Skywalker Countdown | ‘Episode I: The Phantom Menace’

Each week leading up to The Rise of Skywalker, we will be ask members of the Matrix for their takes on every Star Wars film in chronological order.

This week is Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

The film begins to answer the questions fans were dying to know about the origins of the Clone Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, which led to his transformation into Darth Vader and ultimately, the rise of the Empire.

However, in 1999, after more than 15 years of anticipation, Episode I was released to disappointing reactions. People criticized Jar Jar, the dialogue, acting, and even the “overuse” of CGI. Since then, popular opinion has shifted, and the prequels are finally getting the love they deserve.

So, where does the first prequel leave the members of MoviesMatrix? Let’s find out. 


Q1. General Thoughts?

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Marsellus Durden: There is absolutely no way it could have lived up to the hype. Aside from the childish antics of Jar Jar, there is much to enjoy with this off-maligned film. Neeson’s and McGregor’s chemistry carry this film from the action-packed opening to the fast-paced, hyper-athletic duel with Darth Maul. To finally see Jedi Knights in action was a dream come true and that was enough to make The Phantom Menace worth seeing.

Logan Slavin: While The Phantom Menace may not be the best Star Wars movie, it’s still a very enjoyable one that sets up the saga to come.

Owen: This is not at all as bad as people make it out to be. It’s action-packed and a ton of fun. The practical sets have never looked better and even though the writing isn’t the best, the story being told is great.

Michael Colan: This isn’t the bad nor inconsequential movie we’ve been told. The Phantom Menace plants the seeds of the downfall of the Republic in a manner that’s far more subtle than for which it’s given credit. The film suffers from the occasionally poor dialogue and acting, as well as pacing issues, especially during the scenes on Tatooine. While the finale can be overcooked, as a whole this is far from the worst Star Wars movie and has plenty of imagination to spare.

WriteOnGeek: Think about how “bad” The Phantom Menace is: People clamored for a Kenobi origin for years as a result of this movie. Fans got one of the underrated villains in its history with Darth Maul who spent all of six minutes on screen. And, we finally got a peek at the Darth Vader origin. But, because George Lucas created Jar Jar Binks, this movie sucked? Not so much. 

Q2. Favorite Scene?

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Marsellus Durden: As the Jedi Knights attempt to escort the Queen and her entourage through the palace, the large hangar doors open to reveal a lone hooded figure standing in their way. “We’ll handle this,” the Jedi say. This anxious build up to the frenetic lightsaber duel that follows still puts a smile on my face while I’m ecstatically on the edge of my seat.

Logan Slavin: My favorite scene would have to be the final duel between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon. The choreography in this scene is amazing! Lightsaber fights have never looked better than in the prequels.

Owen: Obi-wan’s standoff with Maul after Qui-Gon was killed. The emotion is clearly expressed with no dialogue needed. Their actions say it all. It also contains some of the best choreography in the fight.

Michael Colan: My favorite scene in the movie in during the lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Qui Gon Jinn vs Darth Maul. The force fields separate the combatants and everyone turns off their lightsaber. Darth Maul prowls back and forth stalking his prey while Qui Gon sits and mediates with the force. Obi-Wan stands breathing heavy, still the apprentice. No dialogue, all visual and it tells us everything we need to know about the three of them. I wish Lucas would have trusted his visual storytelling more, he is a gifted visual storyteller.

WriteOnGeek: Two words: Ray. Park. Who? The Wushu expert and force behind Darth Maul (not to mention, Snake Eyes in G.I.Joe, Toad in X-Men). Notice a trend in here? That final duel of the fates was remarkable. Although Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor helped, that scene was all Ray Park. And it was awesome. 

Q3. Least Favorite Aspect?

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Marsellus Durden: I understand Anakin is supposed to be naturally gifted as a pilot but for him to “accidentally” wander into a dog fight and “accidentally” blow up the droid control ship was a little too much. It was too cheesy. They should have left it with him shooting the droids in the hangar. The Naboo pilots definitely could have completed that mission on their own. It would have worked a lot better.

Logan Slavin: If I could remove one thing, it would probably be Jar Jar. He doesn’t really add anything meaningful to the film. No disrespect to the actor but he’s just not a well-written character.

Owen: I hate to say Jar Jar because I don’t mind him that much, but he’s easily the worst part of the movie. He just feels out of place with the Jedi and the politics.

Michael Colan: Tatooine. Don’t get me wrong this section has its moments (i.e., the pod race is fun, but that section feels clunky and overwritten). The movie opens with a lot of energy and it always feels like we grind to halt, even with that pod racing scene.

WriteOnGeek: There were several barren pools of meh in this movie, but Jar Jar? Just why?! It’s shocking his outtakes aren’t part of Mystery Science Theater 3000. 

Q4. Favorite Piece of Music?

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Marsellus Durden: As one of the most exhilarating lightsaber battles in the series begins, John Williams’ unforgettable composition, “Duel of the Fates,” kicks in and the scene is elevated to a whole new level.

Logan Slavin: The music during the epic lightsaber battle with Darth Maul, “Duel of the Fates,” is easily one of the best scores in the series.

Owen: “Duel of the Fates.” No explanation needed.

Michael Colan: This is going to be a basic answer but “Duel of the Fates” is arguably the best piece of music in the saga.

WriteOnGeek: Next to “The Imperial March” and the Star Wars theme, “Duel of the Fates” is easily the most recognizable piece of music from this entire saga. When that choir starts, you immediately envision a dual-sided lightsaber. Majestic work from the master, John Williams. 


Check back to MoviesMatrix next week for a similar breakdown of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

4 thoughts on “Skywalker Countdown | ‘Episode I: The Phantom Menace’

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