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 (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.
  • 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.
  • Ass Pull: The revelation that Anakin built C-3PO in his youth is widely viewed as such by many fans.
    • And that's to say nothing about the nature of, or rather the very existence of midichlorians in Force-sensitive beings like Anakin.
  • 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 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).
  • 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).
    • 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 podrace 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!
  • 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 portray 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. Many ended up disappointed. It's safe to say the movie did not live up to expectations in the least.
  • 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:
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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."
  • 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 CG version for the Blu-ray release.
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 speaks 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.)
  • 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.
  • Vindicated by History: As the hype died down and further installments of the franchise pacified die-hard fans, the movie, while still a great source for Snark Bait, is now acknowledged as a decent nostalgia trip that has its moments.
  • 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 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.
    • 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).
  • 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?"
  • The Woobie: Anakin, particularly after leaving Tatooine. It should be noted that despite not being the best actor, Jake Lloyd still manages to make him pretty sympathetic in these scenes.