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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • THX
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX
  Subtitles
    English, English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • 7 Deleted scenes
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - by Writer-Director George Lucas; Producer Rick McCallum; Co-Editor and Sound Designer Ben Burtt; Visual Effects Supervisors Scott Squires, John Knoll and Dennis Muren; and Animation Supervisor Rob Coleman
  • Photo gallery - of theatrical posters, print campaign, never-before-seen production photos.
  • Animated menus
  • Music video - Duel of the Fates
  • 5 Behind the scenes footage - exploring storyline, design, costumes, visual effects and fight scenes
  • 7 TV spot
  • Storyboards - animatics to finished film.
  • Documentaries
  • Multiple angle - for storyboard feature

Star Wars - Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Lucasfilm Ltd./20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 131 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

It has been 20 years since we saw the first Star Wars movie hit the cinemas and make a real impact into the world of special effects laden space operas. Just a handful of years ago, word came through that Lucas was working on the prequel trilogy of his 6 part tale and the world waited with baited breath for the 4th movie to hit the cinemas. And boy did it hit.

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This is MY Gameboy, Mutha!

The story goes back some 40 years before we first met Luke Skywalker, Obiwan Kenobi and Han Solo as they went on their intergalactic adventure to save a princess. It was a simple tale back then, now it's time to fill in the gaps. We start off with our Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jin and his padawan apprentice Obi-wan Kenobi on a mission to the Trade Federation. Talks don't go as planned and soon the planet of Naboo is under federation control.

As the Princess (Natalie Portman), her Jedi helpers and her crew leave Naboo, they come across Tattooine for repairs on their ship. Here we meet young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), a young slave who lives with his mother. Qui-Gon senses the force in this young one and it is this that helps free him from slavery to follow the Jedi to become a Jedi himself.

Throw in the Emperor causing havoc for our team with his lethal apprentice Darth Maul and a Senator seeking power through deception and you've got an interesting first chapter to our saga. Add in special effects that count for 95% of the movie and you've got 2 hours of Star Wars entertainment.

Finally, we get to see a DVD version of the most hyped and effects rich movie of all time. With the previous releases of this movie on VHS and VCD, the DVD format would promise so much in terms of quality that it was only fair that we had a team of reviewers giving their own opinion of the DVD in this advanced look of the disc.

  Video
Contract

Steve says:
With your expectations so high and the knowledge that Lucas is the current master of digital imagery, we were expecting too much from the video transfer itself. Whilst this is the best the movie has looked on a home format, certain niggly aspects all point to a somewhat rushed attempted to get this title to market to appease the fans.

The most common issues with the transfer itself is an obvious amount of edge enhancement in the most prone scenes (dark on light) and excessive grain that almost translates to noise. Given that the whole movie was edited in the digital domain, the culprit here is the telecine not being up to the standard that we're used to with the exceptional transfers we've been spoiled with. That's not to say that this is a terrible transfer, far from it, it just didn't meet our expectations. One can only hope that a proper digital to digital transfer is done in the future.

On the plus side, the detail inherent in the image is astounding when called upon and the richness of the colour palette is there for all to see. Comparing the print on an LCD projector, PC monitor and CRT television, all images look pristine to that extent with black levels being excellent and the overall look of the image as expected for something so recent. Barring the quibbles above, it is still a very good transfer.

Andrew says:
Not what I was expecting, would be the nicest thing I could say about the video transfer on TPM. What should have by all rights been the newest and greatest reference disc turned out to be quite disappointing in the video department. When you see the level of digital artifacting in this disc, including poor shadow detail, pixelisation of flesh tones and bright natural colours, halos around the actors, you can't help but ask where all the time preparing this disc was spent.

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Up Close and Personal.

In its favour, image quality does pick up after the layer change, though the layer change was jarring and interrupts the flow of the film during a quiet moment between Anakin and Qui Gon Jin. Here's hoping the "ultra-special edition" that George said he would do (after Episode 3 is finished) will look better.

