Ain't It Cool News (


I am – Hercules!!

What did some talkbackers have to say about Coax’s wholly exclusive March 18 news that the "Phantom Menace" DVD would arrive in stores on Oct. 16?

“B.S. Seriously folks, aint it cool will probably be the LAST to have ANY finalized details on the Star Wars DVD's! Their are a couple of BONIFIED DVD news sites that have more connections and inside info regarding ANYTHING related to SW on DVD...THAT'S a proven FACT!!!” - sprocket-bot

“Yeah! What Sprocket-Bot said! So there.” – Lightstormer

“I beieve if they do release Episode 1 on dvd it will be in late nov. early dec. to coincide with the release of the title and trailer for Episode 2. They would also put it out at that time for the Christmas rush. Iwould like to see Lucasfilm attach the EP 2 trailer to the dvd for EP 1.” – wrestling studd

“I'll watch the street date come and go with no DVD. Yup, betcha 20 bucks this is another pile of ‘How Wude!’.” – Edsel

Ah sweet memories.

The last thing Alexandra DuPont did before she boarded that X-50 to complete her work on the NSA’s optical image stabilizer (that’s right, kids -- as I write this she’s secretly orbiting 23,000 miles above our heads!) was file this epic look at what will surely become in record time the best-selling DVD in history.

Thanks as always to The DVD Journal for the regular loan of the comely (and versatile!) Alexandra’s work.

Review by Alexandra DuPont                    

I. "The Phantom Menace" Revisited; or, the Unbearable Dichotomy of a Disappointing Movie on an Extremely Swank DVD

[box cover]I first reviewed the colon-addled Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace for this site just before the movie came out in May 1999. You can read what I wrote here.

I'm sorry to report that my opinion's changed precious little in the intervening two years and change.

The hype surrounding Episode I (and the ensuing Balkanization of Star Wars fandom when it didn't meet everyone's long-boiling expectations) will make for a fascinating sociological study at some point. There's certainly plenty of reference material lying around. In the 16 years after Return of the Jedi — which left the series' success ratio at an impressive 2.5/3, Ewoks notwithstanding — Star Wars had become holy writ, a sort of cinematic religion. Creator George Lucas had pulled off a remarkable, three-pronged artistic achievement with his original trilogy: He'd pushed the technical envelope of moviemaking with as much audacity as Melies, Harryhausen and Griffith; he'd blended Kurosawa, Joseph Campbell, Westerns and Flash Gordon to create a beautifully escalating modern fable; and, in pure business terms, he'd used his success to take control of his creation and become history's most successful independent filmmaker.

(And I'm not even mentioning his artistically risky triumph with The Empire Strikes Back — which was, after all, an elegant and symphonic but resolutely unhappy follow-up to what was at the time the most popular movie in history — or his brilliant, controversial, trailblazing forays into movie merchandising. Lucas is, for good or ill, the late 20th century's most influential filmmaker.)

Reading the above resume, it's easy to argue that, with Episode I, Lucas couldn't help but disappoint. Asking the director to one-up the mythology that had grown around him is a bit like asking Atlas to shot-put the world in addition to carrying it.


I personally regard the "nobody could meet those expectations" arguments as a bit of a cop-out. Taken on its own artistic merits, The Phantom Menace — for me and pretty much every older fan I know, anyway — is a maddening mixed bag.

To be sure, time has tempered the white-hot rage of my initial review. I did box up most of my Star Wars collectibles — not unlike an abused wife tearing up pictures of her husband after she leaves him. But I did come to recognize that John Williams' music, which I sort of mercilessly slammed in my initial writeup, is actually quite lovely. More important, I recognized that Lucas' greatest talent — his ability to create fully formed worldscapes with rich, idiosyncratic histories — is still pretty damned impressive. Taken as pure Star Tours-ish travelogue and visual feast, The Phantom Menace's mise en scene is astounding. From the baubles of the underwater city to the Blade Runner-by-way-of-the-EPA stylings of Coruscant to the Flash Gordon Renaissance Faire that is Naboo, Episode I is incredibly generous with its production design. And between the "Pod Race" and the blazing final lightsaber duel and assorted effects shots, there are about 20 quality minutes scattered throughout the movie, seeds sprouting in compost.

But, as with The Godfather Part III, purtiness and a handful of quality moments simply aren't enough. As cinema, The Phantom Menace fails on several fundamental levels. My major critiques are in my initial DVD Journal review , but the highlights bear repeating. The dialogue is entirely too expository and dull, telling rather than showing again and again and again. The plot, even by the self-contained standards of the Star Wars universe, is riddled with holes and begs a few too many questions. (One minor example: Why the hell did Qui-Gon bring Anakin to that hangar firefight? Don't they have babysitters on Naboo?) The forays into wacky, childish comedy are ill-timed, as if Buster Keaton's antics had been arrived at by committee. The adventure is so sanitized that there's never any real sense of risk. There is, dear Lord, a fart joke.

What's doubly frustrating is that the movie's worst moments are placed cheek-by-jowl alongside its best — making it tough to chapter-search The Phantom Menace to watch only "the good parts." That fart joke, for example, is right there in the otherwise dynamic pod race. Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson, grounded and charming as Jedi Knights, spend much of their time interacting with the vocally flat Natalie Portman and/or the shrill, grating, ILM-generated Jar-Jar Binks. One remarkable ILM creation, Watto the flying junk salesman, is right there alongside wee, ill-directed Jake Lloyd. And in the film's rapidly cut, four-pronged climax, only one — the lightsaber duel — is more or less cringe-free.

But here's a kooky punchline:

II. The Episode I DVD is bloody exceptional.

In terms of presentation and design and quality of extras, the Phantom Menace two-platter set (which arrives on Tuesday, Oct. 16) really is one of the better DVDs yet produced. It feels definitive; it grants you remarkable access to the filmmakers; it looks and sounds great; the menus are clever and for the most part not too cumbersome; and it's packed with deleted scenes and fascinating nonsense, with precious little waste or redundancy.

Shall we take a bit-by-bit tour of the discs? Let's do!

