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"Based on the comic Dennis the Menace."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator

STAR WARS THE PHANTOM MENACE

Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute. Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo. While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict....

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a 1999 film by George Lucas starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, and Ray Park. It is the first in a trilogy of films that functions as a prequel to the original classic end trilogy of Star Wars films and, in chronological story order, the first in what formed a six-part saga with the completion of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith on May 19, 2005.

Here, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is a young apprentice Jedi knight under the tutelage of Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson); Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who will later father Luke Skywalker and become known as Darth Vader, is just a nine-year-old boy. When the Trade Federation cuts off all routes to the planet Naboo, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are assigned to settle the matter, but when they arrive on Naboo they are brought to Amidala, the Naboo Queen (Natalie Portman), by a friendly but opportunistic Gungan named Jar Jar. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan plan to escort Amidala to a meeting of Republic leaders in Coruscant, but trouble with their spacecraft strands them on the planet Tatooine, where Qui-Gon meets Anakin, the slave of a scrap dealer. Qui-Gon is soon convinced that the boy could be the leader the Jedis have been searching for, and he begins bargaining for his freedom and teaching the boy the lessons of The Force.

The supporting cast includes Pernilla August as Anakin's mother, Terence Stamp as Chancellor Valorum, and Samuel L. Jackson as Jedi master Mace Windu; Jackson told a reporter before The Phantom Menace's release that the best part about doing the film was that he got to say "May The Force be with you" on screen.

The budget of Menace was US$115 million. Filming was primarily done at Leavesden Studios in England, with additional location shooting in the Tunisian desert and the Italian palace Palazzo Reale, Caserta. Filming started on June 26, 1997, and ended on September 30, 1997.

Unlike the latter two films in the series which were shot on digital video, most of this film was shot in 35 mm, with a few scenes shot in digital video. After an enormous marketing campaign, with the distinctive artwork of Star Wars series artist Drew Struzan gracing the movie poster and other advertising, there was almost unprecedented interest amongst both fans and the wider community in the return of one of the most successful movie series of all time. However, critical and fan reaction ranged from guarded praise to outright derision.

Jar Jar BinksThe much-hyped special effects, while generally viewed as groundbreaking in their sheer scope, were perhaps less impressive than anticipated simply because of high expectations. This attitude was confirmed with the rival film, The Matrix, winning the visual effects Academy Award for that year over the Star Wars film. It was the first time a Star Wars film lost in that Oscar competition category. Many critics heavily criticized the direction and the acting of Portman and especially Jake Lloyd as the young Anakin Skywalker (personally I think he should have been 14 years old not 9). Some aspects of the scripting were also criticized. Extra venom was directed at the character of Jar Jar Binks, who was regarded by much of the older fan community as purely a merchandising opportunity rather than a serious character in the film. It's worth noting, however, that the criticism of Jar Jar was always of his character, never of his digital integration into the movie, which was largely a success. Fan reaction was mixed, with some fans opposing the critics' views while others agreed with the negative opinions. Still Jar Jar remains popular with younger fans who were not even born when the first movies were released much to the shagrin of their original Star Wars trilogy loving parents.

Another source of dissatisfaction comes from the decision to explain the Force in terms of hard science, hence the introduction of midi-chlorians. Many fans felt this was unnecessary and ruins an aspect of the saga which sets it apart from other popular sci-fi titles in which religion and spirituality are of little importance or totally absent.

Talking - Watto - Star Wars Episode IGeorge Lucas began writing the new Star Wars trilogy on November 1, 1994. The screenplay for The Phantom Menace 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. While the working title for the film was The Beginning, Lucas later revealed the true title to be The Phantom Menace; a title which, in contrast to the more self-explanatory titles of the other films, is ambiguous.

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Within three to four months of Lucas beginning the writing process, Doug Chiang and his design team started a two-year process of reviewing thousands of designs for the film. Stunt coordinator Nick Gillard was recruited to create a new Jedi fighting style for the new trilogy. Gillard referred to the lightsaber battles as akin 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 samurai, with other swinging techniques, such as tennis and tree-chopping. While training Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor, Gillard would write a sequence to be an estimated 60 seconds in length, 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 implemented to give a more spiritual and intellectual role to the Jedi.

Filming began June 26, 1997 and ended on September 30, 1997, primarily taking place at Leavesden Studios in England, with additional location shooting in the Tunisian desert for the Tatooine scenes and the Italian palace Palazzo Reale, Caserta for the Theed City Naboo Palace interior. The city of Mos Espa was built in the desert outside Tozeur. 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 the exact day it had originally planned to.

A previously unseen technological milestone occurred when the mechanical R2-D2 refused to operate in the sand of the Tunisian desert. Nine R2-D2 models were created; seven could run in the sand or on the stage, one was for Kenny Baker to be dropped into, and one was a "pneumatic" R2 that was able to shift from two to three legs. During filming in Tunisia and on sets to replicate the environment, the standard model was prone to skidding off in strange directions and having its motors lock up from the sand. Having confronted similar problems before, Lucas allowed two companies, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and the production's British special effects department, to create their own versions of the perfect R2-D2. The finished product needed to navigate deep sand, light sand and door jambs. ILM's R2-D2 featured two wheelchair motors capable of pushing 440 pounds (or 198 kilograms) of weight. The British effects company produced a new foot and motor drive system, allowing R2 to drive over sand. The ILM version was primarily used on stage sets, whereas the British version was used in Tunisia.

Talking - Queen Amidala - Star Wars Episode I (Over Sized)The special effects were groundbreaking in their scope (roughly 2,000 effects shots), and their quality and innovation, such as co-starring computer graphics characters, completely computer-generated environments, and armies of CGI droids. This was accomplished through advancing digital technology that gave Lucas unprecedented freedom in storytelling. Up until the production of The Phantom Menace, 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. Visual effects supervisor John 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 of in the film. 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.

The budget of The Phantom Menace was US$115 million, which, after adjusting for inflation, makes it the most expensive film in the prequel trilogy. Whereas the other two films in the trilogy were shot on digital video, all but two scenes of this film was shot on 35 mm film.

What is the first Star Wars film in which Yoda is completely computer-generated?

The Phantom Menace
Revenge of the Sith
The Force Awakens
Attack of the Clones

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General-Star Wars

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