Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
|Star Wars Episode I:
The Phantom Menace
Original theatrical poster by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||George Lucas|
|Produced by||Rick McCallum|
|Written by||George Lucas|
|Music by||John Williams|
|Editing by||Ben Burtt
Paul Martin Smith
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox1|
|Running time||136 minutes|
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a 1999 American epic space opera film written and directed by George Lucas. It is the fourth film to be released in the Star Wars saga, as the first of a three-part prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as the first film in the saga in terms of story chronology. The film was also Lucas' first production as a film director after a 22-year hiatus following the original Star Wars film, and only his fourth overall.
The film follows the Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi, who escort and protect Queen Amidala in traveling from the planet Naboo to the planet Coruscant in the hope of finding a peaceful end to a large-scale interplanetary trade dispute. It also features a young Anakin Skywalker before he became a Jedi, introduced as a young slave boy who seems to be unusually strong with nascent powers of the Force, and must contend with the mysterious return of the Sith.
Lucas began production of this film after he had concluded that the science of film special effects had advanced to the level of what he wanted for his fourth film in the saga. Its filming took place during 1997 (started on June 26, 1997) at various locations including Leavesden Film Studios and the Tunisian desert. Its visual effects included extensive use of computer-generated imagery (CGI), with some of its characters and settings being completely computerized and not existing at all in the real world.
The film premiered in theaters on May 19, 1999, sixteen years after the premiere of the previous Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi. The film's premiere was accompanied by considerable hype, extensive media coverage and great anticipation, due to the large cultural following the Star Wars saga had cultivated. Despite mixed reviews by critics, who tended to praise the visuals and action sequences but criticized the writing, characterization and acting, it grossed more than $924.3 million worldwide during its initial run in theaters, making it the second-highest-grossing film worldwide at the time (behind Titanic). It became the highest-grossing film of 1999, the highest-grossing Star Wars film, and is currently the fifth-highest-grossing film in North America (unadjusted for inflation). A 3D reissue was released in February 2012, which has earned an additional $102.7 million at the box office, bringing the film's overall worldwide total to over $1 billion.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Historical and cultural allusions
- 5 Release
- 6 Reception
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The Galactic Republic is in a period of recent decline. In response to a taxation on trade routes, the Trade Federation organizes a blockade of battleships around the planet of Naboo. Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum dispatches two Jedi Knights, Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan (apprentice) Obi-Wan Kenobi, to negotiate with Trade Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray to end the blockade.
However, the Trade Federation's secret adviser, Darth Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith, orders the Viceroy to kill the Jedi Knights and invade Naboo with an army of battle droids. The two Jedi flee to Naboo, where Qui-Gon saves Gungan outcast Jar Jar Binks from being crushed alive by a Federation tank. Indebted to the Jedi, Jar Jar leads them to the underwater Gungan city of Otoh Gunga; there, the Jedi unsuccessfully attempt to persuade the Gungans to help Naboo, though they are able to obtain a transport to reach the Capital city of Theed on the surface of Naboo, avoiding giant carnivorous fish along the way.
The queen of Naboo, Amidala, is captured by the Federation army, but is rescued by the Jedi. The Queen escapes Naboo with the Jedi on her personal starship, which is on its way to Coruscant. After the Trade Federation blockade damages the ship, the hyperdrive generator malfunctions and the ship lands on the planet Tatooine for repairs. Qui-Gon ventures into the settlement of Mos Espa with Jar Jar and the astromech droid R2-D2 to a junk shop to purchase a new hyperdrive generator. The queen arranges for her handmaiden, Padmé to tag along.
While walking around the town, they meet a 9-year-old slave child, Anakin Skywalker, a gifted pilot and engineer who has created his own protocol droid, C-3PO, who helps him around with the house chores. Qui-Gon senses a strong presence of the Force within the boy, and suspects he may be the "Chosen One" of Jedi prophecy who will bring balance to the Force. Qui-Gon makes a bet with Anakin's owner, Watto, to enter him in a podracing tournament; if Anakin wins, he will be freed. Qui-Gon also tricks him into thinking that the vehicle Anakin built is his own. Anakin wins the race and joins the group to be trained as a Jedi, but he leaves his mother Shmi behind. On their way back to the starship, they encounter Darth Sidious' apprentice, Darth Maul, who was dispatched to capture the Queen.
Having escaped the attack, the Jedi escort the Queen to the Republic's capital planet of Coruscant so she can plead her people's case to the Galactic Senate. Qui-Gon informs the Jedi Council about his recent attack on Tatooine and suspects of his attacker being a Sith. Qui-Gon also asks to train Anakin as a Jedi, but the Council, concerned that the boy's future is clouded by fear, declines. Meanwhile, Senator Palpatine of Naboo convinces the Queen to make a motion of no confidence in Valorum in attempt to vote for a stronger Chancellor who will help end the conflict. She pushes such a vote, but grows frustrated with the corruption in the Senate, eventually deciding to return to Naboo with the Jedi Knights.
Back on Naboo, Padmé reveals herself to be the real Queen Amidala, the other "Queen" having been a decoy named Sabé. Padmé persuades the Gungans to form an alliance against the Trade Federation. While Jar Jar leads his tribe in a battle against the droid army, the Queen tries to capture Gunray in Theed, Anakin pilots a vacant starfighter and joins the battle against the Federation droid control ship in space. Trying to find a way to leave the battle, he accidentally ventures into the ship, but then blasts through the ship and disables the sensors and the ship's engines, destroying the ship and deactivating the droid army down on Naboo.