III. Some brief notes on the feature, which is, I suppose, a "director's cut"

It will surprise no one to read that (a) Disc One contains a flawless anamorphic transfer of the movie, and (b) it looks and sounds snazzy. (However, as with pretty much every CGI-heavy film, the computer-generated elements are somewhat more ... apparent on the small screen.)

What may come as a surprise is that this is a mildly expanded cut of the film — with maybe a minute and change added to the Pod Race (both in the introduction of racers and the race itself) and a brief "air taxi" tour of Coruscant added just after our heroes arrive at the city-planet. The original cut is nowhere to be found. I wonder if this makes y'all's videotape copies somehow valuable.

IV. So how about that commentary track?

It's good. Featuring seven well-prepared participants — Lucas, McCallum, sound-design genius/co-editor Ben Burtt, animation director Rob Coleman, and effects supervisors John Knoll, Dennis Muren and Scott Squires — the commentary is well-constructed, fast-moving and (alas) gossip-free. It's also almost entirely about how they pulled off the technical, not narrative, achievements, which is apt.

My only frustration with the commentary, in fact, lies with a few of Lucas' comments. While it's wonderful to hear a couple of tidbits about how the battle droids will evolve into stormtroopers over the next two films and how his Modesto car-culture upbringing played heavily into the Pod Race (easily the most personal and fully-realized part of the movie), the Flanneled One, while genial, also seems ever-so-slightly unaware that (a) many, many fans hate Jar-Jar Binks and (b) one of the things fans loved the about the Force was that it wasn't fully explained.

To wit: Here's Lucas talking about the silly scene where Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon first meet Jar-Jar (just after Jar-Jar has somewhat controversially declared himself to be Qui-Gon's "humble servant," I might add):

"This is actually one of my favorite scenes — especially in terms of Jar-Jar. This is the scene where we were really able to take a digital character and make him photorealistic and have him interact with the live actors in a way that seemed believable. ["believable"? — Ed.] It's one of the first scenes we actually did, and I still think it's one of the best."

And here's Lucas talking about the dread "midichlorians," which sort of quantify the Force biologically and in my mind represent a disastrous, unnecessary addition to Star Wars lore. Note how he feels his narrative mission these days is to explain everything:

"Bringing midichlorians into it as a device is something that existed from the beginning, but I never had the time to go into any explanation, because any time these rather larger concepts come into play — you know, 'How does the galaxy work? What is the Force?' — you have to be very sort of cryptic and deal in almost fortune-cookie descriptions. And it's very difficult to get a concept across. But I figured in this movie I could begin to bring out the concept of midichlorians and their job in being sensitive to the Force, and why some people are more susceptible to the Force than others — which is an issue that's in [A New Hope], but you never know why the Force is strong with some people and not strong with other people. What is the device that causes that to happen?"

To which I reply: Who cares? And here's another comment:

"We also get into this thing of 'What are midichlorians? How do they work?' Which advances a little bit the story of the Force and how does the Force work and how do we come to know the Force — which is part of Anakin's training in learning to become a Jedi, and to take the idea of the Force one step further. The midichlorians are sort of a side issue — not the metaphysical, spiritual side of the Force, but the more practical, biological, physical part of the Force, or how we come to know the Force — which has to do with the genetics of why some people are more attuned to the Force than others."

To be fair, this is an otherwise excellent, glib commentary — even if certain of Lucas' apparent blind spots make me sort of worried about Episode II.

Moving on to the marvelous Disc Two, we find the real gravy. I'm fairly certain I'll be watching the Phantom Menace "value-added" material far more frequently than the actual feature — a total reversal of my usual DVD-consumption habits. Here's why: Lucasfilm's promotional and behind-the-scenes materials, most of them released before Episode I, got me vastly more excited about (and nostalgic for) Star Wars than Episode I itself. And all of those promo materials — the Web documentaries, the trailers, the posters, the interviews — are on the special-features disc. Ergo, in many ways Disc Two pushes all the thrill buttons for me that Disc One tries to push. Frankly, there's more genuine drama, more unguarded moments, to be found among the behind-the-scenes material.

V. Under the "Trailers and TV Spots" menu ...

... we find the oft-downloaded "Teaser Trailer" and "Theatrical Trailer", which are, let's face it, excellent and effective examples of how to market a film.

There's also the "Duel of the Fates" music video (4:18), which intercuts clips from the film with composer John Williams conducting his repetitive, ersatz "Carmina Burana." (Make no mistake — as film music goes, "Duel" is powerful stuff, but I do feel compelled to quote the DVD Journal editor's remarks upon first hearing the piece: "Hey — John Williams knows how to count to eight!")

Here also we find seven TV spots. First there are the five "Tone Poems," in which characters narrate "profound" utterances over relevant film footage: "One Love," featuring Anakin's mother; "One Dream," featuring Anakin; "One Destiny," featuring Qui-Gon; "One Will," featuring Queen Amidala; and my favorite, "One Truth," which features Darth Maul saying some seductive nonsense about how fear attracts "the weak, the strong" ... and pretty much everyone else, apparently. There are also two "Adventure"-themed commercials — "The Saga Begins" and "All Over Again."

Oh, and if you leave the "TV Spots" menu on long enough, Darth Sidious appears onscreen and says, "We must accelerate our plans."

VI. Under the "Deleted Scenes and Documentaries" menu ...

... is where I'm guessing you'll be spending most of your time, young DVD consumer — for this is where the edition's two most compelling features can be found.

First, there's "The Beginning: Making Episode I" — a 1:06:15 behind-the-scenes documentary that sort of plays like the "Real World" of making-of docs. Reportedly culled from 600 hours of raw video, this remarkably low-spin feature has no voice-over narration or posed, talking-heads interviews — and there's also plenty of nervous navel-gazing (or, in Rick McCallum's case, profanity) as the filmmakers trot around the world trying to resurrect the Star Wars franchise.

I really can't over-emphasize what a terrific feature this is — and how much it makes you root for the men and women of Lucasfilm, including the supposed "corporate whore" Lucas, who comes off as a genial, bright, occasionally goofy guy who worries about (a) spending too much money and (b) making a crappy movie. (At one point on the palace set, Lucas remarks, "I made More American Graffiti and it made 10 cents. There's always a risk you'll destroy it.")

