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My 2¢ on Star Wars:The Phantom Menace

Posted on May 26, 1999 at 10:08:47
Tom S.

If I am going to give my "review" of this movie, then I should outline the context in which it was viewed. I saw the movie at a recently built (<6 months old) "THX certified" theatre. The theatre had stadium style seating with very comfortable chairs (nice padding w/lumbar support). The screen was slighty concave and about 80 feet wide (the screen went from wall to wall). I sat 6 rows back from the front and in the center. It was a tuesday afternoon matinee and there were about 30 people in the theatre (which could probably accomodate 150 people). Nobody sat in the rows in front of me and nobody else but myself sat in my row. There was a 10 foot aisle behind me separating me from the people behind me. In short, the most distraction-free and visually intense position to see the movie.

I must point out that I knew the plot points of the movie before entering the theatre. Some people have said that their expectations were too high going in to the movie. My expectation was that I was going to see the backstory of the original trilogy. I wasn't let down. There has been lots of critics (and some "fans" of the original trilogy) slamming this movie. I don't think that is fair. What was it that they were expecting? An intense out-of-body experience induced by the movie? A religious revelation brought forth by thought provoking dialogue and plot line? An end to world suffering? Another Citizen Cane? Natilie Portman to strip naked and thrust herself on every male movie attendee (or female if they like it like that)? I was expecting to see another part of the Star Wars story. Anyone who criticizes this movie might as well judge the intellectual aspects of a fireworks display if they want to continue a futile gesture. I would venture to say that some people blast the movie "just to be different". As Lisa Simpson would say "How rebelious! In a conformist sort of way."

I would say the visual effects of this movie are as groundbreaking as the effects were in the original Star Wars. There was just too much visual information for me to digest at one time. Very intricate and detailed battle scenes. I couldn't help but be reminded of Braveheart-style choreography while watching the battle on the planet between the Gungans and the droids.

THX sound--I have to say that this was my first time in a theatre that had a THX sound system. Going back to the fireworks analogy, It's like hearing initial impact of the firework's explosions but without feeling the rumbling aftershocks. It does get very loud and exciting but those lowest frequencies just aren't there to provide a sense of uneasiness. I suppose it's more of a taste in sonics issue than anything else. THX is rolled-off at 30hz........

As for stacking up against the original trilogy, I'd say this movie is right at home. It compliments the other three movies quite well. If you were to ask me to rate the four movies in order of preference, I'd say that they are all good.

Go see this movie in the theatre and make your own judgement call. Forget what "critics" and "long-time fans" say about the movie. They contribute to the hype (negatively) just as much as advertisers and "THIS MOVIE IS THE BEST" raving lunatics (positively).

Tom S.


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A retraction., posted on May 26, 1999 at 12:52:37
Tom S.

THX certification stipulates that in-room response goes down to 20hz. Must have been the sound info in the movie that didn't go low enough....

Tom S.


You will laugh! You will cry! You will kiss $8.50 goodbye!, posted on May 26, 1999 at 16:36:56
Well, at least the third sentence is true.


haven't seen it. So, don't ruin it for me, but ..., posted on May 28, 1999 at 00:57:29

... all my anxiety is placed firmly on the next generation F/X trill inside a fun believable (well as much as sci-fi can be) plot. It's like Star Trek with homo-sapians instead of walking androids (it's said when Spoc & Data are the most 3-D human characters).

I want that feeling when I first saw the Empire's battleship, pull its way onto the screen that positively ruined me for films to follow. A typical space ship is being hunted by something off screen. Then the case ship enters... As the ship kept going & growing, I knew I wasn't on Earth anymore. I wonder if George has something extra revolutionary up his sleeve, or if this film is simply technologically evolutionary like that recent Keanu Reeve's flick Matrix (which was good, although, predictable)?


Re: haven't seen it. So, don't ruin it for me, but ..., posted on May 28, 1999 at 06:12:00
Tom S.