Meanwhile, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon engage Darth Maul in a lightsaber duel. Despite Maul's skill, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon gradually force him to give ground; however, Obi-Wan is delayed when Maul knocks him off a platform, and when he catches up to them a temporary energy barrier prevents him from rejoining the duel. Facing Qui-Gon alone, Maul mortally wounds him. Obi-Wan attacks Maul, but is trapped on the edge of an abyss. Obi-Wan calms himself, leaping out of the pit and summoning Qui-Gon's lightsaber before eventually killing Maul. Qui-Gon asks Obi-Wan to train Anakin and become his teacher, then dies. Palpatine is elected as the new Supreme Chancellor of the Republic and Gunray is sent to stand trial for his crimes. Obi-Wan is made a full-fledged Jedi Knight, and the Jedi Council accepts Anakin as Obi-Wan's Padawan. However, the Jedi are still mystified by the recent reemergence of the Sith, and even at Qui-Gon's funeral they are left to wonder if Darth Maul was the Sith master or merely the apprentice, since there are always two of them. At a festive ceremony, Padmé presents a gift of appreciation and friendship to the Gungans.
- Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn: A Jedi Master and mentor to Obi-Wan. When he discovers Anakin, he insists that the boy be trained as a Jedi, despite the Jedi Council's protests. Lucas originally envisioned an American actor in the role, but cast Neeson, who is Irish, because he considered Neeson to have great skills and presence, describing him as a "master actor, who the other actors will look up to, who has got the qualities of strength that the character demands."
- Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi: Qui-Gon's young Jedi Padawan apprentice. He holds Qui-Gon in high regard, but questions his motives at times. McGregor was cast out of fifty potential actors, all of whom who had to be compared to pictures of young Alec Guinness, who portrayed the elderly Obi-Wan, to make a believable younger version. McGregor had a vocal coach help him develop a voice closer to Guinness', and studied several of Guinness' performances, from both his early work and the Star Wars movies.
- Natalie Portman as Queen Padmé Amidala: The young queen of Naboo at 14 years of age, Amidala hopes to protect her planet from a blockade brought on by the Trade Federation. Over 200 actresses were auditioned for the role, with production notes stating that "The role required a young woman who could be believable as the ruler of that planet, but at the same time be vulnerable and open." Portman was chosen especially for her performances in The Professional (1994) and Beautiful Girls (1996), which impressed Lucas. He stated, "I was looking for someone who was young, strong, along the lines of Leia [and] Natalie embodied all those traits and more." The actress was unfamiliar with Star Wars prior to being cast, but was enthused over being cast as Naboo's queen, a character she expected to become a role model: "It was wonderful playing a young queen with so much power. I think it will be good for young women to see a strong woman of action who is also smart and a leader."
- Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker: A nine-year-old slave boy with great piloting skills, who dreams of becoming a Jedi. Hundreds of actors were tested, before the producers settled on Lloyd, who Lucas considered that fit his requirements of "a good actor, enthusiastic and very energetic" and producer Rick McCallum added that Lloyd was "smart, mischievous and loves anything mechanical – just like Anakin."
- Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Darth Sidious: The Senator of Naboo, who is eventually elected Chancellor of the Republic. McDiarmid was surprised when Lucas approached him 16 years after Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi to reprise the role of Palpatine, because he had assumed that a younger actor would play the part in the prequel films.
- Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks: A clumsy Gungan, exiled from his home but taken in by Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. He accompanies them throughout the film. Best was hired after Gurland saw him on a Stomp performance in San Francisco, and originally was just going to provide motion capturing, but after offering to also voice the character, was accepted. He wandered in the set in a foam-and-latex suit and headpiece to provide reference for the actors, with his filmed performance later replaced by the computer-generated character. Best frequently improvised movements to make Jar Jar as clumsy and comedic as possible.
- Pernilla August as Shmi Skywalker: Anakin's mother. She is concerned for her son's future, and lets him leave with the Jedi. August, a veteran of Swedish cinema, was chosen after auditioning with Liam Neeson, although she was afraid of not being chosen due to her accent.
- Ray Park as Darth Maul: Darth Sidious' Zabrak Sith apprentice, who uses a double-bladed lightsaber. A martial arts champion with experience in gymnastics and swordfighting, Park was originally only a member of the stunt crew, and stunt coordinator Nick Gillard filmed Park to demonstrate how he envisioned the lightsaber battles. Lucas and McCallum were so impressed with the test tape that they gave Park the role of Maul. His voice was considered "too squeaky", leading it to be dubbed over. He was voiced by Peter Serafinowicz.
- Anthony Daniels voices C-3PO: A protocol droid built by Anakin, he lacks a metal covering in this film, which R2-D2 refers to as being "naked". A puppeteer – dressed in a color close to the one seen in the background, similar to the Japanese puppet theater Bunraku, so he could be erased during post-production – manipulated a skeletal C-3PO figure attached to his front, while Daniels read his lines off-camera.
- Kenny Baker as R2-D2: An astromech droid, notable for saving Queen Amidala's ship when all other droids fail. Before the film's production started, fans campaigned on the Internet to retain Baker as R2, to which Lucas replied that the actor would remain. Baker is used for scenes where R2 bends forwards and backwards and wobble from side to side, while actual robots and a digital replica are used otherwise (see Effects, below).
- Silas Carson as Nute Gunray: The Viceroy of the Trade Federation who leads Naboo's invasion and tries to force Queen Amidala to sign a treaty to legitimize the occupation. Carson also portrays three minor characters: Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi, Trade Federation Senator Lott Dod, and an ill-fated pilot (which was the role Carson originally auditioned for). Carson got the role because another actor was uncomfortable with the costumes used by the Trade Federation characters – which were hot, exerted a lot of pressure on the bearer, and took about 15 minutes to apply. The Thai accent used by the character was chosen after Lucas and McCallum listened to various languages to pick how the Neimodians would speak.
- Hugh Quarshie as Captain Panaka: Queen Amidala's chief of security at Theed Palace. Quarshie accepted the part for considering it "a good career move" and a production that would be fun to make.
