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YMMV / The Phantom Menace

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  • Accidental Aesop: A message about the importance of having a strong military can be found in this film; Naboo is completely defenseless against the Trade Federation's droid army due to lacking their own, so Padmé has to recruit a faction that does have its own army. The message can basically be summed up as this: Not having a strong military means that you'll be conquered or bullied by countries that do.
  • 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), trying to scam Watto out of a ship part he had with a currency he has no real use for, and appears to view nothing wrong with separating a mother and child, even if that needs to be done to save Anakin from slavery.
    • Mr. Plinkett argued that Qui-Gon's actions make sense if you assume that he's drunk.
    • 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.
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    • Ian Doescher's Shakespeare-style rewrite of the film posits that Jar Jar 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.
    • Likewise, Jar-Jar's horror at being made a general: Is it because he doesn't think that he would succeed very well? Is he scared? Does taking part in a military campaign go against his personal beliefs? (Keep in mind Jar-Jar has very much practiced Turn the Other Cheek throughout the entire movie and is much more open to interacting with other races then other gungans) His fear may be partially be motivated that the idea of killing enemy soldiers (droids are sapient in the star wars universe) is repulsive to him.
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    • There's been quite a bit of debate over whether or not Obi-Wan's general coolness towards Anakin after their introduction and the rocky relationship between the two in the next film are a result of jealousy on Obi-Wan's part regarding Qui-Gon's determination to teach Anakin, and that his demand to be able to train Anakin himself at the end of the film is less out of a genuine desire to teach the boy and more resentfully trying to fulfil his former master's last request without ever truly intending to teach Anakin to the best of his ability.
    • Similarly, regarding Yoda effectively overriding the Council's initial decision about Anakin's future as a Padawan: does he sense the full extent of Anakin's potential and future and think that allowing him to train as a Jedi might allow him to avoid the Dark Side? Is he concerned more about managing and curbing Obi-Wan's emerging rebellious streak? Was he always going to allow Anakin to be trained or did the events of the battle of Naboo (and Anakin's role in it) change his mind? Or does he just want one more powerful weapon on his side in the case of more trouble?
  • 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. There's some justification in supplementary material that clarifies that Watto is a fairer master than most. 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.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: This film features a major space superiority battle around a key space station, much like A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. The station is destroyed not in a deliberate act of courage and Ace Piloting but by Anakin accidentally taking the helm of a Naboo Starfighter on autopilot and firing torpedoes at the reactor by mistake after crash landing inside the station.
  • 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 Padmé's pleas for help turned down flat despite all the time dedicated to getting to the Senate for this very purpose.
  • 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 fantastic. 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 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. "Duel of the Fates" is usually the first piece that will be talked about.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Qui-Gon Jinn - a wise, fatherly, rebellious, kindly man and a great Jedi, or a reckless, dangerously, foolhardy, unethical idiot whose actions inadvertently ended up dooming the Republic?
  • Continuity Lockout: While the film is set around 32 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, this 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.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Oliver Ford Davies as Sio Bibble is quite memorable as 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, we dare not leave out BRIAN BLESSED as Boss Nass — Even though people hate Gungans, but still.
    • Silas Carson managed to pull off a three-for-one as Ki-Adi Mundi, Lott Dodd, and Antidar Williams. Three different characters, each one of them distinct and all played by the same person, and three being portrayed via makeup and practical effects. This is what makes these characters memorable.
      • Mundi gained attention for his prominence on the Jedi Council and his distinct silhouette, and subsequently went on to be a mainstay of the trilogy.
      • Lott Dodd was a One-Scene Wonder in the Senate; functioning as the largest example of the hold that the Trade Federation had in the Republic, and doing his utmost to steal the scene with his volume.
    • 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 the Star Wars movies disregard The Phantom Menace as an unimportant chapter in Anakin/Darth Vader's character arc, to the extent where without it, the other two prequel trilogy films actually make a little more sense, and maintain stronger continuity with the original trilogy.
