WSR Detailed LaserDisc Review

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Genre:Science Fiction

Reviewed In Issue 39 Of Widescreen Review® Stars:
Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Pernilla August & Frank Oz

WSR Review Scores
Picture Rating: 4
Sound Rating: 5+
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Reference Systems
Critics' Composite Score:
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DVD General Information
(Studio/Distributor): 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
(Catalog Number): PILF-2830
(MPAA Rating): PG
(Retail Price): $NA
(Running Time In Minutes): 133
(Color Type): Color
(Chaptered/Scene Access): Yes
(Closed Captioned): Yes
(Theatrical Release): 1999
(LD Release Date): 04/07/00
(THX® Digitally Mastered): Yes

Credits Information
(Director): George Lucas
(Screenplay/Written By): George Lucas
(Story): NA
(Music): John Williams
(Director Of Photography):
(Production Designer): Gavin Bocquet
(Visual Effects): Industrial Light & Magic
(Costume Designer): Trisha Biggar
(Editor): Paul Martin Smith, GBFE & Ben Burtt
(Supervising Sound Editors):
(Re-Recording Mixers):
(Executive Producers): George Lucas
(Co-Producers): NA
(Producers): Rick McCallum

DVD Picture Information
(Principal Photography): Arriscope/Hawk Anamorphic
(Theatrical Aspect Ratio): 2.40:1
(Measured LaserDisc Aspect Ratio): 2.35:1

DVD Sound Information
(DVD Soundtrack): Dolby Digital Surround EX
(Theatrical Sound): DTS, SDDS & Dolby Digital Surround EX
(Theatrical Re-Issue Soundtrack):
(Remastered Dolby Digital): No
(Remastered DTS Digital Surround): No
(Additional Languages):

WSR Narrative Review
Story Synopsis:
George Lucas’ long-awaited “Star Wars” prequel is now available... in Japan. Since 1992, Widescreen Review® has reviewed over 2,500 LaserDiscs and 1,500 DVDs. However, we have never reviewed a LaserDisc produced for a market outside the U.S.; but with 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm Ltd.’s decision to withhold a domestic DVD or LaserDisc release of “Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace,” we felt it was time to make an exception. Released in Japan (7,800 Yen), this LaserDisc represents the best high-quality option consumers have for home viewing of Lucas’ epic. “Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace” opens with the Trade Federation, under the guidance of Darth Sidious, initiating a hostile takeover of the planet Naboo. Sent to negotiate, Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn (Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) get caught up in the ensuing battle and flee along with Naboo’s leader, Queen Amidala (Portman). The group travel to the familiar desert planet of Tatooine to repair their ship that was damaged in the escape. It is there where they meet Anakin Skywalker (Lloyd). Sensing that young Anakin can bring balance to the Force, Qui-Gon begins training him as a Jedi. Later, on Coruscant, Amidala is aided in her plight by one Senator Palpatine (who suspiciously looks and sounds a lot like Darth Sidious, hmmm!). Traveling back to Naboo, the heroes join forces with the Gungans, the native inhabitants of Naboo, and wage battle with the Trade Federation’s army to restore freedom to the galaxy... and to set up “Episode II.” The Widescreen VHS Collector’s Edition, which retails for a ridiculously high $39.98, proudly boasts on its back cover: “The ultimate Episode I video experience.” For the real ultimate experience, please release the movie on DVD! “The Phantom Menace,” as well as the original “Star Wars” masterpieces (“A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return Of The Jedi”), deserve to be made available on DVD so that the Force can continue to be with fans of George Lucas’ fantastic and awe-inspiring saga. The Force just isn’t with VHS.

LaserDisc Picture:
The THX® Digitally Mastered 2.35:1 LaserDisc exhibits a picture that is quite pleasing, with rich colors and balanced fleshtones. Images are sharp and detailed, with astounding visual effects that are nicely rendered throughout. The weakest element of image quality has to be the darker scenes; which, when viewed on calibrated NTSC systems in the United States, are somewhat lacking in detail. The underwater scene in Chapter 7, for instance, is not very solid, with imagery appearing to break apart on larger home theatre displays. There are instances of edge enhancement, but nothing too distracting. Noise is apparent, as well as minor artifacts; but overall, the picture on this import will delight those in the United States who want to own “The Phantom Menace” for their home theatre, whether it has Japanese subtitles or not.

LaserDisc Soundtrack:
As anticipated, the Dolby® Digital discrete 5.1-channel soundtrack is a superb sonic presentation that is a true testament to the achievements of the creative forces at Skywalker Sound. This is an aggressive, prominent film soundtrack that can be loud and possibly bright at times, even with Re-EQ engaged. Nonetheless, the fidelity is first-rate and indicative of an excellent film sound production. The engagement of the soundfield results in a fully spacious and enveloping listening experience that is highly worthy of commendation. All channels are actively engaged, yielding an energetic soundstage from all directions that places the listener right into the exciting and intense action sequences. The sound design of this film, from Ben Burtt, is uniquely remarkable in that the crafting and placement of sound effects seems to create the intended visceral effect in ways that just aren’t experienced in other films. This was the first theatrical release to feature Dolby Digital Surround EX, which adds a back surround channel to the 5.1-channel configuration. Re-recording mixers Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson and Shawn Murphy have effectively and artfully engaged the back surround to elicit a convincing sense of both space and events happening from behind you. John Williams’ music score is exciting and engaging as usual, and Shawn Murphy’s excellent work with recording/mixing the score is revealed in the final sound mix. The result is a rich, expansive presence that is indicative of Murphy’s other works. The dialogue production is very good, with voices sounding natural and matching well with the visual environments. Perhaps the most noteworthy element of the soundtrack is the low frequencies, which distinguish themselves from other films in that the bass is incredibly deep, clean and penetrating with extension to well below 25Hz in all channels, to the extent that you can detect individual cycles of subsonic acoustic energies! “Star Wars: Episode I” continues the Lucasfilm tradition of offering great movie sound for a great movie experience, and the creative team behind the soundtrack deserves their credit for a wonderful production effort that fully delivers the intended visceral effect from the storytelling.
(Surround Bass Below 50Hz): Yes
(Aggressive System Surround): Yes
(Intense 25Hz Bass): Yes
(Deep Bass Challenging): Yes
(Aggressive 0.1 LFE):
(Holosonic Soundfield): Yes
(Aggressive Split Surround): Yes
(Center Back Surround Imaging): Yes
(Directionalized Dialogue): No
Superb Sound Effects Recording Quality:
Superb Music Score Recording Quality:
Superb Special Visual Effects Quality:
Superb Color Fidelity:
Superb Cinematography:
Reference LaserDisc:
Collector Edition:
DVD To LaserDisc Comparison: