YMMV / The Phantom Menace

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • A lot of arguments could be made that Qui-Gon Jinn is actually quite an unethical Jedi by excessively using the force to swindle and practically steal; even if the ends justify the means. Examples include using the mind trick on Boss Nass to acquire an underwater vessel that he trashed without any hint of him repaying this (well, trying to- Nass gives him what he wants, but he also sadistically thinks he's sending the pair to their death through the planet core), and trying to scam Watto out of a ship part he had with a currency he has no real use for.
    • Here it's argued that Padme, not Anakin, is the real protagonist of the movie.
    • For the Jedi in general: many fans Rooting for the Empire latched onto the detail that Anakin is considered "too old" for Jedi training when he's nine years old. Though the point isn't explicitly raised in this film, this has led to the assertion that Jedi are indoctrinated child soldiers, and that Force-sensitive children are brought into the Order when they're incapable of understanding what they're getting into.
    • Jar Jar Binks is an evil Sith Lord.
      • Alternately, Ian Doescher's Shakespeare-style rewrite of the film posits that he was banished for making radical political statements that the Gungans and humans should stop their rivalry and join forces, and from the moment he meets Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan he's using Obfuscating Stupidity to make it happen.
  • Angst? What Angst?:
    • In this film, Anakin doesn't seem to have any real gripes about being raised as a slave from birth. If anything, he seems to have more angst about being freed, since it means leaving his mother behind. This a bit ironic, considering one of the biggest complaints about Anakin's portrayal in the next two films is that he's too angsty.
    • Related to the above, Qui-Gon seems surprisingly okay with separating a young child from his mother for life (even if it's the only way to save him from slavery), and treats it more as a simple necessity than a difficult moral choice.
  • Arc Fatigue:
    • When the group is grounded on Tatooine, it takes about forty minutes just to replace the damaged ship part. The overly long pod-race didn't help matters either.
    • For some, the sequences on Coruscant count as this, with the focus placed firmly on the politics of the increasingly-corrupt Senate and on Anakin's introduction to the Jedi Council. A solid half hour of the film focuses on these and does little more than to drag out the debate surrounding Anakin's place as a Jedi and to see Padme's pleas for help turned down flat despite all the time dedicated to getting to the Senate for this very purpose.
  • Audience-Alienating Premise:
    • A lot of people weren't impressed with the story of an unexplained trade dispute being the catalyst for the invasion of Naboo, finding it neither exciting nor engaging. This is further compounded by the emphasis on how the corrupt and ineffectual bureaucracy of the Republic helped to enable this crisis.
    • Some view Jar Jar Binks's accompaniment of the Jedi as this due to him accomplishing little throughout the entire time the group is off Naboo; many also have this attitude against the early signs of Padme and Anakin's romance given their respective ages and awkward interactions.
    • Anakin's origin story has come under much scrutiny for how it progressed in this film. Among the most controversial plot points include Anakin's apparent virgin birth, his aptitude with the Force being determined through the midi-chlorians, and being whiny, bratty, and generally unlikable. As such, plenty of fans have taken issue with the alleged prophecy surrounding Anakin, roundly criticizing his apparent Messianic complex as is heavily reinforced by Qui-Gon.
  • Awesome Art: The whole film looks gorgeous, especially the scenes on Naboo, which are rife with Scenery Porn and lovely architecture. The creature designs are amazing, and the starships look amazing. The podracing sequence and starship battles can easily rival any CGI sequence from today's blockbusters, and the bustling city planet of Coruscant is a spectacle to behold. Lucas wanted you to know this film was set in the more civilized age that Obi Wan alluded to in A New Hope, and he fired all cylinders to see that through to the silver screen.
  • Awesome Music: Whatever the film's other faults, John Williams more than delivers on the soundtrack, with the result often considered a strong contender (along with The Empire Strikes Back) for the best soundtrack in a Star Wars film.
  • Continuity Lockout: While the film is set years before the original trilogy, it does expect you to have seen the original films first so that you can follow the plot and understand the context of the film in contrast to its predecessors.
  • Complete Monster: Palpatine, as Senator of Naboo, engineers the Trade Federation's invasion and blockade of his own home planet, using the sympathy generated to become Supreme Chancellor.
  • Contested Sequel: Critical and fan reviews are split down the middle. In general, the movie isn't considered as good as the Original Trilogy, but the dividing point is on whether or not it's a good movie in and of itself.
