Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (Blu-ray)
1 reviews from the community
Review of "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (Blu-ray)"
"Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute. Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo. While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict...." ~ Opening Crawl
"...Master Yoda says I should be mindful of the future... But not at the expense of the moment." (Intro)
My recent ranting and raving about the latest reboot of the Star Wars franchise wound me up so much I felt compelled to add the rest of the films to my review backlog - starting in chronological order and not ass-backwards like the director and writer George Lucas likes to do (even though I started with the seventh :p). We'll see if I can manage (be arsed) to write about every one - I'm too much of a Ciao snob to write mammoth reviews for products with lesser payouts but I'm looking forward to it regardless. As I've mentioned many times before on both The Force Awakens and the 2 Knights of the Old Republic video games, I did not grow up watching the original trilogy because I'm not 40, nor did I care for this when it was released and I was 9 - I largely held the same opinion of it then as I do now. I may not have had the good fortune to view IV: A New Hope in its prime, but I'm perfectly aware of the general consensus of fans and professional critics alike when it comes to its reputation and second trio of films. So here I go, weighing in on something with probable offensive honesty to people who'll only see it because it's on the 'latest reviews' page, got me on review alert (good God why!?) or because they've deliberately looked for positive reviews to reaffirm preexisting perceptions or negative ones to quarrel with!
"Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice... But which was destroyed, the master or the apprentice?" (Story)
This is the origins story, where it all began. The characters known and loved from Episodes 4, 5 and 6 were but a distant memory yet paradoxically, would be the heroes of a future already told, offspring of the next villain, a current child. We see a youthful Obi-Wan Kenobi under the tutelage of a new character in Qui-Gon Jin, assessing the baron planet of Tatooine where they find a disturbance in the force, a young boy whose very presence is a sign of the prophecy that one day a Jedi will arise and bring balance to the force. When they leave the planet after being assaulted by a sith lord, they return to the Jedi council to make sure they all approve of training the boy. Meanwhile, Queen Amidala is under attack on Naboo where a droid army has invaded as well as many seeking to destroy all remnants of Jedi. There's a subplot that involves the Gungan but they hold so little point in the plot that their appearance merely wastes time and their participation in the war only makes the threat of these droid invaders look pitiful and aloof. It is only when the swoop racing, Gungan antics and running about is done that we get to see much in the way of fight scenes with only a brief flash of a lightsaber battle wetting the combat whistle midway through.
Qui-Gon Jinn: "Anakin Skywalker, meet Obi-Wan Kenobi." (Characters)
What a stupid bunch o' names. Still, the cast who portrayed them is practically legendary with the solid teacher role talents of Liam Neeson manning the green lightsaber as a Jedi Consular with his own student in Ewan McGregor. 2 big names so far. Then for the ladies there is the future oscar winner in Natalie Portman as Padmé Amidala - even Keira Knightley is in it as her body double which I always wondered about and now realise how similar they look outside of the head shape.. The kid who plays Anakin would be dropped after this as not only was he pretty much disliked by most 'fans' but his genuine age gap between him and his eventual love interest Padmé was just awkward as he was 10 and she was 18 - so weird. Jake Lloyd was chosen after his role in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Christmas classic - Jingle All the Way but since this film, did pretty much nothing in cinema since. At the end, we get a glimpse of another future character with Samuel L. Jackson showing up disproving the recruitment of the young Skywalker into the Jedi academy. Both of the original actors for C3PO and R2D2 reprised their roles (Anthony Daniels & Kenny Baker) which shows a nice loyalty and dedication for both sides, as did Ian McDiarmid who featured in 2 of the first 3 films. The lesser known Ray Park gets painted up as Darth Maul but he was voiced by the comedian/actor Peter Serafinowicz - the angry naked dude from Shaun of the Dead!
