The Phantom Menace

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Amidala: I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a COMMITTEE!

Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.

Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo.

While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict...

After CGI started taking off, in no small part due to the work of his company Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas felt it was a good time to finish the Star Wars saga. He released the original trilogy in theaters as special editions to further test the waters for more Star Wars films. The Phantom Menace then began production after the success of the special editions.

The prequels came about from backstory notes Lucas developed on the first film, and further expanded upon before The Empire Strikes Back came out (Hence the retroactive naming scheme using "Episodes"). Unlike the original trilogy, this film was designed as the introduction of a three-movie structure, though this film and the other prequels are still comparatively self-contained.


Tropes used in The Phantom Menace include:
  • Action Girl: Padmé.
    • Her loyal handmaiden too, though we only see this towards the very end.
  • Aliens Speaking Basic: Even on backwater planets like Naboo and Tatooine.
  • Always a Bigger Fish
  • Amusing Alien: Jar-Jar Binks and Boss Nass.
  • Artificial Gill: The rebreathers used by Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to swim down to the Gungan city.
  • As You Know: "Our blockade is perfectly legal, and we would be happy to receive ambassadors..."
  • Awesome but Impractical: Why does almost no one else in the Star Wars canon or Expanded Universe have a double-bladed lightsaber? Probably because (unlike a staff) you're about as likely to cut yourself as you are to land a serious blow on your opponent, you practically have to use a baseball bat grip when using it single-bladed, and Maul actually had to weld two lightsabers together because the technique to make a proper double-bladed lightsaber was lost, too dangerous, or both.
    • The double-bladed lightsaber is in fact a Canon Immigrant from the Expanded Universe, originally being used by Exar Kun (whose spirit is the villain of the Jedi Academy Trilogy).
    • Another major problem with the double-bladed lightsaber is that though the blades on each side are lasers, the center grip isn't, so any opponent can simply cut through that section where you have virtually no defense. Obi-Wan makes use of this weakness in the movie to cut Maul's lightsaber in two but doesn't exactly get the kill ... yet.
  • Background Halo: Most of Amidala's outfits.
  • Backstory: This movie only exists to set up all the backstory for the following five movies.
  • Big No: Obi-Wan witnessing Darth Maul land a killing strike on Qui-Gon.
  • Blood Sport: The podrace.
  • Body Double: Padmé's handmaiden.
  • Boisterous Bruiser
  • Boy Meets Girl: Anakin meets Padmé who is actually the Queen of Naboo, and his future wife for the first time.
  • The Cameo: Warwick Davis (who played the main Ewok in Return Of The Jedi) had a couple of minor (but visible) background roles.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: All those Jedi arrive well after the battle, where they could have helped Obi-Wan defeat Maul more easily, possibly even have saved Qui-Gon.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Sebulba learns this in a humiliating way.
  • The Chooser of the One: Qui-Gon found Anakin.
  • Combat Pragmatist: When separated from Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon manages to hold his own against Darth Maul's lightsaber strikes. So what does Maul do to get the better of him? He butts Qui-Gon in the face with the hilt of his lightsaber to catch him off guard and then impales him through the chest.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Trade Federation, which is willing to sell itself out to the Sith in return for profit (or in the EU backstory, settling a vendetta against Senator Palpatine).
  • Cowboy Cop: Qui-Gon is the Jedi version of this. He goes with his gut feelings, rather than established procedure. He bends the rules to see justice done. He's been passed over for promotion by the suits on the Jedi Council for his actions, and he's willing to challenge their authority. Oddly, by the time we reach Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker seems more like Qui-Gon (who he's never met) than Kenobi or Yoda (who trained him).
  • Crapsack World: Tatooine. For one thing, it's stated in the movie that it's ruled by the Hutts (whom according to Panaka are gangsters) and it's clear from the movie that slavery is considered acceptable there, including the use of children as slaves. There's also the podracing, which people also bet various things (including the fate of slaves) on. Even putting aside the nature of its society, there's also the weather; dangerous sandstorms can come up on short notice, which the Tatooine residents apparently predict through aching bones, and that doesn't give them much time to find shelter.[1]
