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The Newspaper of McDaniel High School

The Oracle

The Newspaper of McDaniel High School

The Oracle

The Phantom Menace: a controversial masterpiece


The anticipated return of director George Lucas’ “Galaxy Far Far Away” finally came in May of 1999, a little over 25 years ago. Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace was revered by audiences at release, but how does it hold up by today’s standards? 

One cannot mention The Phantom Menace without touching on the film’s striking visual effects. Lucas and his team at Industrial Lights & Magic worked tirelessly to craft a visually stunning and in-depth universe. From the unthinkable underwater city of Otah Gungah, to the bustling megapolis of the planet of Corrosaunt. The film effortlessly builds an in-depth and believable world, leaving audiences craving for more.

One of my favorite scenes is the fast-paced podracing scene on Tatooine. Besides being technically stunning (for the era), the scene is intense and climactic. It depicts a young Anakin in the most intense pod race of his life, with his freedom from slavery on the line. Despite foul play, Anakin prevails through pure skill. This scene is important to the greater series since it foreshadows Anakin’s later abilities.

The movie goes back in time from the original three (thus its episode one title, despite being released as the fourth film in the Star Wars franchise). It explores the origin of the tumultuous state the galaxy is in. The trade federations blockade of Naboo and the quite yet notable rise of the sith. Providing a complex backdrop as we observe the escapades of Obiwan, Quigon and Padme. 

Despite this, the movie often struggles to effectively balance it’s complex narrative with meaningful character development. Even with Lucas’ experienced team, the blending of the two ideas proved to be too much for even him, leaving a feeling of inclusivity in both aforementioned fields. The dialogue at times feels robotic, and the exposition-heavy script often bogs down the pacing.

The long-awaited climax of the film will leave even the biggest Star Wars hater on the edge of their seat. The choreography of the duel between Obiwan, Qui Gon and Darthmaul will surely take your breath away. Coupled with the iconic “Dual of Fates” score, the scene is all but forgettable. The emotion you feel during the death of Qui Gon is one of the reasons I feel this is one of the peak moments of the entire franchise. 

At release, The Phantom Menace garnered a mixed reception from critics. Many praised it’s ambition, while many more criticized it’s shortcomings in  storytelling and character depth. Still, the film undeniably succeeds in the overarching goal of expanding the universe of Star Wars, and for that I believe it has earned it’s flowers. With that said, the film often feels like it is missing the Lucas magic of it’s predecessors. 

Overall, The Phantom Menace is a striking piece of cinematography. Whether you love it or hate it, you must admit that it is an iconic part of Americana, and for that, I believe it is worth the watch. In fact, I believe it should be a required piece of media for the youth; they should probably show this at schools. I’ll give it a 8.34/10.

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Adrian Cook, News Editor

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