Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace review
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a 1999 space opera film written and directed by George Lucas. It was the fourth film to be released in the Star Wars saga, and the first in terms of internal chronology. The film follows two brave Jedi Knights, played by Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor, who flee the planet Naboo with the planet's queen in the hope of finding a peaceful end to a trade dispute. Along the way, the ship must stop for repairs on the planet Tatooine, where the Jedi encounter Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), a young slave boy who is unusually strong with the Force. When the group returns to Naboo, they realize that the situation is much worse than they thought—the Sith have returned.
The release of the film on May 19, 1999 came almost sixteen years after the previous film in the series, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Lucas began production when he felt special effects had advanced to the level of what he had envisioned for the film. Shooting took place during 1997 at various locations including Leavesden Studios and the Tunisian desert. The release was accompanied by extensive media coverage and great anticipation. Despite mixed reviews by critics, it grossed US$924.3 million worldwide, making it the highest grossing Star Wars film in the series (fourth when adjusted for inflation).
The opening crawl reveals that the Trade Federation has blockaded the planet of Naboo in hope of resolving a galactic trade dispute. Chancellor Valorum of the Galactic Republic secretly sends two Jedi Knights — Qui-Gon Jinn and his padawan learner Obi-Wan Kenobi — to meet with the Trade Federation to settle the crisis. Unknown to them, the Trade Federation is in league with the mysterious Sith Lord Darth Sidious, who orders them to invade Naboo with their immense droid army as well as kill the two Jedi. It is later revealed that this was part of a complex plan by Darth Sidious to become Chancellor of the Republic. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan escape and flee to the surface of Naboo, where they meet local Gungan outcast Jar Jar Binks. As Jar Jar brings them to an underwater Gungan settlement, the Trade Federation captures Naboo's leader, Queen Amidala. Through a Jedi mind trick, Qui-Gon secures a submarine, which he, Obi-Wan, and Jar Jar use to reach the capital of Naboo and rescue Queen Amidala and her escort. The group departs for Coruscant, the Galactic Republic's capital planet, to seek help from the Senate.
During the escape, the ship is attacked by the Federation blockade, forcing R2-D2, one of the ship's droids, to fix the shields. The attack damages the ship's hyperdrive, forcing the party to land on the desert planet of Tatooine for repairs. While searching for needed parts, Qui-Gon and a handmaiden named Padmé befriend young Anakin Skywalker, a nine-year-old human slave gifted in piloting and mechanics. Qui-Gon senses a strong presence of the Force in Anakin, and feels that he may be the "Chosen One" — an individual the Jedi believe will fulfill a prophecy by bringing balance to the Force. At Anakin's insistence, Qui-Gon enters Anakin into the Boonta Eve Podrace in a bet with Anakin's master, Watto, to gain the needed parts as well as Anakin's freedom. Anakin eludes several obstacles—including rival racer Sebulba—to win the race, gaining his freedom and bankrupting Watto.
After hesitation, Anakin leaves his mother and his droid (C-3PO) behind on Tatooine to go with the Jedi. As the group prepares to depart, they are attacked by the Sith apprentice Darth Maul, who battles Qui-Gon until the heroes escape. On Coruscant, Qui-Gon informs the Jedi Council of the mysterious, well-trained attacker. The Council becomes concerned that this may indicate the reappearance of the Sith, an opposing order that followed the dark side of the Force. Qui-Gon informs the Council about Anakin, hoping that he can be trained as a Jedi. After testing the boy the Council refuses, worried that he is too old for training and that the fear and anger that he harbors will damage his future. Meanwhile, Senator Palpatine (unknown to the Republic as the Sith Lord), begins to put his plans into effect. He persuades Amidala to call a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum. The vote removes Valorum from power and leads to Palpatine's nomination for the position, which Amidala considers too late to be effective. To stop the Federation invasion by herself, the Queen decides to return to Naboo with her security team, the two Jedi, R2-D2, Anakin, and Jar Jar
On Naboo, Padmé reveals herself as Queen Amidala and forms an alliance with the Gungans for the battle against the Trade Federation. The Gungans march into battle to divert the Federation army away from the capital, allowing the others to infiltrate the palace. Once inside the palace hangar, the Jedi free several Naboo pilots, who regain their starfighters and assault the Federation droid ship. As they make their way to the throne room, the infiltration team is confronted by Darth Maul. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan engage Maul while the others take an alternative route. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan duel with the Sith Lord amongst the catwalks of a massive power-generating reactor core. Obi-Wan is briefly delayed, separating him from Qui-Gon and Maul.
Meanwhile, Queen Amidala and her forces fight their way into the palace and capture Nute Gunray, Viceroy of the Trade Federation. Anakin—inadvertently joining the dogfight in space—destroys the droid-control ship's reactor with proton torpedoes, which deactivates the droid army in the midst of taking Gungan prisoners. In the reactor core, Qui-Gon re-engages Darth Maul singlehandedly, but is mortally wounded. Obi-Wan catches up with Maul and kills him in another intense lightsaber battle, cutting him in half. Obi-Wan approaches his dying master, who uses his final breath to instruct him to train Anakin to become a Jedi
In the aftermath, the newly elected Chancellor Palpatine congratulates Queen Amidala on her victory and promises to watch Anakin's career with great interest. Meanwhile, the Jedi Council promotes Obi-Wan to the level of Jedi Knight, and Yoda reluctantly accepts Obi-Wan's request to train Anakin as his padawan. During Qui-Gon's funeral, Mace Windu and Yoda agree that Maul was indeed a Sith. However, because there are always two Sith at any given time (a master and an apprentice), they believe that another Sith still exists, although who that Sith is remains uncertain. A large celebration is held on Naboo to celebrate the world's liberation and the newborn alliance between the Naboo and the Gungans.