  • Critical Backlash: Like the whole Prequel trilogy, this movie gets this a lot. It received the most, even among the prequels.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • Darth Maul was a coldly efficient badass who takes on two skilled Jedi (who we've seen take on hordes of battle droids) and positively makes them look like amateurs. It is such that his performer, Ray Park, is a fan favorite actor despite only speaking three lines in the movie (that were dubbed anyway). He's pretty much the movie's best part for even the detractors, so much so that he eventually comes back in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
    • Qui-Gon Jinn is this for some fans, with Liam Neeson giving one of the best performances of the film.
    • Ian McDiarmid is quite memorable as Palpatine in due part to those who have knowledge of who he will become and seeing the ever-plotting mind work is always a treat.
    • Oliver Ford Davies as Sio Bibble is quite memorable as well. It all comes from the fact that besides Palpatine, he is one of the best actors in the Naboo cast. Hugh Quarshie as Panaka qualifies as well due to a background in Shakespeare and of course, do we dare not mention BRIAN BLESSED as Boss Nass? Even though people hate Gungans, but still.
    • Silas Carson as Nute Gunray, Ki-Adi Mundi and Lott Dodd is also memorable. Three different characters, each one of them distinct and all played by the same person. This is what makes these characters memorable.
    • As far as droids go, Lindsay Duncan makes TC-14 what would otherwise be just another pointless robotic character.
  • Ethnic Scrappy: Jar Jar would already be The Scrappy from his antics alone, but the fact that he's considered an alien caricature of Jamaican people just makes it even worse. The fins on the back of his head even suspiciously resemble dreadlocks.
  • Evil Is Cool: Again Darth Maul, for the same reasons (as well as the double-ended Laser Blade).
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Followers of the Machete Order for watching Episodes II-VI disregard The Phantom Menace as an unimportant chapter in Anakin/Darth Vader's character arc, to the extent where without it, the other two prequels actually make a little more sense, and maintain stronger continuity with the original trilogy.
  • First Installment Wins: Though the final one of the prequels ended up being the best received, this is the one people remember the most (the preceding hype helped).
    • Although people who dislike the prequels are often quick to point to this film as the reason why. Even if Attack of the Clones is seen by some as a worse film, many cite Menace as a film that was far more disappointing BECAUSE of the hype that led up to its release.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: The False Flag Operation is a lot harsher after the Truther conspiracy theory.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • The podrace was surprisingly popular in Spain. Even though in America it's sometimes considered pointless filler, in the Spaniard fandom it's fondly remembered. Even among those who disliked or even hated the film as a whole.
    • The film, along with the rest of the prequels, are more well-loved in Japan and the Philippines than in America.
  • Ham and Cheese: BRIAN BLESSED clearly had a good time in his performance as Boss Nass. It's still a lot more entertaining than Jar Jar, though (see They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character).
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Jake Lloyd (the actor who portrayed young Anakin) retired from acting not long after the film. Why you ask? His fellow classmates kept bullying him over it, and to say nothing of the Fan Dumb who Mis-blamed him for "ruining Star Wars forever" to the point that some even sent him death threats!
    • Anakin told Qui-Gon that he doesn't want to be a problem. As we all know from the original trilogy, he would be one of the galaxy's biggest problems.
    • Actual quote from George Lucas back from when the film was in preproduction: "For every person who loves Episode I, there will be two or three who hate it." OUCH.
    • Anakin gives Padme a japor pendant he carved himself as a memoir of their time together, telling her it would bring "good fortune." Considering what happens to her in Revenge of the Sith, it's painfully ironic.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: If you're disappointed about Alec Guinness' (Obi-Wan's actor in Original Trilogy) low opinion about the franchise, don't worry. Because the actor who portrayed young Obi-Wan, Ewan McGregor, is a Promoted Fanboy.
    Ewan: "I've been waiting nearly twenty years to have my own light saber. Nothing's cooler than being a Jedi Knight."
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Hype Backlash: Everyone had really high expectations after 16 years and a truly astounding amount of promotion beforehand. It's safe to say many ended up disappointed with the result.
  • Just Here for Godzilla:
    • The first trailer was shown in front of select screenings of A Bug's Life, and the second was shown in front of Wing Commander. In both cases, many people would buy a ticket just to see the Phantom Menace trailer, and as soon as it was over, they would walk out of the theater. Wing Commander was an especially interesting case, as the movie underperformed at the box office (it cost $30 million to make, but only grossed $11.5 million)... yet it probably would have performed way worse had it not been for people buying a ticket just for the Phantom Menace trailer.
    • Many prequel haters watch the movie just for Maul himself, especially his final battle set to "Duel of the Fates".
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "There's always a bigger fish."
    • "Are you an Angel?"
    • "NOW THIS IS PODRACING!"
