Star Wars 1: Phantom Menace
LucasFilm Watermark on back
1999 Ewan McGregor
Lucas' fascination with intricate and interweaving plot structures dates back to his innovative work with multiple, concurrent plot lines in American Graffiti, a device now frequently used by filmmakers around the world. In EPISODE I, Lucas continues to experiment with story structure, enriching the plot to the point that there are five concurrent storylines taking place during the film.
EPISODE I's framing plotline involves Senator Palpatine, an influential politician quietly making moves to consolidate his power in a time of unrest throughout the Republic, during which the government has been weakened and turned into a bureaucratic quagmire.
A specific incident within this framework places Palpatine at the center of a conflict between the gigantic, commercial Trade Federation and the small, peaceful planet Naboo. Naboo is threatened by the might of the wealthy corporate powers, which begin to disregard the constraints of the weak galactic government.
The young queen of Naboo finds herself faced with difficult decisions. Committed to peace, she must choose whether to sacrifice her ideals when war descends upon
Sent into this crisis to negotiate a settlement are two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. Prepared for a political dispute, the Jedi Master, QuiGon Jinn and apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi discover that the Trade Federation is about to unleash its mighty forces in open combat against Naboo. Unless the two Jedi can succeed, the planet's fate is grim.
In the course of their adventure, Qui-Gon discovers a young boy, Anakin, who is a slave on the desert planet Tatooine. Qui-Gon senses that Anakin is the individual destined to bring balance to the Force, and makes a fateful decision to train Anakin as a Jedi Knight. At the same time, Anakin begins a friendship with the Queen of Naboo.
To bring these stories and characters to life, Lucas decided to return to the director' s chair, following a more than twenty-year hiatus that began after he finished helming the original Star Wars.
Scottish actor Ewan McGregor takes on the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, played by Alec Guinness in the original trilogy. In EPISODE I, Obi-Wan is a young Jedi apprentice, who sometimes clashes with his rebellious mentor, Qui-Gon Ginn. Obi-Wan prefers not to buck the Jedi Council and wishes Qui-Gon would play by the rules.
Obi-Wan is serving as an apprentice, or Padawan Learner, to venerable Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn. Despite their closeness, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon have different ideas about key matters that will determine their fates. For example, each has a different viewpoint on Anakin. Qui-Gon takes the young slave boy, whom he thinks will bring
balance to the Force, under his wing despite the misgivings of Obi-Wan and members of the Jedi Council.
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon come to the aid of a beautiful young queen whose planet has come under attack by the Trade Federation. The role required a young woman who could be believable as the ruler of that planet, but at the same time be vulnerable and open. Natalie Portman, whose film credits include The Professional and Beautiful Girls, and who appeared on Broadway in The Diary of Anne Frank, takes on the role of the Queen. "I was looking for someone who was young, strong, along the lines of Leia," Lucas explains. "Natalie embodied all those traits and more."
The search for Anakin, the 9-year-old Tatooine slave, presented the most daunting casting challenge. The boy's special abilities, some of which are demonstrated during an electrifying Podrace, attract the attention of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, who find themselves stranded on the boy's home planet.