Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace

Year: 1999
Production Co: Lucasfilm
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: George Lucas
Producer: Rick McCallum
Writer: George Lucas
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ewan Macgregor, Jake Lloyd, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L Jackson, Terence Stamp, Ray Park, Frank Oz
Was it a great film? Yes. Was it the film to end all, as Star Wars and its sequels seemed to be? Sadly no. Even more sadly, it showed up all Star Wars' flaws, flaws that I for one couldn't see through the experience of being swept up in my own Star Wars world at six years old.

Jedi knights (Neeson & Macgregor) discover the boy who will become Darth Vader - Anakin Skywalker - while he and his entourage are stranded waiting for repairs to their ship. With them is the Queen of Naboo (Portman), a planet held hostage by the Trade Federation, on her way to Coruscant to ask the Galactic Republic Senate to help.

The script is atrocious, corny and dull. Aside from Liam Neeson, who couldn't act badly if he tried (but comes closer than he ever has in this) the performances are wooden and passionless (Lloyd as the young Anakin Skywalker is embarrassing). Macgregor delivers a faxed-in acting job, Portman flits between little girl playing dress-ups as powerful queen and gawky teenager (the change in her accent never explained). Jar Jar Binks is the most irritating creation ever devised in the history of cinema and should have been killed at the first script development meeting.

What's inherently wrong with Star Wars is that George Lucas is not a good writer - what he does well is imagine and direct as he begins to unfold the story of the Skywalker family, the rise and fall of the Jedi faith and the political machinations of a galaxy far, far away. He's created an endlessly fascinating world with endlessly fascinating characters and delivers it flawlessly. And that's also his big mistake.

It seems that points like plot, dialogue and acting are incendiary matters he has no time for while he concentrates on the staggering special effects. And though they are staggering, they come at you from everywhere and at times it's like watching the world's most expensive cartoon.

Seemingly as hated as it was loved, generally seen as a letdown, and with good reason.

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