Movie: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Release Date: 19 May 1999
Runtime: 136 Minutes

Not even going to mention “all the spoilers”. I believe there should be a ten year limit on having to announce spoilers. I cannot remember watching this the single time I viewed it. It has been panned by critics and fans alike.

There is an article that comes the defense of this movie from an unlikely source, Rotten Tomatoes. You can find it HERE. Oddly enough, even though they defend it, it received a 53 and 59 on their approval ratings (critic / viewer).

I go in with open mind and foggy memory. Wish me luck.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

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I love space movies.

Every film in the franchise except for Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) begins with a shot of a star field moving to a ship that is flying towards or away from the camera. This movie opens with a transport ship headed for a Trade Federation ship.

I cannot help but think “space accents, when we make our way there finally, which accent will be the main one?”

Liam Neeson was so eager to be in the film that he signed on without having read the script. Sets were built only as high as the tops of the actors’ heads, and computer graphics filled in the rest. Liam Neeson was so tall that he cost the set crew an extra $150,000 in construction. Qui-Gon Jinn’s communicator is a redecorated Gillette Sensor Excel Razor for Women.

Liam Neeson in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

During filming, Ewan McGregor made lightsaber noises as he dueled. George Lucas explained many times that this would be added in by the special effects people later on. Ewan said “I kept getting carried away.”

Ewan McGregor in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

Natalie Portman’s voice was digitally enhanced to distinguish between Padmé and Queen Amidala. Natalie Portman missed the premiere party in New York City because she had to go home to study for her high school final exams.

Natalie Portman in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

According to Star Wars canon, Obi-Wan’s hanging braid is a Jedi tradition common to all Padawan Learners. When his Master feels that he has reached proper maturity, he must face a series of trials. If completed, he cuts the braid with his lightsaber, signifying that the student is now a full Jedi Knight. Ewan McGregor studied many of Sir Alec Guinness’ films, including Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), to ensure accuracy in everything from his accent to pacing of his words.

Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

Exsqueeze Me…. I chuckled, don’t hate me.

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I really do not remember this movie at all. But I think the underwater world is really, really pretty. The Jar Jar Binks voice is annoying though. The sound of the underwater monsters growling near the beginning of the film was made by the main sound technician’s three-year-old daughter. The sound of her crying was recorded, and the frequency lowered to obtain the sound heard in the film.

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Well, that was a close call…

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Keira Knightley’s parents tried to convince her not to audition, but the twelve-year-old actress still sought a role, given she was a Star Wars fan. When fully dressed and in make-up, Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley resembled each other so much that even Knightley’s mother, Sharman Macdonald, who visited the set, had trouble identifying her own daughter.

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The script explains that the reason Watto is always flying is that he is crippled. Look closely, and you can see that one foot is longer than the other. He also talks out of the side of his mouth because the broken tusk slurs his words. Andy Secombe based his vocal performance of Watto on Sir Alec Guinness’ performance as Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948). So essentially, Anakin is passed from one Alec Guinness impersonator to another through the course of the film.

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I enjoy seeing the internal clockwork of C3PO. C-3PO was originally only supposed to appear in scenes set in and around the slave quarters. During post-production, George Lucas decided to optically add the droid to several outside scenes. This is the only Star Wars movie in which Anthony Daniels did not provide the movements of C-3PO. Instead they were performed by puppeteer Michael Lynch.

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Darth Maul only speaks a total of three lines spending almost all of his screen time either listening, walking or standing quietly, or fighting. Interesting is that Maul actually has a very memorable, intense monologue about fear that was used in TV spots but never actually made it into the final movie. Furthermore, Peter Serafinowicz has stated in an interview that he actually recorded much more dialogue for Maul that never ended up in the film. Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber design was borrowed from the 1996 comic book series “Tales of the Jedi: The Sith War”.

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EASTER EGG: The starship Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) can be seen briefly amongst the traffic flying around Coruscant.

Jabba the Hutt’s full name is Jabba Desilijic Tiure.

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The special effects teams creating the podrace studied NASCAR crash footage extensively to assure accuracy in the crashes.

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Hold up… I had to pause then rewind to rewatch Warwick Davis sitting next to Watto!

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Just how many characters did he play in the franchise??

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Jake Lloyd retired from acting in 2001, citing bullying on the part of classmates, and the stress of doing up to sixty interviews a day, as his reasons for doing so. He stated in a 2012 interview that being in the film ruined his childhood and his acting career, and that he destroyed all of his Star Wars memorabilia out of anger toward the film. Lloyd also struggled with schizophrenia which was finally diagnosed in 2015. However, an interview with a Star Wars fansite has confirmed, that he’s mellowed out since then, and contrary to popular belief, he does not hate Star Wars after all the bullying. Lloyd also said that the situation was made worse because, in his opinion, the film did not meet the fans’ expectations. Despite this, Lloyd has reprised the role of Anakin in several video games and has appeared at Star Wars conventions and events.

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Coruscant

Ahmed Best, who supplies the voice of Jar Jar Binks, also appears as a Jedi Knight when the newly appointed Chancellor Palpatine arrives on Naboo.

