Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Qui-Gon Jinn: "You almost got us killed! Are you brainless?"
Jar-Jar Binks: "I spake!"
Qui-Gon Jinn: "The ability to speak does not make you intelligent. Now get out of here."

release year: 1999
genre: sci-fi/fantasy/adventure
viewing setting: home Bluray 8/19/13 and home DVD, 4/5/09 and 10/28/01 (and theatrical sneak preview in 1999)

synopsis: Decades before the war with the Empire, the Emperor begins his rise to power amidst a fight for a planet's freedom...and young Anakin Skywalker is discovered, long before he becomes the evil and powerful Darth Vader.

impressions: It was slow and childish at times, but I had to remind myself that it was part of something bigger, not just a stand-alone movie. What we have here is basically a small event that grows into a far-reaching major one (the rise of the Empire) but these things always start small. The plot was simple but effective (basically the future Emperor creates a false war for two reasons: to freak everyone out so they elect him to a higher position which will let him take more power, and to secretly build an army which he can later use when he takes over.) The sound and picture were outstanding, ditto for the special effects. I have to say that the focus on Anakin Skywalker got tiring, especially when he just happened to do this and that, which had major repercussions...there's too much luck taking place here. Darth Maul kicked ass on a level unparalleled in this entire series.

things to watch for: Various cameos during pod-race scene, the 2-bladed lightsaber fight

acting: Good on all fronts. Liam Neeson was the central force for good in this one, playing Qui-Gon Jinn who was Obi-Wan's mentor. Ewan McGregor is the young Obi-Wan Kenobi. Ray Park, as Darth Maul, didn't even need to speak much to create a memorable character. Natalie Portman is Queen Amidala, who's destined to fall in love with Anakin Skywalker (though he's just a kid in this one.) Jake Lloyd does a pretty good job as a young and innocent Anakin Skywalker. Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker are spot on as C3PO and R2D2, ditto for Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda. Samuel L. Jackson is Jedi Master Mace Windu, though it's tough for me not to think of him in one of his other characterizations.

final word: Necessary viewing within the Star Wars scheme of things, but not the best of these movies.

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