CinemaClown’s review published on Letterboxd :
An indiscriminatingly awful, vomit-inducing, excessively cartoonish, unbelievably stupid & mind-numbingly pathetic piece of shit that deserves to be counted amongst the worst atrocities ever committed on film canvas, the first chapter of George Lucas' prequel trilogy & fourth instalment in the Star Wars saga marks its creator's return to film direction after a 22-year hiatus and shows that world cinema was far better off without his directorial inputs.
Set three decades before the events of Star Wars in a galaxy far far away, the story of The Phantom Menace follows two Jedi Knights who are sent to negotiate a peaceful end to an interplanetary trade dispute but when that falls apart, they flee from their hostile situation to warn the Queen and end up stumbling upon a young child who exhibits inherent powers of the Force and could be the chosen one. Meanwhile, a dormant Sith make his presence felt.
Written & directed by George Lucas, the very first mistake he made was that he completely forgot who the target audience of his prequel trilogy really was. It was the people who made Star Wars such a groundbreaking revolution of its time, who in the passing years had grown up a little, and were probably expecting a slightly more mature take after waiting for so long. What Lucas churns out instead is an incredibly juvenile turd filled with annoying characters & reckless CGI.
Lucas spent decades waiting for the filmmaking technology to advance to his required level in order to realise his prequel trilogy on film canvas as per his vision yet if he'd spent even a fraction of that time in refining the script & characters, The Phantom Menace would've been a much decent movie. Just about nothing works here and what makes it even more torturous to sit through is the annoying set of characters inhabiting it. The plot is pretty much absent & filled with people you just don't give a damn about.
Its visual effects may have been a state-of-the-art stuff at its time of release but it has only deteriorated over the years and now it looks plainly rubbish. Nearly every sequence is filled with weird looking creatures for Lucas goes horribly smug about his half-assed imagination here but his first feature in over two decades is too childish & cartoonish to have any merit. Its 133 minutes of runtime isn't justified either for the whole movie is just one lame segment after another and every attempt at humour simply falls apart.
And then there's this cast of Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman & others who deliver truly hollow performances. Although acting never was this franchise's strongest suit, it's a shame to see such actors playing such empty, absurd characters. The only reason for the prequel trilogy to exist, as per Lucas, was to provide a backstory to the original trilogy's most iconic figure while the characters its fans actually fell in love with and wanted to see more of are completely sidelined or absent, which doesn't help its cause.
On an overall scale, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace will always be memorable for the priceless reaction it evoked from the die-hard fans of the original Star Wars trilogy. To see their long wait being rewarded with such an abhorrent, nauseating & disgusting chapter is undoubtedly hilarious but for someone who was never a fan of this franchise, movies don't get anymore cringeworthy than this. Filled with nothing but garbage, the only watchable scene in The Phantom Menace is that brief lightsaber duel near the end. Other than that, it's just third-degree torture.