guide for creative minds
DOWSE Guide to the
by Tony Lee editor of Pigasus
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
directed by George Lucas
133 minutes (U)
For me, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was the high
point of 1999 and I am currently in eager anticipation of its imminent video
release, and this despite the attendant hype (hype tends to make me sick of
something before it even appears; that The Phantom Menace satisfied me anyway
is a testament to its quality). As the prologue scrolled up the screen and
the ambassadorial ship came in view I did feel a sudden pang of fear, maybe
because of the hype or possibly because th prologue could have done with some
spicing up, that it would disappoint... within seconds I was totally absorbed
and sitting on the edge of my seat! In fact so good was it I went back for
seconds and thirds, as did most people I know (and I'm no Star Wars obsessive).
I felt that TPM, like the existing Star Wars trilogy, had the right balance
of action and dialogue, of darkness and humour. I think that a film that can
blend darkness and humour is the best sort and this is a classic of the genre.
The pace was perfect, never flagging for a moment, and I soon felt like a
little kid again.
Yes, computer effects were a little over used, but not so as to obscure the plot.
A reduction in the obsession with special effects (I guess it was fun to play
with all the new toys) would have improved the film but so negligibly that their
prominence was not detrimental. Anyway, Star Wars has always been known for its
effects so their presence is to be expected, and as Lucas once more tells an
exciting and gripping tale they really serve to complement the story.
The story was logically plotted with every scene having relevance, even the
pod-racing. I had feared that the pod-race had been introduced merely
to add some 'thrills' and to produce spin-off computer games, I was fully
expecting to snooze through it: but no, it was seemlessly fitted into the
plot (an integral part no less!) and was produced in such a way as to be
truly attention grabbing. In fact, like much of the film indeed, it was
essential to watch again to see which little details you had previously
The characters were all finely portrayed, especially Anakin (have critics
never seen real children that age? Perfect!) and Amidala/Padme who had a
real dynamic between them. It was of course a pleasure to see old
favourites, such as Obi-Wan, R2-D2, C3P0 and Yoda, once again and in such
fine form; while new characters such as Qui-Gon and Jar Jar Binks were just
as delightful. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were a perfect paring of wisdom and
youthful idealism while Anakin's mother was a model of selfless, motherly
compassion. Personally, I had no problem understanding Jar Jar and found
him to be both an interesting character and perfect comic relief, I for one
hope he returns! As to the complaints about accents in the film, all I can
say is: "must all aliens sound like Americans?" I certainly didn't even
notice the similarity between the Trade Federation voices and Asian
stereotypes until it was pointed out and even then didn't assume that the
Japanese planned to blockade England for improved trade deals! No, the
voices fitted the aliens and whatever accent you choose, however odd, is
likely to resemble someone's.
Conclusion? The Phantom Menace plays as stylishly as Darth Maul looks!
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