Movie Reviews: Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace




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   20th Century Fox (2 hr. 10 min.)
     The first episode of theStar Wars saga.
     Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Samuel L. Jackson
Bottom Line:


     There's good news and there's bad news regarding the most highly anticipated motion picture since 1989's Batman, George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
     First, the good news:
     Thanks to the mind-blowing special-effects wizards at Industrial Light and Magic, director/writer George Lucas has once again created a whole new world in this prequel to the Star Wars trilogy, and it looks terrific. As in the original Star Wars, which opened in the exotic town of Mos Eisley, Lucas creates the same familiar gritty world on the desert planet of Tatooine -- which is chock-full-of a rouge's gallery of eclectic inhabitants. He also introduces a chic metropolitan world where the Jedi council, that looks suspiciously like the Guardian Council in the Green Lantern comic books, holds court.
     The film opens with Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his young apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) peacefully trying to settle a dispute between the planet Naboo and the evil Trade Federation. When negotiations go sour, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan rescue Naboo's Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) from the invading Federation army led by the evil Darth Maul (Ray Park), the Dark Lord of the Sith.
     With the Federation hot on their heels, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan free a slave boy named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) whose power of the Force is so great, Qui-Gon is convinced that Anakin is the chosen one to bring balance to the Force.
     Now the bad news:
     The Phantom Menace , isn't as good as...let's say the Empire Strikes Back or the first Star Wars. And as with Return of The Jedi, there's too many muppets and computer animated characters giving Menace a "Disneyland like feel," rather than a science fiction fantasy edge for adults and film critics who refuse to grow up.
     Also there are inconsistencies with the origins of C-3PO and R2-D2. It's almost as if George Lucas didn't re-review his earlier films. Like the Bond films, everybody has a favorite Star Wars episode to compare with the new film. However, no matter which movie you like, the Star Wars brand name is a guarantee of Lucas' quality control. So you'll know he'll deliver eye-popping visual effects, enduring characters and a great storyline no matter which episode you're watching. The audience always gets more than their money's worth.



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