  • Darkest Hour: Qui-Gon dies. The Gungans are defeated. Anakin is stranded inside an enemy ship. Amidala is caught by the federation. All at the same time.
  • Decoy Leader: "After her! This one's a decoy!"
    • Actually played with, as the one that they think is a decoy is actually the real queen.
  • Decoy Protagonist/The Hero Dies: One of the rare instances where both is true. Qui-Gon Jinn is the main character of the film and dies near the end, with prequels and the original trilogy to go.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Midichlorians. Even if it's just making The Force genetic, it's still considered taking much of the mysticism out.
    • Since the midichlorians are explicitly described as not generating but translating the force (more akin to something like, say, a Babel Fish), one could make the argument that the wizard is in fact alive and well, and the act of estimating one's strength in the force by the amount of force-feeding bacteria drawn to you is a desperate attempt of a "civilized" republic to explain the unexplainable.
  • Don't Look Back: Anakin's mother gives him the strength to leave Tatooine by telling him not to look back at her.
  • Doomed by Canon: No, Qui-Gon. You are not going to train Anakin.
  • The Dragon: Darth Maul.
  • Dull Surprise: A common complaint about most of the cast.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Anakin tries this during the Droid Control Ship battle. "I'll try spinning, that's a good trick!"
  • Exact Words: "Stay in that cockpit!" from Qui-Gon to Anakin. Never mind that Anakin accidentally activates the Naboo fighter craft in question, subsequently blasts a few Destroyer droids, and ultimately takes out the reactor core of the orbiting Trade Federation control ship....
  • Fighter Launching Sequence: The Nabooean fighter pilots who the heroes rescued during their escape from the planet earlier in the film make off in their fighters during the film's climax. One of them is shot down on takeoff and crashes in a valley below.
  • Filk Song: "Weird Al" Yankovic's "The Saga Begins" (which he wrote before the movie with internet spoilers, and Al even attended a charity screening to make sure it was accurate!).
  • Final Battle: There are four of them (a 3-way lightsaber duel, a massive ground battle, a big space battle and a smaller ground assault). Its been pointed out that the Star Wars movies had an increasing number of final battles per movie. At an early screening for execs and higher-ups the editor pointed out that because there was so much going on the audience's mood was being pulled from comedy to drama to excitement to sadness so much that it was losing its power. Lucas realized that he had gone overboard and that he couldn't fix it in the editing because all four scenes are intertwined, and in the latter two movies he backed down on it significantly.
  • Fixing the Game: Qui-Gon doesn't qualm to cheat at dice if it serves the greater good.
  • Force Field Door: During a duel with Darth Maul.
  • Foreshadowing: After Mace Windu wonders if it was the Master or the Apprentice who was destroyed, the scene pans towards Palpatine, and an ominous musical cue is heard while the funeral theme is playing in the background, hinting that Palpatine is the other Sith.
    • There's also the first meeting between Palpatine and Anakin; Palpatine pats the young boy on the back, saying that, "-we will be watching your career with great interest."
    • The Novelization has some of this in its version of the "Are you an angel?" scene, during which Anakin tells Padme that's sure he's going to someday marry her. It's used playfully as a Call Back later when Anakin and Padme are talking aboard her ship.
    • For the people who had not yet seen the movies, the soundtrack makes a foreshadowing. When Yoda talks about Anakin at the end of the film stating that the boy's future is clouded, the Emperial March makes a brief yet meaningful appearance.
    • When Anakin intended to inform Padme that he'll most likely end up not coming back with them due to possibly having to train as a Jedi, one of the handmaidens tells him that Padme is not present, which is also around the same time Amadala is talking to the Senate about the plight of Naboo. Guess who Queen Amadala's true identity is?
  • Forgot About His Powers: A common complaint about Darth Maul's death.
  • Friends Rent Control: Shmi and Anakin live pretty well for slaves on a Third World-level planet. Also, their hovel seems to be Bigger on the Inside. And what's that area where Anakin was building his podracer? Was that, like, a backyard? Possibly justified by their value to Watto as slaves.
    • To point out just how much Watto valued his slaves: when Anakin left, he refused to sell Shmi to anyone, at any price, unless he was certain she would be treated well by her new owner. Sure enough, the guy who eventually was allowed to buy her didn't waste any time in freeing her and marrying her...
  • Half the Man He Used To Be: Darth Maul.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Qui-Gon.
  • Implacable Man: Darth Maul as he stalks his prey, the Queen (and the two Jedi protecting her).
