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 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.
    • 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.
  • 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. See Alternative Character Interpretation above.
  • 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 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.
  • Demonic Spiders: Droidekas. They're fast to get from point A to B, usually attack in pairs, and have personal deflector shields when in combat mode.
  • 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 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.
  • 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).
  • 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).
    • 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.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: The False Flag Operation is a lot harsher after the Truther conspiracy theory.
  • 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.
  • Ham and Cheese: BRIAN BLESSED clearly farted 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: Behind the scenes, 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!
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In Mars Attacks!, Natalie Portman appears in a scene mocking the final award scene in A New Hope. Here she appears, playing the exact same role within the scene, in a straight Homage.
  • 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.
  • Idiot Plot: Where to even begin?
    • The Trade Federation: After locking two Jedi in a chamber filled with poison gas, they decide to open the doors and send in the oh-so-defeatable battle droids to try to kill them, rather than waiting an hour or two for the Jedi to choke to death. Then they land their forces on the other side of the planet from their objective, a largely undefended, pacifist city. After capturing the queen, they decide to send her out of the secure, occupied palace for "processing" rather than making her sign the damn treaty. And once the queen escapes, they send away their entire fleet save for a single droid control ship to hold down the planet.
    • Darth Sidious has his own set of critical mistakes extending beyond merely the stupid things his Trade Federation minions do. Secretly, the whole reason he's orchestrating the crisis on Naboo in the first place is so he can use it to his advantage in his secret identity as Senator Palpatine to get himself elected Supreme Chancellor, meaning that the more public and drawn-out the situation gets, the better things work out for him. Yet he repeatedly acts as if he wants the Trade Federation to win efficiently and decisively; he orders the two Jedi killed (and their arrival covered up) rather than sending them back to relay the details of the blockade and impending invasion, disrupts all of Naboo's communications instead of leaving them free to make a fuss to the rest of the galaxy about their predicament, is determined to see Queen Amidala captured so she can sign a treaty declaring the invasion legal, and so on. He also sends Darth Maul to Naboo even though the two Jedi he knows are returning to the planet are doing so for the express purpose of tracking Maul down and getting as much information as they can out of him about the Sith and their plans, and at the same time doesn't send the Trade Federation any advance notice that the Queen or the Jedi are on their way there.
    • Qui-Gon Jinn should be expelled from the Jedi Order. His plan on exfiltrating from a Trade Federation starship involves him and his apprentice splitting up and hitchhiking on separate troop transports, without any idea of where they're headed, much less whether they're going to land within a thousand miles of each other. On Tatooine he tries to Jedi Mind Trick a vendor into giving him the spaceship parts he needs, and when that fails, hatches a convoluted scheme to bet on a slave boy to win a race to win the parts (a gamble he uses the Force to cheat on), rather than trying a second vendor, trading his broken luxury ship in for a less ostentatious but functional one, hiring passage on an independent vessel, finding a money changer, contacting Coruscant to send someone to pick them up, or just stealing the parts he needs since he's already willing to abuse his power.
    • The rest of the good guys aren't much better. To escape from Naboo they fly into the teeth of the Trade Federation blockade, which is neatly lined up on one side of the planet, rather than taking advantage of the third dimension. Padme places herself and the future of her planet at risk by pointlessly keeping up her charade as a handmaiden rather than letting the Jedi Knights who saved her life in on it so a hypothetical future crisis doesn't wind up with her sacrificed to protect the decoy queen. The Chancellor needs to send a committee to verify the testimony of the Jedi he personally sent to investigate a situation. When faced with reports of a deadly Sith Lord running around (a conclusion backed up by no evidence beyond the attacker's skill with a red lightsaber), the Jedi Council sends a whopping two Jedi to deal with him even though the Sith was encountered on an entirely different planet and has nothing to do with the Naboo crisis as far as they should be able to ascertain. At a crucial moment during the resulting lightsaber duel, Obi-Wan's failure to employ the superspeed Jedi have earlier been shown to possess leads to his master's death, at which point Obi-Wan proceeds to cut Darth Maul in two without having learned anything from him despite the fact that the Jedi were only sent back to Naboo in the first place to "discover the identity of the dark warrior." The good guys commit to a ground war with the Trade Federation when all they needed to do was sneak some pilots into the hangar and shoot down the droid control ship, neutralizing the entire enemy army, and leave the Jedi behind to capture the defenseless Gunray before he has a chance to flee.
