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  • Writer's pictureDenise Breen

Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace is back in cinemas 25 years after its release

2.5 out of 5

With the film now playing in cinemas to celebrate its 25th year anniversary, I’ve had the opportunity to revisit what was, for me at least, a hugely enjoyable, if badly scripted film. I saw it upon its release in May 1999 and re-watching it again on the big screen this weekend for its anniversary with more mature eyes was not only strangely nostalgic, but I had a ton of fun with it. Sure, the script is terrible, and the performances from most of the cast suffer because of this, but the two-hour and eleven-minute runtime flew by.

I guess I’m one of those Star Wars fans who have found a greater appreciation for the prequel series since Disney bought Lucasfilm in December 2012, and while I’ve enjoyed some of the output from Disney, most notably The MAndalorian and Andor, the prequels at least have a clear narrative, plus a sense of wonder that’s been sorely missing lately, at least for me.

I think we all know the plot of The Phantom Menace by now: Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi attempt to protect Queen Padmé Amidala of Naboo in the hope of securing a peaceful end to an interplanetary trade dispute. Not exactly a riveting synopsis for sure, and the famous opening scroll at the very beginning of the movie does little to whet the appetite for what’s to come. But you know what? I like the film and enjoyed seeing it on the big screen again.

Despite having that awful clunky dialogue to work with, Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor do their level best to bring their Jedi Knights to life, and you can really tell they had a blast learning the fight choreography for the film’s standout lightsabre duels. Natalie Portman looks stunning as Queen Amidala and apparently studied Japanese Kabuki Theatre for the mannerisms of the character. Her voice is stilted at times, but she has at least put some thought into her performance.

What works so well about the film is its standout set-pieces, namely the pod race and the climactic battles that rage across the ground, in space and, of course, the power generator based three-way lightsabre battle. George Lucas has always been a fan of high octane speed sequences, and the Ben Hur inspired Pod Race is a hugely fun, thrilling sequence that sees ‘little Ani’ beat the odds to win his freedom from the awesome junk dealer, Watto. However, where the movie really comes to life is with its main bad guy, Darth Maul; the whirling dervish may have limited screen time, but his impact is massive when he first appears from behind the hanger doors. British martial artist and stuntman Ray Park clearly loved being a part of the franchise, and the choreography in the final fight is stunning.

Of course, The Phantom Menace is one of the most hated Star Wars films for a lot of people, and while I may be a Star Wars fan, I can completely see why it’s not held in the highest regard. However, if you haven’t had a chance to revisit it on the big screen for its 25th-year anniversary, why not treat yourself to a flawed, if fun spectacle that, for me at least, still holds up well enough all these years later, barely.

May the force be with you…Always.

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