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Tupac Shakur (a Star Wars fan since childhood) expressed interest in reading for a role, even lobbying mutual friends of his and George Lucas’ to get them in touch with each other to set up a meeting so he could read, but his tragic murder in September 1996 prevented any such meeting from taking place. It has been speculated that he was up for the part of Mace Windu, but the character’s name was not publicly known before filming started, and it was not specifically written for an African-American until Samuel L. Jackson was cast. In early concept art, Windu was drawn as an alien and also with the likeness of concept designer Doug Chiang.

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The original plan was for Maul to simply fall down the chute in one piece intead of being bisected, Speaking to Empire shortly after the movie’s release, George Lucas said of the original death scene, “I looked at it and thought this isn’t going to work because, if people like him enough, they are going to want him to come back and they’re going to assume somehow he gets out of it. So I had to cut him in half to say this guy’s gone, he’s history, he ain’t coming back. I’ll come up with another apprentice.” The original death scene was reportedly screened to test audiences shortly before the movie’s release and ultimately retained as an alternate take in case the MPAA balked at the more brutal final take.

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In the Galactic Senate scene, when Queen Amidala is asking for a vote of no confidence, and the whole Senate are on their feet shouting, in the lower left corner you can see that there are E.T. species (as in movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)). George Lucas included them as a tribute to his long-time friend, Steven Spielberg, as well as showing them existing in the same universe. Author James Luceno fleshed out this group of aliens in his Star Wars novel, “Cloak of Deception”. They are from the planet Brodo Asogi, and they are represented by Senator Grebleips (Spielberg spelled backwards.)

During the credits Jabba the Hutt is listed as being played by “himself”.

After the film’s end credits finish rolling, the sound effect of Darth Vader’s breathing can be heard.

“Phantom Menace” was the name of a villain in the “Flash Gordon” comics. The same name used by NASA to refer to the fact that so few of their attempts to send a probe to Mars were successful, to the point that the missions seemed cursed.

George Lucas made a similar deal as he did with Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). Lucas and Twentieth Century Fox agreed that he would forego his salary as a director, provided he owns the entire negative of the final cut of the film, as well as ancillary rights of all toys and commercial tie-ins.

George Lucas cast Jake Lloyd and Natalie Portman as Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala because he wanted to cast actors whom physically resembled Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher whom played their children Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa.

The movie was shipped to theaters as “The Doll House” to thwart piracy attempts.

As Sofia Coppola prepared the script for her directorial debut on The Virgin Suicides (1999), she heard that George Lucas would make a new Star Wars film, and asked him if she could accompany him during filming. Lucas, a good friend of her father Francis Ford Coppola, offered her a role in the royal entourage, which she accepted because it “seemed like a good vantage point to watch without getting in the way”. Roman Coppola (Naboo guard) and his sister Sofia Coppola (Handmaiden Saché) made their film debuts in The Godfather (1972), on which George Lucas was an assistant editor.

According to Jake Lloyd, there was a six-hour cut of the film that was screened for several people before the film was released, with those who saw it proclaiming it to be “mindbogglingly good”. Like the later “Lost Cut” of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), this cut has never been released publicly.

I enjoyed it. Well, everything except for Jar Jar Binks. The lines they gave his character made no real sense in the Star Wars universe. But, I was easily able to not pay attention to his character and enjoy the rest of the movie. I may not ever watch it again but I do not regret watching it this time.

Starring:

Liam NeesonQui-Gon Jinn
Ewan McGregorObi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie PortmanQueen Amidala / Padmé
Jake LloydAnakin Skywalker
Ian McDiarmidSenator Palpatine
Pernilla AugustShmi Skywalker
Oliver Ford DaviesSio Bibble
Hugh QuarshieCaptain Panaka
Ahmed BestJar Jar Binks
Anthony DanielsC-3PO (voice)
Kenny BakerR2-D2
Frank OzYoda (voice)
Terence StampChancellor Valorum
Brian BlessedBoss Nass (voice)
Andy SecombeWatto (voice) (as Andrew Secombe)
Ray ParkDarth Maul
Lewis MacleodSebulba (voice)
Warwick DavisWald / Pod race spectator / Mos Espa Citizen
Steve SpeirsCaptain Tarpals
Alan RuscoeDaultay Dofine / Plo Koon / Bib Fortuna
Ralph BrownRic Olié
Celia ImrieFighter Pilot Bravo 5
Benedict TaylorFighter Pilot Bravo 2
Clarence SmithFighter Pilot Bravo 3
Samuel L. JacksonMace Windu
Dominic WestPalace Guard
Karol Cristina da SilvaRabé (as Cristina da Silva)
Liz WilsonEirtaé (as Friday ‘Liz’ Wilson)
Candice OrwellYané
Sofia CoppolaSaché
Keira KnightleySabé (as Kiera Knightley)
Bronagh GallagherRepublic Cruiser Captain
John FensomTC-14
Greg ProopsFode (voice)
Scott CapurroBeed (voice)

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