The documentary begins with Lucas pulling out thousands of storyboards (visibly overwhelming a younger, thinner, un-goateed John Knoll) and ends with a profane McCallum introducing the finished film to a packed audience of lightsaber-wielding geeks on opening night. Along the way, we see Ewan McGregor freaking out as he selects his lightsaber and films his fight scenes; McCallum schmoozing on the phone and cursing like a sailor; John Knoll being grouchy and cool and raising an attitudinal eyebrow as the pressure keeps mounting; Lucas trying to catch lightning in a bottle as he coaxes a "performance" out of wee Jake Lloyd; the Tatooine set destroyed by a sandstorm; Lucas getting pissed when he realizes he may not have needed to spring $100,000 on a rubber Jar-Jar suit after all; and Steven Spielberg checking out a battle droid on the Naboo set with Lucas at the crack of dawn, with Lucas promising the final droid/Gungan battle will be "War and Peace."

It should be noted that the documentary fades to black when the words "Star Wars" first appear onscreen at the nerd-packed screening, with the audience screaming ecstatically. This is an apt move, as that exact moment probably represents the peak of mature Star Wars fandom. Unless Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III are somehow unbelievably brilliant, it's most likely downhill from there.

But "The Beginning" isn't the only reason to linger in this menu. There are also seven deleted scenes with completed effects — viewable separately or as part of a documentary that features interviews with Lucas, McCallum, directors Francis Ford Coppola and Phillip Kaufman, editor Walter Murch, and assorted ILM staff:

• The "Complete Podrace Grid Sequence" is a considerably extended cut of the opening ceremonies and revving-up of the Pod Race sequence — and it mostly serves to make the Pod Race look even more like Hanna-Barbera's "Wacky Racers" than it already does, if I may hijack a good friend's comparison. A few more racers are introduced, one of which has a family waving to him from the sidelines (the baby alien playing with toy pod-racers is a nice touch, BTW); there's an added shot of the eopie, good Lord, screwing its face up before farting in Jar-Jar's face; there's some extra revving of pod engines; there's a bit where three pit droids whack each other like the Three Stooges; and there's a POV shot of a little space frog about to get its head bitten off by Jabba the Hutt. Some of this footage was re-incorporated into the DVD cut of the film, as well. (Oh, and if you fiddle around in the "Deleted Scenes Only" menu, you'll find an "Easter Egg" in the menu for this scene, with Lucas and ILM staff talking about the sequence.)

"Extended Podrace Lap Two" is probably the coolest of these scenes — featuring plenty of extra mayhem as Anakin moves up the pack after his delayed start. Among other additions, there's an second racer pit stop; a shot where an alien sticks his head out the side of his pod and gets a bug in his face; two instances of Sebulba shooting flames out of the sides of his pod engines at fellow racers, a la the wheel spikes in Ben Hur; and Anakin losing control of his pod briefly when one of the connecting cables comes uncoupled. (There's another "Easter Egg" in the "Deleted Scenes Only" menu for this sequence, as well.)

"The Waterfall Sequence" is a extraneous little bit in which Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Jar-Jar have to escape their "bongo" sub before it goes over a waterfall. For those who felt Jar-Jar didn't engage in every tired form of slapstick short of slipping on a banana peel, you'll be happy to hear that he trips and falls into the water while shrieking like a Dutch schoolboy. Silly Jar Jar! (In the deleted-scenes documentary, BTW, we talk with the beleaguered ILM employee who cobbled this scene together on his computer using many more elements than you'd expect. It's very clever and impressive.)

"The Air Taxi Sequence" is a lovely little tour of Coruscant that Jar-Jar and Anakin take en route to Palpatine's office. It's beautiful and brief, and I can totally see why Lucas put it back in the movie.

"Dawn Before the Race" is easily the worst of the deleted scenes. It features Kister riding up on a hastily-rendered eopie at sunrise, and Padme coming down the stairs and waking up Anakin, who apparently fell asleep outside while working on his pod racer, which Threepio and Artoo are still polishing. This scene fails on several levels: It's probably the worst example of Natalie Portman's weak vocal delivery during the Tatooine sequences; it's cause to call Child Protective Services on Shmi; and Threepio looks like he's about to fall over.

"Anakin's Scuffle with Greedo" features Jake Lloyd getting into a fight with, yes, a wee Greedo, who accuses him of cheating. (I'm surprised Lucas didn't re-cut the scene so Greedo punched first.) Qui-Gon breaks it up, telling Anakin to "tolerate his opinion." It's not a particularly well-staged bit of business, but it would have been nice to see this small bit of Dark Side foreshadowing in the final cut.

"Farewell to Jira" is relatively useless — featuring as it does Anakin saying farewell to the old lady running the fruit stand — but it does contain one bit that I really wish Lucas had left in the film: Qui-Gon slashing one of Maul's probe droids, realizing that they're being followed, and taking off running for the Queen's ship. It's mildly exciting, and it explains why Qui-Gon and Anakin are jogging when Maul attacks them. (With any luck, the talented wag who made the "Phantom Edit" will work this into a "Phantom Edit: Special Edition," hm?)

It's also worth noting that you can see additional deleted snippets — most notably from the final space battle and lightsaber duel — at the end of the deleted-scenes documentary. (They cut footage out of the lightsaber duel? Why?)

VII. Under the "Featurettes, Web Documentaries and" menu ...

... you'll find much of the clever online material that got us so excited about this film before it came out.

There are, of course, the 12 "Web Documentaries," ranging from about 4 to 8 minutes in length apiece: "All I Need is an Idea" (taped in 1994, featuring Lucas starting work on the Episode I screenplay in his office); "Thousands of Things," which focuses on Doug Chiang's design sketches; "Home Sweet Home," covering the building of Anakin's hovel; "Boys in Paradise," featuring the hard-core Brits of the props department; "This is a Creature Film," in which Star Wars makeup legend Stuart Freeborn visits the creature shop and is presented with a Yoda bust; "Prime of the Jedi," in which we train with fight choreographer Nick Gillard; "Assistant Directors," which profiles, um, assistant directors; "Three Thousand Anakins," in which we see screen-tests and visit the first cast read-through; "It's Like War Now," profiling Rick McCallum; "Costume Drama"; Bad Droid Karma," documenting in humorous fashion the myriad problems with the remote-controlled R2-D2s; and, finally, "Movie Music," which shows John Williams conducting the score (and which doesn't show Lucas hacking Williams' final reel of music to ribbons as he re-edits the film continuously before release).

