Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace

1999, PG, 133 min. Directed by George Lucas. Starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Jake Lloyd, Natalie Portman, Pernilla August, Ahmed Best, Samuel L. Jackson, Ray Park.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 10, 2012

It's 22 years later, but George Lucas is finally back in the saddle, pitting good against evil in a complex web of intergalactic skullduggery. Episode 1, however, draws heavily on clichés and innumerable cinematic and literary references. Drowning amidst the oceans of hype, marketing, and fan worship, there is a movie, and unfortunately it's not a terribly good one. Lucas, eager to please everyone it seems, crams gobs of action into every part of every frame. Episode 1 often has a rushed, stop-start feel, with information being parceled out at an alarming rate but minus the emotional or character-driven narratives we've come to expect from our dealings with Lucas. What works, of course, are the effects, computer-generated and otherwise. The cosmic Huggy Bear that is Jar Jar Binks may be the most annoying Star Wars character since the Ewoks first piddled on the forest floor, but for an entirely CG-character, he's impressive, if not human. What does it say about a filmmaker when his effects come out better than his human cast members, when a single laser strike is more dramatic than a whole raft of (stilted) dialogue? It says he ought to spend more time on story and less time crunching binaries, more on pacing the myth and less on cramming it down viewers' throats.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More George Lucas Films
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Veering from moments of breathtakingly visualized valor to outright stupidity, Sith is a vast improvement over the previous two outings, but still and all, it’s no Star Wars.

Marc Savlov, May 20, 2005

American Graffiti
Once upon a time in what seems like a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas knew how to tell stories about real people in real ...

Marjorie Baumgarten, Aug. 16, 2000

More by Marc Savlov
SXSW Film Review: <i>Daniel Isn’t Real</i>
Film Review: Daniel Isn’t Real
Enter the imaginary anti-friend

March 14, 2019

Raising Hell With the Legacy of Molly Ivins at SXSW
SXSW Film Review: Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins
Texas’ beloved crusading journalist gets her documentary due

March 12, 2019


Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace, George Lucas, Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Jake Lloyd, Natalie Portman, Pernilla August, Ahmed Best, Samuel L. Jackson, Ray Park

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle