Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Tagline: "Every generation has a legend. Every journey has a first step. Every saga has a beginning."
Length: 133 minutes
While "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" doesnt quite match the warmth and humor of the three "Star Wars" films released in 1977-83, the new movie is visually far superior to those earlier films, and when I watched "Phantom Menace" recently on DVD, I found it to be extremely entertaining. Also, the DVD comes packaged as a two-disc set loaded with interesting extras.
Theatrically released in 1999, "Episode I - The Phantom Menace" is a prequel to the earlier films, which were actually episodes IV, V, and VI of the series. The action in "Episode I" takes place thirty-some-odd years before that of "Episode IV," which was the very first "Star Wars" movie.
In "Episode I - The Phantom Menace," the greedy Trade Federation blockades the small planet of Naboo, and the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic dispatches two Jedi knights to settle the conflict. The two Jedi are Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and young Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). On Naboo Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are lead by a goofy creature named Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) through a fantastic underwater world to the lovely city where young Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) is already in the custody of Trade Federation forces.
The Jedi rescue the Queen, but as they escape Naboo their transport is damaged and they must make an emergency landing on the out-of-the-way, desert-like planet Tatooine. There, while repairing their transport, the Jedi meet the young boy Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who has special powers, which he demonstrates by winning an exciting high-speed pod race. Eventually, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Jar Jar, Anakin, and the Queen make their way back to Naboo, where they take part in a gigantic battle against the Trade Federation forces and the evil, but nearly invincible, Darth Maul.
Disc One contains an audio track where writer-director George Lucas, three visual effects supervisors, the animation director, a sound expert, and the producer provide a running commentary on the movie. Somehow the comments of the seven different people are well coordinated, and I found nearly all of their remarks pretty informative.
Disc Two contains a ton of bonus materials. Theres an hour-long documentary titled "The Beginning" that gives lots of production details, and there are also several deleted scenes worth seeing, particularly the large amount of extra footage of the pod race they cut so the sequence wouldnt overwhelm the rest of the movie. There are 17 (!) featurettes, including one each on costuming, music, and the screen tests for the role of Anakin. Another three short features cover animatics, which is basically a relatively quick and inexpensive way of using computer software to get a rough idea of what complicated sequences will look like before filming them. And there are a lot of other special features as well, many of which Ive listed below.
Selected Special Features on the DVD:
DVD Sound and Picture Quality:
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