After a long hiatus from episode six, George Lucas set his sights on the beginning of the prequel trilogy. The Phantom Menace released in 1999. The film was met with harsh criticisms.
The Republic sends Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, to negotiate with Trade Federation. Darth Sidious orders Nute Gunray to kill the Jedi and begin to dispatch their army of battle droids. The Jedi escape and flee to Naboo. During the invasion, Qui-Gon saves a Gungan outcast, Jar Jar Binks. Indebted to Qui-Gon, Jar Jar leads the Jedi to his home, an underwater city on Naboo. The Jedi try to persuade the Gungan leader, Boss Nass, to help in the war effort but fails. However, the Jedi manage to obtain Jar Jar’s guidance and underwater transport to Theed, the capital city of Naboo. A sea monster almost eats them on their way to Theed. They rescue Naboo’s queen, Padmé Amidala, and escape from the blockaded planet on her Royal Starship.
Landing on Tatooine
The hyperdrive of the ship is damaged by the Federation blockade. They land for repairs on the outlying desert planet of Tatooine. Qui-Gon, Jar Jar, astromech droid R2-D2, and Padmé all journey to Mos Espa to buy spare parts. They meet the shop’s owner, Watto, and his nine-year-old slave, Anakin Skywalker. Qui-Gon is convinced that Anakin is the “Chosen One” based on his presence in the force. Qui-Gon then wagers both the parts and Anakin’s freedom with Watto in a podrace. Anakin wins, leaving his mother to train as a Jedi.
En route to their starship, Qui-Gon encounters Darth Maul who intends to capture Amidala. A duel ensues, but Qui-Gon quickly disengages and escapes onboard the starship.
Returning to Corusant
The Jedi escort Amidala to Coruscant so that she can plead her people’s case to Chancellor Valorum and the Galactic Senate. Qui-Gon asks the Jedi Council for permission to train Anakin as a Jedi, but the Council refuses. Qui-Gon vows to take up Anakin as his new padawan. Meanwhile, Naboo’s senator Palpatine persuades Amidala to call for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum to elect a more capable leader to resolve the crisis. Padme, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon return to Naboo to liberate the planet.
The Battle of Naboo
On Naboo, Padmé reveals herself to the Gungans as Queen Amidala and persuades them to join in an alliance against the Trade Federation. During a battle in the starship hangar, Qui-Gon tells Anakin to wait in the cockpit of a vacant starfighter. Anakin inadvertently triggers its autopilot, joining the battle against the Federation droid control ship in space. Anakin blunders into the hangar of the droid control ship and causes its destruction from within before escaping, deactivating the droid army in the process. During the space battle, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan battle Darth Maul. Darth Maul mortally wounds Qui-Gon, but is then cut in half by Obi-Wan.
As he lies dying, Qui-Gon requests that Obi-Wan train Anakin, and dies in Obi Wan’s arms. Palpatine is elected as the new supreme chancellor. Yoda promotes Obi-Wan to the rank of Jedi Knight and reluctantly accepts Anakin as Obi-Wan’s apprentice. Padmé presents a gift of thanks to Boss Nass and the Gungans during a celebratory parade.
The Phantom Menace really is about the beginning of Anakin’s journey.
The Discovery of Anakin
We see him as a young boy, a slave, become a hero of the space battle of Naboo. He struggles to leave his mother, and vows to return to her. Along with his mother, he also begins to fall in love with Padme. These instances break one of the Jedi Codes of creating attachments. Anakin, being a natural tinkerer, creates C-3PO.
Throughout this film we watch Obi-Wan grow as a Jedi. The Jedi Council denies Anakin’s training. Qui-Gon respects the Council’s decision but still remains certain on training Anakin. In Qui-Gon’s dying breath Obi-Wan promises to train Anakin.
Padme Stepping into Politics
Padme is forced to reveal herself as Queen. With her planet under attack, Padme must make an alliance with the Gungans. Senator Palpatine manipulates her into having Chancellor Finis voted out of his position.
Sith Discovery and Plot
Darth Maul and Darth Sidious both allude to a bigger threat in this film. They show that the Sith are back and are willing to become a threat again to the Jedi.
The Senate is in turmoil after the CIS blockade of Naboo. It created a slight divide in the Senate. The fallout from the divide would lead to a civil war.
What it Meant to Me
This is the film that got me really into Star Wars. Growing up in the early 2000’s, I had the prequel trilogy. I have very fond memories of playing this film on VHS in my room and wanting to watch nothing else.
I also enjoyed from this film were the toys. The Naboo Starfighter and the Flash Speeder were a few toys stick out to me from this film.
Let us know what you thought of The Phantom Menace in the comments below!