- Andy Secombe voices Watto: A junk dealer on Tatooine who owns Anakin and his mother as slaves. With a design that was an amalgalm of various rejected ideas, Watto's expressions were based on video footage of Secombe doing the voice acting, photos of animation supervisor Rob Coleman imitating the character, and modeler Steve Alpin saying Watto's lines to the mirror.
- Lewis MacLeod voices Sebulba: An aggressive, scheming Podracer and Anakin's rival. Sebulba's design was described by Lucas as "a spider crossed with an orangutan crossed with a sloth", with a camel-like face, and clothing inspired by medieval armor.
- Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda: The centuries old leader of the Jedi Council who is apprehensive about allowing Anakin to be trained. Yoda was mostly portrayed as a puppet designed by Nick Dudman, based on Stuart Freeborn's original design, with Oz controlling the mouth and other parts controlled by the puppeteers using remote controls. Lucas fitted Yoda's filming around Oz's schedule as he finished and promoted In & Out. A computer-generated Yoda is featured in two distant shots and Warwick Davis portrays him in the scene in which Obi-Wan becomes a Jedi Knight. Lucas stated that his original intention was for a full-time digital Yoda, but the attempts did not work well enough. Eventually on The Phantom Menace's Blu-ray version, also used for the 3D re-release, a CG Yoda similar to the one from the other prequels is used instead.
- Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu: A member of the Jedi Council who also opposes the idea of training Anakin. After Jackson expressed interest in appearing in a Star Wars film, he was approached by cast director Robin Gurland to play Windu.
- Terence Stamp as Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum: The current Chancellor who commissions Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to negotiate with the Trade Federation Viceroy. Lucas described the character as a "good man but he's beleaguered – a bit like [Bill] Clinton".
- Brian Blessed voices Boss Nass: The leader of the Gungan tribe who allies with the Naboo and defeats the Trade Federation. Blessed originally auditioned for Sio Bibble, the Governor of Naboo, for which he was considered "too loud". Casting director Robin Gurland approached him for Nass as it was a "bigger than life" character with "a kind of bravado". Blessed described Nass as a "reluctant hero", and a fun role to play.
- Greg Proops and Scott Capurro voice Fode and Beed, the two headed announcer of the Boonta's Eve Race. The actors were filmed wearing make-up and blue bodysuits, so their heads would be joined in a computer-generated body. The visual effects crew did not like the original results, and ended up crafting Fode and Beed as an entirely computer generated alien.
Background and writing
During the process of writing the original Star Wars, George Lucas reportedly realized that the story he had written was too vast in scope to be covered in one stand-alone film, and thus, the original film was meant to be the introduction to a much wider story arc that could be covered by sequels if the first film turned out to be successful. The original film eventually evolved, from being the first film in the sequence, to a film actually belonging to the saga's second trilogy. By the time of the third draft, Lucas had negotiated a contract that gave him rights to make two sequels. He had also by that point developed a fairly elaborate back-story to aid his writing process. While writing the first sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas considered different directions in which to take the story. He turned the villain Darth Vader into the father of hero Luke Skywalker, and developed a backstory depicting Vader as having once been Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, a powerful warrior who was swayed to the dark side of the Force. With this new backstory in place, Lucas decided that the series would be a trilogy, renaming the film from "Episode II" to "Episode V". By the time of the trilogy's final film, Return of the Jedi, Vader became a tragic character and was ultimately redeemed. However, Lucas stated that he was "burned out" and would take a break from the series.
After losing much of his fortune in a divorce settlement in 1987, George Lucas had no desire to return to Star Wars, and had unofficially canceled his sequel trilogy by the time of Return of the Jedi. But since Lucas had developed most of the backstory, the idea of prequels continued to fascinate him. In the early 1990s, Star Wars saw a resurgence in popularity in the wake of Dark Horse's comic line and Timothy Zahn's trilogy of novels. Seeing that there was still a large audience for his idea of a prequel trilogy, and with the explosion of special effects using computer-generated imagery, Lucas considered returning to his saga and even directing the film. By 1993 it was announced, in Variety among other sources, that he would be making the prequels. He began outlining the story, now indicating that Anakin Skywalker would be the main protagonist rather than Obi-Wan Kenobi, and that the series would be a tragic one examining Darth Vader's origins. Lucas also began to change how the prequels would exist relative to the originals, from a "filling-in" of history, backstory, existing parallel or tangential to the originals, to the beginning of one long story that started with Anakin's childhood and ended with his death. This was the final step towards turning the franchise into a "saga".
George Lucas began writing the new Star Wars trilogy on November 1, 1994. The screenplay for Star Wars was adapted from Lucas' 15-page outline that was written in 1976. The early outline was originally designed to help Lucas track the character backstories and what events had taken place before the original trilogy. At first Anakin's age was twelve, but Lucas reduced it to nine because he felt the lower age fit better the plot point of Anakin being affected by his mother being separated from him. Eventually Anakin being younger led Lucas to rewrite Anakin's participation in the final battle – small scenes with him figuring out how the ship works, R2D2 helping Anakin – to make it sound more believable. While the film's working title was The Beginning, Lucas later revealed the true title to be The Phantom Menace; a reference to Palpatine hiding his true identity as an evil Sith Lord behind the facade of a well-intentioned public servant.