There are also five "Featurettes," which breezily dissect the "Visual Effects" (8:36), "Costumes" (8:07), "Design" (7:14), "Fights" (7:51) and "Story" (8:14) of the film. Favorite moment: Discovering how unbelievably soft-spoken Ray Park is. (To the DVD producers' credit, BTW, there's very little footage recycled among all these various making-of documentaries. It's a real meal, and it's never dull.)

VIII. And under the "Animatics and Still Galleries" menu ...

... you'll find multi-angle storyboard/animatic/final-film dissections for "Podrace Lap One" and the "Submarine Sequence," with an accompanying "Introduction to Animatics" feature; an "Exclusive Production Photos" gallery; a "Print Campaign" gallery; "Posters" in various languages; and, in this DVD edition's only nod to cross-platform advertising, a 4:00 featurette called "Star Wars: Starfighter: The Making of a Game" — which is in itself interesting because it features renderings of Obi-Wan's Episode II starfighter in action (apparently being hit by Force lightning, if I'm not mistaken).

Oh, and if you linger in this section's main menu too long, Watto flies out and says, in Huttese, "Hey, offworlder! Pick something or get out of my shop!"

IX. Any other Easter eggs?

Other than the deleted-scenes eggs listed above, there are a couple that I'm aware of, thanks to The Digital Bits:

• For one thing, you can access three different menu schemes on Disc One — patterned on Tatooine, Naboo and Coruscant. To access the Naboo menu, during the Attention warning screen, press "Audio". To access the Tatooine menu, during the Attention warning screen, press "2". To access the Coruscant menu, during the Attention warning screen, press "10+", "2", "2".

• There's also a DVD credits/"blooper reel" feature. To see it (and I'm quoting from the Bits here), go to the Options menu page and press "10+", "1" and wait for the pause as the player accepts the input. Then press "3" and wait for the pause. Finally, press "8". Your reward is a collection of such wacky, ILM-crafted hijinks as a Jawa Sandcrawler zooming along the pod-race route, Jar-Jar asking Qui-Gon to release his tongue after a take is over, and Artoo smashing into props and people on the set. One thing that's sort of affecting here is that on a couple of the dinner-table outtakes, everyone cracks up — and the actors come to life in a way they didn't in the movie itself. It makes you wish Lucas had played a little looser with his actors.

And that, for pity's sake, is that.

— Alexandra DuPont

(P.S. I'm looking to view a copy — on video disc, DVD, or tape — of the fabled "Phantom Edit" Episode I bootleg that chops out something like 20 mins. of footage and supposedly plays much, much tauter than the official release. Please e-mail me if you can lend a hand.)

(Final rating extensively mitigated by high quality of DVD extras)

  • Color
  • Anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1)
  • English Dolby 5.1 Surround EX, English Dolby 2.0 Surround, Spanish Dolby 2.0 Surround (French Dolby 2.0 on Canadian version)
  • English Subtitles
  • Commentary by George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt, Rob Coleman, John Knoll, Dennis Muren and Scott Squires
  • Seven deleted scenes, viewable separately or with documentary interviews
  • "Making-of" documentary, "The Beginning"
  • Two multi-angle storyboard/animatic/final-film segments, with accompanying "Introduction to Animatics" feature
  • Five featurettes: "Visual Effects," "Costumes," "Design," "Fights," and "Story"
  • 12 Web documentaries
  • Two theatrical trailers
  • Seven TV spots
  • "Duel of the Fates" music video
  • Print-campaign gallery
  • Poster gallery
  • Production-photo gallery
  • "Star Wars: Starfighter: The Making of a Game" promotional featurette
  • DVD-ROM content (PC only)
  • Dual-DVD slimline keep-case

  • Readers Talkback
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    • Oct. 15, 2001, 2:19 a.m. CST

      And NO Episode 2 Trailer, way to go.....

      by MCVamp

      No offense, Ms. Dupont usually nails her reviews. This one sounded bitter from the start. I understand as a Star Wars lover, but hey, Phantom Menace was ten times better than most of the garbage that the "Expanded Universe" novels have degenerated into. After Timothy Zahn's 3 masterworks, it was all downhill. I supposed some would compare that to the movies as well. Sigh. Hey, I'm buying the DVD, so fuck it.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 2:42 a.m. CST

      2.5 stars? Out of how many?

      by krackato

      What's up with the 2.5 stars? Out of how many?

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 2:48 a.m. CST

      A.DuP. responds re: the star rating system....

      by Alexandra.DuPont

      Oop. Sorry. That's a DVD Journal thing. It's 2.5 out of 4 stars. However, if a DVD is truly classic -- in terms of both the feature itself and its DVD extras -- then a coveted 5-star rating may be awarded. I gave just such a rating to the Criterion "Do the Right Thing," and will probably award it again when "The Empire Strikes Back" gets the deluxe, exceptional treatment "Phantom Menace" receives here. Does that answer your question?

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 3:15 a.m. CST

      Stop yer whinin' about midichlorians!

      by enigmainyourhead

      One of the expanded universe books, written a good 5 or 6 years before Phantom Tennis, had Luke finding some little machine in some ancient Jedi apartment complex, which measured how much Force people had in them. I think these were in the Kip Durron books. Anyhoo, my point is, the Force, even in the movies, wasn't something everyone could grasp and bend to their will. If that was the case, then any wackjob that wanted to be a Jedi would've just plunked 6 bucks down in front of Obi Wan and got lessons. The Force was strong in some people (those rascally Skywalkers), and hardly there in others(Han-freakin-Solo). If Lucas wants to use the words "midichlorian count" to describe that someone is strong with the Force, whooop-dee-freakin' do! It doesn't destroy the whole mythos. Ooh, and for additional Star Wars fun, check out That Flash Gordon stuff is just plain creepy.

