Written by: Dan Geer

Darth Maul

It has been 10 years since Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace graced our theater screens. It was a great time for Star Wars fans, and movie-goers in general.

We have all heard time and time again what people didn’t like about the film, so I thought I’d compile a list of the Top 10 Best Things about The Phantom Menace. It’s about time we dwell on what we did like!

10. The planets – old and new.

This movie marks the first time we got some cool new planets and got to revisit an old one from a whole new angle.

Naboo was just beautiful. The Queen’s Palace in Theed City was just gorgeous. It was just so much grander than anything we had ever seen in a Star Wars movie. The landscape of Naboo was like looking at a classic piece of artwork.

And that was just above ground. There was also the underwater world of Gungan City. The best part of that whole sequence underwater is when our heroes (and a bumbling gungan) swim over a a huge ravine to reveal the city for the first time. The music was haunting and the scenery was just out of this world (or under it, I guess). It was simply jaw dropping.

Coruscant was the other new planet, which was absolutely breathtaking, especially in the scene when the camera pans overhead as we peer down into the depths of the city planet. I about fell out of my seat from dizziness in the theater. Seeing what I believe Luke was referring to in A New Hope as the “bright center of the universe” was truly a sight to behold. Words cannot describe my reaction to the entire planet being “one big city, ” as good ol’ Ric Olie would say.

Then, there’s Tatooine. How great was it to see this desert landscape on the big screen again? It was like visiting an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time…a long time. When we saw Mos Espa, it seemed very much like Mos Eisley from A New Hope, which was a great thing. It felt like home. However, when we saw the Pod Race for the first time it was so new and different. We had no idea this kind of event took place on Tatooine before this movie! The Phantom Menace helped us understand that Tatooine was a much bigger planet than what was previously depicted.

9. Watto

“Republic credits? Republic credits are no good out here.  I need something more real! I’m a Toydarian! Mind tricks don’t work on me! Only money.” This is the side kick who should have been the one tagging along with our heroes, not Jar Jar. I’m not a Jar Jar hater, but I do think Watto would’ve been a way better fit for comic-relief during the film. Everything from his raspy voice to his run-down scruffy-looking appearance was brilliant. Watto is still lovable even to this day and I wish we got more of him. He was absolutely fantastic.

8. Young Obi-Wan Kenobi

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Even though his character was way underused in this film, Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Obi-Wan was spot on. He looked like he could be a young Alec Guiness. His mannerisms and the way he talked was just like him. It was great when we see him first meet Anakin, and also where he insists on training him in the scene with Yoda at the end of the film. That moment was dark and forboding, not to mention classic Star Wars. I was glad to know that we would see much more of him in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

7. The Jedi Council and the Senate

Perhaps Yoda is defying Old Code of the Jedi Council in The Empire Strikes Back when he said, “My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained.” Who really knows what Yoda was thinking when he said that? Either way, seeing the Jedi Council was just awesome. We got our first glimpse of a younger Yoda, Sam Jackson as a frickin’ Jedi, and other various new Jedi Council members (Dave Filoni, creator of The Clone Wars film and TV series, would want me to mention Plo Koon). Even a female “Yoda” Jedi (Yaddle)! There were now just so much more characters for possible back stories in novels, comics, TV series, etc. The wheels in our heads were spinning at lightning speed with all the possibilities, wondering where all these new characters came from and what their stories were.

Of course, seeing an early form of the Senate which we heard of in A New Hope was great, and for me ties for 7th place on this list. Sure, it was just a bunch of metal pods than people sat in, and it may have been a boring political scene for some people – but we were seeing the bleepin’ SENATE! How many fans wondered what the origin of the Imperial Senate was? With The Phantom Menace, it was finally revealed. For a bunch of metal objects crowded into one big dome, it sure was cool looking.

6. The Opening Jedi Knight Sequence

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Ahh, the first time we see the Jedi Knights in their prime. Everything from the first lightsaber moves to cutting open the blast doors, it was just plain cool. It is worth noting that this is the only time we ever see the “Force-run”  throughout the course of the prequels. Some fans didn’t like it, but I thought it was awesome. Imagine if the force-run were used during the “Battle of the Heroes” duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith! Hopefully The Clone Wars TV series will show more of this [hint, hint Filoni!]

5. Darth Maul

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What more can I say about this guy? Even before we saw his double-bladed lightsaber and kick-butt moves during the amazing duel with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, we all loved him. He was new. Different. Scary-looking. Basically, you don’t want to run into him in a dark alleyway. He became one of the coolest costumes to wear for Halloween or at a Star Wars convention. Heck, why not wear it at home whilst sipping a cup of tea?

He wasn’t in the film that much, but he commanded our attention every time he was on screen. That, and everyone cheered in the theater when he got cut in half by the hand of Obi-Wan. Great moment.

4. Qui-Gon Jinn

Qui-Gon Jinn was quite a surprise to most fans when we found out that  he, as well as Yoda, trained Obi-Wan. But I guess we couldn’t expect Yoda to just tag along the whole time with Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon actually was even better than Obi-Wan as far as character development is concerned.

Qui-Gon had a some great quotes in the film:

“Be mindful of the living Force, my young Padawan”

“Remember, concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think. Use your instincts.”