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: Amidala's wardrobe. Also a plot point, her makeup and clothing was designed specifically to make it impossible to see who was Amidala and who was her decoy. Keira Knightley, who does somewhat resemble Natalie Portman, played her decoy.
  • Keystone Army: The droid army malfunctions when the control ship is knocked out.
    • Similarly, the Gungan army turns and runs as soon as their shield generator is knocked out. Justified because while the shield was up, the only thing that could get through was the Trade Federation's infantry. After the shield is down their heavy firepower could move in.
  • Kill'Em All: Darth Sidious orders to Lord Maul and the Federation: "Wipe them out. All of them."
  • Large Ham: Jar-Jar Binks, Watto and Boss Nass.
  • The Last DJ: Obi-Wan hints that Qui-Gon is this character type.
  • Lethal Klutz: Jar-Jar Binks destroys quite a few combat droids accidentally during the final battle for Naboo. In one scene, he accidentally unlatches the door to a stash of grenade-like devices, sending them into the enemy ranks; in another, his foot gets caught in one droid, and trying to escape causes the droid's blaster to fire, taking out another droid.
  • Lighter and Softer: Despite the page quote up top there, children and funny-talking aliens play a large part in the plot. More obviously, the Used Future aesthetic of the original trilogy was done away with in order to help demonstrate that this is the "more civilized age" that Obi-Wan mentioned in A New Hope.
  • Meaningful Background Event: In a couple scenes while characters are going about their business on Tatooine, you might catch an inconspicuous floating droid hover past in the background - or catch a listen to their signature sound effect - which have a striking resemblance to those we saw belonging to Darth Maul...
  • Meditation Powerup: When Qui-Gon fought Maul on Naboo. It helped, but not enough.
  • Mole in Charge: Palpatine/Sidious.
  • Mook Horror Show: Invoked by the creators with the Trade Federation members hiding from the Jedi whom nothing could stop. The DVD commentary specifically states this was an inversion of the typical "humans cowering in fear of the unstoppable alien" dynamic from old horror movies.
  • The Mothership: The Federation command ship which Anakin destroys.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The manner in which the Trade Federation marched into Theed mirrored the Nazis' march under the Arc de Triomphe. In addition, the Trade Federation, after occupying Naboo, also held the various indigenous people (Nabooian and Gungan) in camps that were implied to be death camps/concentration camps. In addition, it is implied that Palpatine orchestrated the Naboo blockade invasion to gain more power, similar to how Adolf Hitler had some of his army pose as Polish people and attack their own key buildings so he'd have the excuse to invade Poland. It might also reference Hitler invading his native land of Austria, seeing how Palpatine was the senator of the same planet that he orchestrated the Trade Federation's invasion of.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Aside from the trouble Jar-Jar causes in this movie, there is also the time when Qui-Gon made it his dying wish for Obi-Wan to train Anakin. Those familiar enough with the series' overall story would know that this didn't exactly work out all that well.
    • And Padme following Palpatine's recommendation to call for a vote of no confidence, allowing him to become Chancellor.
    • Heck, knowing what led to Anakin turning to the Dark Side, the Jedi not accepting him earlier before Obi-Wan essentially threatened to go against the Order to train him himself also qualifies somewhat.
  • No OSHA Compliance: A Star Wars staple, which probably reaches its highest point in the area where Qui-Gon and Obi Wan fight Maul -- a series of catwalks with no railings over bottomless pits.
    • Naboo: idyllic paradise, or a labor union's worst nightmare?
  • No Poverty: Naboo.
  • Not-So-Innocent Whistle: Jar-Jar does that a few times.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: Qui-Gon's communicator is a redecoed woman's razor.
  • Oh Crap: A Gungan general's reaction to seeing a huge deployment of battle droids walk right through his army's force-field.
    • Panaka and his troops as a whole arguably get one of these moments when they meet Darth Maul.
    • The Neimodians when they seal off the bridge and realize the Jedi are still getting through.
    • The pilot and co-pilot of the Republic cruiser in the docking bay of the Trade Federation Battleship. They don't even get a chance to finish saying Oh Crap.
  • Oh, No, Not Again: "Yousa in big dudu this time!"
    • Also, Obi-Wan's scene with Qui-Gon at the Jedi Temple. ("Do not defy the Council, Master, not again.")
  • Ominous Sanskrit Chanting: Duel of the Fates.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Darth Maul is in around a tenth of the film but manages to steal the entire movie.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Sebulba. Also doubles as The Rival.
