Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace 3D (1999)

Rated R. Our ratings: V -3; L -1; S/N-2 Running time: 2 hours 13 min.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with
me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will
give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I
come again to my fatherfs house in peace, then the
Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have
set up for a pillar, shall be Godfs house; and of all that
you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.”
Genesis 28:20-22

I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things.
Isaiah 45:7

© 20th Century Fox

It is good to see this epic on the big screen again, though I am still skeptical that 3-D is at all necessary. In deed, it seems to me that the 3-D image is a little darker and murkier than the original version. Still, going back to the origins of the the George Lucas epic series is enjoyable, watching Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) discovering the highly gifted little boy Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd)—and knowing what the boy will become when he grows up. Yoda is there, along with the two faithful droids and a screen full of other heroes and villainsand lots of great special effects as well. I presume that George Lucas, knowing what a cash cow he has, will follow this up with 3-D versions of the other five films.

When this first came out in 1999 I wrote that it will appeal more to children than adults because such characters as the villain Darth Maul were given little depth of character, as Lucas did for Darth Vader in the set of three films first released, especially the last two of the trilogy. Adults might be more interested in the Jedi religion, so here is what I wrote in the review” “The primitive religion centered on the Force is very much in evidence and offers an opportunity to engage in a study of comparitive religions, or to explore the nature and meaning of faith and God. The Jedi religion does not have a personal Gog, the Force being referred to as “it” and yet “It” seems to have a will—though Qui-Gon Jinn does state, like a good Calvinist, that “nothing happens by chance.” The relationship of the Jedi to the Force seems to be similar to Jacob’s with Yahweh in Genesis 28:20-22. Jacob has left home to escape his brother Esaufs wrath, and after a dream, the next morning he tries to bargain with God, promising to give God a tithe of his goods if God will watch over and prosper him. This attempt to use God is like the Jedi striving to master the Force and use it against opponents. At the same time there is a “dark side of the Force” that reminds me of the paradox expressed in Isaiah 45:7, “I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things.” The positive side of George Lucas’s vision is that his world does encompass the spiritual (I should have written includes), unlike that of most science fiction, which posits a mechanistic universe. This is still a long way from the God whom Jesus addressed as “Abba,” who numbers the hairs on our heads and watches over Israel like a mother bird—but it moves in the right direction.”

For Reflection/Discussion

1. What did you think of this film when you first saw it? What does it add to our knowledge of the people and events in the trilogy released in the 70s and 80s?

2. How did George Lucas deal with the criticism of his first film that the cast of humans was all white?

3. What future villains do you see? Why does Yoda hold back from approving the boy Anakin Skywalker for training as a Jedi apprentice?

4. Compare Darth Maul to Darth Vader in respect to being a villain: what is lacking in the way he is presented, even though obviously an excellent swordsman?

5. W hat elements has Lucas combined in the concept of the Force? What are the elements and from what religions does he extract them? How is religion often dealt with in science fiction, if at all?