Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a 1999 film by George Lucas starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Jake Lloyd. It is the first in a trilogy of films that function as a prequel to the original trilogy of Star Wars films and, in chronological story order, the first in what will form a six-part saga with the completion of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in May 2005.
- Turmoil has engulfed the
- Galactic Republic. The taxation
- of trade routes to outlaying star
- systems is in dispute.
- Hoping to resolve the matter
- with a blockade of deadly
- battleships, the greedy Trade
- Federation has stopped all
- shipping to the small planet
- of Naboo.
- While the congress of the
- Republic endlessly debates
- this alarming chain of events,
- the Supreme Chancellor has
- secretly dispatched two Jedi
- Knights, the guardians of
- peace and justice in the
- galaxy, to settle the conflict....
The film begins 32 years before A New Hope. A trade dispute between the planet of Naboo and the Trade Federation leads to a blockade of the planet. Chancellor Finis Valorum of the Republic secretly sends two Jedi Knights (Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi) to resolve the dispute. The Trade Federation is in league with the evil Darth Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith. Sidious orders the Federation to invade Naboo and kill the two Jedi. The Jedi escape assassination on the Trade Federation starship and escape to the surface of Naboo. They meet Jar Jar Binks, who helps them reach Theed, the capital city of Naboo. The Jedi rescue Queen Amidala and Governor Sio Bibble from the Trade Federation's droid armies. They leave for Coruscant, the Republic's capital planet, to ask for help from the Senate. Before reaching Coruscant, they are forced to land on the desert planet of Tatooine for repairs. Whilst searching for parts, they befriend Anakin Skywalker, a slave boy, who helps pay for the repairs by winning a pod race at Boonta Eve. Qui-Gon Jinn recognises Anakin's potential to be a powerful Jedi and takes him on their journey to Coruscant. On Coruscant, the queen is disillusioned with the Senate's bureaucracy and stalling. Senator Palpatine tells the queen to suggest a vote of no convidence in Chancellor Valorum to get him out of office. Palpatine is selected to be the new Chancellor, and when he tells Amidala she returns to Naboo to repel the invasion herself. There she forms an alliance with her people's former enemies, the indigenous Gungans, against the Trade Federation. During the Battle of Naboo the Gungans and humans are over-matched and are forced to retreat. But Anakin destroys the droid command ship and the Trade Federation is defeated. Tragically, Qui-Gon is killed by Darth Maul. The Jedi Council decide that Anakin should train to become a Jedi Knight. He becomes Obi-Wan's apprentice, or padawan.
The budget of Menace was US$115 million. Filming was primarily done at Leavesden Studios in England, with additional location shooting in the Tunisian desert and the Italian palace Palazzo Reale, Caserta .
After an enormous marketing campaign, with the distinctive artwork of Star Wars series artist Drew Struzan gracing the movie poster and other advertising, there was almost unprecedented interest amongst both fans and the wider community in the return of one of the most successful movie series of all time. However, critical and fan reaction ranged from guarded praise to outright derision.
The much-hyped special effects, while generally viewed as groundbreaking in their sheer scope, were perhaps less impressive than anticipated simply because of high expectations. This attitude was confirmed with the rival film, The Matrix, winning the visual effects Academy Award for 1999 over the Star Wars film. It was the first time a Star Wars film did not win that Oscar competition category. Many critics heavily criticised the direction and the acting of Portman and especially Jake Lloyd as the young Anakin Skywalker. Some aspects of the scripting were also criticised. Especial venom was directed at the character of Jar-Jar Binks, who was regarded by most of the older fan community as purely a merchandising opportunity rather than a serious character in the film. Fan reaction was mixed, with some fans opposing the critics' views while others agreed with the negative opinions.
Another source of dissatisfaction comes from the decision to explain the Force in terms of hard science, hence the introduction of midi-chlorians. Many fans felt this was unnecessary and ruins an aspect of the saga which sets it apart from other popular sci-fi titles in which religion and spirituality are of little importance or totally absent.
There is a great deal of speculation as to what the title, "The Phantom Menace", refers to; the titles of the other films seem to generally be self-explanatory. It is usually suggested that the title refers to Darth Sidious, Darth Maul, or the Sith in general.
The title could also refer to the origin of Darth Sidious' name, which is the adjective 'insidious'. The Oxford Dictionary gives following definition:
Full of wiles or plots; lying in wait or seeking to entrap or ensnare; proceeding or operating secretly or subtly so as not to excite suspicion; sly, treacherous, deceitful, underhand, artful, cunning, crafty, wily. (Of persons and things.)
So the 'phantom' in the title of Episode I could be referring to the Dark Lord of the Sith and ‘menace’ to the meaning of the name 'Sidious.' Another possible meaning of the title is a subtle indication at the ultimate outcome of the Saga--Anakin becomes Darth Vader.
When Queen Amidala calls for a vote of no confidence, a group of aliens that can be seen in the Senate resemble E.T.'s race from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
While Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress has often been seen as a source of inspiration for A New Hope, The Phantom Menace's middle section on Tatooine , with its series of non-violent bargaining and twists of chance, demonstrates the strongest correspondence to Japanese film in the saga.
- StarWars.com official Episode I site
- LucasArts' official Episode I computer game
- Natalie Portman Empire
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