Reviews for region 1 discs From Ultimate DVD #22

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

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  • An American Werewolf in London
  • Basic Instinct: Special Edition
  • Batman: Spec. Ed.
  • Enemy at the Gates
  • Josie & the Pussycats
  • Meet Joe Black: Ultimate Edition
  • Memento
  • The Mummy Returns
  • Notting Hill: Ult. Ed.
  • Ordinary People
  • Say it Isn't So
  • Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
  • Star Trek Volumes 29 and 30
  • Total Recall:
    Special Edition
  • Waiting for Guffman
  • Wallace and Gromit
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STAR WARS EPISODE 1:
THE PHANTOM MENACE
Jump to Extras Rated: PG

The Movie

We of a certain age know what's wrong with The Phantom Menace: the opening scroll about taxation instead of secret plans and Death Stars, two leading men less lively than you'd expect, Queen (is that her?) Amidala's excessive costume/hair style changes, the unintelligible Ya-Boo Sucks - sorry, Jar Jar Binks - who contributes only through idiocy rather than will, no roguish Han Solo-type mercenary, calling Darth Vader-to-be by a girl's name, killing the best villain off too soon and, worst of all, explaining The Force. But then, Return of the Jedi, with it's rehashed Death Star plot and teddy bear toy campaign was hardly flawless. And, if nothing else, Episode I raises the hope that episodes IIand III will be better.

Disappointment aside, the technical accomplishments of The Phantom Menace are astonishing and translate exquisitely to DVD. Unexpectedly, this version of Star Wars I differs from the theatrical version in that there are three additions that improve the movie.

Yes, the pod race is already too long and belongs in another film altogether, but the expanded starting-grid sequence shows us more contestants (the John Gielgud one is superb) and the longer lap two actually reveals Anakin to be a more skilful pilot. The air taxi sequence on Coruscant - a wordless tour of the cityscape to rousing music - allows the audience a much needed moment to catch it's breath.

Flawed the film is but, love it or loathe it, The Phantom Menace is how the beloved Star Wars saga 3 stars - Worth a Watchbegins. I'm afraid you'll have to buy it.

The Extras

And frankly, if you're going to put up with the film as part of your Star Wars movie collection, this DVD presentation is the way to see it. The folks at Lucasfilm have really gone to town with this release and had some fun on the way, not least with their well-designed and cheeky menus. There are at least three variations of the opening menus, Naboo/Coruscant/Tatooine with differing scene access and Language options - chosen at random when you insert the disc. Try not to wear out your tray mechanism trying to load them!

Be aware that the generous 'six hours' of extras on this release includes the Commentary track with Writer/Director Lucas, Producer Rick McCallum, and key editing/sound design/special effects wizards.

The Notorious George LucasConcentrating mostly on technical aspects of the production, and with little interaction between participants (only the ILM crew were in the room together) it is a little dry. Still, it's a first for Lucas himself who might be more relaxed in future releases. But that still leaves us with plenty of bonus material on the second disc, all of which (bar the TV Trailer spots and the Duel of the Fates music video) is anamorphically enhanced.

The most anticipated additions are the Deleted Scenes with effects completed especially for the DVD (see box). These can be watched either separately or as part of a framing documentary which explains their excision from the movie. In the case of the waterfall sequence, the CGI artist at ILM shows us how he constructed the sequence, layer by layer. Fascinating.

The one hour Documentary, The Beginning, is distilled from 600 hours of video material and, sans distracting narration, conveys the rigours and delights of creating the Menace; the set-destroying storm in Tunisia is heartbreaking but the search for Liam Neeson's missing beard certainly lightens the mood! There are also five eight-minute Featurettes detailing storyline, design, costumes, visual effects and, my personal favourite, the swordfight-training.

It's right and proper that the originating award-winning, 12-part Web-Documentary has been included for all to enjoy. But it is a little irksome, given the wealth of material filmed, that large chunks of it were reused for the five Featurettes and the hour Documentary.

The interactive Animatics section allows us to view three effects sequences as either a storyboard sequence, a crude video animation or the final version, by using the angle button on the remote control (the one you never use). As well as 75 Production Stills and the Print and Poster campaign, the menu for this section, set in Watto's parts emporium, is cute. Take too long to pick anything and he tells you to get out of his shop!

Movie Trailers, Web Links and a brief 'Making of the Starfighter video game' completes5 stars - Digital Dynamite the generous bonus material.

Mike Fillis

A Force to be reckoned with?

Credits
Star Wars on DVD

Cast
Ewan McGregor
Liam Neeson
Natalie Portman
Director • George Lucas
Year • 1999
R1 Duration • 133 mins
R2 Duration • 131 mins
Screen Ratio • 2.35:1
Anamorphic • Yes
Audio • DD5.1, 2.0
Chapters • 50
R1 Languages •
English, Spanish
R2 Language • English
R1 Subtitles • English
R2 Subtitles • English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish
R1 Release • October 16
R2 Release • October 15
Distributor •
20th Century Fox

 

Order the Region 2 DVD @BlackStar: big discount on pre-orders!

The Deleted Waterfall Sequence

Deleted Scenes

Complete Podrace Grid Sequence
It's a bit like The Wacky Races but with one too many cute participants. Where's the Bouldermobile?!

Extended Podrace Lap Two
Thrilling and cohesive, this sequence shows racing rival Sebulba to be utterly ruthless! Kids will love this.

The Waterfall Sequence
Jar Jar and the Jedi Knights surface at the edge of a waterfall and can't restart their engine! Will they escape before the submarine plunges to destruction?

The Air Taxi Sequence
"Savour Coruscant's majesty, your Majesty."

Dawn Before the Race
C3PO shines Anakin's cockpit before the race. The desert stuff looks fake.

The Deleted Air Taxi Sequence

Anakin's Scuffle with Greedo
"You'll come to a bad end if you carry on like that, Greedo..."
Yes, of course it had to go!

Farewell to Jira
'Lawks-a-mercy, your'e a good'un, young Anni!' Sickly Cockney stallholder says farewell to the future Lord of the Sith. He should have crushed her throat there and then...

 

Highlight

Chapter 39 -
Duel of the Fates

That energetic light-sabre fight in the Reactor Hall between the Jedi and Maul, the coolest villain in the Galaxy.

But, on the bonus disc, the outtake showing a 600mph Sand crawler overtaking the pod races wins hands down!

From Ultimate DVD #22

Images © Lucasfilm / 20th Century Fox
Review © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction

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