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?Star Wars: Episode I?The Phantom Menace.? Rated: PG. I give it a 31/2

on a scale of 5.

If you like your movies to dazzle you with dialogue, charm you with

character charisma, or present you with plenty of plot to ponder, I

suggest you pass on ?The Phantom Menace.?

But, if your idea of a great movie is one that contains imaginative

imagery, creative creatures, and a true sense of science fiction, this

is your kind of flick.

?Star Wars: Episode I?The Phantom Menace??the complete title of George

Lucas?s prequel to the ?Star Wars? movies of the 1970s and ?80s?is 133

minutes of truly spectacular filmmaking.

We have grown so accustomed to Hollywood?s computer-generated magic

that we have come to expect more than just major-league special

effects. We want well-rounded characters, a plot that blows us away,

and well-thought-out dialogue. Maybe that?s too much to expect, even

by today?s standards.

I have seen the original ?Star Wars? movie more times than I care to

admit, I think about seven times in the theater just for starters. Of

course, in the late ?70s, we didn?t have much else to marvel at.

It wasn?t until 10 years later I realized just how lame the dialogue

in that science fiction classic is; nor is the acting anything to

write home to mother about.

?The Phantom Menace,? purportedly the first of a series of three

stories that will lead to Episodes IV, V and VI?the three

aforementioned films?falls short in providing plausible background in

preparing us for the movies we?ve already scene. Granted, that?s a

tough task. It gives me a headache just thinking about it.

Jake Lloyd plays Anakin Skywalker as a young boy. Skywalker, who we

later find out is Luke?s father, becomes the evil Darth Vader in the

later episodes.

Of course, he?s a good guy in this first installment.

Ewan McGregor plays Obi-Wan Kenobi, who is later mentor to Luke,

played in the 1977 original by Mark Hamill. He sounds eerily like the

latter Jedi master (Sir Alec Guinness).

We are introduced to a yet-to-be-completed C-3PO and R2-D2, who is

already saving his owners with a masterful understanding of


Liam Neeson plays Qui-Gon Jinn, master teacher for the young Kenobi.

Yoda?with the voice of Frank Oz?also an appearance he makes.

New characters include Jar Jar Binks, a computer animated alien who

brought on a bit of controversy with his use of pidgin English that

sounds a bit too racially inspired for some critics.

Samuel L. Jackson makes a short appearance as Mace Windu, a member of

the Jedi council responsible for admissions into the clan.

I must also include Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala, a woman wise

beyond her years and a pleasure to behold. Darth Maul, the first in a

line of evil Darths, is played by Ray Park.

If all of this is confusing, then you aren?t ready to view this video.

Unless of course, you have a very patient buddy nearby who will not

mind spending a great deal of time explaining things as the plot


Besides the convoluted nature of the storyline and characters, this

film has some other flaws. This Jar Jar fellow is highly annoying, and

even though the opening tells us the story takes place a long time ago

in a galaxy far, far away, Binks uses some words that are distinctly

20th century.

In a scene where young Anakin has to choose between staying with his

mother and joining the Jedi brotherhood, there is very little emotion.

Shmi Skywalker (Pernilla August) tells son Anakin to leave; her place

is to remain on the planet…as a slave. He agrees, and away he goes

seemingly without a second thought. I?m guessing he will return in

Episode II to reclaim her.

Darth Maul, though certainly evil-looking, is far too easily defeated

as he makes only limited appearances. That?s surprising, considering

the makeup alone must have cost a fortune.

Most of the aliens act more human than…well…alien, their accents

are almost comical, and though the premise of the movie was to set up

all the other ?Star Wars? films past and future, I didn?t find it all

that enlightening. Confusing might be a better word.

For all its flaws, however, ?The Phantom Menace? is a three-ring

circus spectacular that must be seen to be believed.

It runs a lengthy 133 minutes, and it is rated PG for violence, most

of which is visited upon inept droids who are no match for the ?Force?

of our heroes.

There is a blindingly fast Podrace through steep and narrow canyons,

underwater cities and creatures that only George Lucas could imagine.

If that?s the sort of thing you look for a in a video, put ?The

Phantom Menace? on your must-see list.

Bob Wade is local video enthusiast. The videos he reviews come


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