The phantom menace

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (1999)

TAGLINE: Every Saga Has A Beginning

IMDB Rating: 6.4 /10

Star Wars Episode 1 : The Phantom Menace is the greatest Star Wars movie of the lot. For about 50 seconds. After the excitement of 20th Century Fox logo, the glorious opening John Williams fanfare, and about 8 words into the crawl…

..until, in fact, one reads the words ‘taxation of trade routes…’ From that point, joyful anticipation flies into a supernova and ends your trip real quick…

Much has been written about The Phantom Menace. It makes most people’s top 10 Bad Film list. Everyone has seen it. Is there anything left to say? We think so. We think there’s plenty to say. George Lucas – we’ve plenty to say to you. The whole experience of ‘The Phantom Menace’ has left a purelent scab that refuses to heal.

As identified previously in ‘The Bad Film Name Generator‘, the importance of a bad title is imperative to the success of a bad movie. This is a lesson Lucas has learnt well.






Just take a moment to marvel at its dreadfulness. A title that represents everything that is wonderful about Bad Filmmaking. Perfection in nomenclature. What does it mean? Does it even stay within the boundaries of grammatical sense? Does it scan? Do you even care? It’s a title that every bit represents the magnitude of the misery that lies within. A bad title bullseye.

Many amateur bad film lovers follow the popular consensus that the worst things about ‘The Phantom Menace’ are obvious:

  • The terrifyingly wooden acting of Jake Lloyd playing the young Anakin Skywalker.
  • The terrifyingly wooden acting of Ewan McGregor as the young Alec Guinness.
  • The terrifyingly wooden acting of Natalie Portman as Princess Amidala.
  • The terrifyingly wooden acting of Liam Neeson as…..etc

Lucas brilliantly assembles a talented cast and encourages them to deliver their clunking lines with all of the drooling enthusiasm of a mental patient on lithium.

Others also consider:

  • The CGI effects- which possess a sheen as unrealistic as Lucas’ enormous coiffure
  • The story. Whereas the first three were about a violent rebellion against an evil galactic empire, ‘The Phantom Menace’ is about…import tariffs . [Stunning work from Lucas here. He is a master].
  • The revelation that the mystical force is actually a blood disorder. Like anaemia. How appropriate.


George Lucas

George Lucas: Bad Film Genius. Bad Hair Genius.


And Jar Jar Binks.


  • One of the least charming, empathetic or amusing characters in film history? Of course.
  • Akin to riding on a bus next to a disturbed and shouty tramp who then proceeds to urinate down the aisle? Most certainly.
  • Vaguely racist? Possibly.
  • The epitome of filmmaking evil? Emphatically.

However, none of these really examples truly explain why ‘The Phantom Menace’ is one of the all time great bad films. The reason is simple- it contains about 6 minutes of cinematic genius. When Darth Maul fires up his double headed lightsabre for the reckoning with Obi Wan and Qui-Gon, the excitement in the audience is palpable. The fight itself is astonishing- acrobatic, thrilling, tense, brilliantly edited and paced to perfection. When the shields come down, separating the combatants temporarily, the music stops. The Sith Lord prowls like a panther eyeing his prey, Liam Neeson’s old master meditates and Ewan McGregor’s hungry young apprentice bounces like a boxer about to enter a championship ring. It takes real panache and confidence to stop the final battle of a film dead in its tracks. It is an absolutely brilliant moment in an otherwise 133 minutes of turgid, wallowing slurry. It is this moment of inspiration that raises ‘The Phantom Menace’ toward the pinnacle of bad filmmaking:

It teases the audience with quite how brilliant the film could have been.


George Lucas teaches a profound lesson to all aspiring bad filmmakers:

Make three great films to hook your audience absolutely, THEN cosh them across their stupid faces with something so dire, so shatteringly poor, it actually soils the sacred memories of their childhood. Make a film so witless and appalling, your audience staggers from the cinema in tears of frustration and anger, possibly wishing you physical harm.

 Lucas had the time, the budget and the patience to hatch his nefarious scheme over 20 years. His unique, and incredibly efficient strategy will almost certainly never be emulated:

            First make the audience BELIEVE YOU ARE A GOOD FILMMAKER. This way, when you finally strike, they will be as defenceless as a kitten at Crufts.

 Evil genius Lucas is so proficient a bad film maker, he actually managed to succeed with this method A SECOND TIME. He took another brilliant trilogy of his own fashioning, and set about demolishing that body of work with ‘Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull’. He leads while other bad filmmakers only follow. He alone has managed to break an entire generation through the medium of bad film making. Do not attempt to emulate him. Just take the time to salute him. He is an example to us all.

The second greatest trailer of all time. For cinema’s greatest disappointment.

One Comment

  1. Gareth Eldridge says:

    Could not agree more!…. Surely when you start to create something that tells the beginning of a story …. You should at least once watch the films you created that give an indication of where it should go so there is some cohesion? But what do I know?.. I, like many others only spent 20 years developing my own understanding of the clone wars?

    “he betrayed and murdered your father!” nooooo he didn’t he had an affair and then went postal!

Leave a Comment