Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999)

The cover to the Australian 4K UltraHD

Film: I honestly can’t describe to you how important Star Wars is to my life. That’s not to say I’m a super obsessive nut job fan who can’t function without starting every sentence with a Star Wars fact (ok, maybe once but not anymore), but I am still pretty passionate about it… gatekeepery?

Maybe a little!

After Return of the Jedi came out in 1983 I CRAVED more content, and read heaps of the Marvel comics, and later the Dark Horse ones too. I also read the books and consumed other media like video games and toys. This of course meant that I was pretty damned excited when the announcement for a new trilogy of films was coming, and I rocked up there very early to see the new flick.

McGregor and Neeson as Kenobi and Qui-gon Jinn

The planet Naboo is going to be invaded! So the Senate sends members of the order of the Jedi, Qui-gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to engage in negotiations, which unfortunately result in the Jedi needing to make a quick escape, and rescue the Queen of Naboo, Armidale (Natalie Portman), getting her into a ship and off-planet asap.

In their escape they pick up the decidedly odd, and fan-hated Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and find themselves with a damaged ship on the planet of Tattooine, where they stumble upon the extraordinarily talented boy-mechanic/ pilot Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) who convinces the refugees that he can win a ‘podrace’ (basically prams attached to jet engines) to get them enough money to buy what they need.

The kid obviously wins in an event that’s fun, but takes far too (D2) long to get through so they can get away from the planet, taking the kid with them, because he has a covid-styled thing in his bloodstream called ‘midichlorians’, and is perfect Jedi material, but very quickly they discover they are being pursued by a Sith Lord named Darth Maul (Ray Park), who is working for the one-pulling-the-strings-of-the-whole-shenanigans Darth Sidious (Ian McDiamid)… will Naboo fall? Has it already? Will Jake Lloyd ever work again?

Natalie Portman as Queen Armidala

The main problem with this film is really the same problem that ALL the prequels had: the pacing. Too much time is spent showing things that are irrelevant, or at the very least could be shown in a far more speedier fashion. The cynic in me would suggest that perhaps Lucas was already well and truly thinking of his licensing opportunities with this and video games when you consider the amount of time spent on the pod racer scene which in now way really moves the story forward at all.

The minor problems are few but still interfere with my ability to completely enjoy this film. A lot of screen time is given to the young actor Jake Lloyd, and unfortunately he’s just not very good. Sure he displays all the exuberance of youth, and Lucas intention of having a child character to pull the kids into the film… and franchise doesn’t survive if it doesn’t propagate new fans… had solid reasoning. I think perhaps a first shot at the big time that’s filled with green screen, actors in half costumes and environments that don’t exist at all may have been hard on the youngling.

It’s not all bad though: the rest of the cast are fantastic. Neeson, McGregor, Portman all, play their parts and really lay some epic foundations of not what’s to come in the films, but also in the associated animations like Clone Wars and Rebels. The effects are also fantastic, with all the aliens and vehicles really existing honestly in their environments.

I honestly believe that if this was the film that started the legacy of Star Wars, it would have spluttered to a half almost immediately. It was only providence and the promise of two more episodes that allowed Lucas to continue with this tomfoolery. Luckily for him the opening sequence of the next film was absolute gold!

Score: *1/2

The menu screen for the Australian 4K UltraHD

Extras: Extras? Meesa LOVE extras!

Ahem, what I meant to say is that there is a whole Blu-ray Disc FULL of extras in this 4K Ultra HD release!

Conversations: Doug Chiang Looks Back sees… guess who… Doug Chiang reminisce on working on the prequel trilogy, and how it developed his 5 points of design. It’s interesting that something that would seem to be so important wouldn’t get much more than a 5 minute feature.

Discoveries from Inside: Models & Miniatures is another sub-5 minute featurette looking at the miniatures used in the films.

George Lucas on the Digital Revolution has Lucas himself discuss the change from analog filmmaking to digital.

Legacy Content, which includes a feature length documentary called ‘The Beginning’, The Podrace: Theatrical Edit, Archive Fly-through, Interviews, Deleted/ Extended Scenes and The Collection. This legacy content has been seen on previous releases of the film on other formats.

Score: ****

WISIA: Not one of my favourite Star Wars films by a long shot, but you have to watch it if your having a Star Wars festival, right?

The Jedi Council

This review was done after watching the Australian 4K Ultra HD.

One thought on “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999)

  1. I think that this movie is very entertaining. The mistake that was made in my humble opinion is not having Agen Kolar training Anakin Skywalker. Here is the scenario as I see it: Ki-Adi-Mundi: “The Force is strong with him.” Qui-Gon Jinn: “He is to be trained then”? Mace Windu: “No. He will not be trained. He is too old.” Yoda: “Clouded this boy’s future is.” Agen Kolar: “I will train the boy.” The rest of the Jedi Council: “You? Do you think you can handle the boy”? Agen Kolar: “Yes, I do.”

    The confrontation with Darth Maul on Tatooine would have had Qui-gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi confronting him initially. Had he managed to escape, I would have Mace Windu and Count Dooku confronting him at the end. Now, it may have been an unfair fight, seeing as Count Dooku and Mace Windu used 2 separate lightsaber fighting styles, however, it would have still been awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

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