Anthony says:
While it's taken a ludicrously long time for The Phantom Menace to arrive on DVD, the Lucasfilm team have not been spending that long wait on refining the appearance of their movie for DVD. The transfer here looks very much like that used for the widescreen VHS release - with greater clarity and definition apparent on DVD, of course. THat increased clarity, though, also reveals some flaws in the image that weren't readily apparent on tape - most notably, a substantial amount of film grain in some scenes. That grain - almost certainly due to film elements being scanned, resized and composited before being printed once more - is fairly infrequent, but very noticeable when it appears. Some damage to the camera negative can also be seen during the scene where the young Anakin farewells his mother; once again, it's nothing especially troubling.

The telecine work here overall (while post-produced digitally, this DVD transfer has been done from film) is excellent, with plenty of shadow detail, spot-on colour saturation, and a generally pleasing cinematic look to the transfer as a whole.

The increased detail evident on DVD does reveal a few dodgy special effects moments, especially early on; there are also some isolated incidences of minor aliasing and overdone edge enhancement, and some backgrounds tend toward the blurry side of things. Taken as a whole, though, the disc looks very good - and if it weren't for the expectation of utter perfection from Lucas (an expectation created by himself) the video here may well have rated higher.

Interestingly, by the way, multiple angles are used for the opening title crawl, displaying it in a language that matches the subtitle you selected from the disc's menu.

Michael says:
Well folks I'd like to be able to say that this 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced video transfer is one of the best you'll ever see but I can't. There are aspects of it that are very good but also aspects that are a little disappointing. The colour palette, for example, is excellent. The colours are bold, bright and beautiful without seeming artificial or un-natural. Skin tones are also excellent with faces having a nice healthy glow to them. Well the human faces anyway! The black level is great and shadow detail is excellent.

As far as sharpness and detail levels are concerned it is here that this transfer becomes a little disappointing. There are many scenes in which film grain becomes somewhat distracting. I felt that it impacted on the sharpness of the image and reduced the detail level somewhat. The good news is that it doesn't occur all the time and seems to be at its worst in the first half of the film. Film artefacts are present and do appear quite often but they are small and easily ignored. Edge enhancement has been used and is quite noticeable at times but is not particularly distracting.

  Audio
Contract

Steve says:
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Maul!
Here is where the movie really shines. This is easily the best soundtrack I've had the pleasure of experiencing since the DVD format was introduced. The words to describe it are not PG rated so let's do our best with what we can say.

One thing that is prominent throughout is the bass. In many a scene the bass simply rips through you and wakes you up when the movie changes from a calm scene to an action packed medley of sound. The pod race is the prime example here where each engine has it's own distinct sound that ranges for rumbling bass to high pitched Formula 1 screams. The EX soundtrack makes use of the center surround channel here with pods screaming either from back to front or vice versa. You are simply immersed in the middle of the race from start to finish.

The final lightsaber battle introduces it's own share of bass with the sabers clashing causing some thudding electric sounds that really do give a grandness to the scene. It makes the original trilogies pale in comparison.

All other aspects of the soundtrack are exceptional aswell with Williams score being masterful as ever when necessary. This one is going to be demoed for a long time to come.

Andrew says:
What can I say, but "wow!". While the video might fail, the audio more than meets expectations. This is easily the best disc I've heard - as good, or better, than what you would have seen in the cinema. Dialouge is presented perfectly, staged as appropriate but occuring mostly in front center, and no synch problems were evident - any issues with the delivery or content of the dialogue should be directed to Mr Lucas.

Sound effects are happening all over the place to coincide perfectly with what you're seeing, and John Williams' score fills in all the holes. You will have no trouble believing you are competing with Anakin in the pod race when listening to this disc. A word of warning to finish off - be sure to lock down all fragile goods before watching, as your sub-woofer may cause the house to come down around you.

Anthony says:
If you have neighbours that wouldn't appreciate their house moving a few centimetres to the left every time you play this DVD, now is the time to shift to a nice big property in the country and become a home theatre hermit. Because this Dolby Digital EX soundtrack is utterly, gobsmackingly stunning.

