Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker , episode IX of George Lucas' original 9-chapter story, debuts December 20, 2019. Back in the autumn of 2015 before Star Wars: The Force Awakens (episode VII) came out, I binged the Clone Wars animated series (on Netflix I think) and found it was mostly very good! And now, leading up to Episode IX, I am binging on Star Wars content again to get me in the SW mood. On the movies side of things, I'm going to re-watch all the films in chronological story order: Ep1, Ep2, Ep3, Solo, Rogue One, Ep4, Ep5, Ep6, Ep7, Ep8.
Today I re-watched Star Wars: The Phantom Menace on DVD, in full Dolby Surround Sound. Blu-ray films always seem to use DTS sound, but most of my DVDs used Dolby Surround, which to me seems to have louder, more potentially booming dynamic range compared to the more well-mixed DTS sound ... but it could just be my 2000's era Onkyo surround sound system too.
Watching the Phantom Menace for the first time in a few years, I found myself immediately interested and pleasantly surprised by the film! Time has passed so my prior grievances have kind of just become accepted in my mind. There were too many silly Jar-Jar and Gungan mannerisms and dialogue and clumsy antics by the film's end, but not enough to ruin the film for me. The soundtrack by John Williams is just fantastic, and I enjoyed young Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-gon Jinn and their actors. This film was released in May 1999, and the actors appear so young to me. Liam Neeson must have been in his mid-forties at this time - younger than I am now. And good grief, Natalie Portman was still a teenager! And the Yoda puppet is very ugly!
Overall, there is a lot of good stuff found in The Phantom Menace, in my opinion. But I think George Lucas missed an opportunity with his direction of young Jake Lloyd as pre-teen Anakin Skywalker. He is a young kid at this point, but I felt he could have been directed and shot with a few more scenes which would foreshadow Vader. Like when Anakin accidentally activates the spaceship's auto-pilot, but he survives the dogfight and flies into the control ship bay and blows it up from inside, saving the day. My problem with the direction is that is almost seems like Anakin did all these things by accident, or was very lucky. I'd have enjoyed watching him piloting that Naboo craft and showing in his eyes the concentration as he piloted a scenario that he was quite familiar with due to his days of pod-racing. It should've been a fist-pump scene when the control ship is defeated (like the mood and suspense we all felt in 1977's Death Star explosion .. wow!) . But its not quite that. Oh well.
I was reminded how awesome Darth Maul was, and the excellent Duel of the Fates music and the great Jedi / Sith lightsaber battle at the end. The sequence where Maul, Jinn, and Kenobi are separated by red force-fields -- and they can do nothing but glare at each other and wait -- is well filmed , well staged, well acted, and well scored. Its stuff like this that makes rewatching Ep1 well worth it.
Next up is Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, which has historically been my least favorite of the (so far ) 8 main Star Wars films.