Back in 1999, fans were greeted with the beginning of George Lucas’ prequel series and they were heavily divided upon the results. A lot of the criticism went into the lackluster dialogue, lack of character development and mostly Jar-Jar Binks.
Of course, that didn’t stop it from grossing $1 billion at the box office. However, now that the sequels have come out and fans have something new to hate, it seems only fair to look back on the first installment of the prequels.
The series began with two Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master Qui-Gon Jinn, who land on a desert planet called Tatooine. From there, they meet a young child-slave named Anakin Skywalker and his mother Shmi. They take the child and train him to become a Jedi. Little did they know that the young boy would eventually become the tyrannical Sith lord Darth Vader.
The film is very vivid in its construction of the origins of Darth Vader and how he was as a child. The movie serves as a blueprint for how to build the foundation of an origin story.
Skywalker’s innocent and humble beginnings are detailed and they prove that the evil villain was once a young boy looking for purpose and meaning in a galaxy far, far away.
Moreover, the lightsaber battles are absolutely phenomenal with Kenobi and Jinn taking on the likes of Darth Maul. The sequence that became known as “The Duel of the Fates” has stayed rent-free in the minds of fans forever and doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon.
Also, if I may point out, having Maul kill Jinn while Obi-Wan stands helpless is one of the most powerful scenes in the Star Wars saga. It comes so sudden and the audience gasps in the waking moment that the Jedi master is stabbed to death.
Lucas might get flack for his dialogue, but it’s obvious that he is a master at emotional weight and making the audience care about characters. It stands to reason that this film is now considered to be a classic and it isn’t hard to understand why that is. Understandably, nostalgia has smoothed things over like a butter knife but that’s not the only reason.
The film hearkens back to a time of science-fiction that only began to take wing with 2001: A Space Odyssey, and while The Phantom Menace may not be on the same level of that film, it is still an ardent and prolific replica that pays homage to sci-fi in all of its glory.