The idea of a "natural" sound stage is almost at odds with a film in the Star Wars series, but the sound mix team here (led by the incomparable Gary Rydstrom) have created an electrically vibrant, totally involving mix that makes full use of the entire sound stage, with effects happily flying around the room in complete sympathy with what's happening on screen. The subwoofer, meanwhile, is put to obnoxiously good use when required, but is wisely not overdone in non-action scenes. There have been quite a few full-throttle 5.1 mixes appearing in the last few years, but this one does absolutely nothing just for the sake of it. Immersive, utterly believable and often thrilling, this is a sound mix that actually makes the film more involving and entertaining.

The pod race sequence is the show-off moment of choice here - crank up the volume and try and keep your jaw from dropping as you're placed right in the middle of the action; when one of the pods flies overhead you'll want to duck, when one crashes you'll flinch instinctively, and when all the engines fire up at the start of the race bits of your viewing room will likely start falling off. Demonstration material indeed.

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A stand off.

Dialogue throughout is clear and clean, as is John Williams' orchestral score (not one of his finest). The music is often overwhelmed by the rest of the soundtrack, but this was intentional and works well, particularly in the final fight between Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul. Ben Burtt's sound effects are up to his usual higher-than-high standard and really shine on this audio track as well.

A Dolby Digital 2.0 matrixed surround track is provided on the disc as well, but listening to a soundtrack this discrete and exciting in old-fashioned Dolby Surround is almost criminal. Quite rightly this soundtrack was nominated for a Best Sound Oscar; the fact that it didn't win shouldn't put you off one little bit (The Matrix scored the statue - a fine soundtrack that nevertheless pales in comparison to the Phantom Menace aural adventure).

Michael says:
I only need to say two words to describe the Dolby Digital EX soundtrack present on this disc "REFERENCE QUALITY".

Wow this soundtrack is superb! The surrounds are filled with sound both from the score and from effects. Ships fly over head, explosions can be heard all around you and voices are not restricted to just the centre speaker. Your subwoofer has so much work to do that it will be exhausted and shaking from the exertion! Every explosion, every ship that flies overhead, every slash of a light sabre is supported by a hearty rumble. The only negative comment I can make about the audio is the presence of some sloppy ADR work in places and this isn't a transfer problem rather it is a problem with the source material.

  Extras
Contract

Disc 1 is the bare bones of the 2 but does provide the Audio Commentary from Lucas and Co which is a pretty good one at that. Whilst not all the people involved (George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ben Burtt, Rob Coleman, John Knoll, Dennis Muren & Scott Squires) don't interact with each other, they do still provide a scene specific commentary for their respective areas on the production. To help us out, subtitles are placed at the top of the screen to indicate who is currently doing the talking.

Also found on disc 1 is a pseudo multi-angle feature whereby, depending on the subtitle stream you choose, the opening crawl alters to accomodate that language. Also included are some deleted scenes that have been put back into the movie itself as will be explained below.

Also on disc 1 is a new THX intro trailer, in a similar vain to the Terminator 2 Ultimate Edition where a ball of ice appears, is shattered by lightning, melts and then forms the THX logo. very cool stuff. An interesting twist to the menu system is that on the main disc, there are different themes available so each time you load up a different looking menu appears.

Both discs feature fully animated 16x9 menus that look and sound great and really do show the effort that has been put into getting this DVD to the public. If Lucas IS planning on Super Digital Edition in the future, it remains to be seen how he is going to top himself. Onto disc 2.

Trailers & TV Spots
Let's begin at the top of disc two where both the Teaser Trailer and Theatrical Trailer are presented in an anamorphic formt with 2 channel surround and at times look better than some of the shots in the film itself. I guess this is where a true digital source will look better than a lacklustre telecine process. Next on the list is the Duel of the Fates Music Video presented in full frame 2 channel stereo and in it's entirety. In the TV spots section the 5 Tone Poems have been included which are short segments focusing on a main character in the movie accompanied by a short poem. Two more TV spots titled The Saga continues and All over again round out the video based promotional stuff.