    • I've always has this feeling, especially after The Return of the Jedi that Mr. Lucas wasn't really gifted in the area of writing. Concepts, yes, the man has great concepts. But just watch Empire and see how good his concepts can be when directed and written by somebody else. Empire Strikes Back, in my opinion is one of the best sci fi movies. Just gorgeous. As for the utter crap that is the Phantom Menace, I'll wait until the DVD is in the "Under $15" bin at Tower Records. I really don't think that my not buying this DVD right now will put Lucas in the red......

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 4:08 a.m. CST

      I can't believe I'm going to buy this.

      by It's A Duck

      I know I will, too, as long as it's not selling for over $30. I don't even think the movie is all that bad - I'm just bitter about the VHS releases and that whole line about not releasing the DVD until all six movies are in the can. Whatever happened to getting in right the first time? ("Usual Suspect," I'm looking in your direction.)

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 5:20 a.m. CST

      Why Lucas feels that he needs to introduce midichlorians

      by alex4d

      quoting from the commentary quote "we come to know the Force

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 6:09 a.m. CST

      I can't believe i'm going to buy this either...

      by Bruce Leroy


    • Oct. 15, 2001, 9:28 a.m. CST


      by ItsOver

      Once again, Ms. DuPont proves herself not only to have great taste, but excellent writing skills. Thank you. **** It makes sense that the commentary would focus solely on the technical aspects as story and acting played no part in this movie. The whole thing reminded me of a massive video game and I kept looking for the "reset" button. I hope that Lucas listening to the critics and the fans, and not the box office when working on Episode II. ***** Midiclorians are still crap. There doesn't need to be any explanation. In reality, some people are born smart or with artistic ability. There's no explanation for this. It's a mystery and why it's beautiful. ***** If this movie pissed y'all off so much why are you still buying it?

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 9:53 a.m. CST

      Bring on the original trilogy!

      by Gasgano

      Although the ST:TPM DVD is promising, I think I speak for many in expressing my hopes that the original trilogy will soon follow. ESB alone would make my year. Plus, I can't wait to see how George answers other nagging SW questions, such as 1) why that mismatched lip-synch dialogue between Vader and Tarkin on the DS was left unedited 2) why Admiral Piett's rank insignia jumps from his left to right shoulder and back at the end of ESB; 3) why Jabba looks different in every movie he's been in, etc. etc. All kidding aside, this DVD looks cool and so will the others...

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 9:56 a.m. CST

      Hey, GunsBlazing ...

      by Shalamar

      "Hairy Saskatchewan"? I do believe Harry's from Austin. "Saskatchewan" is a Canadian province. Are you sure you didn't mean Sasquatch?

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 10:52 a.m. CST

      TPM is bad, way bad.

      by Real_GG_Costume

      So why bother buy a DVD containing the worst film in years and extras including documentarys on how they made it that bad. You people will buy anything, and once Attack of the clones (PEARL HARBOUR IN SPACE) is out you will watch that knowing that this guy (LUCAS) cannot direct shit. Hey this is the same people probably who loved THE ANIMAL so nothing is surprising. Those pictures are bad by the way, they cant even get photos to look good. Why cant Lucas put his talent into destroying another Franchise and leave this one to someone else.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 11:13 a.m. CST

      The force is still what it once was

      by penniless writer

      "the concept of midichlorians and their job in being sensitive to the Force, " see that? the Force is something seperate from midichlorians. It is still an energy field created by all living things etc. etc. (i'm sure you all know the rest) Yikes, i'm so glad the official site has a message board now, it's nice to be able to hear from the quite large amount of people who really like this movie.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 12:05 p.m. CST

      How can I get excited about TPM when Haxan is releasing the same

      by Chthonico

      Now there's a kick-ass movie!

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 12:27 p.m. CST

      To A. DuPont: Nobody cares what you think

      by Joey Stylez

      You are a perfect example of why so many people did not like this film...because it wasn't done the way YOU would have done it. Sveral times in your review you stated how you would have done things differently...big whoopee doo. Go make your own movies if you know so damn much. If you didn't like the movie that's fine, just say you don't like it. Instead we get the same mantra repeated ad nauseum the past 2 years: "it wasn't what I was expecting" "I waited 16 years for this, Lucas owes me" "Someone should take this outta Lucas' hands and let soemone else do it"..blah, blah, blah. A fart joke didn't ruin the film for me. If it did for you, fine. Just say you didn't like it and move on. You seem to have a personal problem with this film, like it dissapointed you at some deep level. Well, cry me a fucking river. Star Wars doesn't need you. Run along and attach yourself to some other film franchise and leave Star Wars to those of us who recognize the shortcomings but also recognize the brilliance and scope of these films. The same applies to all you other TPM haters. God forbid LOTR doesn't live up to your expectations. I think you'll all commit mass suicide or something. In that case, good riddance.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 1:19 p.m. CST

      I'm watching the DVD now...

      by dastickboy

      ...and you thought Jar Jar was annoying? Check out the "Bad Droid Karma" web documentary, and I think by far and away R2 got right up everyone's noses.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 1:35 p.m. CST

      Save your money and buy The Godfather Trilogy DVD set instead

      by BuckySwope

      Lucas isnt half the artist and storyteller that Coppola is.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 1:46 p.m. CST

      The Hope in AICN's Pandora's Box...

      by jollydwarf

      ...Is the exceptionally articulate and sophisticated lady that wrote a review that's brilliance will probably surpass the DVD it was about. Are there any other items you can write about today, Ms. Dupont? Choose something. Anything. After reading your reviews, it's like a composition contest between Lisa Simpson and Homer, Chief Wiggum, Ralph Wiggum, Barney, Moe, Cletus, Milhouse, and Nelson. As for those of you who scoff at my adulation for legitimately great writing on this site, I'd throw obscenities and rude colloquialisms back at you, but not in front of a lady. Good day. P.S. As I am powerless to resist Ms. Dupont's superlative writing, I am equally susceptive to the lifelong urge to purchase all things "Star Wars." Hence, see ya at Best Buy, 9:25 A.M. sharp.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 2:08 p.m. CST

      jollyelf u r a riot.....!

      by asianexcess

      how long did it take u to look up all those words in your dictionary.....?

