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The
Great Saga
Begins

Jake Lloyd, Pernilla August

Episode 1 of George Lucas' amazing series is a ton of fun

(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)

"Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace"

Gertie Goes to the Movies
A big tip of Gertie's picture hat to George Lucas in admiration and thanks for "Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace."

It's a swell movie, and we had a great time seeing it!

And a discreet lifting of Gertie's tail in the direction of the mainstream print press, which spend months slavishly hyping the film (desperately trying to convince readers that The Force was with their trashpapers), then whined about how it wasn't good enough. Pah! Gertie is especially stunned that the trashpaper reviewers thought "Phantom Menace" was confusing and didn't have enough human values in it.

Gertie is a skunk (family Mustelidae), with a brain about the size of a pecan (well, maybe a walnut, in Gertie's case), and Gertie was able to understand the film! And, Gertie found it very human!

Ray ParkA bunch of greedy creeps are trying to take over everything, in a rotten deal with some really bad guys (Sith lords, who a) are ugly, and b) have really bad attitudes). The good people and good creatures fight to save their peaceful, pleasant way of life.

Ewan McGregorWe get to meet the young Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by Ewan McGregor, who does a great job of replicating Alec Guinness' speech rhythms and enunciations) and his master, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson, who wears Jedi robes with appropriate gravity and still manages to be an action kinda guy).

George Lucas, Jake LloydQui-Gon Jinn comes across the boy Anakin Skywalker, and realizes the boy has the stuff of the Jedi about him; a blood test shows that the boy has an usually high count of Midi Chlorians — the things that live in cells and connect them to The Force. That, and the fact that Anakin's mom (well played by Pernilla August) had not actually done the deed before carrying the baby, lead our Jedi hero to believe that Anakin is The Chosen One — the one who will restore balance to the universe.

Well, think about it ... by Episode 6, "The Return of the Jedi," that is more or less what Anakin Skywalker does.

Liam Neeson, Ray Park, Ewan McGregorOf course, sometime in Episodes 2 or 3, Anakin becomes Darth Vader, and goes around being a real bad guy for a long time, before he finally becomes Anakin again, and helps his son Luke set things straight.

It was great seeing all that stuff, and more, and realizing how it all fits in with the later episodes we've already seen, and that is part of why Gertie takes off her hat to George Lucas.

Natalie PortmanThere was a lot of great stuff going on in Episode 1, including some subtle things we know will be expanded upon in Episodes 2 and 3 — such as Anakin the kid and Queen Amidala (played by Natalie Portman, who is quite good) giving each other the goo-goo eye, despite the fact that he is just a kid (later on, they get together, and Luke and Leia are the result). And we get to see a slightly younger Yoda!

Ahmed BestJar Jar Binks, the amphibian-horse-water-lily creature played by Ahmed Best, is funny and appealing, despite what some of the trashpaper reviewers said.

The underwater city is beautiful, and gets another tip of the Gertie hat, as did the air city in Episode 5. "There's always a bigger fish," Qui-Gon Jinn says, as he and Jar Jar and Obi-Wan travel through the watery core of a planet.

Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson, Ray Park, Ewan McGregorAnd yes, the pod race is fabulous, and a ton of fun to watch.

Jake Lloyd is very, very good as the young Anakin.

Gertie has one quibble. Gertie likes Samuel L. Jackson very, very much, and loves him in "Long Kiss Goodnight" and "Die Hard With a Vengeance" and "The Negotiator" and even in the badly cut "A Time to Kill," in which his best speech was excised. But in Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson"Phantom Menace," he was poorly directed by Lucas, and somewhat disappointing. His main job seemed to be to look thoughtful, in a dorky pose — actually holding his chin on two knuckles. Gertie hopes Mr. Jackson will have more to do, and will be able to exercise his considerable magnetism to a greater degree in episodes 2 and 3. In this film, Yoda (voiced again by Frank Oz) is more expressive than Mr. Jackson's Mace Windu.

Gertie plans to see "Phantom Menace" at least one more time in the theater, and probably will watch it many times once it comes out on video.

Natalie Portman(Images from "The Phantom Menace" are from 20th Century Fox and are either photographs by Keith Hamshere or digital works by Industrial Light and Magic.)

DVD at Amazon.
Wide-screen VHS tape boxed set at Amazon.com.
VHS at Amazon.com.

See other information about "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" at Internet Movie Data Base.