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Star Wars – The Phantom Menace (A Movie Review)


Starring Liam Neeson, Jake Lloyd, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson, Terence Stamp, Ray Park, Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, Brian Blessed, Kenny Baker and Ian McDiarmid.

Screenplay by George Lucas.

Directed by George Lucas.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox Pictures. 133 minutes. Rated PG.

Okay. I admit it. I was a Star Wars geek. I saw all the movies as soon as they came out. I had all the books, videos, records, and everything. But that was a long time ago, and like everything else, I've moved on. So, I've had mixed emotions about returning to the world of George Lucas. For one thing, I lost interest in the series when The Return of the Jedi was such a serious fall-off from the first two films. Also, Lucas' oeuvre ever since then has been severely suspect – remember Howard the Duck and Radioland Murders? Besides, I try to avoid things that are surrounded in a blanket of hype.

Well, while watching The Phantom Menace, I have to admit I got swept up in the spectacle of the whole thing. The effects are indeed awesome. That said, Phantom is probably the most inconsequential of the Star Wars movies (even less meaningful than the inferior Jedi.) It takes so much time setting up the storyline that not much really happens.

Some of the new characters like Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) are fascinating. But more often -- like Ewan McGregor's take on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Samuel L. Jackson's Mace Winou and Natalie Portman's Queen Amidala (the latest in Lucas' line of poorly coiffured monarchs) the people are underexplored ciphers. And the new plush-toy-in-the-making Jar Jar Binks is annoying in his cutesiness (and his computer-generated movements make him seem even more of a cartoon.)

Perhaps it isn't really even fair to review this movie at all, any more than to say what you think of a play after only the first act has been done. However, you would think that if Lucas is going to release the rest of this story every two or three years, he'd make sure the individual parts stood on their own. He understood that the first time around. (5/99)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright © 1999 All rights reserved. Posted: May 16, 1999.

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