Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace was released back in 1999 and was the film that revitalized the Star Wars franchise after a 16-year hiatus from the release of Episode VI: – Return of the Jedi.
The Phantom Menace is the first film in the Prequel Trilogy and returned Star Wars to relevance after the franchise had only released some books and cartoons over the past 16 years.
Finally, fans of the franchise were able to see the epic origins of the most famous villain in cinematic history, Darth Vader, aka Anakin Skywalker… As a ten-year-old slave boy from Tatooine. Okay so maybe this won’t be as epic as expected.
Full disclosure, this film was my introduction to Star Wars, however, that does not mean that I will be unable to see the film’s faults. Unfortunately, there are quite a few. Let’s take a look at some of the major plot points in The Phantom Menace and see how they hold up in 2021.
The Convoluted Politics of Star Wars
One of the controversial pieces of The Phantom Menace and the Prequel Trilogy as a whole is the heavy use of politics. This entire film revolves around a dispute between the Trade Federation and the Naboo. Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jin and Ob-Wan Kenobi are sent to negotiate a peace treaty. The mysterious Darth Sideous orders the Viceroy to destroy the Jedi to no avail.
The film also features a complicated government overthrow when Senator Palpatine convinces Queen Amidala of Naboo to request a vote of no confidence of the current Chancellor, Finis Valorum. Senator Palpatine is nominated to take Valorum’s place as Chancellor and succeeds, becoming the titular Phantom Menace.
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All of this is quite the departure from the mystical action-adventure seen in the Original Trilogy. However, it isn’t all bad as it does and adds some depth to the series. The best part being the fact that we get to see the start of Palpatine’s take over of the Republic. However, The Phantom Menace seems to have gone a little overboard with its political nature and could have used more of the intergalactic space-action that Star Wars had been known for.
The Obvious Problem With Anakin Skywalker
The choice to start Anakin’s story as a ten-year-old slave child on Tatooine was definitely an odd choice from Lucas. Don’t get me wrong factors from his backstory do eventually lead to his eventual turn to the Dark Side. However, it’s no secret that Anakin’s arc in this film came off as more annoying than it did intriguing.
While there were some fun moments such as the epic podracing seen and the “Now this is podracing” line anytime Anakin was on screen I really couldn’t help but roll my eyes during most of his moments. I think if Anakin was a little older, his role in The Phantom Menace could have been much more well-received.
An older Anakin would have made the romance between him and Padmé a lot less weird. Padmé in this film is supposed to be 14 while Anakin is only 10. If Anakin were closer to Padmé’s age this relationship would have been much more endearing as opposed to awkward.
Where in the Galaxy is Obi-Wan Kenobi?
Obi-Wan’s absence in this film is quite odd considering his importance to Anakin’s character. The mentor role for Anakin in this film was Qui-Gon Jinn who is ultimately killed by Darth Maul at the end of the film.
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While I love Liam Neeson in the role of Qui-Gon Jinn his character seems to serve little to no purpose to the overarching story of the Prequels. Nothing Qui-Gon did in this film is something Obi-Wan couldn’t have done if he was given the same role. While Qui-Gon is probably the best part of this film, his role would have been much better suited will Obi-Wan as the mentor.
Considering Vader and Kenobi’s history that was teased in the Original Trilogy it was an especially odd choice to not have him be Anakin’s mentor from the start. It would have been nice to see Obi-Wan and Anakin get to know each other in this film as the two have already known each other for ten years by the time we see them in Attack of the Clones.
For more of our thoughts on The Phantom Menace continue to page 2: