Story

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is the first prequel to the well-known and much-loved Star Wars series. It sets the scene for the rest of the series, and was first released in 1999, 16 years after the original trilogy. The Phantom Menace has now been re-released in 3D.

The movie tells the childhood story of Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), a young slave boy who lives with his mother on the desert planet Tatooine. Anakin displays signs of being strong in the Force. He’s also an amazing Podracer pilot. On a trip to Tatooine, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) discovers Anakin, sees his potential to be a great Jedi Knight and recruits him.

A secondary plot sees the droid army of the greedy Trade Federation planning to invade the peaceful planet Naboo as part of a secret plot to gain power over the galaxy. Led by Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan (or apprentice), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), the Jedi are called in to defend Queen Amidala of Naboo (Natalie Portman) and her people. A war between good and evil results.

Themes

Slavery and children as slaves; separation from parents; war

Violence

Throughout the movie, there are scenes of war, fights between airships and other battle scenarios. The movie’s 3D effects heighten the impact of these scenes, which might be scary for younger viewers. For example:

  • Jedi Knights land on Federation ships and discover human-like droids. The droids attack the Jedi by filling the room with poisonous gas. This creates a fight, during which the Jedi dismember and ‘kill’ the droids.
  • During a podrace, Anakin is attacked by the Sand People, who take shots at him with a rifle. Anakin doesn’t seem worried by the attack.
  • Two Jedi fight Darth Maul using lasers. One of the Jedi is stabbed through the stomach, and Darth Maul is cut in half and dies.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • Jabba the Hutt flicks two small, unthreatening animals off a wall to their deaths.
  • The Trade Federation is presented as an evil force. Its members have menacing outfits and scary music plays when they appear. This is likely to frighten children in this age group.
  • Darth Maul is a menacing and evil character who is likely to frighten children in this age group. 

From 5-8

Children in this age group are likely to be upset when Anakin must leave his mother to escape from slavery and join the Jedi. Anakin and his mother are both sad at being separated, although she believes it’s the best thing for Anakin to do. 

From 8-13

Children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above. 

Over 13

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Sexual references

None of concern 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None of concern 

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern 

Product placement

None of concern 

Coarse language

None of concern 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Now rereleased in 3D, The Phantom Menace is the first in the well-known Star Wars science fiction fantasy adventure series. It’s likely to be too scary for most children under 10 years and also for some slightly older children, particularly in the more intense 3D format.

The main messages from this movie are about good triumphing over evil, listening to your inner self and trusting in yourself to be the best you can be.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about issues such as the following:

  • War: is it ever justified? Why or why not? What are the alternatives?
  • Slavery: why is slavery so evil? You could talk in particular about slavery involving children, and about the effects of slavery in the world today.