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Star wars I: The phantom menace - Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, George Lucas

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Every generation has a legend. Every journey has a first step. Every saga has a beginning.

Luke Skywalker's father is just a hopeful 9-year-old boy named Anakin, who knows nothing of his eventual fate as a dark lord in years to come. In this earlier time, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is a determined young Jedi knight. Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) is Obi-Wan's venerable master, trying to teach the Jedi way to his apprentice as their world begins to unravel in political turmoil. Episode I takes audiences through extraordinary realms and adventures, from the desert planet of Tatooine to the galactic capital world of Coruscant (with its Jedi temple), the green world of Naboo and beyond. Familiar Star wars characters Yoda (Frank Oz), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and Jabba the Hutt are along for the ride. This first chapter in the Star wars saga follows young Anakin Skywalker's journey as he pursues his dreams and confronts his fears in the midst of a galaxy in crisis.

Theatrical propaganda posters

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Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film science fiction action adventure force Jedi Sith Empire Palpatine Anakin Skywalker Obi Wan Kenobi

Persons of interest

  • Ewan McGregor .... Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • Liam Neeson .... Qui-Gon Jinn
  • Frank Oz .... Yoda
  • Kenny Baker .... R2-D2
  • Anthony Daniels .... C-3PO
  • Ian McDiarmid .... Senator Cos Palpatine, Darth Sidious
  • Natalie Portman .... Queen Amidala, Padmé
  • Pernilla August .... Shmi Skywalker
  • Samuel L Jackson .... Mace Windu
  • Oliver Ford Davies .... Sio Bibble
  • Hugh Quarshie .... Captain Panaka
  • Ahmed Best .... Jar Jar Binks
  • Terence Stamp .... Chancellor Finis Valorum
  • Brian Blessed .... Boss Nass
  • Andrew Secombe .... Watto
  • George Lucas .... Screenwriter
  • George Lucas .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

A longer time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Someone (George Lucas) thought that it was time to make another movie, now that the tech was there to do snazzy CGI stuff. So he did. Unfortunately he only gets paid through merchandising. This is the result.

Nowhere near as good as any of the middle three episodes, The phantom menace falls below the line in two main respects. Firstly, most of the film is exposition: the make-up and state of the republic, the Federation trade war (Trekkies get spun out by that one), the Jedi council, the force, the dark side, etc., etc., etc. Secondly, most of the rest of the film is special effects: Federation/Naboo battles, Federation/Gungun battles, strange new worlds, new life forms, adventurers boldly going where... ooops.

All that stuff doesn't leave much room for plot or characterisation, the peas and carrots of storytelling. Don't get me wrong, though; The phantom menace is far from boring. It's just that there's so much in it which doesn't need to be there (the whole pod racing thing, for example. For ¼ of an hour there's lots of rushing around and snazzy effects. No-one learns anything. No-one's state or status changes. No conflicts are resolved or created. No new information is extracted. It's just a whole heap of merchandising. Have you played the game yet?) as much as I hate to say this, you probably won't need to see this film to understand episodes II and III.

*Sighs*

Ewan, an all-round legend, is legendary as Obi-Wan: impeccable accent, great movement, style and flair... I hope he'll be playing Obi-Wan all the way through. Liam is paternal and composed, while that's perfect for Qui-Gon it doesn't let a lot of character out. It also makes the baddies seem more interesting: with nary a tenth of screen time and a hundredth the dialogue, Darth Maul is wa-a-a-a-y more exciting. Natalie is full on as Amidala (very regal, a great vocal range) and very human as Padmé (her own hand maiden). She's good. She'll go far. Well... further. Everyone else does well enough, too. I still don't get why Samuel was cast as a Jedi master. Are the Jedi short on attitude? Speaking of short, it's funny seeing Yoda with hair and a moustache. It's a good way to show the passing of time to Empire and Jedi, but it's still funny. Kind of like thinking about your grandparents having sex.

The DVD features are full on with lots and lots of stuff to play with; they'll keep even the most die-hard Jedi padawan apprentice entertained for several days (with breaks for pizza, caffeine and potty). If you are hot for pod racing they'll last even longer.

Well, I wasn't hugely impressed with The phantom menace, although it is still a great piece of entertainment. It's just got an awful lot to live up to. Watch it, enjoy it and wait for the next episode due out in a couple of years. Or, better still, move to Sydney, get an agent and become an extra!

FYI: If you look carefully in the senate chamber you will see members of ET's species. In posters for ET: the extra-terrestrial his home is stated as being 300 million light-years away. That makes the Star wars galaxy 300 million light-years (2,838,240,000,000,000,000,000 or almost 3000 billion billion kilometres) away from Earth (ie far, far away).

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • 2-disc set containing approximately 480 minutes of extra material
  • Commentary by George Lucas
  • Deleted scenes Documentary: 7 sequences unique to DVD
  • 60 minute behind-the-scenes Documentary: culled from >600 hours of footage
  • Interactive Featurette: creating scenes from storyboards to animatics to final film composites
  • Original theatrical trailers
  • TV spots
  • Gallery of never-before-seen cast and crew photos
  • Award-winning twelve-part web documentary series
  • Featurettes: storyline, design, costumes, visual effects, fight scenes

Security censorship classification

G

Surveillance time

113 minutes (1:53 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

DVD rental: 17 October 2001

Cinema surveillance images

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