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Still shot from the movie: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Categorized as a "prequel," The Phantom Menace introduces us to the characters and a plot that are featured in the first Star Wars franchise. In this episode, a youthful Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) meets the boy Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) and unwittingly starts him on the path to becoming the tyrant Darth Vader. Get the movie review and more. »


Overall: B+ 3.5
Violence: C+
Sexual Content: A-
Language: A
Drugs/Alcohol: A
Run Time: 133
Theater Release: 19 May 1999
Video Release: 21 Mar 2005
MPAA Rating: PG
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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.

Star Wars - Official Site MMeeting 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.

SSkywalker 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 and 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.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace is rated PG: for sci-fi action/violence.

Director: George Lucas
Cast: Liam Neeson Ewan MacGregor Natalie Portman
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Website: Official site for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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