Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
There is a foreboding feeling...
What did the Y2K bug and The Phantom Menace have in common? The anticipation generated more excitement than their actual arrival enjoyed. Despite this, I'm sure the release of 'Menace' will cause many parents to be bugged by children pleading again for the associated licensed merchandise.
Categorized as a prequel, meaning it begins prior to the proceeding three films, this first edition introduces us to characters and a plot that will tangle and weave through two more movies until it becomes a perfect fit to the initial release back in the disco 70's. The fact that George Lucas has kept the look of this film so similar to those earlier productions is a feat in itself.
Meeting the youthful Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd -- whose character, of course, will become the tyrant Darth Vader), is almost as fun as going back in time to discover your spouse in grade school.
Skywalker and Kenobi, along with master Jedi trainer Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and a completely digitized character named Jar Jar Binks (voiced by Ahmed Best) become the team to root for. They attempt to save Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) from a bad hair day, and her planet from being overrun by the Trade Federation.
Conflict is the core of any movie with the word war in its title, and The Phantom Menace is chock full of space-aged digital violence -- but no gore. Thousands of those killed are robotic droids or of a non-human descent (that makes it okay?). With the exception of a high-speed pod-race, which is organized for recreational/gambling purposes and results in needless loss of life, the rest of the action depicts individuals fighting for freedom after other attempts at negotiating have failed.
The lack of profanity and sex (other than a brief shot of a woman in just as brief a bikini) impressed me more than the effects, which is bound to make this film a huge hit with many families. The good news is, if the old Star Wars movies met your family's standards, this will too.