In May of 1999, it finally happened. After years of anticipation, speculation, far-fetched rumors and two spectacular trailers, the new Star Wars movie, Episode I: The Phantom Menace had finally arrived in US theatres. In the months that followed, 'TPM', as it was affectionatly referred to, opened in other countries across the world, generating heaps of excitement and breaking box-office records left, right and center.

Critical reaction, however, was mixed. While many reviewers rated the film as a spectacular experience about on par with the original three, others were of the opinion that it didn't quite have that brand of heart and warmth, that it had not lived up to its hype or the (often ludicrously high) expectations.

Indeed the film was highly anticipated almost everywhere, but nowhere moreso than in that little pocket of the internet that the coolest and most insane of all Star Wars fans call home: RASSM. So, now that the wait is finally over, one question remains: what did they think of it?

This page features a round-up of the opinions of various RASSM contributors. Did they feel the Force was with Lucas, or has he fallen to the Dark Side beyond redemption? Read on and find out.

Kim Le: The best Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi!

I have a problem. A review of everything I enjoyed about the movie would probably come across as a sychophant apologizing for a sub-par film. A review of everything I disliked about the movie would come across as negative nitpicker who scoffs at the idea of entertainment for entertainment's sake. If you're wondering why I can't do both, think about what the length of this review would be considering I just spent three long sentences on this relatively minor problem of mine.

Those of you reading this have probably already seen TPM. In that case, you've already developed your own opinion of the movie, and you're only reading these to see what other opinions exist. All I can say is I've seen the movie 8 times, wouldn't mind seeing it 8 times more, and I don't grimace at the sight of Jar Jar. Should you happen to be one of the rarer breed of individuals who haven't seen the movie: view with an open mind, take these reviews with a grain of salt. See the movie twice.

What Lucas did right: Senator Palpatine in the Senate

What Lucas did wrong: The introduction of Artoo

Favorite Line(s): "And you, young Skywalker, we will be watching your career with *great* interest!"
"Your apprentice Skywalker will be..."

out of

Gerthein Boersma: Enjoyable but Uninvolving

The Phantom Menace is kind of like a high school reunion in reverse: meeting old friends before they become old friends, visting that familiar far away galaxy in an even longer time ago. Unfortunately, it's so much like a high school reunion that it also generates that nagging feeling all reunions do: that it's great to be back, but not nearly as much fun as it used to be.

The dense plot is awkwardly paced, the tone is too kid-friendly with a general lack of real danger and tension, the dialogue ranges from mediocre to just plain silly and the characters actually manage to be less than the sum of their parts.

It works as a rollicking ride back to the Star Wars galaxy and as an action-packed light-hearted intoduction to the saga -- and as such it is certainly entertaining enough -- but as a valid and involving expansion of the Star Wars mythos it ultimately does the adult fans few favors.

out of

Brian Pacula: Maul My Children

The worst thing about The Phantom Menace is the editing. Too much of it occured. Scenes and dialogue in the screenplay that illuminate confusing scenes and expand character development are often clipped away from the movie itself, leaving us with a script that emphasizes brevity and a quick pace at the expense of interesting-yet-extraneous lines and explanatory scenes.

But as entertainment, the movie succeeds completely, with excellent performances from the entire cast, a pace that never drags, and fascinating ancillary characters. I found Jar Jar sympathetic and amusing, and Watto was superbly voiced and animated. Ian McDiarmid does a wonderful job as Senator Palpatine. You'd never know he could do subtle so well from seeing RotJ alone. The action sequences are flashy and fun, though the space battle is somewhat neglected. Overall, the movie is somewhat lacking, yet very enjoyable.

