"IF.""> Film Threat - Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (dvd)

STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (DVD)

3 Stars
Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 127 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:

Everyone has been heaping praise on this disc calling it the “best of the year” and predicting that it will win every award category for every DVD awards it may be eligible for. Again, don’t give in to the hype. Yes, the menu screens are pretty and very clever and the two-disc set is a value for under $20 bucks, but there are problems. ^ MIssING CONTENT – For one thing, there are some things missing. For example, the tone poems, trailers focusing on several characters, are incomplete. Three of those trailers, ones for Obi-Wan, Queen Amidala (a shorter version) and Jar Jar are missing. How do I know? I have them and downloaded them from somewhere I don’t remember. If you don’t believe me, let me know and I’ll e-mail them to you. There’s no excuse for them to be left off. Unless they’re part of some “easter egg” which has not been found yet, and if they are, I apologize for bringing this up. ^ GRADE B-. ^ THE COMMENTARY – Yippee! George Lucas finally comes down from the mountain to offer his commentary on “Star Wars”! And what does he say? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He offers virtually no insights into storytelling, filmmaking or the Star Wars films. Once you get over the fact that you are hearing George Lucas’ voice commenting on “Star Wars” on a DVD, it’s an incredible letdown. He only teases that, “…this will mean something when you see all six films together.” Okay. Perhaps we should wait for the full commentary when all six films are released on DVD. ^ The commentary is supplemented by producer Rick McCallum, co-editor Ben Burtt and special effects wizards from ILM Jon Knoll, Dennis Muren and Scott Squires. Rick doesn’t say much of anything useful, but does he ever? Ben Burtt offers little, but the worst is hearing the broken record from the effects guys: “This was done with computers. This was done in front of a blue screen. This was done with computers. This was done in front of a blue screen. This was done with computers. This was done in front of a blue screen. This was done with computers. This was done in front of a blue screen…” Is that all they have to say? Wow. It could have been so much better. ^ GRADE D- ^ THE DELETED SCENES/DELETED SCENES DOC – This is much more interesting, but, well, there’s a reason they were deleted and the doc does a great job of explaining this. Well done! ^ GRADE A ^ THE WEB DOCS – Well, they were great when we first viewed them, but they have not aged well. However, I’m happy they were included for historical reasons and for those of us who must have it all. ^ GRADE B ^ “THE BEGINNING” DOCUMENTARY – This is by far the best part of the disc. But I don’t think I enjoyed it for the same reasons that other fans did. What I love most about this documentary is the approach — the doc has no narration, no interviews direct to camera and no stirring “Star Wars” music to manipulate your emotions. We are simply observers watching the process and this is where the fun really begins! We see first-hand all of Lucas’ missteps leading up to the greatest cinematic disappointment in movie history! ^ We start with the storyboards being presented to the primary players in the production and Lucas says prophetically, “Jar Jar is the key to all this. If we get Jar Jar working. Because he’s a funnier than we’ve ever had in any of the movies before.” That’s a very big “IF.” ^ George then goes on to explain that Anakin’s final attack on the Trade Federation ship is like Luke’s attack on the Death Star in “Episode IV.” George explains that the films are “like poetry” because the two scenes “rhyme.” Rhyme? Uh, when does “rhyming” ever happen in movies? What he calls a “rhyme,” I would call a “retread” or “repeating yourself” or “unoriginal” or “a lack of ideas.” I swear when George laid that “poetry/stanza” crap on his fellow filmmakers he actually rolled his eyes in some kind of subconscious acknowledgement that he is simply completely BS’ing his way through this. He ends by saying, “Hopefully it will work.” Hopefully. ^ We’re then witness to the casting of young Anakin Skywalker and we see Jake Lloyd and two other child actors that are not identified. The first child can barely speak as he has trouble simultaneously digesting the pre-audition sweet snack he was given. We see the next boy who delivers his lines perfectly, looks more like a young Mark Hamill and even has some level of “intensity.” Isn’t that something you’d want in a child actor portraying the young Darth Vader? This blond-haired young boy delivers a performance that is heads and tails above anything Lloyd actually did in the film. Then Jake gets up and struggles through his lines — he can barely spit them out. What follows is even more distressing, George proclaims Lloyd the right choice because, “…he’s unpredictable.” What he sees as “unpredictable” I saw as just fucking up his lines. Then the “Yes” men that surround George simply back up his decision by saying that the better acting kid simply “…auditons well” and they like “Jake’s body language.” Huh? Did they see the same tape that I just saw? Isn’t that the point of an audition? You know, if you’re good in the audition you’ll be good on camera? Guess not. ^ What’s even more sad is the scene the comes right after the audition session when the Hollywood vultures (agents, managers, “acting” coaches) descend on poor, innocent Jake as he signs his contract. I cringe when I see people like that in Hollywood now and it sickened me even more to see little Jake surrounded by them in the doc. ^ An even more telling scene happens later when Frank Oz is performing in his Grover from “Sesame Street” voice for the bargain basement cheap Yoda puppet they used in the film. Frank looks at a digital effects test for Jar Jar and tells George, “You don’t need me.” George then confesses to Oz later his feelings about the whole Star Wars franchise saying “…you can screw this up. I made American Graffiti 2 and it made about 10 cents.” ^ After viewing a rough cut of the film, George is clearly shaken by the problems he sees. He is consoled by Ben “Yes-Man” Burtt who offers words of encouragement rather than criticism of the film’s problems. ^ There are so many great moments, the only thing I can add is that I wish it were longer. The doc is truly the best part of the disc. I don’t want to ruin it by giving you a blow-by-blow of every scene, I would only ask that you attempt to view the documentary looking for these strange uncomfortable moments. It makes it a lot more fun. ^ DOC GRADE A +



Posted on May 8, 2002 in Reviews by
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