The larger budget and possibilities opened by digital effects made Lucas "think about a much grander, more epic scale - which is what I wanted Star Wars to be." Thus the story ended with five plots going on simultaneously, one leading to another – the central is Palpatine's intent to become Chancellor, which leads to the Trade Federation's attack to Naboo, the Jedi being sent there, Anakin being met along the way, and the rise of the Sith lords. Like with the original trilogy, Lucas constructed The Phantom Menace to illustrate a number of themes through the narrative. Duality is frequent, with Amidala being a queen who passes as a handmaiden, Palpatine playing on both sides of the war, and Obi-Wan at odds with his rebellious master but eventually becoming Qui-Gon by taking on his rebellious personality and his responsibilities. Balance also emerged frequently, with both Anakin being supposedly the chosen one to bring balance to the Force, and the characters having someone to influence them – as Lucas explained, "Anakin needed to have a mother, Obi-Wan needed a Master, Darth Sidious needed an apprentice" as without interaction and dialogue "you wouldn't have drama".
Pre-production and design
Even before Lucas had started writing, his producing partner Rick McCallum was doing his own preparations for the film. McCallum stated that his experience with The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles led to many of his decisions on The Phantom Menace, such as long-term deals with actors and soundstages, employing recent graduates with no film experience, and creating sets and landscapes through digital technology. In April 1994, McCallum started searching for artists on art, architecture and design schools, and in the summer he began location scouting along with production designer Gavin Bocquet. Industrial Light & Magic art director Doug Chiang was eventually hired as the design director for being the artist that impressed McCallum the most.
Within three to four months of Lucas beginning the writing process, Chiang and his design team started a two-year process of reviewing thousands of designs for the film. Chiang stated that Lucas intended Episode I to be a stylistically different production from the other Star Wars films, being "richer and more like a period piece, since it was the history leading up to A New Hope." The three planets in which the story takes place – some with varied environments, such as the human and Gungan cities of Naboo and three different buildings in Coruscant – would be given distinctive looks, with some basis in the real world except for the Gungan city, which instead had an art nouveau-inspired visual. The concept drawings of Ralph McQuarrie for the original trilogy served as the basis for Mos Espa – which also drew from old Tunisian hotels and buildings, and had touches such as a marketplace to differentiate from A New Hope's Mos Eisley – and Coruscant, in particular a metropolis design which became the basis for the Senate. Bocquet would later flesh out the work of Chiang's team and design the interiors, translating the concepts into construction blueprints with environments and architectural styles that had some basis in reality "to give the audience something to key into. At the same time some elements would draw direct inspiration from the original trilogy, with Lucas describing the battle droids as predecessors to the Stormtroopers, and Chiang using that orientation to base the droids on the Imperial soldiers, only in the same style of stylized and elongated features seen in tribal African art.
Standing out on creature design was artist Terryl Whitlatch, who had a background on zoology and anatomy. Many of the aliens emerged as hybrids combining features of different real animals. At times entire food chains would be developed even if only a small percentage would appear on the film. Whitlatch would also design detailed skeletons for major characters, and facial muscles on Jar Jar Binks as reference to ILM's animators. Each creature would reflect its environment, with Naboo's being more beautiful given the planet being "lush and more animal-friendly", Tatooine having rough-looking creatures "with weather-beaten leathery skin to protect them from the harsh desert elements" and Coruscant featuring more bipedal human-looking aliens.
Stunt coordinator Nick Gillard was recruited to create a new Jedi fighting style for the prequel trilogy. Gillard likened the lightsaber battles to a chess game "with every move being a check." Because of their short-range weapons, Gillard theorized that the Jedi would have had to develop a fighting style that merged every swordfighting style, such as kendo and other kenjutsu styles, with other swinging techniques, such as tennis swings and tree-chopping. While training Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor, Gillard would write a sequence to be an estimated 60 seconds long, meant to be among five to six sequences per fight. Lucas later referred to Jedi as being "negotiators", rather than high-casualty soldiers. The preference of hand-to-hand combat was intended to give a more spiritual and intellectual role to the Jedi. As Gillard thought the stunt jumps did not look realistic with the actors and stuntmen dangling from wires, air rams propelled them into the air instead.
Lucas also decided to make elaborate costumes, considering that the society was more sophisticated than the one depicted in the original trilogy. Designer Trisha Biggar and her team created over one thousand costumes, with inspiration from various cultures around the globe. Biggar worked closely with concept designer Iain McCaig, creating a color palette for the inhabitants of each world – while Tatooine followed A New Hope with sun-bleached sand colors, Coruscant had grays, browns and blacks, and Naboo had green and gold for humans, while Gungans wore "a leathery look, like their skin". The Jedi costumes followed the tradition from the original, with Obi-Wan's being directly inspired by the one worn by Guinness. Lucas stated that he and Biggar would look at the conceptual art to work on "translating all of these designs into cloth and fabric and materials that would actually work and not look silly." Biggar also consulted Gillard to seek ways the costumes would accommodate action scenes, and the creature department for fabrics that "wouldn't wear too heavily" on the alien skins. A huge wardrobe department was set at Leavesden Film Studios to create from scratch over 250 costumes for the main actors and 5000 for the background ones.
Filming began on June 26, 1997, and ended on September 30 of that year, primarily taking place at Leavesden Film Studios in England. Following another British studio used for the original trilogy, Elstree, Leavesden was leased for a whole two and a half years so the production company could return after principal photography had wrapped with the sets still standing. Another English location was Cassiobury Park in Watford for the forest scenes on Naboo. Pick-ups were shot between August 1998 and February 1999, after Lucas screened a rough cut of the film for friends and colleagues in May 1998. Most of the action and stunts were filmed by Roger Christian's second unit, which worked along the main unit instead of afterwards due to the high number of shots to complete daily.
The Tunisian desert was again used for the Tatooine scenes, with Mos Espa being built in the desert outside Tozeur. On the night following the third day of shooting in Tozeur, an unexpected sandstorm destroyed many sets and props. With a quick rescheduling to allow for repairs, production was able to leave Tunisia on the exact day originally planned. The Italian Caserta Palace doubled for the Theed City Naboo Palace interior, serving as a location for four days after it had been closed for visitation. Scenes with explosions were built in replica sets in Leavesden.
