The Phantom Menace

7 out of 10


Star Wars Prequel

The beauty of the Phantom Menace is that it is a throw-back to the spirit of the original "Star Wars". As no-one expected the first to have been a success, it was a "stand-alone" movie which could be watched without knowing anything else of the genre, and the "Phantom Menace" is too one that can be enjoyed even by someone who has achieved the astounding miracle of never having even so much as heard the words "Jedi Knight" before.

other films at the time for two main reasons: the story was simple good versus evil and the characters lived in an all-too-realistic future world of the well-worn rather than the squeaky clean environments that all other Sci-Fi films had presented up to that point. Phantom again follows in these footsteps by presenting a simple tale of a young queen battling to protect her people from the aggressive military and diplomatic plots of a very familiar corrupt consortium of business interests and sleazy politicians.

In the principle role, Natalie Portman as Queen of the Naboo gives a truly awesome portrayal of monarchy in action and her regal presence and the air of nobility she bring to the role makes Carrie Fisher`s performance look truly shamefully inadequate in the original "Star Wars" as Princess Leia.

It has been widely commented about the entirely computer-generated character of Jar Jar Binks, who, seems to be, to all intents and purposes, a Rastafarian in an alien form, and brings nothing but a laid-back, unprofessional feel to much of the film... So what? As mentioned before, the whole fun of Star Wars is that this is a Universe where things behave as they do in the real world, and just how many of us spend our days worrying about serious topics like dictatorship and religious manipulation - VERY FEW! Besides, who`d want to be a Jedi Knight if mastery of the Force doesn't even give you the power to stop a hairline receding like Liam Neeson`s. Despite being entirely computer-generated, Jar Jar Binks is the most lifelike character in the movie.

For the Fourth in a series, the film is fresh and original and the space equivalent of an Indy 500 is really exciting, yet Phantom is not without faults. Firstly, and surprisingly, it has fallen victim to the same political correctness that crops up regularly in Star Trek, namely, heroes are not allowed to kill others, so they are permanently battling armies of robots. Secondly, one is totally lost as to the role of Darth Maul, other than as a plot device to provide an opportunity for the filmmakers to create a personality, and without the dubious similarity between he and a child`s image of the devil (so much for political correctness for ugly people), one would have little idea whether he is supposed to be good or evil.

It`s as good as you expect (whether that`s good or bad)

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett