[Picture of projector]

Laramie Movie Scope:
The Phantom Menace DVD

A DVD package that's even better than the movie

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

October 28, 2001 -- I got to see the new "Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace" DVD (also known as "Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace," or simply "The Phantom Menace") the other day and it is astonishing. If you are a big fan of the "Star Wars" series, you'll want to see this.

Besides the movie, there is an hour-long documentary about the making of the movie, numerous features about how the movie was made, and a number of scenes cut from the movie. Several features concerning the pod race and other sequences were assembled from original footage especially for the DVD. It is also possible to watch the entire pod race with all the deleted scenes restored. I was particularly interested in the multi-angle segment which gives you parallel views of scenes from storyboard, to animatics, to staging to the final finished film segment.

Animatics are computer-generated animations that work as an animated storyboard. One of the DVD features shows how the animatics were put together for the pod race sequence in the movie. It is fascinating stuff. Five featurettes show us the process of making the film from beginning to end. We start at George Lucas' house and see the notebook he used to sketch his ideas for films, including "American Grafitti" and "Star Wars." He sits down in his office to start writing "The Phantom Menace in 1995. Four years, several thousand people and many millions of dollars later, the film made it into theaters. The documentary claims the film project is the most complicated ever undertaken.

The featurettes also give us fascinating insights into how everything from alien creatures to spaceships and laser guns are designed, from the initial drawings to mock-ups to final production. There is even a segment including one of the original effects designers from the first "Star Wars" film and his take on the new designs. The segment on light sabre fighting is very interesting as is the 12-part web documentary on the making of the film. There are many hours of materials in this two-disc set. It is well-organized into menus with cute animated features. There are numerous other features, including a DVD-ROM weblink to exclusive Star Wars online material.

The DVD comes with a widescreen anamorphic aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The DVD has region 1 encoding with several audio tracks, English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround) and English subtitles. The DVD is THX certified, of course. My wife and I had some trouble hearing the dialogue (we don't have a stereo or surround sound system attached to our TV, just the built-in stereo speakers), so we found the subtitles helpful, especially when listening to Jar-Jar's pidgin English. The image seemed dark in some interior shots, but was fine in the outdoor scenes.

For my review of "Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace," click here. That review was written when the film was first released. This DVD review is based purely on the DVD, not the film itself. This DVD is one of the best I have seen. The many features, as well as the audio commentary by George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt, Rob Coleman, John Knoll, Dennis Muren and Scott Squires provides valuable insights into how the movie was made. Ben Burtt has quite a lot to say about his sound design. For instance, reveals that one of the sounds used for a two-way television device was adapted from an old Flash Gordon movie. Details like this gave me a new appreciation for "The Phantom Menace." It seems as though a lot of thought and care went into the smallest details of the project. George Lucas has been criticized by some for using similar themes, and even the same titles and music in the Star Wars movies. Lucas says during the commentary these common elements were part of an intentional effort to provide continuity in the series. This DVD rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2001 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)