(Review originally written at 5 March 2005)

"Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" was probably one of the most anticipated movie of the last couple of decades. Because of the whole hype around it, it could only disappoint and it was no surprise that lot's of people eventually were disappointed. I have to admit that even I was disappointed a bit. The first time I saw it in the cinema I would had probably rated it a 7/10 but the second time I saw it in the cinema (yes, a real Star Wars fan doesn't watch a Star Wars movie just once in cinema :P), I already began to appreciate it more. It really is a movie that grows onto you. I'm now at the point were I'm loving this movie and see it as a great addition to the Star Wars saga. Granted that it's not the perfect beginning of the series but it certainly is a entertaining and beautiful movie. If this would had been the first Star Wars movie that had been made, I'm sure it would had been received way better than it did now.

There are two things in this movie that make me consider this a great movie; The podrace and the duel of the fates. Those two parts in the movie make this is science-fiction classic. Yes, sure the podrace was totally inspired by the "Ben-Hur" chariot race scene and therefor it's not the most original sequence in movie history but it has been made with lot's of profession and excellent special effect supported by the John Williams soundtrack. It should get your adrenaline really flowing. And even the biggest Star Wars hater has to admit that the duel of the fates is spectacular. It simply is the best lightsaber fight of all the Star Wars movies so far (Maybe the Obi-Wan/Anakin lightsaber fight is going to be even better?). It mainly is spectacular thanks to Ray Park as Darth Maul. His moves are incredible and something totally different than we were used to from the the other three firstly made Star Wars movies.

Then why is "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" not a perfect movie? Well, there are several problems. One is the at times weak dialog. The other is of course the character Jar Jar Binks but maybe the biggest problem is Jake Lloyd as the young Anakin Skywalker. He plays very inconsistent. In the one scene he is perfect and in the other he is just simply awful. Some words of comfort for Jake; he is not the worst actor in this movie. Ralph Brown is even more horrible as Ric OliƩ AKA Captain Obvious but also Pernilla August was pretty awful at times. Thankfully the rest of the cast is casted very well and there are some wonderful newly added characters. There have always been lot's of critic on the casting of the new Star Wars movies but I don't think that always has been completely fair. After all the movie has several Academy Award nominees (Samuel L. Jackson, Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson, Terence Stamp) and it should get credit for casting Keira Knightley who hardly had been in any movies before appearing in this movie, in a fairly large role. Keira Knightley now is one of the biggest and fastest rising Hollywood stars of this decade. It also is great to see that some of the actors from the first made Star Wars movies are back to star in this movie (Frank Oz, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Ian McDiarmid). There also are some new great characters like Watto, Sebulba and the previously mentioned Darth Maul with his cool make-up and moves.

The movie is very good non-stop entertainment in a good quick pace and come to think of it, it might very well the most entertaining Star Wars movie of them all. The special effects and make-up and costumes are top-class (even though Yoda looks horrible) and the icing on the cake is the musical score from John Williams. The movie is mainly fun and it has some spectacular moments. Also the lightsaber fight/droid battle/space fight ending will not disappoint you even though the space fight is the worst of all the Star Wars movies. But I think that says more about the other Star Wars movies than about this movie. Actually the fact that most people were disappointed with this movie says more about the other Star Wars movies than about this one, for this really is a great highly entertaining, nearly perfect movie for the entire family.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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