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Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

As we anticipate the NEW, seventh Star Wars film to be released this December, we are going back and watching the first six films in story sequence, not the order in which they were first released.

Back in 1999, STAR WARS EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE was hugely anticipated, a massive hit and ultimately a bit disappointing to fans of the original trilogy.

Watching it again, the film has some amazing action sequences, one terrific bad guy, two strong leads and some glaring issues.

As the film opens, Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his young apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) are attacked by evil forces and forced to the peaceful planet of Naboo to hide until they can repair their ship.

As they move to warn Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) that there is an impending invasion of her planet, they also meet a very young Anakin Skywalker, who all Star Wars fans know will grow up to be the classic movie baddie Darth Vader.

Neeson and McGregor are both great. But Writer/Director George Lucas is stuck with very wooden acting from young Jake Lloyd as Anakin and you can only blame Lucas for one of the most annoying, stupid sidekicks of all time in Jar Jar Binks.

As someone who always felt that the Ewoks ruined "Return of the Jedi" Lucas doubles down and makes it even worse with Jar Jar.

When the film is introducing us to fantastic villains like Darth Maul (Ray Park) or immersing us in stunning action sequences like the fifteen minute pod race or the Darth Maul/Jinn/Kenobi light saber battle, the film is incredible.

Visually it's stunning, the sounds is also great courtesy of Award winning sound design teams and John Williams excellent wall-to-wall score, but the endless and confusing politics tend to drag the pace down repeatedly.

It also seems like Lucas thinks cute,goofy aliens are what we love best. Between Jar Jar Doofus and the underwater king, Boss Naas, who slobbers a lot and shakes his head like a St Bernard at the end of sentences, I guess we are supposed to laugh. You would think Lucas would have stopped doing cute aliens after "Howard the Duck".

The 1999 special effects for Yoda (Frank Oz) are a HUGE leap from the original trilogy and the wise old green dude steals a lot of scenes he is in, alongside Samuel L. Jackson and Terence Stamp.

You get plenty of glimpses of how good the film could have been, but it battles against itself and your memories of the earlier trilogy to emerge as my fifth favorite of the original 6. At least that's where I think it will rank. That could change when we move on to its sequel ATTACK OF THE CLONES.

The best bits are SO good, that The Phantom Menace still gets a B-, but oh, what could have been.....

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