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STAR WARS EP 1 - THE PHANTOM MENACE

SYNOPSIS:
When the evil Trade Federation plots to take over the peaceful planet of Naboo, Jedi warrior Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) embark on an amazing adventure to save the planet. With them on their journey is the young queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) , Gungan outcast JarJar Binks (Ahmed Best), and the powerful Captain Panaka (Hugh Quarshie), who will all travel to the faraway planets of Tatooine and Coruscant in a futile attempt to save their world from Darth Sidious, leader of the Trade Federation, and Darth Maul (Ray Park), the strongest Dark Lord of the Sith to ever wield a lightsaber. Also joining the odyssey is a young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd).

"For the hardcore Star Wars fan: it's got everything you've hoped for - in gigabytes. The combination of pre-existing knowledge about some of the leading characters and the epic scale of the production is awesome. Lots of cool stuff, from the robotic marvels to the entertaining alien life forms, and incredibly rich visuals, all add up to one long thrill ride, whose highlight for you will be the extended and exciting chariot race er, pod race. For the swinging voter (like me): you've seen Star Wars and enjoyed it, but are reluctant to be swept away by the hype. But it's better than you expected; the Lucas imagination has been allowed to expand and fill all the corners in his galaxy of a long time ago and far away, and there is a sprinkling of the humour that keeps it from turgidity. Some of the major sequences are breathtaking, and the Williams score soars. The costume design, where it isn't creating intergalactic fashion trends, has countless references to earthly cultural diversity from Japanese traditional clothing to the simplistic peasant wear of the Middle ages. The architecture is equally eclectic, bringing together - as do our real environments - different strands and styles. You'll find some of the accents impenetrable, some a bit clunky and phony, but you'll be won over by Liam Neeson, whose character is the one with which you can and will identify. Ewan McGregor has little room to shine. Overall, it is a remarkable film for its bravura and its inventiveness. For the cynic: You will find it a bit distant and too earnest, lacking in the freewheeling sense of fun that, say, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) brought to the earlier escapades of our team. You will see it as a confirmation of your fears that Lucas has allowed his force to be turned to the dark, formulaic side. For the newbie: see it, you must, but do so after you've seen the first three in the series."
Andrew L. Urban

"The look is splendid, the music marvellous, the concepts awesome. Exploding with Star-riffic splendour, Star Wars Ep 1 is a magical fantasy adventure that more than meets every expectation. The baggage with which this anticipated films comes is its strength and its weakness. It is impossible to embark on this most thrilling of rides without acknowledgement of its hype and context. While the capacity for visual effects may have improved vastly over the past 22 years, what is phenomenal is that this new Lucas masterpiece nonetheless fits into the jigsaw. The diversity, colour and superb visuals are breathtaking. But there is more: that elusive magic sparkles with zest and zeal. The characters are engaging and delightful. Liam Neeson brings stature and class to the pivotal role of Qui-Gon Jinn, while Jake Lloyd wins our hearts as the angel faced Anakin Skywalker. Ewan McGregor starts stiffly, possibly trying too hard to approximate the sound of Alec Guiness, but finds his foothold in the second half. Natalie Portman is alluring as the gutsy queen, but it's Ahmed Best as the irresistible clown JarJar with the lithp, who will win your heart with his slapstick, and down-to-earth charm. The characters are innovative, and while there are aspects of the plot that are fragmented, there is much to enjoy. I especially like the notion of the mechanical army, as well as the Pod racing, which provokes as much dirty play as the Ben Hur chariot race. The underwater sequences are among the most outstanding, with extraordinary settings and amazing monsters of the deep. And of course, the welcome introduction of since-favourite characters such as R2D2 and C3PO are delectable. Essentially, of course, Star Wars Ep 1 is a story about heroes and villains; the battle of good versus evil, one that fills us with hopes, dreams and illusions. Star Wars fans will rejoice; the uninitiated will discover a new time and a new galaxy. Spectacular in every way, Star Wars Ep 1 is dazzling entertainment, combining old fashioned morals with newly fashioned effects."
Louise Keller

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Read Andrew L. Urban's interview with
RICK McCALLUM

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

See
THE VISION, THE STORY, THE CHARACTERS

STAR WARS EP 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE (PG)
(US)

CAST: Ewan McGregor, Jake Lloyd, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson

DIRECTOR: George Lucas

PRODUCER: Rick McCallum

SCRIPT: George Lucas

CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Tattersall

EDITOR: Paul Martin Smith

MUSIC: John Williams

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gavin Bocquet

VISUAL EFFECTS SUPERVISOR: Dennis Muren

RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 3, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: April 5, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Twentieth Century Fox Home Ent

RRP: $29.95







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