All I can say is that I was immersed in the movie for 2¼ hours. I wasn't on earth for that time frame. I think you will like the pod race scene. George does have something up his sleeve: 95% of the movie is digital F/X. The visual complexity of his imagination is unleashed......

Tom S.


looking forward to it ..., posted on May 28, 1999 at 13:19:48

... now if my ride just stays away from the new THX theatre where all you can hear is the front channels VERY LOUDLY & nothing below 30hz. It absolutely ruined "Godzilla" & "Mummy"!

I'd rather go to the old THX theatre where one has a much better sound field & bass down to 20hz. Plus, it has the added bonus that your ears don't ring afterwards.


Re: Safe & Childlike, posted on May 29, 1999 at 23:15:34

IMHO the story line was not only predicable but a setup for ToysRus. I felt like I was seeing a commercial for the toys. Bummer. I also didn't care for any of the characters. I left the theater sad not excited about the future of the cinema experience.....


said same thing about last year's best film..., posted on May 30, 1999 at 00:36:56

"Lost in Space" (IMHO). The only part that was weird, was the incredible MTV-style editting speed of the plot, sub-plots, & massive character-developement.

The only part about this "Star Wars" that I'm leary of is my lack of enthusiasm for digital-objects & creatures which still MUST be done with authentic-Models & animatronics to be believable. today's technology doesn't properly render shadows, glare, textures, fog, fire, running water, etc.. However, ILM "can" do mechanical objects, ships & buildings well, if the bothered to do timely ray-tracing. In fact, CG people refer to texturing as imprinting panels with pictures. It still takes WAY too much computation to produce anything, but flat jewelled surfaces & providing a cheap method to articially smooth them into facsimile of that desired. Don't get me wrong, this method works well in high action shots far away. But if the creature slows down, the virtual nature is emensely vivid.


I disagree, posted on May 30, 1999 at 23:08:04



Re: My 2¢ on The Phantom Menace, posted on May 31, 1999 at 23:48:31

It is a simple story about "Good" and "Evil". You know who wins. Is it great cinema? No. Is it escapism? Yes. Is it great escapism? Naah. Wait for episode 2 next week!


Re: My 2¢ on Star Wars:The Phantom Menace, posted on June 1, 1999 at 09:56:36

I liked the movie, but wouldn't buy it.

It was way over digitized (too chinsy). At least some aliens were real actors with virtual masks.

Just unload the dull obnoxious digital incompetent sidekick. It reminded me of the incontinent Chris Tucker character in 5th Element.


If it had been the first, it would have been the last, posted on June 1, 1999 at 15:33:28

Lets put both movies specail effects on the side and compare character development and connection with same.

Agreed both were just redos of 1930's Good vs Bad serials, but the original had diverse charaters, simple but deep character development (you could feel the deep black ruthless evil of Darth Vadar), sutile and slapstick humor, plus suprise at entering a new world. I found much of
this fundamental chemistry lacking in this offering.

The new one is far from bad, escapist fun, seamless effects/CGI and another strong female leader. But was left with too much focus on "tie-ins" and
not enough on story telling.


But the kids just loved it, posted on June 1, 1999 at 15:35:15

Forgot that part.


My Menacing Review!!!, posted on June 1, 1999 at 21:00:09
Scott Woebcke


A brief explanation of the story cannot be told in this review because if I explained anything in a paragraph I'd most likely give a synopsis for the entire screenplay! That is the main reason not to see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. It boasts over 2,000 special effects shots. So what! The special effects don't compliment the terrible dialogue.

The most fun part of the movie was being overly analytical with criticism. I asked my friend sitting next to me "Hey what's up with those aliens. All the different characters in the movie have foreign accents but the good white upper class people in the movie have distinguished British accents. George Lucas is a bigot." It was really annoying see so many aliens who were on the "dark side," have such racist stereotypes placed on them. "I hear some German and Chinese. I said to my friend. "Oh I get it! The Germans are the Nazis on the dark side and the Chinese are the communists."

