empire Strikes Back". Is it a great film? Without a doubt. See it in theatres, don't wait for it to come to video because it will lose much being on the small screen.

* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now. * * * * - Great flick. Try and catch this one. * * * - Okay movie, hits and misses. * * - Pretty bad. See it if you've got nothing better to do. * - One of the worst movies ever. See it only if you enjoy pain.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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