Best line: "What, you think you're some kind of Jedi, waving your hand around like that?"

out of

John Savard: Vastly Entertaining: Only Short of Perfection

I enjoyed the movie from start to finish. The special effects were spectacular, but not obtrusive. The movie delivered both action and a plot with intrigue. But the nitpickers are partly right: from Jar Jar to the origin of C-3PO, there were a number of questionable elements in the movie. But the question isn't whether this was a good movie: rather, we're left wondering if, at the end of Episode 3, how well all the movies will fit together. Of course, A New Hope was so perfect in terms of its story that whatever else George Lucas may do, many in the audience will feel he could have done even better.

The movie's greatest strength is that from Qui-Gon Jinn to Mace Windu, we have a sense of how impressive and awe-inspiring the Jedi were in their day.

out of

Wayne Poe: I loved this movie, absolutely. For those that haven't seen it and are dismayed at the negative comments, I urge you to go see it yourself.

I think TPM is an absolute masterpiece. I don't think its fair to compare this movie to the original trilogy. We are in brand new territory here, and this trilogy should be examined unto itself. What I will say though:

The ground and space battles are not engaging at all.

The character build up and their interactions with one another are a pleasure to watch. I was engaged with this more than with the action scenes.

Senator Palpatine's machinations rising him to power in the Senate is absolutely riveting.

The Pod Race is pure Star Wars, and more exciting than the ending space battle and ground battle combined.

The lightsabre duels are the most fantastic things I've ever seen. Obi-Wan's and Darth Maul's duel are easily the best fight ever, even surpassing Vader and Luke's in TESB.

Favorite line: "What? My PARTS are showing? Oh My!"--C3P0

out of

Bas-Jan Walewijk

TPM managed to confirm both some of my worst fears and greatest hopes. On the positive side, there are ground-breaking special effects, the first "real" return to the Star Wars universe in sixteen years and some great moments in the tradition we've come to expect from the original trilogy. On the negative side, there's a script that feels unfinished and unpolished, acting that feels as if the director was asleep or adjusting the blue screens most of the time and editing that's downright paranoid about allowing a scene or shot to sink in for a moment (unless the scene involves Jar Jar, who was far less annoying than the movie's constant presumption that we can't wait to see more of him instead of those boring humans). There are also numerous plot holes just waiting to be filled, holes that were unnecessary and sometimes seem to have been created for no other reason than to allow a cameo or two.

I'm not going to nitpick. I really liked TPM - though perhaps more as a Star Wars movie than as a story in its own right - and would probably rate it above all but some of the very best scenes in ROTJ. I knew what to expect going in, and it pretty much delivered. Knowledge of the plot didn't spoil the movie in any way. Knowledge of the visuals, however, did. It's odd how secretive Lucas was about his mediocre storyline, and how forthcoming he was with his stunning visuals...

out of

Adam Burakowski: Amazing

I personally, loved almost every single aspect of Episode 1. The characters, the effects, the music and sound, to me, were all very memorable. In my humble opinion, Jar Jar rocks. Now, the action scenes, amazing, the Pod Race was terrific, the Saber duels were great, but there could have been an extra minute devoted to the space battle at the end. They might have also added another minute to the Anakin/Amidala relationship, and another minute to build characters....say, during the sub scene.

There was one line in particular that I disliked, said at the starting "Are you braindead?". Other then that, I find no real problems with the dialog, and applaud Anakin for being smooth to Padme ;)

Favourite line(s) (they're in order):
"The boy is strong in the Force"
"So you will train him?"

out of

Adam Kohen: Despite Flaws, The Force is Still With Us

After 16 years, George Lucas had given us a new Star Wars movie. And although no movie could have lived up to the immense expectations that fans had, The Phantom Menace does a nice job of introducing us to the saga before the beloved trilogy we have all grown up with. Though flawed in some ways, it earns a rightful place among those earlier Star Wars films.

The movie tells several stories at once, but the ones most important to the continuing sage are the discovery of the possibly prophetic Anakin Skywalker, and the ascension of Senator Palpatine of Naboo to the rank of Supreme Chancellor, a position that he will one day rename Emperor. The main plot of the film involves the actual "phantom menace" -- a ruse created by Palpatine to bring himself into power.