A binder with the film's storyboards served as a reference for what would be shot in live-action, which shots would be filmed in front of a chroma key blue screen, and what would be computer generated. The sets were many times only built with the parts that would be required on screen, most times only up to the heights of the actors. Extensive use of bluescreens was employed for digital set extensions, backgrounds or sceneries, requiring cinematographer David Tattersall to seek more powerful lamps to light the sets, and visual effects supervisor John Knoll to develop a software that would remove the blue reflection from shiny floors. Knoll, who remained on set through most of production, worked closely with Tatterstall to ensure that the shots were suitable to add effects later. The cameras were rigged with data capture models to provide technical data for the CG artists.
The Phantom Menace would be the final Star Wars film to be shot on 35mm film. Some scenes, mostly of elements filmed by the special effects team, were shot on high-definition digital video tapes to test on how digital recording could hold up, as Lucas and McCallum considered it a logical next step given the amount of digitizing – an expensive process compared to recording directly on digital – for the compositing of computer-generated effects. All future films would be shot using Sony CineAlta high-definition video cameras.
Editing lasted for two years, being done by both Paul Martin Smith – who started the process in England, and focused on dialogue-heavy scenes – and Ben Burtt – also the film's sound editor, responsible for action sequences – under Lucas' supervision. Non-linear editing systems played a major part for translating Lucas' vision, with him constantly tweaking, revising and reworking shots and scenes. The final sound mix was added in March 1999, and the following month the film was completed with the delivery of the remaining visual effects shots.
About 1,950 of the shots in The Phantom Menace have special effects, with the scene where toxic gas is released on the Jedi being the only sequence without any digital alteration. The work was so extensive that three visual effects supervisors would split the workload among them – John Knoll supervised the on-set production and the podrace and space battle sequences; Star Wars veteran Dennis Muren looked after the underwater sequence and the ground battle; and Scott Squires took on lightsaber effects – along with teams assigned for miniature effects and character animation.
Up until the film's production, many special effects in the film industry were achieved by the use of miniature models, matte paintings, and on-set visual effects, although other films had made extensive use of computer-generated imagery (CGI). Knoll previewed 3,500 storyboards for the film, with Lucas accompanying him to explain what factors of the shots would be practical and what would be created through visual effects. Knoll later recounted that on hearing the explanations of the storyboards, he was unaware of any way to accomplish what he had seen. The result was to mix original techniques with the newest digital techniques to make it difficult for the viewer to guess which technique was being used. New computer software was written by Knoll and his visual effects team to create certain shots in the film, including cloth simulators for a realistic depiction of the digital characters' clothing. Another goal was to create computer-generated characters that could act seamlessly with live-action actors. While filming scenes with CGI characters, Lucas would block the characters using their corresponding voice actor on-set. The voice actors were then removed and the live-action actors would perform the same scene alone. A CGI character would later be added into the shot, completing the conversation. Lucas also used CGI to correct the physical presence of actors in certain scenes. Practical models were also used when their visuals helped, with miniature sceneries for backgrounds and set extensions, and model vehicles that would both be scanned to create the digital models or filmed to represent spaceships and podraces.
Having confronted problems with the props used to depict R2-D2 before, Lucas allowed two companies, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and the production's British special effects department, to create their own versions for the robot. Nine R2-D2 models were created; one was for actor Kenny Baker to be dropped into; seven were built by ILM, and featured two wheelchair motors capable of pushing 440 pounds (198 kilograms) of weight, enabling it to run and being mostly used in stage sets; and the British studio produced a "pneumatic" R2 that was able to shift from two to three legs, and was mostly used in Tunisia, because that R2's motor drive system allowed it to drive over sand.
While the initial attempt was to create as many aliens with computer graphics, the ones which would be more cost-effective done with masks and animatronics were created by Nick Dudman's creature effects team. These included the Neimodians, and background characters on Mos Espa, the Jedi Council and the Galactic Senate. Dudman's team was warned on where they would be required only six months before principal photography begun, so they had to rush its production. The Neimodian suits, originally envisoned as digital characters, were delivered just one day before they would be required on set. Dudman travelled to Skywalker Ranch to see the original creatures that could be reused, and read the script for a breakdown on scenes with practical creatures, leading only the more outlandish designs to be done through CG.
To research for the podrace vehicles, the visual effects crew went to a jet junkyard outside Phoenix, and scavenged four Boeing 747 engines. Life-sized replicas of the engines were built, and sent to Tunisia to provide reference in the film. Besides Jake Lloyd inside a hydraulically controlled cockpit, and a few practical podracer models, the entire podracing scene is computer-generated, which the effects crew tried to design to be as "out of this world" as possible.
As with previous Star Wars installments, the film's score was composed and conducted by John Williams. He started working on the score in October 1998, and began recording the music with the London Voices and London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios on February 10, 1999. Williams decided to use more electronic instruments such as synthesizers to enhance the sound, and more choral pieces to "capture the magical, mystical force that a regular orchestra might not have been able to provide" and reflect the different atmosphere, "more mysterious and mystical and less military" than the original trilogy. One of the most notable tracks is "Duel of the Fates", that even received its own music video, which uses the chorus introduced to give a religious, temple-like feel to the epic lightsaber duel. While composing Anakin's theme, Williams tried to reflect both the innocence of his childhood, and foreshadow his transformation into Darth Vader by putting slight suggestions of "The Imperial March" into the melody.
The film's soundtrack was released by Sony Classical Records on May 4, 1999. This album featured the score restructured by the composer as a listening experience; therefore, it is not in film order and omits many notable cues from the film due to a compact disc's space restrictions. A two-disc "Ultimate Edition" was released on November 14, 2000. The set features almost the entire score as it is heard in the film, including all of the edits and loops that were made for the sound mix.
