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The Phantom Menace (1999)
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Review Date: May 19, 1999
Director: George Lucas
Writer: George Lucas
Producers: Rick McCallum
Actors:
Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala
Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker
Plot:
Suffice it to say that there is plenty of turmoil in the galaxy, and Queen Amidala needs the protection of two Jedis in an attempt to save her people from further suffering. Along their route, the Jedis pick up a bizarre creature who helps them out (sort of), and a young boy, who carries within him a very strong kinship to the Force.
Critique:
A visual feast. This movie is a perfect example of why the word "eye-candy" was invented. More enjoyable than THE RETURN OF THE JEDI, but not as interesting as THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK or STAR WARS, this film smashes all previous science-fiction flicks and their claim to futuristic authenticity with a flawless display of humans, robots, droids and every other kind of freakazoid in the universe, meched into a wonderful world of special effect wizardry of a society living in a galaxy far, far away...a long, long time ago. Every scene contains plenty of beautiful and impeccably integrated pieces of an artificial world made real by the genius of a man named George Lucas. This film is a joy to watch and a wonder to inhabit.

Having said that, I found the story line confusing, a little slow in the midsection, and itty-bitty boring. I won't numb you with the details of the plot, but the bottom line is that there are bad guys, and there are good guys. The Trade Federation, chancellors, blockades, I could do without. Not very interesting. That being said, there is always something fantastic to keep your eyes on at all times, so boredom was never really a big issue with me. I also enjoyed the whole "getting to know" your characters information, with plenty of background info on most of the prime members of the Star Wars universe, and some fun cameos as well. The actors also kept up their end of the bargain with Liam Neeson excellent as the main Jedi Knight, and Natalie Portman pulling off a solid Queen. The little kid was also pretty good, but Sam Jackson distracting, due mostly to his enormous presence.

My favorite new character was without a doubt Darth Maul who seemed to ooze evil and had some cool light-sabering scenes with the Jedis. Too bad they decided to use him in very little of the film. I also dug on young Anakin's boss early on in the film, who is a perfect example of a CGI-created character, who was fun to watch, and not overdone. On the other hand, my least favorite new character is one that has seemed to rub many adults the wrong way, and that is Jar-Jar Binks, the CGI-generated creature, which annoyed me mostly because I didn't understand 3/4 of the things that he was babbling about. Anyway, enough about him has been said already.

All in all, the film managed to enrapture me in its web of fantasy and space adventure, strapping me in with its impeccable array of computer-generated characters, holding me down with its great action scenes and interesting background info, and blasting me off and into its exquisitely created universe of special effect magic, majestic palaces and quaint villages, and visually stunning characters.

Note: Forget the hype, forget this review, cleanse your mind. Just remember that this is just a movie, so go stand in line and buy yourself some nachos and Coke, sit your ass down and enjoy the visual story as it floats past your eyes.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian
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