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 3:39 p.m. CST

      Lucas' Downfall = Inevitable & Necessary

      by HerbChambers

      Let's face it-- the first three "Star Wars" films are all we ever needed. They're the heart and most important section of whatever grand scheme Lucas has in his head. It is true that he has probably influenced countless filmmakers-- and this is why his failure is inevitable & necessary. He's bought into his own hype and surrounded himself with "yes" men like Rick McCallum. He refuses to acknowledge the many valid complaints of viewers (not just fans) who have been complaining about Jar-Jar and midichlorians from day one. He'll continue along this path for the next two films which won't be horrible, but never considered to be in the same league as the original trilogy. But this is all necessary to send a message to young filmmakers. No matter how sucessful you become you can still fail and make horrible mistakes if you buy into your own hype and stop listening to critics. So, at the expense of these unnecesarry Star Wars "prequels" a whole generation of filmmakers will be spared from making the mistakes of their proverbial "father." So I say, thank you George Lucas...

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 4:45 p.m. CST


      by Miss Aura

      This is a great DVD and restores my faith into AOTC. The deleted scenes are great and the extras are just fantastic. This is worth the money, you get so much with these discs. Someone mentioned Godfather Trilogy and I say buy them both. Phantom Menace was no way great but for a star wars fan this Disc is well worth it. After months of bashing Mr Lucas, I think that I was quite wrong. Mr Lucas has given us, what I would call the first DVD which utilises the DVD Player and the media which the disc can hold. WELL DONE GEORGE, and thanks for giving me something which is worth double the money I paid for it. AOTC - Now I cant wait, you have just restored my faith.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 5:44 p.m. CST

      Midichlorians, etc.

      by Tesarta

      Looking at the idea of the midichlorians from a 19th century, rationalist pre-Religionsgeschichtliche perspective, it makes sense. The desire to rationalize religious beliefs *always* seems to happen at some point within the tradition. It just so happens that in this case the rationalization happens in the first episode. Now, of course, this rationalism ended after the 19th century (although it can still be detected in German philosophical idealism), and in the 20th the idea of non-rational religious ideas surfaced again. **** What does this have to do with the Force? Simple. In the pro-technology, Republican "golden age" of the Star Wars universe, rationalism explains everything about religion. So you have midichlorians, etc. Then, after the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire, there is a concomitant loss of faith in technology and a reaction against the anti-mysticism of the Jedi faith. So the idea of midichlorians goes out of fashion and no one talks about it anymore. It is a perfectly natural process in the history of a religion, and I for one found it intriguing. Not that I would want to live in the rationalist age - I much prefer spiritual mysticism over reasoned religion - but it does make sense. **** Too bad Lucas didn't know this, and his reasons for making it so mainly have to do with the fact that he's an idiot.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 6:47 p.m. CST

      Here we go again...

      by Bad Guy

      TPM bashing, one of the favorite pastimes of some AICN posters. I especially love the ones who say they didn't like the movie, but they're going to buy the DVD, even if it's at a discount. What a fucking cop-out! You know what? I hate Steven Segal movies. They could release his films in two-disc Super Deluxe Collector's editions with the most glorious extras ever produced for a DVD and I still wouldn't even rent them. You know why? Because I hate Steven Segal movies and no amount of polishing is going to make me enjoy them. At least I can respect those of you who say you hated the movie and aren't going to buy this DVD. If you hate the movie, why would you care about the extras? I certainly don't care how a movie I hate was made, or about it's deleted scenes. As for the person who said, "Save your money and buy The Godfather Trilogy instead." Already got it, and I'll be buying TPM when it's released tomorrow. I've always hated this pitting of one movie against another that tends to run rampant with talkbackers on this site. And to B A Fett, and this being his last post. No one gives a shit, buddy. Don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out. Okay, rant over.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 7:15 p.m. CST

      Is anyone else getting tired of the I-told-you-so sections?

      by Niaiserie

      I like the site and all, but its just a lil sad to see these guys getting any feelings of self-righteousness out of proving hormonal anonymous teenagers wrong, and these guys seem to be a lil to high perched on their ego trips as it is.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 8:07 p.m. CST

      Bad Guy

      by Tyler42

      OH F*ck Yeah Bad Guy! Well said on all counts.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 8:31 p.m. CST


      by Sickanddamntired

      Listen up and listen up real good. This has GOT to stop. If Lucas offended you so badly with Episode 1 then how about you muster up 115 million dollars and make your own goddamn space opera? "Well let's not forget about Lord Of The Rings!" Fine go see it, I'm sure it'll be the end-all movie for all of you and then after you see the last one you can sip your Kool-Aid and meet up with the comet. You will be alone, the general public doesn't know what the fuck LOTR is, and doesn't care. But look at the hype kids, well-cut trailers, intriguing stills and over-hype among the fanboys reminds me a lot of oh wait STAR WARS EPISODE ONE... Now you're probably asking yourselves "what's his point?" MY POINT IS THAT IT'S 98.9 PERCENT YOUR FUCKING FAULT. You siked yourselves up for the second coming of christ and didn't recognize soon enough that Lucas was making an entertaining family film, he knew he was and a good deal of the mass public did too. You wanted all three parts of the trilogy, I know a part of me did too. If people went into A New Hope expecting the angst of Empire they would be sorely disapointed, and the reverse is also true. If I went to see Empire Strikes back expecting A New Hope I'd call for Lucas' decapitated head. You will get what is coming to you, a solid, three part story from a master filmaker, a man completely in control of his craft. He knows what he's doing!!! So fine, wait out in line in the middle of december for your 3 hour fantasy film from the genius who brought us The Frighteners and I have my fun in line in sunny, warm and beautiful May for Attack of The Clones, and see what George Lucas has done this time. GET A FUCKING LIFE YOU ASSHOLES!!!

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 8:34 p.m. CST

      Exclusive Web Content Direct Download !

      by Peanut-M&M's

      Okay so its just a quicktime file with some still images but its okay and there is a very cool shot of Jango Fett. Plus the site does seem to tell you that the trailer will be there on the 9th Nov and as I heard it was going to be attatched to Harry Potter it seem DVD owners may get it away early. Any way here is the link, this should work -

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 8:46 p.m. CST

      I'm firing-up the Avid & getting ready to go to town on this

      by BlackBanana

      Dance motherfucker.

