Today I’m adding #11 to my list that ranks the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies.
THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999).
I saw it seventeen times in the theater! (The original ’99 release 16 times and then went to the 2012 re-release in 3-D.)
I like PHANTOM more than most SW fans, but that said, it does have some serious flaws.
As always, let’s begin with the positive comments:
John Williams hit the soundtrack out of the park! An outstanding collection of music.
I love Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan!
It’s so cool to have Ian McDiarmid reprise his RETURN OF THE JEDI role, this time as a senator before his rise to power. I love seeing some of the first steps of his master plan unfold.
Darth Maul is one of the scariest SW villains ever – for both his appearance and his fighting ability.
Watto and Sebulba are fun characters who bring some personality to the story.
And it was such a blast to be back on Tatooine again after not seeing any new footage of it for 16 years.
I very much enjoy the portion of the film that takes place on Tatooine. Except when Anakin or Shmi are talking.
Love the pod-race! (Because it’s action packed and doesn’t feature any dialogue from Anakin.)
Timothy Zahn created Coruscant while writing HEIR TO THE EMPIRE, which I read and loved years before THE PHANTOM MENACE, and so it was fantastic to see this amazing city planet brought to life on the big screen.
Gotta love the E.T. cameo in the senate – hahaha!
And I’m afraid to admit this, but I actually think some of the Jarjar jokes are funny. Please don’t hurt me.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan vs. Darth Maul!!
The frantic fight choreography is truly outstanding, and there is genuine suspense throughout the duel.
No cheesy lines of dialogue – just an all-out lightsaber throw-down. (I would have loved to have seen a Rey and Luke vs. Kylo and Snoke duel that delivered like this.)
There are two main-character deaths in the duel, adding weight to the sequence.
(Yes, Darth Maul was brought back in the Clone Wars cartoon over ten years later, but the original perception is that there were two main-character deaths.)
Anyway, almost 20 years later, this is still one of the best lightsaber duels ever filmed. The only one I like more is Luke vs. Vader in EMPIRE.
So after all my gushing, why is PHANTOM not placed higher on the list?
First of all, there’s not enough Darth Maul! Such a great villain – why not use him more? We should have been getting cool action sequences with him all through the movie, not just at the end.
Sadly, there is a host of bland characters that don’t do much to add to the film’s entertainment value. They’re just kind of there playing their parts. They’re not particularly exciting or likable or engaging or funny or scary or … anything:
And then there are some characters who are worse than bland and are downright annoying:
(Yes, I said above that I like SOME of the Jarjar jokes, but that said… Yeah.)
There are also pacing issues. This is supposed to be an action movie, but there are long, tedious stretches where there is no action and we get a whole lot of talking.
Anakin having no father and being conceived by midichlorians?
Anakin asking, “Are you an angel?”
During the outstanding lightsaber duel, there were three other battles taking place: Gungans vs. Battle Droids, Queen Amidala raiding the palace, and the spaceship attack. And all three of these battles are just okay for me – not terrible, but not particularly engaging either. I wish these could have been as exciting as the lightsaber fighting.
Despite the flaws, though, I look back on THE PHANTOM MENACE with fondness. I think there is more to enjoy from it than most fans give it credit for.
It was the first SW film in 16 years and when it first came out it was so exciting to be back in the SW galaxy again, and I couldn’t get enough of it at the time.
#11 The Phantom Menace
#12 The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
#13 The Last Jedi
#14 Attack of the Clones
#10 ON THE LIST