The Infamous Jar Jar Binks
"You almost got us killed! Are you brainless?" A famous first words from a Jedi attempting to keep his calm serenity when questioning the most maligned character in dare I say, all of sci-fi. A computer generated creature by the name of Jar Jar Binks stained the screens during the early minutes of Episode 1, puzzling at first then sharply irritating. Whether it was the stupid voice, child pandering antics or the mere fact they were dealing with him in the first place, it was plain to see that even the actors having to imagine his dire presence via green screen was a depressing chore as I'm sure their direction was similar to a line from The Last Samurai - (Paraphrasing) "Imagine someone you hate with the utmost intensity." His inclusion was very accurately deemed down to comic relief for a new target audience - children - as the film was rated 'Universal' so they could draw in the maximum audience. This meant that people could bring their squealing children to the showing (inconsiderate if you know they're a little pig) angering the old nerds who were already angry from witnessing this computer generated abomination. Even at the tender age I first sat through this feature, I was bothered by the endless, desperate slapstick on parade, staring open mouthed at the screen with a more confused, bewildered expression than anything resembling amusement. If my 9 year old self could tell you what I thought of him with the vocabulary I have now, no doubt I'd be sent straight to the naughty step. "The ability to speak does not make you intelligent. Now get out of here." ..If only it were that simple Liam.
Turning $100 Million into $1 Billion
...the nerds who grew up watching the original trilogy have grown up and have children of their own now, so the new Star Wars films would seem an ideal cinema experience and bit of 'bonding' as the parents get all nostalgic and the kids can giggle at the antics of Jar Jar. At least, that must've been the logic when writing the script. Like taking candy from a baby. The mere facts that this is Star Wars, is directed and written by George Lucas and it had been 16 years since the closure of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was enough to cause righteous delirium among the fans and majority of sci-fi geekdom. Even with the (in my humble opinion) TERRIBLE inclusion and importance of the Ewoks, fans determination to get that childhood space fix wouldn't be deterred. Lucas could've written anything down and pitched it as Episode 1 and each one of the cinema goers would have still gone to see it. Although many films nowadays eclipse the 100 million dollar budget this had, it was an almighty amount to have in the bank (to some extent, it still is now). As if any sum of money anywhere near 9 digits is to be scoffed at! I can recall the absolutely huge marketing campaign, stretching from McDonalds Happy Meal toys (you know you've made it big when your merchandise is a freebie in fast food aimed towards children!) to the usual figurines and televised spots - speaking of which, there was one that was about Darth Maul in which he spoke some fairly poignant words, setting him up as a more skulking, psychological type of villain when in reality, the words uttered in the ad weren't included, nor his perceived menacing charisma. Which brings me onto my next point...
The 2 Lines of Darth Maul
Untapped potential and zero character development. The trailers words were as follows: "Fear. Fear attracts the fearful, the strong, the weak, the innocent, the corrupt. Fear. Fear is my ally." This made Darth Maul, the Irodonian otherwise known as a Zabrak, a hulking bad guy who implied to have a more psychological element to his character, one that twisted the teachings of the Jedi arts, possibly being able to manipulate those around him with sheer will and prowess of the dark side. Instead we get a near mute baddie who goes for appearances rather than a wealth of words. "Tatooine is sparsely populated. If the homing trace is correct, I will find them quickly, Master." - All this line does is highlight the mans knowledge of a planet system and technology. That and he's obedient and/or respectful of his 'master.' "At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge." A thirst for vengeance is always a good thing to have in your villain repertoire, it's just an almighty shame he had nothing else to say! (or maybe he did, but Lucas wanted to go with the 'strong silent' type? In light of his minimal word-smithery, Maul remains a stand-out character and a favourite antagonist for many - surely that shows his appeal when so little info was shed on him or any sort of progression into his current being. The slightest hint of rumours of his return in Episode VIII had me stoked instantaneously - you know, as long as he doesn't get owned by a Padawan again.
Anakin Skywalker AKA Jesus Christ?
So what is it about this little b*st*rd that makes him so unbearable? That bowl cut? The acting in general? His age difference between future love interest? No, it's that he's a Gary Stu - essentially a perfect character or self insert for the author - so maybe Lucas imagined himself as a child and worse still, felt he could relate to JC. Jesus Christ is literally the inspiration here as Anakin's mother states at one point: "There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can't explain what happened." Whether this is supposed to be taken as fact is up for debate as the film at a stretch could be implying that she was raped and that they were just trying to cover it up as much as possible to fit the U rating. But in all likelihood, she's the virgin Mary and bore a child of God into this world. Believed to be 'the chosen one' to 'fulfill a prophecy' only enhances the religious nut-jobbery. However it really isn't the faith side that bugs me about him but rather the several "Woohoo's!" or "Yippees!" and the dumb luck bestowed on him in every aspect of his life, whether it's unnatural skill involving hi-tech machinery and piloting or acts that are supposed to be in defence of him - even when told to hide and play it safe he manages to steal the lime light without even being able to comprehend his surroundings and actions. With the release of The Force Awakens, appears to be wave of blinding hypocrisy as hordes of fans heap praise on a mary sue character, when this films Gary Stu was largely hated in droves. Either busy bodies are jumping on the victim/diversity bandwagon and relentlessly defending a female lead or poor old Anakin was hard done by.