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 8:54 p.m. CST


      by kojiro

      Tired off the I told you so sections? Like the man says, do not defy Hercules!

    • Oct. 15, 2001, 9:14 p.m. CST

      I must disagree with Dupont

      by Lukecash

      Sorry, I am an older gentleman-and I enjoyed the movie very much. I think the main problem WAS the expectation level of many people. In your own qoote"Most older people didn't like the movie" Well guess what-most of us were KIDS when we first saw the movie! Thats a lot of expection for a movie to make you feel like a kid again. Beleve me, My dad a long time science fiction fan was rolling his eyes often druing the original film. As a movie by itself, it stands pretty well on its own-a classic Cambel type tale of Knights rescuing a Queen, a slave becoming a aquire. Over all it was good. I place it higher than Return of the Jedi.

    • Oct. 16, 2001, 12:21 a.m. CST

      So two years ago, Orion's Angel?

      by TheGr81SLASH

      I believe you are right. We should be bashing the title for episode 2 right now. But seriously, Any Star Wars geek (myself included) will be getting the DVD and we won't look back. It's going to be the same when the Holy Trilogy comes out, so bashing any new stuff won't change what Lucas makes. And Miss DuPont, if Star Wars isn't your style, please get back on your high horse and display your wares elsewhere. But I'll agree with you about wanting those extras you were so fond of. Peace out, Brothers and Sisters (Yes, that includes you, Miss DuPont) Slash0723

    • Oct. 16, 2001, 12:40 a.m. CST

      I stand corrected!

      by sprocket-bot

      But, that statement was made taking into account previous Coaxial News DVD scoops...and, as it turns out, I was half right, the original trilogy WILL NOT be released once a year starting next fact, Lucas himself has said the next Star Wars film to be released on DVD will be Episode 2, probably late next year or in 2003...and, no plans for the originals at the moment!

    • Oct. 17, 2001, 3:44 a.m. CST

      Hey, piss off, Herc.

      by LlGHTST0RMER

      Just to clarify, I never dissed AICN's ability at finding out secret studio info. That's the primary reason I even visit this site. When I said, "Yeah, what Sprocket-Bot said. So there!" it was (and you can verify this by actually looking through that very talkback you linked to,) in reference to the LaserDisc discussion that was going on. I typed up this long-ass (and long-winded) rant in defense of LDs, and by the time I posted it, Sprocket had just posted one that was quite similar to the very argument I had just presented, and even far more informative. I was only backing up his rant and mocking my own slowness. I don't think I've ever taken issue with the accuracies or inaccuracies of AICN's inside scoops. (On the other hand, this is the first time I've ever had to publicly defend my own words by saying, "That statement was taken totally out of context." Wow... my first step on the road to greatness.)

    • Oct. 17, 2001, 5:34 a.m. CST

      TPM is the movie The Matrix should have been!

      by darthflagg

      Yeah, thought that would get your attention. Really, who cares what some reviewer thinks over 2 years after the film came out? You either enjoyed it or you didn't. Either way, the DVD rules!

    • Oct. 17, 2001, 9:33 a.m. CST

      So how many people do I owe 20 bucks to then?

      by Edsel

      That's the first time I've ever been referenced in a review. I guess I should feel special. Here's the kicker: I'm Canadian! Ha ha! Yes! A Canuck had infiltrated AICN! Uh... Did I have anything else to say? Oh yeah... If you people want the original trilogy on DVD so bad, why don't you just buy the bootleg DVDs that are all over the 'net? They're taken from the 9-laserdisc set (which is what Lucas will eventually pillage for the "official" DVDs anyway), and they each come with original trailers and a few select extras, they're widescreen and they look and sound great. The real bonus? They're not the Special Editions either! You can drop about $60-$65 bucks for the whole trilogy, and they even have nice outer packaging. As for me, I'll just hang onto my laserdisc set for now, and when the DVDs come out... Well, here ya go Mr. Lucas, enjoy my money.

    • Oct. 17, 2001, 8:56 p.m. CST

      Why TPM is the way it is

      by Fixxxer

      It's all right there on the DVD. After watching 20 documentaries and hearing one fascinating commentary track all about the world's most ardently loathed movie, one thing becomes clear. "The Phantom Menace" is the way it is simply because George Lucas just expects too much. His ideas are wonderful and he certainly knows a thing or two about creating spectacular visual delights, but he just plain expected too much out of everyone on this movie. Fortunately for him, many of the people involved in "TPM" delivered, most notably the visual effects team, the sound effects team, and John Williams. But how could George expect anything but stilted, unsure delivery from actors who are forced to deliver dialogue on sets crammed floor-to-ceiling with blue screens? Or actors who have to act against a stick with two ping pong balls on it for an animator's reference? That's the real problem with "TPM" -- it was too much for people to do in too short of a time. The actors were in and out in 13 weeks, and, as the docs show, George rarely did more than 2 takes. Has he no patience? It further shows that George had no qualms about concocting his "supertakes" in editing with Ben Burtt, who seems a bit leery of such particular, blatant manipulation of performance. George and Rick "foul mouth" McCallum basically put themselves in an unwinnable situation -- delivering one of the most complicated films ever made on a tight schedule. True, they worked on the thing for four years when all was said and done, but the film probably needed another year before they could really nail it. To be fair, Lucas probably felt that he had to rush the performances so that there was more time to finish the special effects, but that doesn't excuse the fact that they didn't realize that they could not finish this movie in a satisfactory manner on the timetable they set for themselves. The real winners in all this are John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Scott Squires, Ben Burtt and all those other guys who had to toil away underneath George. The effects in the film are fantastic, far more Oscar worthy than "The Matrix" purely because there were so many effects -- all done so well. The fact that Jar Jar and Watto even exist are landmarks enough; say what you want about Jar Jar Binks, but you can't deny that he does look and feel quite real in most if not all of his scenes. Check out the first exchange between Jar Jar, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon; even on DVD, where digital effects become that much more obvious, Jar Jar looks like the real McCoy in that scene. Ultimately, "TPM" should be seen as nothing more than a visual triumph, and perhaps that's all it should be. George has always said that the "Star Wars" films should work like silent films, where the picture tells all the story you need, and that's exactly how "TPM" works. I might never want to hear Jake Lloyd say goodbye to Threepio ever again, but I do want to see Corsucant again; I want to see Queen Amidala's threads; I want to see that podrace (even better now with more footage); I want to see the senate chambers; and you bet your ass I want to see that lightsaber duel. "TPM" has more than its share of flaws, but it's really sad that people are not able to accept that and see what a landmark the film truly is as far as visual and sonic achievements go.