Historical and cultural allusions
Like previous Star Wars films, The Phantom Menace makes several references to both historical events and films from George Lucas' youth. The Star Wars films typically mix several selected concepts from different mythologies together.
The Jedi practice Zen-like meditation and martial arts, as did the ancient Japanese Samurai warriors. The name "Qui-Gon" adapts the term Qigong, which refers to a Chinese discipline involving meditation and cultivating the flow of the vital energy called "Chi" or "Qi" for healing, health and combat. The words Ch'i (Chinese), ki (Japanese) and the Indian term "Prana" are all referring to the energy thought to flow through all living things, from the source of all chi (or power) which is "The Way" or "The Tao" in Chinese philosophy. In Taoist philosophy, from The Way is born the two opposing but complementary aspects of reality or nature, yin and yang. Unlike Chinese philosophy, where yin and yang are not moral qualities, the ancient Persian philosophy of Zurvanism taught that the dualism of dark and light forces are locked in eternal battle while at the same time being two sides (or evolutes) of the same "Force", the force of time itself (Zurvan): the prime mover. These elements derive primarily from Eastern and Iranian religions and myths.
There are many references to Christian mythology in the film, such as the appearance of Darth Maul, whose design draws heavily from traditional depictions of the Christian Devil, complete with red skin and horns. In turn, Maul's facial tattoos brought inspiration from the indigenous peoples in Brazil. The Star Wars film cycle features a similar Christian mythological narrative involving Anakin Skywalker, the "chosen one" conceived of a virgin birth, who is tempted to join the Sith. His fall from grace seemingly prevents him from fulfilling his destiny as the "chosen one" – the individual prophesied to bring balance to the Force. The inspiration behind the story of the "virgin birth" parallels a concept developed by Joseph Campbell and his work on The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the same work that heavily influenced Lucas in his writing of the original Star Wars trilogy's outline.
Japanese film such as Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress was a source of inspiration for the original Star Wars film, and scholars point out that The Phantom Menace was likewise influenced by Japanese culture. Film historians Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska assert, "The costume and make-up designs ... favour a mixture of the gothic and the oriental over anything very futuristic. The gothic is most strongly apparent in Darth Maul's demonic horns and the red and black make-up mask that borrows from the facial designs found in depictions of Japanese demons." King and Krzywinska note that "Qui-Gon's pony tail and Obi-Wan's position of apprentice further encourage a reading in terms of the Samurai tradition." Finally, "Amidala, in keeping with her status and character, has a number of highly formal outfits ... to go with hair sculpted into a curve that frames make-up of a Japanese cast."
The release of the first new Star Wars film in 16 years was accompanied by a considerable amount of hype. Few film studios released films during the same week as the release of The Phantom Menace; among them were DreamWorks and Universal Studios, with the releases of The Love Letter (on May 21) and Notting Hill (on May 28), respectively. The Love Letter resulted in a box-office flop, whereas Notting Hill fared rather well and followed The Phantom Menace closely in second place. Challenger, Gray & Christmas of Chicago, a work-issues consulting firm, estimated that 2.2 million full-time employees did not appear for work to attend the film, resulting in $293 million in lost productivity. According to The Wall Street Journal, so many workers announced plans to view premiere that many companies shut down on the opening day. Queue areas formed outside cinema theaters over a month in advance of ticket sales.
More theater lines appeared when it was announced that cinemas were not allowed to sell tickets in advance until two weeks into the release. This was done out of fear that family theater-goers would be either unable to receive tickets or forced to pay higher prices. Tickets were instead to be sold on a traditional first-come-first-served basis. However, after meetings with the National Association of Theatre Owners, Lucasfilm agreed to allow advance ticket sales on May 12, 1999, provided that there be a twelve-ticket limit per customer. As a result, however, some advance tickets were sold by scalpers as high as $100 apiece, which a distribution chief called "horrible", stating it was exactly what they wanted to avoid. Daily Variety reported that theater owners received strict instructions from Lucasfilm that the film could only play in the cinema's largest auditorium for the first 8–12 weeks; no honor passes were allowed for the first eight weeks, and they were obligated to send their payments to distributor 20th Century Fox within seven days.
Despite worries about whether the film would be finished in time, two weeks before its theatrical release Lucasfilm pushed the release date up from May 21, 1999, to May 19, 1999. At the ShoWest Convention, Lucas stated that the change was to give the fans a "head start" by allowing them to view it over the week and allowing families the chance to view it on the weekends. Foreshadowing his future conversion to digital cinematography, Lucas stated that the film would be released on four digital projectors on June 18, 1999. Eleven charity premieres were staged across the United States on May 16, 1999; receipts from the Los Angeles event were donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation with corporate packages available for $5,000–$25,000. Other charity premieres included the Dallas premiere for Children's Medical Center, the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at the Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York, the Big Brother/Sister Association of the Philadelphia premiere, and the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. A statement said that tickets were sold at $500 apiece and that certain sections were set aside for disadvantaged children.
Lucasfilm spent $20 million in the film's advertising campaign. The company also made licensing deals for promotion with Hasbro, Lego, Tricon Global Restaurants and PepsiCo. Lucasfilm also helped the Star Wars fan club to organize a special event, Star Wars Celebration, which was held in Denver, Colorado between April 30 and May 2, 1999.
The teaser trailer was pre-released on selected screens accompanying A Bug's Life on November 17, 1998, and there were even reports that people were paying full admission at theaters just to see the trailer. A second trailer was released on March 12, 1999, with the film Wing Commander. Again, many fans paid full theater admission just to watch the new trailer. A bootlegged version of the preview was leaked on the Internet the same day, and the trailer was released the following morning on the film's official website, with the servers becoming gridlocked soon after. The theatrical trailer caused even more notable media hype, because it not only premiered in theaters, but screened at the ShoWest Convention in Las Vegas, and was aired on Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood.
