By Henry Fraas, ’20
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) is the worst thing ever created by a human.
This might be hyperbole of course, but it’s up there. The plot is illogical, and the characters act like idiots. The worst thing about this movie and its two successors is they will live on forever; they will never go away.
The plot of the movie is hard to describe. Two Jedi Knights, Qui Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi Wan (Ewan McGregor) are sent to this weird donut shaped ship to discuss taxation of trade routes with an organization called the Trade Federation, and for some unexplained reason, the Federation set up a blockade around the planet Naboo to stop supplies from reaching the planet.
Don’t forget this is a movie targeted for children. First, what make the Jedi experts on intergalactic trade laws? Second, what supplies are so crucial to the Naboo that two Jedi Knights have to interfere? The movie never answers these questions.
Instead of meeting with the Jedi, the Trade Federation fills the room with toxic gas and a minute later decides to open the door. If they wanted to kill the Jedi wouldn’t they would keep the door closed for five hours just to make sure they died? Afterwards, the Jedi escape by hiding aboard a Trade Federation ship to “Warn the Naboo” about the invasion by the Federation. If you’re going down with the army it would be too late to warn the Naboo about the army.
After 15 minutes of filler, the Jedi rescue the Queen of Naboo (Natalie Portman) and escape on a silver ship. Then the dumbest thing in the movie happens: They try to run the Trade Federation blockade with one ship. They conveniently make it through but are forced to land on another planet, called Tatooine, because their ship was damaged in the escape.
While on Tatooine, Qui Gon tries to get money to buy new parts for the damaged ship when he meets the young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), a slave who is owned by a junk dealer named Watto. Qui Gon realizes that Anakin is strong in The Force, so Qui Gon creates a convoluted bet with Watto to win both the parts and Anakin in a podrace.
Eventually they get the parts and head to Coruscant, home of the Galactic Senate, so the Queen can give word that Naboo is being invaded. The Senate doesn’t listen, so the Jedi and the Queen return to Naboo to try and deal with the invasion themselves. The Queen and her guards try to capture the Federation’s Viceroy, while Anakin and the Naboo air fleet fly to destroy droid army’s control ship. Seriously, they brought a little kid to a warzone?
The Jedi have to fight Darth Maul, a guy with a double-edged lightsaber. We know nothing about him and he just kind of shows up, so what happens is three guys the audience doesn’t care about or have an emotional connection with are fighting.
Near the end of the fight Qui Gon dies and Obi Wan is upset, but his performance is so phoned in the audience can’t feel anything about the supposed main character being killed.
About that, there is no main character in this movie. The Jedi were just on some mission they didn’t seem to care about. The movie wasn’t focused on the Queen. You might think it was Anakin, but the audience don’t meet him until 45 minutes into the movie, and things happening around him are out of his control and understanding.
There are so many reasons why this movie didn’t work, from the awful acting, over-reliance on CGI and a story that makes no sense. This is often referred to as the worst Star Wars movie by fans, and rewatching it with a different perspective it’s pretty obvious why. But this is just the surface. This movie could be ridiculed for hours.
Don’t believe me? Watch the movie yourself… if you dare.