There was an alien character in the movie. His role was to give the movie a kid's audience. He was an animated character full of silly antics. His funny trait was clumsiness. The alien spoke with an annoying, physically disabled tone. The retarded alien totally minimized the context of the story. The hero's of the movie needed help finding directions to certain places. Of course the alien simply took them to the places in minutes. He made writing a conflict in the story easier. Simply ask the alien for directions and you no where you have to go! What is a movie without conflict? Yawn.

The absence of a conflict, could it get any worse? Yes the acting! Now put on your cynical thinking caps. Imagine the computer generated backdrops totally gone. Do the actors show any emotions? Yes they make a few uncomfortable facial gestures, from distress. Is it the emotional content of the dialogue they are so moved about? No it's most likely the hot lighting casting heat to their face and eyes. How does the tone of the actor's sound? They sounded like they rehearsed a few hours then let the computer geeks generate the images necessary to distract the viewer from bad acting with gorgeous backdrops.

There is however something positive to say about this movie. It would be an excellent film to bring a girl to and make out with. Moving the tongue in her mouth to rhythm of the sound track. Make sure she has been eating a lot of liquorice that was purchased before the film. During the dynamic crescendos is the best time to taste her candy-sweetened tongue. Oh what an experience this is! Ah perhaps my review has been so cynical because I need to get laid… I will see this movie with a date then maybe my review will be a bit more positive.

I wrote this as an assignment for my English class. It was a joke, but I still think Star Wars sucked.


Are you sure this movie is worth 2 cents???, posted on June 4, 1999 at 11:58:42

Sorry, but this was the most disappointing film from Lucas since Howard the Duck, IMHO. My wife and I didn't see a critical review until after we saw the flick. After we saw it however, we compared our views with the pro's and both felt that many of the negative reviews were actually kind, even soft-ball. Perhaps pre-pubescent kids and videogamers will like this entry in the "new" trilogy enough to support it through repeated viewings, but by comparison with the original this effort suffers badly in my estimation.

For one thing, the moppet playing the future Darth Vader was far too young to be believable as an action hero; my suspension of disbelief was shot from the get-go. Not to mention the fact that Yoda assessed the obnoxious little brat to old to be trained as a Jedi! C'mon, give me a break! BTW, I'm weary of Lucas excusing these implausabilities by saying that the Star Wars series is *just a fantasy*. To paraphrase Yoda from "The Empire Strikes Back" (i.e. the "there is no try, either do or don't do" speech): there's no try, calling it a *fantasy* doesn't excuse logic flaws, it is either a good film or it isn't!

Whether you're willing to see them as such or not, the racial stereotypes were all over the place, from the Jamaican Stepin' Fetchit "Jar-Jar" to the hook-nosed alien slave owner with a Yiddish accent. I guess in Lucas' zeal to produce a thirties style action serial he got carried away with some of the less palatable conventions of film-making from the period. Of course all of this is within the film's subtext and no doubt an unconscious act on Lucas' part, but these observations were made by more than a few, and not simply crackpots or over-reactive critics paid to form dissenting views.

Finally, the new trilogy has few characters the audience can actually grow to care about, and this is a fundemental flaw in "idea" movies where characters take a back seat to spectacular effects or an underlying moral conviction held by the filmaker. Unfortunately, since this kind of motion picture is based on a very simplistic good vs evil theme to begin with it MUST have strong characters to carry it along or the story falls apart (i.e. as it did here).

So, my final conclusions: Is the movie worth seeing? Well, maybe, ONCE. Personally, I recommend movie goers slip around the corner to a screen showing The MUMMY (i.e. one of the best action films I've had the fortune to see in a long long time!). In other words, if you haven't seen it already, by all means go! Hey, it's certainly more fun than SW/EpI, and it holds up well on repeat viewings to boot. Simply put, Brendon Fraser pulls off the serial-style hero role with panache; better than anyone since Harrison Ford! Also, if you're into effects, this pic has 'um big time! What more can you ask from a well rounded popcorn flick?