    • Funnily enough, the Expanded Universe material sees Sebulba becoming a positively heroic figure as the Empire begins to crack down on podracing and sports in general.
  • Parental Substitute: Rather sadly, Watto is the closest thing young Anakin has to a father figure. Though he still does occasionally discipline him and Shmi like any average slave owner would, from what we get to see he is genuinely fond of the mother and son, treats them well, and was genuinely sad to see Anakin go. On top of all that, he would not sell Shmi until he was certain that her new master was a kind man that give her a good and happy life. Word of God does state that Watto generally treats his slaves much better than most other masters.
    • When Qui-Gon comes in, he takes on this role for Anakin.
  • Pimped-Out Cape: About every other queen outfit Amidala wore had one.
  • Pimped-Out Dresses: Every one of Amidala's queen outfits.
  • Plummet Perspective: A lightsaber goes a long way down a shaft.
  • Power Levels: The infamous "midichlorian count" for measuring Force talent.
  • Pretext for War: The Trade Federation uses something about taxation as an excuse to occupy Naboo.
  • Pretty in Mink: Amidala's red dress is trimmed with brown fur.
  • Radio Silence: It's vital that the Queen's shuttle not respond to the distress signals from Naboo to prevent giving away their location. But Darth Maul is somehow able to track them down anyway.
  • Recut: The DVD release included a few additional moments, mostly ideas they had for the podrace. But a fan made re-cut of this film inspired a slew of fan made cuts of various films, largely toning down Jar-Jar's antics and Anakin's "yippee's".
    • The Blu-Ray also makes changes -- most notably trading a much-contested puppet Yoda for a digital one similar to the one seen in later prequels.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The virgin birth of Anakin Skywalker, who according to an ancient prophecy is said to bring balance to the Force. He also likes to build things and lived in the desert. The image of Darth Maul resembles the Christian Devil as well.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Qui-Gon Jinn. Probably to make sure audience attitude towards Darth Maul went from "whoa, he's badass!" to "somebody kill that bastard!" just in time for his Karmic Death.
  • Same Language Dub: Darth Maul's voice is dubbed by Peter Serafinowicz.
  • Serkis Folk: The alien characters.
  • Shell Game: One of Padmé's handmaidens turns up in full regalia, even shooting several battle droids on the spot, fooling the Trade Federation into thinking she's the queen and leaving Padmé relatively unguarded at a key moment.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The podrace is a space-age Chariot Race, complete with giant engines in place of horses, and the whole sequence is a huge reference to Ben-Hur.
    • Some of Jar-Jar's antics are taken almost directly from the films of Buster Keaton.
    • Also as a likely Take That, the leader of the Trade Federation is Nute Gunray after former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as well as a reversal of Ronald Reagan, to get back at "Project Star Wars"; and the Neimoidian senator is named Lott Dodd after U.S. Senators Trent Lott and Chris Dodd.
  • Skyscraper City: Large swaths of the planet Coruscant are encrusted with giant skyscrapers... built on top of older skyscrapers... built on top of even older skyscrapers. It's uncertain if the planet even has actual ground anymore. It's said to host one trillion inhabitants. A few of the skyscrapers are the construction droids that build more skyscrapers.
  • Space Is Cold: Mentioned word-for-word by Padmé.
  • Space Jews: Watto for his miserliness and business-before-all-else attitude.
  • Start of Darkness: Not only for Darth Vader, but even more so for the Empire.
  • The Stinger: Sort of: As the credits end, the viewer can distinctly hear Vader's iconic breathing.
  • The Stoic: Darth Maul, to the point of having no character whatsoever. Except Badass.
  • Stop Helping Me!: A frequent issue with Jar-Jar Binks.

Jar-Jar: Mesa your humble servant!
Qui-Gon: That won't be necessary.

Viceroy: As you know, our blockade is perfectly legal.

  • Underwater City: Where the Gungans live.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Amidala. This is one of the most famous aspects of the movie. Even subtly lampshaded by Obi-Wan, who says they have nothing to barter with apart from the Queen's wardrobe.
  • Verbal Tic: Watto ends a lot of his sentences with "I think..." I think...
    • Boss Nass has one, kch kch kch.
  • Wacky Racing: Podracing.
  • Walking Disaster Area: Jar-Jar's klutziness leaves wreckage in his wake.
  • Wuxia: Though Lucas tried to emulate this genre back in the original trilogy, it is from this film onwards that Star Wars finally" becomes a proper Wuxia saga.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Watto says this of Anakin.

Notes

  1. And yes, Tatooine's a Crapsack World in other installments too, but it's probably taken further in this installment than it is in the other ones.