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Great with lots of room for improvement

  • May 29, 2006
  • by
The Phantom Menace was probably one of the most anticipated movies of all time, and ended up disappointing a lot of folks. The DVD release has fared better. The DVD contains lots of special features that describe the technical, human, and creative work that went into creating Episode I. In doing so, this DVD has set the foundation by which all newer DVD releases are measured; how completely do the special features describe the movie and all the thought and work that went into making and advertising it. Ignoring the movie itself, there are several features of the DVD that could have been improved. First, the extra and deleted scenes should have been incorporated into the movie itself, or the DVD should have come with an option whereby the viewer can watch the movie with or without these extra scenes. Second, for a movie advertised throughout the world, the DVD should have came with subtitles in more languages. Third, it would have been nice for the DVD to include a special feature that breaks down the cost of making this movie.

Now to the movie itself.

1. The music was good but not great. Too much of the music was a rehash from the first (last) three movies.

2. The acting was wooden in many places. More specifically, there was not enough of it. The movie was essentially dictacted by action scenes, when it should have been a movie about relationships. For example, the relationship between Anakin and Qui Gon Jin should have been expanded into a central part of the story, such that the death of the latter would be the first of many scars on Anakin's psyche that would eventually turn him to the dark side. This is also another failing of the movie; it shows no emotional connection between the death of Qui Gon and Anakin.

3. For a movie franchise that has so many female fans, it would have been nice to have had more female lead characters. One example would have been to make Qui Gon Jin's character a woman. We don't see a major female Jedi knight in any of the six movies. Imagine that; Anakin leaves his mother and comes under the care of a foster mother - who later dies in battle and emotionally scars Anakin. This in turn would set up the loss of his real mom in Episode II and his wife in Episode III.

4. Why do so many of the alien races talk in English; especially in English that sounds like that spoken by foreign immigrants to the USA? Watto and Sebulba were the two most believable alien characters for me in this movie; and they both spoke in different tongues.

5. The podrace scene was astounding. It gets my vote for the greatest race scene ever.

6. There should have been more development of Darth Maul's character and the origins of the Sith lords. Being Episode I, there needs to be more backstory to such a complex galaxy that Lucas has created.

7. Part of the mystery and mystique of the first (last) three episodes are the surprises it pulls; Vader being Luke's dad, Leia being Luke's sister, the trap Palpatine lays for the rebels on Endor, etc... This is totally absent in The Phantom Menace. Most importantly, the character of Palpatine and Darth Sidious are given away immediately. And Palpatine's head of the Galactic Senate is a total giveaway for his eventual dictatorship. A more clever and interesting way would be keep Palpatine's character on the side and less powerful until the very end (Episode III).

8. Why didn't the Jedi go to rescue Anakin's mom from slavery at the end of Episode I and bring her somewhere safer or at least closer to Anakin? Or for that matter why didn't the Jedi knights free her from Watto? Slavery was illegal and there would have been nothing Watto could have done to keep Shmi if the Jedi Knights took her...

All in all a good movie and a good DVD, but neither are great.

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"I have a bad feeling about this," says the young Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by Ewan McGregor) inStar Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menaceas he steps off a spaceship and into the most anticipated cinematic event... well, ever. He might as well be speaking for the legions of fans of the original episodes in theStar Warssaga who can't help but secretly ask themselves: Sure, this isStar Wars, but is itmy Star Wars? The original elevated moviegoers' expectations so high that it would have been impossible for any subsequent film to meet them. And as with all theStar Warsmovies,The Phantom Menacefeatures inexplicable plot twists, a fistful of loose threads, and some cheek-chewing dialogue. Han Solo's swagger is sorely missed, as is the pervading menace of heavy-breather Darth Vader. There is still way too much quasi-mystical mumbo jumbo, and some of what was fresh aboutStar Wars22 years earlier feels formulaic. Yet there's much to admire. The special effects are stupendous; three worlds are populated with a mélange of creatures, flora, and horizons rendered in absolute detail. The action and battle scenes are breathtaking in their complexity. And one particular sequence of the film--the adrenaline-infused pod race through the Tatooine desert--makes the chariot race inBen-Hurlook like a Sunday stroll through the park.

Among the host of new characters, there are a few familiar walk-ons. We witness the first meeting between R2-D2 and C-3PO, Jabba the Hutt...

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Director: George Lucas
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: May 19, 1999
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: George Lucas
DVD Release Date: March 22, 2005
Runtime: 2hrs 11min
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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