    • "That is so wizard!" (in a very Beam Me Up, Scotty! sense, since Anakin never actually said it; his friend Kitster did.)
    • "I'll try spinning. That's a good trick!"
    • "This is getting out of hand. Now there are two of them!"
    • "THEY ARE NO MATCH FOR DROIDEKAS!"
    • CORN ON THE COOOOOOOBBBBBB!
    • "It's like poetry, it's sort of, they rhyme," from behind-the-scenes documentaries in which Lucas comments on the stylistic similarities to the original trilogy. Eventually, "It's like poetry" became a meme referring to effective uses of Foreshadowing, Call Backs and Call Forwards throughout the Star Wars franchise, and has further been mutated into "It's like pottery".
  • Misaimed Marketing: The Phantom Menace was merchandised to hell and back. At the time, big box stores would have aisles where everything had a Star Wars character somewhere on the label;
    • The Queen Amidala Galactic Body Wash.
    • Yves Saint Laurent even did a line of Queen Amidala-inspired makeup. The "Amidala Red" lipstick was actually pretty successful. A similar makeup line was released for The Force Awakens.
    • Star Wars soda cans... in a collectible Queen Amidala can-carrying case.
    • Learn Letter Sounds With Sebulba coloring book; nothing like having a murderous bully who is willing to cheat in a podrace and kill anyone who gets in his way, including a child racer, to win, teach your kids how to learn letter sounds, especially when you consider that he doesn't or can't even speak basic!
    • This horrifying Jar Jar Binks Push Pop was certainly the lowest point.
  • Misblamed:
    • The mention of Midi-chlorians are frequently mentioned as removing the mystery of the Force. However, all they do is explain how certain individuals and not others are able to use the Force. The Midi-chlorians only serve as a medium for the Force, they aren't the Force itself.
    • The relationship between Anakin and Padme is often cited as an example of Squick for supposedly being an example of paedophilia. However, though it's not stated in the film, Anakin is 9 and Padme is 14, so the age gap is not nearly as wide or inappropriate as it's made out to be, not to mention the fact that, in this film, they're just friends and Anakin has a one-sided Precocious Crush.
  • Never Live It Down: Has its own page combined with the rest of the franchise.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The journey through Naboo's core features the heroes' Gungan submarine getting attacked by a series of freaky-looking sea monsters. The largest of them all (and the inspiration for Qui-Gon's infamous "There's always a bigger fish" line) even has a built-in Slasher Smile.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: The film has received many tie-in games, several of which were critical and commercial hits, including Battle For Naboo for the N64, Star Wars Starfighter for the PS2, Xbox and arcade, Star Wars Episode I: Racer for the N64 and Dreamcast and Game Boy Color, Star Wars Jedi Power Battles for the PS1 and Dreamcast, and later on LEGO Star Wars. Some of the children aimed tie-in computer games, such as Jabba's Game Galaxy and the LCD Podracing and Naboo Fighter handheld games, aren't so bad either.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: Some of the tie-in games for Episode 1 are of uneven to bad quality, including the original tie-in game for the PS1, Super Bombad Racing, and Star Wars: Obi Wan for Xbox.
  • Protection from Editors: The only one of the first six Star Wars films to be entirely written by George Lucas, with no input from any other writer.note  This is widely considered to be a likely cause of the film's questionable quality, and almost certainly why George Lucas had co-writers on the next two films (Jonathan Hales on Attack of the Clones, and the uncredited Tom Stoppard on Revenge of the Sith).
  • Replacement Scrappy: Jar Jar can be seen as this to C-3PO, who only appears briefly and stays with Shmi. Regardless of who built him, C-3PO has always been more acceptable comic relief, especially pairing with R2-D2, and when he's occasionally annoying (and the droid factory scenes in Attack of the Clones were less than ideal for comic relief), C-3PO is not Jar Jar. But C-3PO had too little screen time to be show any annoying tendencies, and is sorely missed when he doesn't go with Anakin. And there too many parts of the prequels that should've been done differently anyway.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Rewatch Bonus: The only time Padmé actually appears as Queen before The Reveal is during her meeting with Senator Palpatine (and a single scene after when she is watching the invasion), her plea before the Galactic Senate, and when Anakin asks her to say goodbye to Padmé for him when he thinks they'll never see each other again. If you carefully watch these scenes again, it's pretty clear the Queen's face is Natalie Portman, not Keira Knightley (her Body Double's actress). You can also tell something is up when the Queen is in red and gold when the Federation invades, but in a completely different dark blue costume shortly after when the Federation captures her.
  • The Scrappy: Jar Jar is one of the most infamous examples in pop culture (right alongside the Trope Namer), and is the Trope Namer in German. RiffTrax calls him "Roger Rabbit redesigned by Satan."
