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These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
A lot of arguments could be made that Qui-Gon Jinn is actually quite an unethical Jedi by excessively using the force to cheat, 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, and trying to scam Watto out of a ship part he had with a currency he has no real use for.
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. See Alternative Character Interpretation above.
This is justified though since normally children with high enough medichlorian counts were seperated from their families and brought to the temple as early as their infant years. It happened all the time, standard procedure.
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.
Contested Prequel: Critical and fan reviews are split basically 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.
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 a handful of lines in the movie (that were dubbed anyway).
Qui-Gon Jinn is this for some fans, despite his questionable actions, if only because he's played by Liam Neeson.
Though those 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.
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The Pod race was surprisingly popular in Spain. Even though in America it's mostly considered a pointless filler, in the Spaniard fandom it's fondly remembered. Even among those who disliked or even hated the film as a whole.
In the early eighties (before Return of the Jedi,) Mad Magazine printed "leaked" plot details regarding the upcoming sequels, the plot of Episode XII involved the revelation that Luke's father was the Force itself. Turns out they were only off by one generation.
Hype Backlash: Everyone had really high expectations after 16 years. Many ended up disappointed. It's safe to say the movie did not live up to expectations in the least.
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 Episode I 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 Episode I trailer.
Many prequel haters watch the movie just for Maul himself, especially his final battle set to "Duel of the Fates".
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.
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.
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, elegated to the background while Liam Neeson goes out and does all the work, creating a huge Continuity Snarl in the process.
Took the Bad Film Seriously: Some of the actors make more of an effort than others, but most tend to agree that Liam Neeson managed to make a somewhat engaging performance out of inferior material.
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.
Visual Effects of Awesome: One of the few unanimous 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-3P0. The part to the right with the live actors was done with a real set, while the other half of the shot with 3P0 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 of note; 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).
On that note, 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.
Qui-Gon as well. 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.