The set design is stunning, the music is great as always, and the special effects have broken new barriers. In most cases, the computer animation is flawless, although it is sometimes used in service of juvenile humor. But the overall tone of the film is one that people of all ages can enjoy. This is a great piece of entertainment, and I'm already looking forward to the next episode.

Favorite line: "As for you, young Skywalker, we will watch your career with great interest."

out of

Edward Curtis

After 16 years, "Phantom Menace" is a welcome return to that galaxy far, far away. The incredible special effects are certainly the film's biggest star, but the plot, while not perfect, is no slouch either. It helps to have seen the "original" trilogy, as there is quite a bit of foreshadowing. What seems like a victory at the end over an admittedly weak adversary seems a little hollower, for you know what Palpatine has up his sleeve for Episodes 2 & 3.

The acting is mostly competent but not spectacular. Liam Neeson as Qui- Gon, Pernilla August as Shmi and Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine are the standouts; all should at least be nominated for Saturn Awards. Considering his age, Jake Lloyd does pretty well as Anakin; he really exudes youthful enthusiasm and that makes his 'hero' scenes more poignant, because of the fall we know is coming in the next two films. I didn't find Jar Jar too annoying, and some of his antics I thought were really funny.

The film's major weakness, in my view, is 2/3 of the final battle -- the Gungans vs. the Droids, and the space battle. They simply aren't as involving as the finales from IV-VI. But, they're saved by proximity to the spectacular three-way lightsaber battle, which is my favorite scene.

Favorite line: "You must let him help you. He was meant to help you."
-- Shmi, about Anakin

out of

Jill Marie Fritsche {& Alexander (6) & Katherine (3)}: Out of the Mouths of Babes.....A Review of TPM

I'm going to review this film from the eyes of my young children, as we really haven't heard much from this very important audience.

We saw TPM on opening day, and have seen it about a dozen times since. The kids just can't seem to get enough of this movie and soundtrack. {We play the soundtrack on the way to daycare in the morning. DotF is the fav.} They love Anakin the best....the starfighter scene is their favorite with the pod racing sequence running a close second. Alex laughs every time at Anakin's Padawan haircut at the end and at most of Jake Lloyd's lines. Adults may think Lloyd comes up short, but the kids can definitely relate and they love him. :)

Katherine loves Anakin also, but likes Amidala (not Padme!) and of course, Jar Jar. They, unlike their mom, love him totally, accent and all. {Even though, it seems, they can't understand him any better than the rest of us...;-) }

Darth Maul is okay, but not a favorite. Alexander loves Amidala's line in the hanger, "We'll take the long way..."

They barely got the idea that Anakin will grow up to be Vader. This seemed very confusing for them, as Anakin is *good* and Vader is *bad*. With kids, you just don't cross those lines. It's one or the other.

Influenced by Mom, the trailers, and the Denver Celebration, they just absolutely had no complains about the film....just a few humorous observations.

Katherine wanted to know, "Where do those 'ABC's' go? Don't spaceships run into them?" {The opening crawl.} "Why does Anakin have to leave his mommy?" {Very disturbing for them.} "Where does Her Highness get all those clothes?" "Why does Qui-Gon Jinn hit Darth Maul first? That's *not* very nice!" (On Naboo.)

GL is definitely getting a lot of *my* money this summer. ;-) Katherine keeps digging out pennies and quarters and telling me "Now we have enough money to go see TPM again!"

out of

Wes Hutchings: The Phantom Menace

After 16 years of waiting We all finally got what we asked for. A new Star Wars film, but wait. There's something wrong. People are saying that this isn't the Star Wars they grew up with. Can we have a show of hands for all those who would respond with the word Duh here? I thought so. I've spent the last 3 months since the film opened listening to different opinions on the film and quite a few complaints which I don't see as complaints. I've argued in great detail about the film. Let's discuss why I liked the film.

