Star Wars Episode One Phantom Menace (VHS)

All in all Star Wars Episode One Phantom Menace (VHS) is a must for the must for the die-hard Star Wars fan. It will hold us until 2005 when we can get the DVD

This film is steeped in controversy. Not for the subject matter but for it’s release. Many fans of the original Star Wars trilogy have expressed their disenchantment over Star Wars, Episode One – The Phantom Menace. Home theater enthusiasts are upset over the decision to delay the DVD release of this film until all three parts of this trilogy are done. Still, the movie has a lot going for it. The plot is rather simple. Two Jedi are dispatched to negotiate a disagreement between the greedy Trade Federation and the Republic. The center of the troubles is the little planet of Naboo. It’s young, newly elected queen is desperate to ensure peace for her people. The jedi are attacked and hunted by the dark side of the force to a small planet, Tatoonie. There they encounter a young boy that is extremely strong in the force. There are numerous battles, a plethora of special effects and even some very good acting.

The cast of this latest installment of the Star Wars saga represents some of the top talent in films today. Liam Neeson plays the Jedi Knight/Master. His portrayal of Qui-Gon Ginn is very well done considering the limitations of the script. The hallmark of a great actor is the ability to bring life to any script no matter how bland. He demonstrates a quiet determination and stature that makes his role believable. Natalie Portman is an upcoming young actress that has been in many excellent films. Her role of the queen and her handmaiden is flawless. What I liked most about her character and performance is how it provides an excellent role model for teen-age girls. Having a teenaged daughter myself I appreciated that Queen Amidala was presented as a concerned, responsible young woman. She is willing to sacrifice herself to aid her people. Still, she is capable of enjoying herself and forming attachments to others. This is such as refreshing change from the roles most young actresses are given lately. Ewan McGregor plays the young Obi-Wan. He is respectful yet head strong. His devotion to his Jedi master harkens back to the days of apprenticeship where a skilled master taught a trade over the years. McGregor brings a certain spark to this role.

What can be said about director George Lucas? He is certifiably a genius. Every Star Wars film he does pushing the envelope of digital effects. He went overboard with this film. Many characters seemed to have been placed in the movie just because it was possible to put them there. The digital characters are often ridiculous. I’m not even going to go into the infamous Jar-Jar Binks. Mr. Lucas, please cut back and use more human actors. An actor in a FX mask is preferable to some of the CGI generated characters that infested this film. The story Lucas provided for this film was simple but since this movie is the first part of a three part set this is to be expected. The movie had to introduce new characters and help us understand the position of characters we were familiar with from the previous movies.

The tape is typical quality. The THX sound is full and well done. The dialogue is often muddled but that was often due to the horrid accents attributed to the characters. The picture is clear, well, as clear as possible for VHS. The Letterbox box set came with a passible booklet containing pre-production artwork. There is also a short sample of the film cells. All in all a must for the must for the die-hard Star Wars fan. It will hold us until 2005 when we can get the DVD.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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