“Always remember – your focus determines your reality”

“Nothing happens by accident”

The first quote in particular introduced two new concepts in one sentence: the “living Force,” and “Padawan.” We had never heard the Force be referred to as anything but the Force, and the word “Padawan” had never been uttered before in a Star Wars film. Now, those terms are as much a part of pop culture as phrases like “Do or do not, there is no try,” or “May the Force be with you.” It all started with Qui-Gon in The Phantom Menace.

His character was smooth. Focused, calm and in the moment. He was the Jedi Master who defied the Council. And yet we all knew he was right, particularly about Anakin. Sure, Anakin had to go through a lot of crap, but he does end up bringing balance to the Force – just as Qui-Gon said the Chosen One would do.

3. The Pod Race


This is where we don’t hear Anakin say things like, “Yippee!” or “Let’s try spinning, that’s a good trick…WHHHOOAAAAH!” Anakin was just completely tuned in to the Force here. His focus determined his reality. It was actually kind of creepy how in tune he was with the Force. We really get to see here just why Qui-Gon was right about him being the Chosen One. The incredible amount of control he had over his pod racer was unbelievable!

And the racing itself was just rad. Epic. Gets my adrenaline goin’ every time I watch it…

…and it made a great video game.

2. Senator Palpatine/Darth Sidious

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The reason why Sidious is towards the top of this list is not only because he is a cool character that we remember from the Old Trilogy, but he is the main driving force behind the plot of this movie. This may be Anakin’s story, but Darth Sidious is the “phantom menace.”

Let’s take a moment to reflect on his role in the film:

The reason Palpatine is so cool is because of his subtle, but genius manipulation of both sides of the game throughout the entire prequel trilogy. In The Phantom Menace, he is the Senator from Naboo, whose planet is being invaded by the Trade Federation. But, since he is also Darth Sidious, he is the one who commanded the invasion to take place. So, he is invading his own home planet. Why on Earth (or should I say, “Naboo”) would he do that? Because he wants to gain sympathy in the Senate so that when they see that the current Chancellor, Chancellor Valorum, is just delaying and not resolving the issue at hand, they will want to vote him out and choose someone else for the role of Chancellor (which is President of the Universe, basically) who they think will solve it better. Who else would be better to solve it than the very person whose planet is being invaded? Thus, by the end of the film, Palpatine has become Chancellor. This is great writing here, folks.

With this new power, he has the ability to manipulate the system however he wants, as we see throughout the course of the prequels. In Attack of the Clones, he has Count Dooku create a Clone Army that starts a war with the Separatists, which in turn allows Palpatine to stay in office longer than his term would normally allow. And, in Revenge of the Sith, he uses his power and the war to set up the Jedi, making them look evil, therefore justifying their extermination and the birth of his evil Empire. The Sith now rule the galaxy. But none of this would have happened without his ingenious manipulation of both sides in The Phantom Menace. He never would have been in power.

Awesome plot. Definitely worthy of Star Wars. We never had anything that well thought out in the Old Trilogy!

1. Duel of the Fates

Who can forget the first time we saw Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber and the “Duel of the Fates” music score blared through the speakers? That was an absolutely unforgettable moment, not only in the history of Star Wars, but in film history period.

Many fans still hold this duel between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul to be the best lightsaber duel in the history of Star Wars, or at least the best choreographed. Ray Park as Darth Maul was the perfect choice to play this dark Sith Lord with extreme fluid skill. All three characters’ lightsabers manuevered in ways Star Wars fans had never seen before. We were so used to the slow, stilted movements of a mechanical Darth Vader and an old Obi-Wan. Also, Luke hadn’t really developed his skills to his full potential in the old trilogy. In The Phantom Menace, we also saw Jedi leaping great distances,  and whipping out the Jedi moves at high speed, which was just jaw-dropping. The Phantom Menace marked the first time we saw the heyday of the Jedi Knights, when their fighting skills were at their peak! Too bad their skills to sense the Dark Side weren’t as good. At least Maul got cut in half.

In the end, for me The Phantom Menace had more good in it than bad. I loved the movie then, and I still do now. Happy 10th Anniversary!!!

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  • Darth Critic

    Total agree on the Anakin / QuiGon / Maul being on the list, and the saber battle was awesome on this flick. Star Wars peaked here as coolness of the saber battles.

    The combatants were fast paced but every swing had intent. High degree of efficiency in a lot of their moves, counters were quick, and a minimum of useless swings. In general with combat, mastering a weapon means learning the efficiencies and learning to expend less energy while increasing damaging output. The next two movies went overboard with the cheese – extra flashy spinning of the sabers and twirling, more like cheer leading than combat (tho emo Anakin in RotS might look good in a skirt / uniform). And Yoda as the hyperactive chipmunk when he dueled, stupid.

  • Beth Maul

    Yes, the battle of the fates was amazing. but i didnt cheer when darth maul got cut in half i yelled at the tv and said something along the lines of ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…… poor darth maul….:(‘
    But it was a good battle

  • padme skywalker

    hi. i loved reading your articles about Star Wars. i’m a fellow geek and really wished that episode toppled Titanic’s box office record which it didn’t probabyly because some casual fans got scared of the lines. anyway, i think all 6 films are the greatest trilogies and hello it was Lucas who created the trilogies!
    i hope you get to write about Episodes 2 and 3 as well.
    i actually enjoyed the prequels more than the orginals coz of the coolest fight scenes. i mean, what duels in movie history could possibly beat yoda/count dooku, yoda/palpatine and obi/vader? and what is more tragic than padme and anakin?

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  • http://www.google.com AndrewBoldman

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