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Belated Sequels: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)


The movie at the centre of this week’s Belated Sequels discussion is possibly one of - if not THE most anticipated follow ups in movie history. In fact, it’s not a sequel at all but rather a prequel.


Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)


Previous Instalments: Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983).


Time since last instalment: 16 years.


Compared to some sequels that came out years after the originals, this one isn’t breaking any records as far as how many years are between it and the last instalment. However, we all know how massive Star Wars is and I remember the huge buzz surrounding the announcement that we were getting a new one - and a prequel at that!


Now, I’m a big Star Wars fan. I was a young kid when the franchise was at its biggest in the early 80s and I had countless toys etc (all of which I regrettably sold). I’ve seen the original movies more times than I can remember and I never tire of them, even now.

For these reasons and many more I was really excited about the idea of a new film, especially considering the fact that it was to start a new trilogy following a young Anakin Skywalker’s journey to the dark side and ultimately, his transformation into Darth Vader. Unfortunately my excitement was short lived. I went to see the movie at Worcester cinema and I came out feeling extremely underwhelmed. Ironically I was less jaded and much easier to please back then and yet I was still disappointed.



I appreciate these movies have a hardcore fan base much like the originals do and I don’t mean to upset anyone who loves them. They’re not terrible after all, they’re just no where near as good as they should’ve been in my opinion.

I’ll apologise in advance to anyone who loves this film but I’m about to begin my rant.


Obviously, as with most hyped up things there’s always going to be a certain amount of expectation that makes it impossible for it to live up to. This film is a classic case of that, but I can sum up what I didn’t like about it (and the following two sequels) in just a few points.


1) It was a bit too much of a kids film for me.


I once saw a video on YouTube of an interview with George Lucas saying that the original Star Wars movie was intended as “a film for kids” (specifically 12 year olds). Whether that’s the case or not, he ended up making a film that appealed to all ages.

The Phantom Menace (to me) actually did, and does feel like a kid’s film. You’ve got the child protagonist, lots of bright visuals, quirky droids and alien characters (presumably thrown in for merchandising opportunities), the pod racing scene and....Jar Jar Binks.

The two sequels don’t feel so much like this but they still have their own problems.



2) The story was over complicated.


Considering the first film in particular feels like it’s made for kids, the story was way too complicated for a child to understand. I get that most kids are probably entertained enough by the action scenes and obvious humour to worry about the story, but I was 18 when I went to see the film and I struggled to get my head around it. The Trade Federation, the Galactic Senate, the republic, the Jedi council, Midi-chlorians?! I found it really hard to follow and it seemed like a very confused film to me.


3) The CGI is terrible.


Ok so at the time I might not have thought too much about it, and I appreciate it’s hard not to compare the effects to the ones we have now - BUT when you consider how good the CGI in Jurassic Park is (a movie that came out 5 years earlier) you have to wonder why that movie still looks great today and The Phantom Menace looks like you’re watching a cut scene from an old video game. In fact the over-use of CGI is one of the things that mars this entire prequel trilogy. Had George Lucas gone down the same route he took with the original trilogy and used more practical effects, the films might look better today because the ropey CGI wouldn’t have been used quite so much.



For me, the only two things I like about this movie is the casting of Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi and the lightsaber battle between him, Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul at the end. The rest is a mix of bad acting and forgettable nonsense that's resulted in me never feeling compelled to watch it again after all these years.


In stark contrast the original trilogy is a simple and timeless story of good vs evil. It’s fantasy, action, adventure and romance all rolled into one, with great characters and visual effects that still hold up today. It's sci-fi at its best. Most of all, at no point does it feel like it’s trying hard to please. The Phantom Menace on the other hand is just an over CGI’d, confused and complicated mess that feels like it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. It may be loved by die hard fans of the franchise who'll love anything "Star Wars", but for the rest of us I think it's a forgettable movie that never lived up to its potential or its hype.


Sadly, for me at least, this one wasn’t worth the wait.


Let me know what you think in the comments.

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