      • In fairness, it was the Trade Federation who suggested that a committee verify the validity of the invasion rather than the Chancellor, although why Valorum seems to agree with them rather than just saying "no" is anyone's guess. They have the testimony of the Naboo leadership, as well as two Jedi and Jar Jar. In few to no legislative bodies in the world can a single member of Parliament force the executive to publically verify such sensitive intelligence. The fact that all communications with Naboo have suddenly been cut should also have sent alarm bells ringing. There is also the question of how a completely unprovoked (as far as we know) blockade by a private company against a member state of the Republic, with the purpose of subverting the law of the Republic, can be legal at all. It's also established in the second film that the Republic did not have an army at all, meaning that there was nothing they could have really done about the invasion anyway.
    • Everything about Anakin's training. In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn is established to be a bit of a Jedi hippie, defying the Jedi code. Qui-Gon discovers a nine-year-old slave boy who has great potential for power. Qui-Gon goes through ridiculous lengths to free the boy (which itself is part of an above-mentioned Idiot Plot) and presents him to the Jedi Council to request to take him on as his apprentice. The Jedi wisely tell him to fuck off, telling him that he's too old and his attachment to his mother and his past as a slave (which would be traumatic for any child) make him dangerous and a possible threat. Even Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon's apprentice and best friend, tells him that the kid is dangerous. Some shit happens and Qui-Gon gets killed by a Sith Lord, who is swiftly killed by Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon's dying wish is for Obi-Wan to train Anakin, based on some ancient prophecy that says someone would rise to bring balance to the Force... despite the fact that there are only ever two Sith Lords at a time (no more, no less) and that Obi-Wan just killed one of them, and the fact that all things considered the Force is pretty balanced. Ignoring the fact that there is a good chance Anakin will fall to the dark side, ignoring the fact that there is a Sith lord out there no doubt looking for a new partner (remember, no more nor less than two), and ignoring how the kid is clearly troubled, sweating and scowling during his examinations, the Council decides to let him become a Jedi anyway. Essentially, all these Jedi Masters' instincts keep telling them what a bad idea training Anakin would be, and they repeatedly mention how they don't trust him, how he's dangerous, how sending him off on these missions is risky — but they do it all anyway, so Darth Vader can happen.
  • Just Here for Godzilla:
    • The first trailer was shown in front of select screenings of A Bugs 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".
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Mondegreen: Corn on the cob, corn on the kabob.
  • 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).
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: A common complaint about the movie is that a 14-year-old ruler is not believeable, and an elected monarch makes no sense either. Matthias Corvinus of the Medieval Kingdom of Hungary was elected at the age of 15, and today is regarded as one of the greatest kings and most talented statesmen to ever lead the country. The complainers aren't entirely wrong, though. Elected monarchs were typically chosen by oligarchs and had no interest in democratic rule—Matthias Corvinus, to use that same example, was an autocrat and his rule was better for it. Padme being an elected monarch is more about having a democracy with the glamor of The Kingdom, kind of like real-life justifications in the UK and mainland Europe for keeping their own monarchies.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Rewatch Bonus: The only time Padmé actually appears as Queen before The Reveal is during her meeting with Senator Palpatine, 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).
  • The Scrappy: Jar Jar is one of the most infamous, and is the Trope Namer in German. RiffTrax calls him "Roger Rabbit redesigned by Satan."
  • 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 three 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 CG version for the Blu-ray release.
  • 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, relegated 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.
  • Unfortunate Implications: The use of real life accents to distinguish fictional Star Wars factions could play in to unfortunate racial stereotypes.
    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, 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 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.
    • 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.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: Word of God said so himself...
  • The Woobie: Anakin, particularly after leaving Tatooine.