  • First Installment Wins:
    • Though the final movie in the Prequel Trilogy ended up being the best received, this is the one people remember the most (the preceding hype helped).
    • In an unusual example, 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 The Phantom 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.
    • While Jar Jar was, to put it lightly, not very popular in the west, he actually did earn himself something of a fanbase in Japan, to the point where a good number of video games and anime in the early 2000s featured characters clearly inspired by him.
  • 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).
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight:
    • If you're disappointed with Alec Guinness' (Obi-Wan's actor in the Original Trilogy) low opinion about the franchise, don't worry. Because the actor who portrayed young Obi-Wan, Ewan McGregor, is very much 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."
    • In The Phantom Menace, Anakin claims to have seen a dream of himself as a grown man, coming back as a Jedi and freeing the slaves. This never happens, but about two decades later, Luke comes back with the lightsaber he once wielded and frees the slaves. Anakin saw a vision of his son, but because they look so alike he assumed it was himself.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: See the franchise page.
  • It Was His Sled: Padmé actually being the same person as Queen Amidala was originally something of a twist, but her dual identity is now common knowledge.
  • Just Here for Godzilla:
    • The first trailer was shown in front of select screenings of A Bug's Life and Meet Joe Black, The Waterboy and The Siege, 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. (some theaters would show the trailer again after the movie ended to ensure people wouldn't leave) 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".
  • Lost in Medias Res: The film rushes through its setup so quickly that it doesn't take time to properly establish fundamental story points so the viewer can understand whats at stake, such as why the Trade Federation are blockading and invading Naboo other than the opening crawl implying its solely out of greed (not helping is that we don't or barely even see the effects both are having on the planet's population) and why they would recklessly risk their entire organization by going along with Darth Sidious's oblique plans without any guarantee of a concrete reward. Making matters worse is that the tie-in material used to elaborate on these more oblique story elements (such as the novelization) are now considered non-canon by Disney.
  • Memetic Mutation: Has a whole page.
  • 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:
    • 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. Furthermore, the idea of Midi-chlorians shows up in notes written by George Lucas two decades earlier.
    • The relationship between Anakin and Padmé 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 Padmé 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.
    • The Neimoidian accent is frequently called out for being a racist caricature of an east Asian accent, with people going so far as to claim that they even do the stereotypical l and r swapping. This flies in the face of reality where Nute Gunray's first line of dialogue is "Our blockade is perfectly legal" with nary a swapped r or l to be found. The truth is their accent is closer to a Transylvanian caricature. It's only because they are dressed in a style reminiscent of classical Chinese bureaucrats that their accent is assumed to similar in origin. The actor who voiced Nute Gunray said that he was, in fact, attempting to imitate a Thai accent. The fact that no one can place it is a testament to how badly he did.
  • Narm: One scene had Jar Jar talking to Queen Amidala and was supposed to sound serious, it doesn't work.
    Jar Jar: Gungans not dyin without a fight. Weesa warriors, weesa got a grand army.
  • 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 famous "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 The Phantom Menace 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 show any annoying tendencies, and is sorely missed when he doesn't go with Anakin.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • While Jar Jar is still far from being a universally loved character, in light of the news of his actor (Ahmed Best) nearly committed suicide due to the severe backlash he received over the role (and this news came at a time where the harassment of actors playing divisive characters and Lucasfilm alumni was becoming a hot topic), fans have started to become far more sympathetic to the character in light of this news.
    • The "Darth Jar Jar" theorynote  has also significantly boosted Jar Jar's popularity - to the point where many fans are now actively wishing the theory to become true in the hope that it will canonically rescue both the character and the actor from the scrappy heap.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • 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." However, in light of the news that his actor (Ahmed Best) nearly committed suicide over the backlash he got from the role, it has become noticeably more popular to like, or at the very least defend, the character. While still far from commonly liked, he's more than likely to become a Base-Breaking Character in light of this news. Regardless on one's tolerance for Jar Jar, it is now generally agreed that Ahmed Best is an Unacceptable Target.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Jar Jar Binks's opening scenes and introduction to Qui-Gon Jinn. Regardless of fan opinion, he is an iconic fixture of popular culture and household name, and his Establishing Character Moment cemented his dynamic and characterization.