The teaser poster, featuring Anakin with his shadow forming Darth Vader's silhouette, was released on November 10, 1998. After Lucas opted for a drawn theatrical poster, Drew Struzan, the artist responsible for the Special Edition posters, was commissioned to illustrate, and the poster was unveiled on March 11, 1999. Lucasfilm dictated that, contractually, Struzan's illustration was the only art the foreign distributors could use, and other than the text, it could not be modified in any way.
Many tie-in adaptations were released, such as a LucasArts video game for the PlayStation and PC, a pinball machine by Williams, a four-part comic book adaptation by Dark Horse Comics, and a junior novelization by Scholastic. The film's official novelization was written by Terry Brooks, who met with Lucas before writing the book and received his approval and guidance, including information about impending developments in the following two installments of the series. Brooks also wrote three chapters of unique material.
For the 2012 3D re-release, General Mills and Nestlé were promotional partners in North America, but promotion was rather limited. A more extensive promotion was done in Japan, with 7-Eleven, Domino's Pizza, Pepsi and Gari-Gari Kun. Kellogg's promoted the film internationally, and French restaurant Quick launched three special Star Wars burgers.
The film was released worldwide on VHS between April 3 and 8, 2000. In North America it came out on April 4 in two different versions, a standard pan and scan and a Collector's Edition widescreen. In its first two days of availability, the regular version sold 4.5 million copies and the limited edition, 500,000. Later, it became the first Star Wars film to be officially released on DVD, on October 16, 2001. Among the special features are seven deleted scenes completed specifically for the DVD, a commentary track featuring among others Lucas and producer Rick McCallum, and a number of documentaries, including a full-length documentary entitled "The Beginning: Making Episode I". The Phantom Menace became the fastest selling DVD ever in the U.S., with 2.2 million copies sold in its first week after release. The DVD version was re-released in a prequel trilogy box set on November 4, 2008. A LaserDisc version of The Phantom Menace was also released in Japan, several months before it was available on DVD in the U.S. The Star Wars films were released on Blu-ray Disc on September 16, 2011 with The Phantom Menace being given a restoration which provided better picture quality and removed the magnification present on the previous DVD release, restoring approximately 8 percent of the picture to the frame. The Blu-ray release of The Phantom Menace was also marked by the replacement of the puppet for a CGI model of Yoda, thus becoming consistent with the remaining films of the prequel trilogy.
On September 28, 20103D. They were supposed to be released in episode order, beginning with The Phantom Menace, which was released in 3D to cinemas in February 2012. The conversion was done by Prime Focus Limited under close supervision of Industrial Light & Magic. The 3D re-releases of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith were postponed after Lucasfilm was bought by The Walt Disney Company to focus on the development of Star Wars Episode VII., it was announced that all six films in the series were supposed to be stereo-converted to
George Lucas stated that the 3D conversion was "just a conversion" of the film's Blu-ray release in 2011 and no additional changes were made. The only confirmed change is to Anakin's magnetic wand during the podrace scene where the tip was sharpened to more accurately fit the 2D photography to the new 3D image.
At the time of its original release, The Phantom Menace received mixed to positive reviews from film critics. As of the film's 3D re-release during March 2012, the film holds a 57% "Rotten" rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 5.8/10, based on 186 reviews. It also has a score of 51/100 ("mixed or average reviews") on Metacritic based on 36 reviews. On both sites, it is the lowest rated film in the Star Wars film series (not including the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars film). Many aspects of the scripting were criticized, especially the character of Jar Jar Binks, who was regarded by many members of the older fan community as toyetic — purely a merchandising opportunity rather than a serious character in the film. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times described Binks as "a major miscue, a comic-relief character who's frankly not funny."  George Lucas criticized the American media for using fan opinions from the Internet as a reliable source for their news stories. In 2002, with the release of Attack of the Clones, Ewan McGregor said that in retrospect The Phantom Menace slightly lacked some of the "humor and colour" of the forthcoming prequels. He felt as a result of bearing the weight of setting up the entire saga, it seemed "kind of flat." One critic observed that, "Perhaps the absolute creative freedom director George Lucas enjoyed while dreaming up the flick's 'comic' relief – with no studio execs and not many an independently minded actor involved – is a path to the dark side." 
Conversely, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave it three and a half out of four stars, calling it "an astonishing achievement in imaginative filmmaking," and stating that "Lucas tells a good story." Ebert also commented that it was perfectly fine for the characters being a bit less compelling, seeing that they were just being introduced, and hypothetically entreating filmmakers to "give me transparent underwater cities and vast hollow senatorial spheres any day." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B grade and complimented Liam Neeson's performance and the action scenes. However, in another Entertainment Weekly review of the film, Marc Bernardin gave the film a C-, calling it "haplessly plotted, horribly written, and juvenile."
Andrew Johnston (critic) of Time Out New York wrote: "Let's face it: no film could ever match the expectations some have for 'Episode I - The Phantom Menace'. Which isn't to say it's a disappointment: on the contrary, it's awesomely entertaining, provided you accept it on its own terms. ... Like the original film, it's a Boy's Own adventure yarn with a corny but irresistible spiritual subtext. The effects and production design are stunning, but they always serve the story, not the other way around."
Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today thought the film did "plenty right," praising the characters of Darth Maul and Watto. David Cornelius of efilmcritic.com remarked that the film's better moments "don't merely balance out the weaker ones – they topple them." Colin Kennedy of Empire magazine said that despite problems with pacing and writing "there is still much pleasure to be had watching our full-blown Jedi guides in action", praising the visuals and Liam Neeson's performance, and considering the duel between Darth Maul and the Jedi "the saga's very best lightsaber battle".