"Bantha Fodder" (Blu-Ray)
Pronounced "Poodoo." The image used for this product is actually the the steel-book edition (it's still blu-ray but in a tin box or something) The same goes for the other 2 films that have been added to Ciao. Included in this version, there are 9 choices of subtitles and 3 dubs (English, French & Spanish) - needless to say, they've made this to gain nearly universal appeal. There are 2 audio commentaries - the first with the man himself, George Lucas, the second being interviews with the cast and crew. Despite being from the late nineties, both the visual and audio quality of the BR are top notch - as you'd expect from such a big name sci-fi mammoth. No 3D version included with this release (thank god). The extras however, are lacking at best and hardcore fans would be better off spending their money on the super expensive versions that come bundled together as sagas that are dubbed 'ultimate' or 'collectors edition' - but then again, if you really are a mega fan of this franchise (you nerd) then you'll probably be buying every type of copy known to man just so you can say you own every version - because watching Luke Skywalker's lightsaber in before and after restoration is so important.
"He had all the lightsaber fighting capabilities and the moves of the Jedi, only faster and more aggressive. My only conclusion... is that it was a Sith lord." (Positives)
+ Soundtrack - It already had the light and dark side themes from the first 3 films, along with immensely loved tracks like the cantina scene or just the credits or scrolling intro music. Somehow, they've upped the ante especially in regards to the climactic battle with unfolds like a ballet with the elegance of the battle choreography, passing of events outside of it and ebbing and flowing with characters speech overlaying at times. + Lightsabers - Everybody likes them so don't pretend you don't! The effects have been enhanced over the years, as have to the sounds they make and the styles in which they are used in battle - so good are the fight scenes that when compared to the duels in the original trilogy, it's rather amusing how far we have come... Maybe it was Darth Vaders suit that made it difficult to move properly...
+ Darth Maul - Easily my favourite character in the film which says a whole lot considering he barely says anything and has minimal screen. What an impact he has though with the striking make up, horns and the introduction of a double bladed lightsaber. He needed more dialogue but the end of the film is left open enough for a possible return - especially as other stories about him exist officially.+ Cast - Not just because of already established names like Neeson but because it heralded not one but two future stars in Portman and Knightley - whether you think of them as preficient in their craft now and here is irrelevant, you know who they are. Same goes for McGregor, the voicing of Darth Maul etc. Something that would continue to grow by adding Jackson to the crew at the end, setting up a bigger role.
"My parts are showing? Oh, my goodness, oh!" (Negatives)
- Classification - Being a U was a sign of childish peril when it was made public, the adults lining up outside the cinema would be waiting for something that little children unaccompanied by adults could get into, making a total mockery of what they had once known. Quite funny really. But still, this wide net over an entire audience meant there would be no bad language, violence or anything remotely suggestive... Leia
- Gary Stu - Being a U was bad enough but having one of the main characters, a child no less, be seemingly impervious to any error or mistake and just be some kind of wunderkind is an abysmal writing decision. The grown up dorks are already pissed about the classification, now they have to put up with someone flying a ship, destroying a base, winning a swoop race and being 'the chosen one'.- Story - The plot is minimal and not very 'galactic' as it's all about one little world we've never heard of amongst the many we have, the only familiar surface being that of the dusty sand planet Tatooine. Despite being aimed at children, it has an awful lot of hurdy-wordy stuff about trade and politics etc and too much emphasis on a child actor who's out of his comfort zone and inevitably replaceable.
- Jar Jar Binks - Worst character ever. Period.
Product Information : Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (Blu-ray)
Manufacturer's product description
Actor(s) (Last name, First name): Jackson, Samuel L.
DVD Region: Blu-ray
Director(s) (Last name, First name): Lucas, George
Video Category: Feature Film
Production Year: 1999
Listed on Ciao since: 24/04/2016