To those who didn't enjoy the film or any of it's points. Try asking a question rather than lashing out. I've yet to see more than a dozen really quibbling points come out of this film which can not be explained with a little reasoning. To be certain the film has it's flaws. Some of the dialogue is plodding. Some of the scenes are a little over the top in terms of believability, but on the whole the film is well done and certainly has no problem standing up to films being released today. Those who think it should have been a quantum leap above todays films have to remember that Star Wars started this type of trend in film making. Just because George stopped making them for awhile doesn't mean that the rest of the industry stood still.

Favorite line: "We'll handle this."

out of

Tomas Halvarsson: Not as good as ESB, but on par with ANH

To begin with, I'd like to get Jar-Jar out of the way: yes, he's annoying, but I don't hate him, I just wish GL wouldn't have used him so much. The rest of the film is fantastic. Of course the effects are stunning, but I really don't care much about them (though the Battle Droids and Droidekas are sooo cool). What I really like is the feeling I get when watching TPM. The scenes with Anakin and Shmi had me in tears the first couple of times I saw it, and they are still the scenes I think are the best.

The end battle wasn't executed as well as I had hoped. Four simultaneous battles are at least one, and probably two, too much. The lightsaber fight with the accompanying DOTF is very good, but I don't care much for the other battles.

All in all it's the best new film I've seen in many years. A bit too happy, considering all the bad things that must happen to connect the first trilogy to the original. I hope GL delivers on his promise that episodes II and III will be darker.

Favourite line: "I'm a person, and my name is Anakin!"

out of

Mark Miller: The Phantom Menace

I simply loved this movie. It was almost all I had hoped for, but definitely lived up to my expectations. The special effects were spectacular, the choreography in the lightsaber battles was outstanding, and put previous attempts to shame. Ray Park did an outstanding job portraying Darth Maul as sinister and evil. Jake Lloyd also did a good job as young Anakin, though some of his lines seemed forced. However, this was likely caused by flawed dialogue, rather than his acting. Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala was a great choice. She's a great young actress and should have a spectacular career. Likewise, Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson were perfect for their roles. The appearance of a younger Yoda and the Jedi Council was intriguing, and showed more than ever before the awesome power and influence the Jedi had. The only drawback was Jar-Jar. Though I don't hate him, he did get a little annoying. However, his presence only made me appreciate the original trilogy that much more.

Favorite line: "Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi-wan Kenobi."

out of

Policraticus McEwok: Not your father's Star Wars

In making "The Phantom Menace", George Lucas made one crucial mistake: he overestimated the average cinema-goer's intelligence and capacity for critical thought. Forget the hype. Forget the recieved ideas. This is a serious, complex film about lies and deception. The kid-friendly fun is just sugar on the bitter pill.

Everything is part of Palpatine's black plan for power, a plan which will result in the death or moral destruction of every other character - everything except, ironically, the reconciliation the maligned 'racist stereotype' Jar-Jar Binks brings about, armed with nothing more than clumsy, innocent good nature, between the hostile 'ethnic' communities of Gungans and Naboo humans.

The film is flawed - a nine-year-old speedway king and Galactic saviour just isn't *credible*, whatever universe you come from, and I still haven't decided whether Jake Lloyd's acting is brilliant or disastrous - but there are enough brilliant things - Watto, Sidious, Maul, the droids, Yoda, the battle scenes - to make this an entirely watchable and mainly enjoyable piece of cinema.

Thankfully, though the same mob consciousness that caused so many people to miss the point also meant that the film became the second-highest-grossing of all time, so we'll still get Episodes II and III, where Anakin is all grown up, and Sidious' ambition becomes explicit enough that the critics can grasp what's going on.

Favourite line: "There is no interest in the common good, no civility, only politics."

Rating forthcoming

ORHP Index

Constructed: 20 July 1999
Last Revised: 30 December 2000