    • Oct. 18, 2001, 2:51 a.m. CST

      Bravo, Fixxxer...bravo.

      by Joey Stylez

      Great post you wrote. You nailed it right on the head. Despite the film's flaws (which aren't that many) it's a visual masterpiece. There's never been a film with the amount and quality of effects that this film has. Recognize the skills, people. Again, I think the high expectations were the main reason so many people claim to not like it. I hope these same fanboys don't take the fun out of seeing LORD OF THE RINGS, which looks to be a hell of a movie. Episode II is coming, and I'm waiting in line.

    • Oct. 18, 2001, 3:30 a.m. CST

      Impressive. Most impressive.

      by Bad Guy

      So far I'm very impressed with this DVD. I've watched the "The Beginning" documentary, the deleted scenes documentary, and the web documentaries, which I never saw when they were first available on the SW site. I'm looking forward to watching the film itself, but I'm waiting on delivery of my big screen TV, Woohoo!! And ditto on what Fixxxer and Joey Stylez said. Nice posts guys.

    • Oct. 18, 2001, 7:02 a.m. CST


      by wushuchef

      While looking at my recently purchased Episode 1 dvd box here, I couldn't help but notice the back on the bottom where the credits are. Has anyone else noticed that when they listed some of the actors/actresses in the film, Ray Park wasn't one of em? Let's see, we have Liam "Qui Gon but not for gotten" Neeson, Ewan "Check me out with my bad ass duelin light saber self! No stunt doubles baby!" McGregor, Natalie "I like to repeat Qui Gon's lines" Portman, Jake "MORE FEELING, DAMNIT!" Loyd, and uh, Ian "who is this one again?" McDiarmid, but no Ray park...hmmmmm. Let's look some more... Below we have Anthony Daniels, but no Warrick Davis! (that IS his name, right?!) He played 2 roles! No billing for Muppet Baby Greedo?! C'mon! Then we have Kenny Baker (that's R2, right?!). The final 2 are Pernilla August who I assume is Anikan's mom, and then we have, (drum roll please...)FRANK OZ!! FRANK OZ, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!! I didn't even know Frank Oz was IN the pic! Who was he?! At any rate, still no Ray Park. I wouldn't bring this up except that if you were to ask ANY person who saw this film, who was the most memorable character, chances are it would be either Jar Jar (ALSO not given billing, but for some reason I'm totally cool with that) or Darth Maul. Heck, Ol' Maul's been used more often than not on A TON of the merchandizing backings, (I.E. toys, action figures, shirts, posters, etc etc) and yet we don't see Ray Park billed on this dvd. (sob!) I just wanna know one thing! (No offense Anthony) but HOW THE HECK does C-3PO get billing, and Darth Maul doesn't?! I'm confused. Hey George, c'mon, his voice wasn't THAT bad, pal! So what if it made the short and curlies on your beard cringe, he's THE man in this film! (sigh) Oh well, Ray, you rock, man! Thanks for making me wanna see this flick MORE in the first place, dude. PEACE!

    • Just wondering. I actually like having to scroll back and forth constantly in order to read.

    • Oct. 19, 2001, 2:58 p.m. CST

      Fixxxer: nice post, but I have a rebuttal

      by BigW

      I didn't like The Phantom Menace. Not at all. On the other hand, like you said, I did appreciate just how hard and how advanced all those special effects were. And how pretty it was. But I found the film shallow. I found the story weak. I found it to be everything that George Lucas is very quick to critize other special effects laden films for: the story is there to advance the special effects, and not the opposite. Lucas often talks about how the special effects should be used to tell the story. Well, what is the real story of the Phantom Menace? How Palpatine took advantage of our good heroes to put himself into a position of power. It is a story of how an evil man used a minor scuffle in a remote part of the galaxy as a lever in a great political power struggle in a Sci-Fi universe. This is by far the most interesting story in the movie, but it is barely evaluated. In fact, many of my casual Star Wars friends somehow managed to overlook it entirely! It was almost completely ignored in favour of gratuitous special effects shots, such as the underwater chase scene.

    • Oct. 20, 2001, 5:58 p.m. CST

      Lucas has an anti-C-3PO stance, I see

      by Edsel

      Did snybody else notice that out of all the behind the scenes stuff, there was barley even one frame dedicated to C-3PO or Anthony Daniels? Odd...

    • Oct. 21, 2001, 10:36 a.m. CST

      Thanks for the laughs talkbackers!

      by Aphex Twin

      This buy far has been the funniest talkback I have ever read. If laughter heals, then this morning I became immortal. Thank you friends for making talkback the best part of this website.

    • Oct. 21, 2001, 2:53 p.m. CST

      I think the man may just be nuts

      by Cajun Lightning

      All right. Did Lucas actually intend to make these prequel jobbies from the beginning or what? Sometimes he sounds like he's making it up as he goes, like the segment, "All I need is an idea," and then he sounds like some criminal mastermind who knew how it was going to be from the beginning. Like when he's pratteling on about the midichlorians and how there wasn't enough time in the first three movies to go over it. Uh...does anyone else think this guy's commentary sounds more like one of Grandpa Simpsons war stories? "Ah yes. The year was 1972 when I first spoke to Steven Spielburg who was wearing a raddish on his head, which was the style at the time. That was when the fairy gnomes came to tell me about midichlorians and the wonders of plaid."

    • Nov. 1, 2001, 4:07 p.m. CST

      Deleted waterfall scene

      by Maverick026

      Does anyone thing that George Lucas had the perfect opportunity to off Jar Jar Binks in this scene? He gets trapped in the ship, he can't get his foot out, and he goes over the waterfall. And thus we have the end to Jar Jar Binks.... if only he had taken advantage of it.