    • The podrace sequence.
    • Anakin's first meeting with the Jedi Council and especially Yoda's "Fear leads to Anger" speech.
    • The Duel of the Fates: Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan vs. Darth Maul both for its music, and the lightsaber choreography, which is considered among the best fights in the entire franchise.
  • 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: A number of the CGI effects used in the film haven't aged very well.
    • 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 how Yoda will be in 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.
    • In the scene where Anakin gives Padme the necklace, the shadow is digitally added behind Jake Lloyd, meaning he was composited into the shot rather than actually interacting with Natalie Portman. It's even more bizarre because it's ordinary dialogue between two people, not a big spectacle, so why Lucas did this is baffling.
    • The green hills of Naboo on which the battle between the Federation's droid army and the Gungan army happens look bizarrely empty and too "clean". The grass texture is not always visible.
  • Squick: The early onset of Anakin and Padmé'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."
  • Strawman Has a Point: The plot of the film is incited by a dispute over the taxation of trade routes by the Republic, which the Trade Federation opposes. While it's unknown if Lucas even knew this, the academic consensus would have been entirely behind the villains on this one; economists universally agree that tariffs are bad (although that's in regards to taxing international trade, rather than inter-state trade as shown in the film). Perhaps the Jedi negotiators would have come around to their point of view as well if the Trade Federation weren't secretly working for an evil space wizard.
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: The infamous "Are you an angel?" scene, along with several other lines by Anakin.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Shares a page with the rest of the films.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Shares a page with the rest of the franchise.
  • 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. The same goes for Darth Maul.
  • Uncanny Valley: One of the few times fans agree that the CGI Yoda looks better than the puppet, since the puppet looks a bit off. Here's the comparison.
  • 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.
  • Values Resonance: One reason the Prequel Trilogy was Vindicated by History during The New '10s was that by then, the PT's themes of the decline of democracy and the toxic influence of wealth in politics had become more relevant than when the films were made. At the time, people thought a war started by a private entity like the Trade Federation was preposterous, but with subsequent events like the "Citizens United" Supreme Court case, which ruled that "corporations are people" and equated money with free speech, and the War in Iraq suspected of being driven by the desires of energy companies to obtain Iraq's oil supply, it doesn't seem so outrageous anymore.
  • 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.
  • Vindicated by History: While the film was a huge box office success, it has been critically divisive since its original release, especially among the fanbase, and after the extremely popular RedLetterMedia reviews made waves on the internet, it became extremely popular to trash the film on the internet. However, as time has gone by, and also due to the equally divisive reception of the Sequel Trilogy (particularly in regards to The Last Jedi. The personal attacks against Kelly Marie Tran (Rose) were shockingly similar to those against Ahmed Best and Jake Lloyd, which made many fans realize that they'd set the precedent for that.), the film has begun to be seen in a more positive light and amass more defenders and even an unapologetic following. There has even been a fan documentary released, The Prequels Strike Back, that defends the film and debunks some of the myths surrounding it (such as the idea that it almost entirely relied on CGI for its effects). Like with the case of Jar Jar, it's still far from being universally lauded, but fans have been inclined to cut far more slack on it in recent years.
  • 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), puppetry (Yoda and C-3PO), and animatronics (the Neimoidians' facial effects).
    • The 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.
    • Even if you don't like Jar Jar Binks as a character, he is notable as being the first fully CG/mocap character in a live action film, setting the stage for better-received Serkis Folk like Gollum, and his effects still look good enough, over 20 years later, that his presence in the scene doesn't distract the viewer by looking overly fake.
  • What an Idiot!: See here.
  • 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.


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