As ‘The Phantom Menace’ turns 25, six things (not Jar Jar) that the ‘Star Wars’ prequel got right

As ‘The Phantom Menace’ turns 25, six things (not Jar Jar) that the ‘Star Wars’ prequel got right

The teeth-gnashing aspects of “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” have been chewed over for a quarter of a century, from Watto to Anakin Skywalker’s Midi-chlorian count (and magical birth) to just about everyone’s favorite punching bag, Jar Jar Binks.

But as the film that kicks off George Lucas’ prequel trilogy hits theaters to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the de facto “Star Wars” May Fourth holiday, let’s highlight the positives by identifying a half-dozen things the film, and the father of the franchise, of course right

Each of these elements has reverberated through the “Star Wars” story, and in most cases has been put to better use elsewhere (in the sequels, various animated series overseen by Dave Filoni and recent live-action series, such as “The Mandalorian” and ” Obi-Wan Kenobi”) than they were in the original film.

Think of them as creative building blocks, which overcome the clumsier parts of the script and awkward performances to influence the rest of the “Star Wars” timeline. They are presented here in order of ascending importance:

6. The Emperor’s long game. The idea that Palpatine/Darth Sidious (played by Ian McDiarmid) would spend years undermining the Republic from the inside is a little disconcerting, but it creates a fertile backdrop for how the Sith can overcome the Jedi.

5. Digital effects. Admittedly, this is a bit of a mixed bag, as Lucas’ emphasis on the visual component seems to come at the expense of attention to acting and performance, and in a way to overpower them. Still, he confidently moves the bar forward in terms of digital effects and design, which pays off in the scale of the action sequences.

4. Mace Windu. Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t have much to do in this first film, but the Jedi master becomes an important part of the mythology and has the opportunity to show his powers later (perhaps most importantly in the animated “The Clone Wars”), while padding. the actor’s impressive resume when it comes to appearing in blockbuster franchises.

3. Darth Maul. As played by Ray Park, the mostly silent Sith apprentice represents one of the most visually interesting characters introduced throughout the entire series – including that awesome double-edged lightsaber – that Filoni went to great lengths to bring to life. after what looks like a half-empty glass exit at the end of “The Phantom Menace”.

2. Actors Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson. Although Lucas skewed the plot towards Darth Vader’s origin story, finding a young Obi-Wan Kenobi was a huge challenge, and McGregor provided the first trilogy’s dramatic ballast even in its weaker moments, as Neeson did as his master. Those qualities were underscored by their brief reunion in the recent Disney+ series.

1. Lightsaber fight. In the original trilogy, lightsaber fights were basically just basic sword fights, with some acrobatic moves and the use of telekinesis. The battle between Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan – set to composer John Williams’ evocative “Duel of the Fates,” one of his best musical contributions in his long line – elevates it to a dazzling level, not only in the use of “Force” abilities ” as an organic form of fighting but through choreography and physicality. (Give a lot of credit for that last one to Park, who puts his experience as a martial artist and stunt double to very good use.)

Every lightsaber fight since – including the unforgettable images of Yoda energetically leaping around in “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” – has been built around an established framework.

It’s also probably the main reason why “Star Wars” continues to grow as parents pass it on to their kids. Not everything in “The Phantom Menace” has aged well, but the climactic duel is one that can be watched and enjoyed over and over again.

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