The Phantom Menace was ranked by Empire magazine as one of "500 Greatest Movies Of All Time", while Entertainment Weekly considered it as one of "the 25 worst sequels ever made" and Comcast ranked it among the "worst film sequels of all time". James Berardinelli would later note, "The Phantom Menace was probably the most overhyped motion picture of the last decade (if not longer), and its reputation suffered as a result of its inability to satisfy unreasonable expectations." William Arnold, of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, agreed that the massive hype of the film caused much of the negative reaction, saying "it built expectations that can't possibly be matched and scuttled (the) element of storytelling surprise." However, he also felt that the film was "well made and entertaining" and believed it was much better than similar box office fare released around that year, such as The Mummy and The Matrix.
The introduction of midi-chlorians (microscopic organisms that mediate use of the Force) in the film has been controversial among fans. Those against it have seen it as a concept that negates the Force's spiritual quality, although the film itself still portrays the Force as a mysterious entity using the midi-chlorians as a link through which the Force communicates with living beings. Film historian Daniel Dinello notes, "Anathema to Star Wars fanatics who thought they reduced the Force to a kind of viral infection, midi-chlorians provide a biological interface, the link between physical bodies and spiritual energy." Religion expert John D. Caputo adds, "In the 'Gospel according to Lucas' a world is conjured up in which the intractable oppositions that have tormented religious thinkers for centuries are reconciled. ... The gifts that the Jedi masters enjoy have a perfectly plausible scientific basis, even if its ways are mysterious: their bodily cells have a heavier than usual concentration of 'midi-chlorians.'"
After the film's release, there was controversy over whether several alien characters reflected racial stereotypes, notably: the oafish, slow-witted Jar Jar Binks had long droopy ears reminiscent of dreadlocks and spoke with what many perceived as a Caribbean patois (particularly Jamaican Creole); the greedy and corrupt Neimoidians of the Trade Federation spoke with East Asian accents; and the unprincipled desert trader Watto has been interpreted as a Fagin-esque Jewish stereotype. Lucas has categorically denied all of these implications; however, animator Rob Coleman admitted that he viewed footage of Alec Guinness as Fagin in Oliver Twist to inspire his animators in creating Watto. Jar Jar Binks was described by one critic as "Servile and cowardly...a black minstrel-ish stereotype on par with Stepin Fetchit." Michael Eric Dyson, professor of African-American studies at Georgetown University, observed that the entire Gungan people seem oddly suggestive of a primitive African tribe: "The leader of Jar Jar's tribe is a fat, bumbling buffoon with a rumbling voice, and he seems to be a caricature of a stereotypical African tribal chieftain."
Box office performance
Despite its mixed critical reception, The Phantom Menace was a major financial success, breaking many box office records in its debut. It broke The Lost World: Jurassic Park's records for the largest single-day gross with more than $28 million in the opening day (surpassed in 2001 by Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone), and fastest to $100 million gross in five days (surpassed in 2002 by Spider-Man). It also became the fastest film to reach the $200 million and $300 million mark, surpassing Independence Day and Titanic respectively. The Phantom Menace was 1999's most successful film, earning $431,088,295 domestically (in North America) and $493,229,263 in other territories for a worldwide total of $924,317,558. At that time, the film ranked as the third-highest-grossing film of all time in North America (behind Titanic and Star Wars), and the second-highest-grossing film of all time worldwide (behind Titanic) when not adjusting for inflation of ticket prices. When adjusting for ticket price inflation, it ranked as the 19th-highest-grossing film domestically (making it the fourth Star Wars film to be in the Inflation-Adjusted Top 20). International grosses which exceeded $10 million included Australia ($25.9 million), Brazil ($10.4 million), France and Algeria ($43 million), Germany ($53.9 million), Italy ($12.9 million), Japan ($109.9 million), Mexico ($12 million), Spain ($25 million), and the United Kingdom and Ireland ($81.9 million).
After its 3D re-release in 2012, the total worldwide box office gross surpassed $1 billion. Although the film had lost some of its rankings in the various lists of highest-grossing films in the intervening years, the 3D re-release returned the film to the worldwide all-time top ten for several months (it is currently in 15th place). In North America, it overtook the original Star Wars as the saga's highest grossing film when not adjusting for inflation of ticket prices, and is currently the fifth-highest-grossing film of all time in North America. Also domestically, it increased its rank on the Adjusted for Ticket Price Inflation list to 16th place (one place behind Return of the Jedi). The 3D re-release, which premiered in February 2012, earned $43 million worldwide on its opening weekend ($22.5 million of which was in North America). To date, the 3D re-release has made total of $102,727,119 worldwide (including $43.5 million domestically), and has increased the film's overall box office takings to $474.5 million domestically, and $552.5 million in other territories. The film crossed the $1 billion mark worldwide on February 22, 2012, making it the first Star Wars film to accomplish this feat and the eleventh film in history to do so, not taking inflation into account. Its current worldwide total stands at $1,027,044,677.
Awards and nominations
The Phantom Menace was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Sound Mixing (Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Shawn Murphy and John Midgley), losing all three to The Matrix. In contrast, the film received seven Golden Raspberry Award, or Razzie, nominations. These included Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Supporting Actor (Jake Lloyd as Anakin), Worst Supporting Actress (Sofia Coppola as Saché), Worst Screen Couple (Jake Lloyd and Natalie Portman), and won the Worst Supporting Actor category with Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best. The film won Saturn Awards for Best Costumes and Best Special Effects, the MTV Movie Award for Best Action Scene, and a Young Artist Award for Jake Lloyd's performance. It was also nominated for, among others, the BAFTAs in Visual Effects and Sound, and the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media. Empire magazine ranked The Phantom Menace 449th in a 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.
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