  • Signature Scene: Several.
    • The podrace.
    • Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan vs. Darth Maul.
  • So Bad, It's Good: This "kids featurette" for the movie is full of cheesy narration more suited for a lighthearted comedy.
  • Special Effect Failure: There's four major instances, the most noticeable is when Darth Maul falls down a pit after he dies, he's a CG double that somehow sounds like rubber.
    • The animation for Jar Jar has not aged well, especially compared to the other fully CG characters like Boss Nass and Watto.
    • The Yoda puppet in this film bears no resemblance to the original (his eyes looking stoned for one). This was replaced with a CGI version for the Blu-ray, digital and 3D releases. George Lucas' changes to his films were generally not well received, but this one was, as it brought better graphic continuity with the Yoda of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
    • The facial animatronics on the Viceroy and those of his kind are also quite crude; particularly jarring is Daultay Dofine who after Anakin destroys the control ship's reaction utters "Nothing can get through our shield!"; look closely and you'll see that his lips barely move.
  • Squick: The early onset of Anakin and Padme's eventual romantic relationship, while the former is still a child no less, has been met with this by many fans. Even more so after the release of Attack of the Clones. Maybe it would have been better if any romance was saved for when Anakin was an adult, and not handled the way George Lucas handled it, especially in "Attack of the Clones", as long as the prequel trilogy had been envisioned differently in a good way, especially in the hands of a creator who is respectful to the fans the way Lucas wasn't.
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: The infamous "Are you an angel?" scene, along with several other lines by Anakin.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • One of the most obnoxious things about Jar Jar is that he is unnecessary: Boss Nass, who was played by BRIAN BLESSED, is much funnier in his few appearances. Had he simply been the only comic relief character, the film would be much better.
    • Darth Maul is considered a more egregious example due to his overall lack of screentime and character development. Perhaps in compensation, he is given a greater part in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, as even Lucas realised how much he messed up and how much potential he wasted.
    • Obi-Wan Kenobi, the guy who really should have been the main character of the film - considering that he is The Mentor of both Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker - spends most of the movie just sitting things out beyond a few fight scenes, relegated to the background while Qui-Gon goes out and does all the work, creating a huge Continuity Snarl in the process.
    • Speaking of Qui-Gon, he too is not utilized well in the big scheme of things, which is a shame because he really was one of the better aspects of the film despite being a glaring continuity error.
    • Samuel L. Jackson is criminally underused, appearing at most in two scenes.
    • They got Terrance Stamp to play Chancellor Valorum, and yet he likewise only appears in two scenes and gets even fewer lines.
    • C-3PO ends up staying on Tatooine with Shmi instead of going with Anakin. Regardless of who built him, C-3PO still has the same programming and personality and is every bit the droid we knew and loved, and acceptable comic relief, as opposed the terminally unfunny Jar Jar. So maybe it would've helped if C-3PO went with Anakin and started his friendship with R2-D2.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • The rough draft of the movie is considered by many to be superior to what we actually got: Obi-Wan is the main character rather than Qui-Gon (whose role is much smaller), Anakin has a less irritating and more mystical personality, Padme and her plight are more interesting, Darth Maul has more dialogue, and Jar Jar Binks is actually tolerable, as he and the other Gungans speak in plain English and actually receives Character Development (becoming a wiser person through his experiences and even being a Badass Normal hero in the end battle rather than bumbling his way into victory.)
    • In the first chapter of the Origin Story of one of the most iconic villains in movie history, we learn that he was born into slavery on a backwater desert world, and had to win his freedom from his owners. While this could have been an interesting way to explore Vader's Start of Darkness — and a convincing explanation for his anger and hatred — his actual experiences as a slave are quickly glossed over, and they're not shown to be particularly harsh. When Anakin's anger does begin to show itself in the next episode, it's only directed towards the Tusken Raiders who killed his mother; he doesn't seem to bear any ill will towards the people who bought and sold him as property. However, this is averted with a vengeance in The Clone Wars.
    • More than one fan/viewer has pointed out that the film missed a huge opportunity by not simply having Alderaan as the planet under siege, rather than Naboo. It wouldn't have confused people just now coming into the mythos since the original trilogy gave us next to nothing about Alderaan, and for older fans it would have added extra poignancy, both developing Leia's home world and baiting the audience with the knowledge that this gorgeous planet and its brave people are going to be destroyed anyway, decades down the line.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: Some of the actors make more of an effort than others, but even some of the film's detractors agree that Liam Neeson managed to make an engaging performance; same for Darth Maul.