Deleted Scenes & Documentaries.
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Big Boss Nass Blessed.
One thing that George felt about this DVD release was to include some of his favorite scenes that had to be removed for time constraints or that they didn't fit in as a whole. What ILM have done is to go back and actually finish the effects for the scene as if they had been done and removed. There are 7 deleted scenes altogether and they are the Complete Pod Race Grid Sequence, Extended Podrace Lap Two, The Waterfall sequence, The Air Taxi Sequence, Dawn before the race, Anakin's scuffle with Greedo and Farewell to Jira. The interesting thing here is that complete pod race, extended podrace lap two and the air taxi sequence have been added back into the movie with the former 2 making that sequence look and feel so much more complete and compelling, especially with resepct to Anakins darker side when he tussles with Sebulba. With the former aswell, it is more like 80-90% of the deleted scene added back in throughout the sequence.

We are also provided with a Deleted Scenes documentary which takes a look at the mythos behind deleted scenes themselves whereby Lucas and Co talk about why they were removed whilst intercutting the aforementioned scenes throughout the documentary. Francis Ford Coppola shows up to lend his opinion aswell. Last but not least in this section is "The Beginning" Making Episode 1, where we take a detailed look at most of the aspects of getting this project off the ground with scenes featuring organising the cast, final screen tests, getting over the daunting requirements for the effects, convincing Spielberg it's going to work, first day of shooting, stunt work and so much more.

Featurettes
The original 12 part Web Documentaries as presented on the official website are archived here in full. The 4 minute docos were used to provide an ongoing look at the

production of the movie for those fans needing their regular hit and look at various areas from a specific crew members task to what the Jedi fighting was based on and more. The only quibble here is that the menu system here is the most annoying of the entire DVD. Five more short featurettes dealing with the Special Effects, Costumes, design, fights and the story with each being roughly around 7 - 10 minutes each and providing a more focused look at what was necessary, all presented in a 1.85:1 16x9 transfer.

Animatics and Still Galleries In the final section on disc 2, we take a look at the stills side of things. Introduction to Animatics has Rick McCallum telling us about the benefits of animatics in terms of creating a movie like Star Wars. Then we are given to particular sequences in the Podrace Lap One and the Submarine sequence where a multi-angle feature allows the viewer to switch between the storyboard, animatic, final sequence or all 3 together.

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Where did we park our Speeder?

The stills side of things has 76 Exclusive Production photos focusing on on set photos of very good quality, 9 Print Campaign posters featuring a lone cast member and then 17 Posters which is the original teaser poster of Anakin with vaders shadow and then 16 alternate language versions of the poster for different countries around the world. Finally, Star Wars Starfighter: The making of a game EPK to wet the appetite of avid gamers out there.

This collection of extras is probably the most complete we've seen to date and is easily the best companion for a movie found on DVD. Those of you wondering about the Easter Eggs, well, we've found a few so check out our Easter Eggs section if you want don't want to find them yourself.

  Overall  
Contract

With the release of the Phantom Menace not being up to the standards of the die hard fans, it is still enjoyable nonetheless and a must have for any DVD collection, if for only the thumping EX soundtrack. As with the movie, the video didn't live up to the expectations and is a slight disappointment but it's on DVD now, and will still sell like hot-cakes. Isn't that always the way with these Star Wars movies. ;)


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      And I quote...
    "a must have for any DVD collection, if for only the thumping EX soundtrack."
    - staff
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-S9000ES
    • Projector:
          Sony VPL-VW11HT
    • Screen:
          Herma Deluxe 92" fixed
    • Receiver:
          Sony 777ES
    • Speakers:
          Trevor Lees TLA 150
    • Centre Speaker:
          Trevor Lees TLA 150
    • Surrounds:
          Trevor Lees TLA 120
    • Subwoofer:
          Peerless 3 x 12 inch drivers
    • Audio Cables:
          Monster Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Monster Component
      Recent Reviews:
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