The Phantom Menace (also known as Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace) is a 1999 film directed by George Lucas who also wrote the screenplay. It was produced by Rick McCallum. The Phantom Menace stars Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Ahmed Best, Pernilla August, Brian Blessed, Ray Park and Frank Oz.
The first of a Star Wars prequel trilogy and set 32 years before Star Wars. It follows Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi as they protect Queen Amidala. She is working on securing the peaceful end to a large-scale interplanetary trade dispute. They are joined by Anakin Skywalker, a young slave with unusually strong natural powers of the Force. At the same time must contend with Darth Maul who is Darth Sidious’ Sith apprentice.
Filming for The Phantom Menace primarily took place at the Leavesden Film Studios in England. The studios were hired for two and half years which enabled the production company to leave set intact. The forest scenes on Naboo were filmed at Cassiobury Park, Watford in Hertfordshire. The Tatooine scenes were filmed in the Tunisian desert and Mos Espa was built outside the city of Tozeur. Unfortunately, an unexpected sandstorm destroyed many of the sets and props. The Italian Caserta Palace was used as the interior of the Theed City Naboo Palace. The scenes featuring explosions were filmed on a replica set at Leavesden Studios.
The Phantom Menace was groundbreaking in its use of visual effects including extensive use of computer-generated effects. A total of 1,950 shots in the film has visual effects and the only scene with no digital alteration was when toxic gas was released on the Jedi’s. Until its release, most film’s special effects were achieved by using miniature models, matte paintings and on-set visual effects.
It was released to much fan-fair with extensive coverage by the media and anticipation from the large cultural following gathered from the original Star Wars trilogy. However, it received mixed reviews upon its release, with particular criticism levels towards the writing, characterisation, Jake Lloyd’s performances as Anakin Skywalker and the character Jar Jar Binks. It was regarded by the Star Wars community as a merchandising opportunity rather than a serious character. Areas praised included the visuals, action sequences, scores and many of the performances.
On Rotten Tomatoes it currently holds a rating of 55% with the general consensus being, “Burdened by exposition and populated with stock characters, The Phantom Menace gets the Star Wars prequels off to a bumpy – albeit visually dazzling – start.”. Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times gave it three-and-a-half stars out of four. He called it “an astonishing achievement in imaginative filmmaking” and that, “Lucas tells a good story.” However, he noted that “If some of the characters are less than compelling, perhaps that’s inevitable” because it is the opening film in a new trilogy. He concluded his review by saying that rather than Star Trek films, filmmakers could “give me transparent underwater cities and vast hollow senatorial spheres any day”.
Commercially, The Phantom Menace was a huge box office success and broke many records upon its release. Produced on an estimated production budget of $200m, which at the time was the most expensive film ever made. It took $64,820,970 in US box office takings from its opening weekend, the second-highest ever and broke the record set by The Lost World: Jurassic Park by taking more than $28m on its opening day. It also became the quickest film to reach $200m and $300m surpassing Independence Day (1996) and Titanic (1997). Total worldwide box office receipts including the 3D release in 2012 are $1,027,044,677.
The Phantom Menace
Year of Film
Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Pernilla August, Frank Oz
Origin of Film
Genre(s) of Film
Action | Adventure | Fantasy | Sci-Fi
Budget: $115,000,000 (Estimated)
Opening Weekend: $64,810,970 (USA)
Gross: $1,027,044,677 (Worldwide)
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