  • Ugly Cute: Wald, the Rodian kiddo.
  • Unfortunate Implications: The use of real life accents to distinguish fictional Star Wars factions could play in to unfortunate racial stereotypes.
    • Trade Federation: Japanese Mega Corp. Gungans: Sambos. Watto: Greedy Space Jews.
      RiffTrax (as Nute Gunray): We get you hot and sour soup while you wait for NOODLE!
    • Interestingly, the language localizations changed the Trade Federation to represent different stereotypes each time.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: Gragra ( the Swokes Swokes merchant on Mos Espa) can be easily mistaken for a male with her deep, throaty voice and monstrous design. According to supplementary material, she's a female.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: One of the few unanimously well-received aspects of the movie. Much of the CGI (particularly the podrace and space battle sequences) has held up astoundingly well, to where even advancements in today's CGI since don't detract much from the experience. And to give an even better idea of how ILM outdid themselves even in smaller scenes, a "making of" featurette of the film shows a scene where, in a podracer garage, the camera pans over to an area with R2 and C-3PO. The part to the right with the live actors was done with a real set, while the other half of the shot with 3PO was done entirely with CGI—part of this even overlaps with a podracer engine shared between the two. You can't tell the difference.
    • Also, the abundance of CGI in the film makes it very easy to overlook that a lot of the FX work in Phantom Menace was actually practical effects, including many miniature models (i.e. Theed), ships, and full sized sets and props (i.e. some of the close up shots of the podracer engines in the arena), and puppetry (Yoda and C-3PO).
    • Phantom Menace for its day was one of the most ambitious special effects tour de force movies ever made—out of the thousands of shots for the movie, about 1,950 of them have special effects, and there is exactly one that does not have any digital alteration or enhancement applied to it—the shot of gas being pumped out of a wall early in the movie.
  • What an Idiot:
    • Nute Gunray. And he gets progressively stupider and stupider in the next two films. See here to know why.
    • Qui-Gon Jinn. Upon discovering that the Trade Federation is assembling invasion forces, he tells Obi-Wan that they need to warn the Naboo... even though going down to the planet with the droid army means it's too late to warn the Naboo about the droid army. This line is not immediately stupid - they might save areas of the planet more distant from the invasion - but since they follow this up by running around on the surface, apparently trying to sound the alarm by word of mouth, the point is moot.
    • Daultay Dofine, especially during the battle with the Naboo starfighters above the planet in which he's heading the droid control ship. When Anakin Skywalker destroys the ship's reactor, the comm officer of the ship reports the damage to Dofine. Rather than take precautions and have himself and his personnel evacuate the bridge, Dofine just brushes the report off and claims that a starfighter getting through the ship's shield would be impossibble, unaware that Anakin had accidentally infiltrated the ship while the shields were temporarily disabled. Once the bridge is destroyed, Dofine and all of his fellow crew perish, with the blame entirely on Dofine's incompetence.
    • Padme's vote of no confidence in Valorum comes across as stupid. Possessing a bevy of evidence that the Trade Federation has militarily occupied a Republic member state, she chooses to present none of it before the Senate, making Valorum's choice of commissioning an inquiry to determine the validity of her accusations simply good policy. It also makes the past forty minutes of the film meaningless. It is even brought up in the How It Should Have Ended parody, where she does bring evidence to the Republic Senate, solving the problems and preventing Palpatine from becoming Chancellor, and preventing his evil schemes from beginning (though in fairness, it was Palpatine who talked her into it, and she initially objected to the idea).
    • The entire Trade Federation for leaving a single ship to oversee the droid occupation of Naboo and withdrawing the rest of their powerful blockade without explanation, a move that unquestionably lent itself to the favor of the Naboo pilots sent to destroy the one vessel to remain in place without facing the even more daunting numbers an entire armada would have unleashed on them.
    • Even Boss Nass isn't spared by this trope, actually appointing Jar Jar as a general to lead the Gungan Army's assault on Theed. This goes about as well as you can imagine. On the other hand, Jar Jar commands very little of the fighting and the Gungans manage to hold their own under the command of the other generals present, but in hindsight handing over a position of power to Jar Jar probably wasn't the wisest call to make when you consider what his later appointment as Senator would lead to later.....
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Casting Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu is a waste of a terrific and energetic actor on an underused and soporific character. The best that can be said is that it establishes Mace's presence so that when he becomes important in Attack of the Clones, nobody's wondering "Who's this then?"; In fact, Jackson specifically took the role with the understanding that the role would become progressively larger in the subsequent two films.
  • The Woobie: Anakin, and it just gets worse for him from here.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/ThePhantomMenace