Good viewing,


Re: Are you sure this movie is worth 2 cents???, posted on June 6, 1999 at 13:42:40

Plausible opinions. Myself I enjoyed the movie tremendously. However your discussion does have one flaw. Your following comment suggests that you felt it ridiculous that Yoda would feel that the child was too old to begin training..."Not to mention the fact that Yoda assessed the obnoxious little brat to old to be trained as a Jedi!" Actually in the Star Wars universe, potential Padawan learners are identified by the age of 6 months, so Anakin is technically too old. (Okay, okay, you can call me a Star Wars geek now)
Sorry you didn't enjoy the movie. I am motivated to go see the Mummy--maybe I'll catch it this week.


BTW, 1¢ more ..., posted on June 20, 1999 at 01:22:32

the Pod race was digitally well done (always could've used more attention) but was clearly the digital climax to the film & was technically treated as such (much more attention to detail than the rest of the film). However, this SciFi Ben Hur-ian chariot race was seriously lacking drama. Even reruns of the original silent film version of Ben Hur had much more drama than this race. It was another sad case of paper architecture.


I prefered Matrix to either film., posted on June 20, 1999 at 02:18:31

It incorporated "Lost in Space" FX w/ "Avengers" style while constructing an intelligent riveting plot. The only item that was telegraphed, was: viewing scenery as computer code.

But, maybe I would've enjoyed "Mummy" more if the new THX theatre was actually THX & a certain urban couple would've stopped playfully yelling (a must concerning the rock concert VOLUME of the center channel ... as if any other speaker was working) at eachother throughout the entire movie.

IMHO, Brendon Fraser was much more believeable as "Goerge of the Jungle" or that other movie "Blast From the Past". In today's stars, I'd allocate Keanu to action & leave the interpersonal stuff to Brendon. Kenau Reeves stunk up the screen in "Much ado about Nothing" as much as Jason Robards in "Julius Ceasar" & I'm not about to give him another drama. Although, he was almost passable in "Walk in the Clouds", but Brendon Fraser does that sort of role much more believeable. I say that to place my opinion in context, not to belittle Brendon just to indicate his limitations. Semi-permeable membranes have more depth tha Brendon's prowess as a reluctant albeit competant swashbuckling adventurer.


Hmmmm., posted on June 24, 1999 at 11:35:27

I agree with you completely about Matrix. IMHO, Matrix is the first cyber-movie that's firing on all cylinders. Where "Star Woes - Abysmal I" relied on rather ho-hum special effects to carry a weak story with cardboard and stereotypical characters, Matrix had spectacular visuals with interesting, complex characters in a chilling, well told story worthy of repeat visits. Keanu finally hit his stride with this one; let's hope he can keep it up!

As for Brendon Fraser, my wife and I thought he pulled off the swashbuckler role amazingly well. We were both pleasantly surprised [Mummified? :-)] and now consider him every bit the action hero that Harrison what's-his-name was in those Indiana something-or-other flicks! We've actually seen The Mummy on four occasions (note: as opposed to ST-EI, which only saw our cash on one occasion) and have yet to tire of it! Those who assume that it's simply a hip remake of the old Universal horror film from the 30's are in for a pleasant shock.

BTW, if you want to see just how wide a range of acting chops Brendon Fraser has, check out Gods and Monsters; my jaw went slack --- this dude can ACT!


PS: Eat your heart out George Lucas, Titanic still rules!


only 1 fatal flaw in logic, ..., posted on June 27, 1999 at 12:32:49

Titanic st... sunk, get over it! Lets not keep it st.. sinking up the screen.

PS: it's StarWars-E1 not StarTrek.


On well, whatever floats your boat!, posted on July 1, 1999 at 10:55:49

I guess you've set sail with the Titanic backlash; no problem, it happens with all hugely successful films.

BTW, sorry 'bout the "T vs W" confusion; at least I got the "Star" part right! ;-)



LOL (nt), posted on July 1, 1999 at 12:21:02



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