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    Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace [28]

    Movie Reviews
    Wow, was I ready to see this movie. George Lucas is finally filling out episodes I, II, and III of the Star Wars saga. 1983 to 1999 was a long time to wait. Back in 1977, when the opening crawl of Star Wars changed to show “Episode IV”, the lumber was laid for a complete set of movies. We later found out that the sequel, The Empire Strikes back, was going to be produced. We did not know about Return of the Jedi yet. George promised us later that there would be nine movies altogether. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fischer, and Mark Hamill spoke on interview shows about an eventual reunion in 2000 for the 9th and final movie. The droids, C3PO and R2-D2 were to be the recurring characters throughout the nine movies. The year 2000 was an eternity away. Much could happen between 1977 and 2000 that would halt the production of any more movies. We had seen it before.

    Our worries came true, Episodes I through III were ten years delayed. And there were times where it seemed they would never be made.

    Move forward now to the 1990’s. Lucasfilm releases the special editions of episodes IV, V, and VI to the theaters with the promise that they are gearing up to finally make Episode I. With the explosion of the World Wide Web, it was only natural that there would be web sites and discussion groups devoted to this great series. The Group29 web site is only one of many. Every single detail about the movie production was scrutinized and analyzed. Spy information was flowing out of Skywalker Ranch at every turn. We had pictures, sound bites, script treatments, and actor comments. You could pretty much know how the entire movie went based upon the discussion groups. Many endeavored to be spoiler free. I figured that I would not consciously avoid mainstream information like trailers, stills, or newspaper articles. After all, for the previous three movies I did the same thing.

    When the movie was finally released, I wanted to see it as soon as possible. I figured opening night was out of the question as all the theaters were booked. As luck would have it, a new multiplex theater opened near my home not far from a similar complex which was usually packed. I was able to walk up in the afternoon and buy tickets for the midnight screening. I must give credit to my spouse. She was 7 months pregnant, and not sleeping well. It was her suggestion I try that theater. She figured she would be up anyway.

    So we went to the midnight screening. My wife wore her pajamas and brought a pillow. I got comfortable and eagerly awaited the 20th Century Fox Fanfare and opening theme. However, the projectionist muffed up the start of the reel and then the sound was way to loud. Everything settled down after that.

    I had a hard time swallowing the fact that Anakin was so young. I see how it makes sense in the story arc. But I was expecting a teen-ager. When Anakin leaves Tattooine to go with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi to begin his Jedi training, he looks like a kindergartener heading to the bus stop with his knapsack.

    The pod race sequence was quite cool. I liked the sounds effects, especially the pulse jets of the pods. It was just like a dirt track race. The pods all sounded like hot rods. The camera angles and close quarters made for a great entertainment experience, almost like the virtual rides at an amusement park.

    The space ships were great designs. The Naboo fighters and the queen’s carrier all were slim and elegant. They looked like they came from a Sci-Fi novel cover painting from the early seventies. Many people have complained about Jar Jar Binks. I think that he was what he was, a different species. He was neither annoying, nor heroic. He was just part of the story and comic relief. The CGI made him look quite real.

    The introductions seemed strange. "R2 D2, meet C3PO", "Anakin, meet Obi Wan". It did not seem the stuff of an epic storyline to have the primary characters shake hands as if conducting a business deal.

    The lightsabre duel with Darth Maul vs. Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi was very cool. This is where the movie kicked into high gear. It also featured the first new scoring that I noticed (The Duel Of The Fates). It is a very intense repetition of a 5-note sequence, like machinery in motion. Now that was a lightsabre duel! It makes the fight between Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi appear exactly as it was: Two worn out men fighting their last.

    Natalie Portman makes a very attractive Queen Amidala. Somehow we realize that she and Anakin are going to have a relationship in the next two movies. That is another problem with Anakin being so young. Isn’t he supposed to be Luke and Leia’s father? And is Padmé Amidala going to be their mother? I will have to ride out the next two movies to find out.

    One of the best features is that Ian McDiarmid reprises his role as Palpatine, the Senator, turned Chancellor, turned Emperor. He also clearly plays Darth Sidious the senior Sith lord. So which is the true nature of Palpatine? Is the energetic, outgoing, handsome Senator Palpatine his true identity or is Sidious? Is he possessed? Is he a shape changer? All is possible with the dark side of the Force it appears. And if there are always two Sith, and we know that Anakin will eventually be one of them with the Emperor as another, will there be one more Sith lord that Anakin has to defeat? It is all too much.

    I was so happy to finally see another installment of the Star Wars saga and look forward very much to Episodes II and III. {BB}

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    Added: March 30th 2005
    Reviewer: BB
    29 Point Scale Score: 28    [28]

    Related Link (IMDB): IMDB
    Hits: 3608
    Language: english


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