Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a 1999 American epic space opera film written and directed by George Lucas. It is the fourth film to be released in the Star Wars saga, as the first of a three-part prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as the first film in the saga in terms of story chronology. The Phantom Menace was also Lucas’ first product as a film director after 22 years, and only his fourth overall. The film follows the Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi, who escort and protect Queen Amidala in traveling from the planet Naboo to the planet Coruscant in the hope of finding a peaceful end to a large-scale interplanetary trade dispute. The film also features a young Anakin Skywalker before he became a Jedi, introduced as a young slave boy who seems to be unusually strong with nascent powers of The Force, and must contend with the mysterious return of the Sith. Lucas began production of this motion picture after he had concluded that the science of movie special effects had advanced to the level of what he wanted for his fourth film in the Saga. Its filming took place during 1997 at various locations including Leavesden Film Studios and the Tunisian desert. Its special effects included extensive use of computer-generated imagery (CGI), with some of its characters and its settings being completely computerized and not existing at all in the real world. The Phantom Menace premiered in theaters on May 19, 1999, sixteen years after the 1983 premiere of the previous film in the saga, Return of the Jedi. The film’s premiere was accompanied by extensive media coverage and great anticipation. Despite mixed reviews by critics, who tended to praise the visuals and action sequences but criticize the writing, characterization and acting, it grossed $924.3 million worldwide, making it the Star Wars film with the highest gross-income (unadjusted for inflation), the 18th highest gross-income film of all time, and the highest-income film of 1999. It is also the seventh highest-income film of all time at the American box office. It is coming to theaters on February 10, 2012 in spectacular 3D!
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