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Fun with Franchises: Favorite Images from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

One of the recurring features that we do in Fun with Francises (a feature within a feature) is, after we finish watching a film, we go through and pick out our favorite images from that film. These images could be anything from really famous images from the film or franchise, really beautifully composed shots, shots that are funny to us because of the facial expressions being made in them or because of what we said about them in the article in which they appeared, or simply because they have boobs in them.

What we usually do is, just how we watch the films, Colin and I go in separately and pick out about ten to fifteen shots that we really liked. Then we compare lists, and whichever ones we both picked automatically go on our final list. And everything else we talk through and discuss why we like them, and eventually we’re left with a final list of ten images we liked the best, along with ten honorable mentions, which were also as good, but just missed out on making the list proper.

It’s not very complicated (like most things we do here on B+ Movie Blog), and is just a way for us to point out shots that we really liked in the films, especially since we tend to pick stuff that’s not always on the beaten path. (We also don’t officially rank the list of shots. We just put them in chronological order. Simply picking them is hard enough. We don’t want to make our lives any harder. Plus, we’re lazy.)

That said — here are our favorite images from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace:

I think we should preface this one by saying — most of what we say is going to have the caveat (hopefully we won’t have to say it so many times after this) of — we hate that most of the shots in this movie are completely computer-generated. So most of the shots we like are gonna be ones where we’d like them better if they were real locations. So a lot of the reason we like them is that we can see why they’re nice visually, apart from the stupid CG shit that’s part of them as well. We like these shots in spite of the CGI.

That said — let’s run down a couple of shots I liked that didn’t make the list.

This shot has pretty much everything I like in this franchise — Windshield shots, those awesome flatscreens, that Trade Federation ship, and good old racism.

Love this shot. Love the camera placement, love that you can see through the arches all the way into the distance. Love the symmetry. The CG shit on the ground I can do without, but I really do love the layout of this city.

And then I really like this shot as well. It’s just simple. It’s almost not a shot that’s from this movie. Of course, fucking Jar Jar is there and Anakin and whatever the fuck that other thing is. But I tune them out. The idea of the statue sticking out of the ground is pretty great. It’s one of those things that would be a wonder of the world if it were here. I just really like the image.

1. This Shot

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I like the shot. I like the tension they got earlier in the shot, with the gas fogging everything up and then the droid coming out. I mean, it’s not as tense as it is in theory, because it’s still this movie, but in theory, it was still nice. And then this, I like seeing the lightsabers shoot up right before they attack. Imagine if they did that same thing in darkness, how cool that would be. Complete darkness, and then boom, lightsaber. Same thing in principle.

Plus this film is so bad for shots.

Colin:

I guess I kind of like the color. I like the abstraction of the lightsabers as them. It’s still kind of a weak shot, now that I think of it. It gets a pass because George doesn’t just show them. I’m sure there are cooler ways to set this up, but this ain’t bad.

2. The Gungan City

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Colin:

I was all over pumpkin land (Otoh Gunga) because it looked oddly beautiful in a movie with…not a lot of beauty. Maybe it’s the color, or maybe that it’s sort of dark, but the CGI isn’t prohibitively bad here. From these shots, it’s actually reasonably well pulled off. The part that sucks is that a million Gungans live here. Ugh. Also, you have to wonder how the giant sea monster things that live JUST outside the city don’t poke their heads up now and again to go bobbing for pumpkins. But at any rate, this is still one of the best locations in the whole film, even if you notice on arrival that there’s NOTHING inside it but empty walkways. 

Yeah, this place is awesome. I love a good location, and this is a good location. I don’t really have to explain why I like this shot past — just look at it. Floating bubbles under the sea. Brilliant.

3. Naboo

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Colin picked the first shot and I picked the second. He’ll talk about the first, and I’ll talk about the second.

The general idea of these shots is — “Man, Naboo looks nice (outside of the CG-ness).”

Colin:

I picked the hangar shot because I love the idea of a hangar that opens to a sheer cliff face. Like, you better hope your shit works, or you’re totally fucked. This is the logical extreme of the strip at the beginning of GoldenEye. You also really have to love their hangar architecture. It’s this beautiful, stone building with ivy and shit on it. When our hangars aren’t cement bunkers, they’re mostly just corrugated aluminum. 

I love waterfalls, and intricately designed cities. This has both. I absolutely love the layout and design of this city. It’s just a beautiful thing to look at. And this is one of those things — there’s really no way you can make it nowadays look like that with models and stuff, so some added effects are necessary, and in this case, they don’t detract from what a nice design this place is.

Like this. Look at that shit. It’s gorgeous.

4. This

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This is just fucking hilarious to me. The droids are just standing there, minding their own business, trying to fix the ship, then BAM, a fucking laser comes and obliterates them. And it happens like three times! That’s hilarious! Look at that shot! He just gets blown the fuck away into space!

Imagine if that happened to someone. In any movie. Just getting blown away like that. It’s funny. Or like if someone’s walking and a giant dodgeball (to be nice) came and just SMASHED into the side of their face. It’s funny. This is the basic principle behind the ending to all the Scary Movie films. It’s just funny to watch someone suddenly get destroyed by an unforeseen object.

Or even Meet Joe Black.

Colin:

Mike thinks droid death is hilarious. I want to extend my condolences to that poor droid’s family.

5. Hologram at the Table

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He thinks he’s people! This is the same deal with Voldemort in Deathly Hallows. It’s funny watching him try to sit at a table like a normal person. Or even Vader in Empire. These people don’t belong behaving like polite society.

What makes this even funnier is the fact that it’s a hologram! This motherfucker is just sitting in a swivel chair, enjoying his day, and here he is, projecting himself to these fuckers, and the hologram is just chilling at the table. That’s so funny to me, that the hologram is just chilling there.

Colin:

He thinks he’s people! You never can have enough swivel chairs, though.

And what makes this shot even better is the fact that he can randomly conference in Darth Maul, who’s just chilling there next to him. Imagine the applications this could have. In real life scenarios. Talking to holo-Mom or Dad, and the other one wants to get on, so they flicker and join in the conversation. So many different scenarios.

Plus Palpatine could just conference in another one of his apprentices.

– – – – – 

– – – – –

Darth Maul's New Apprentice

6. Blue Bitches

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Wassup, ladies?

Colin:

There are reasons why Sebulba is my favorite Phantom Menace character. These are two of them. The dude randomly has blue Twi’lek bitches to massage him and shit. So much of the superfluous stuff in these movies elicit groans; this was something that wasn’t required AT ALL, and remains one of the film’s high points. All we ever want to see is ballers running their shit. It doesn’t matter if Sebulba wins or loses the race, because when he gets home, he’ll be playing handsie/footsie (?) with these two.

Handsie-footsie?

“Oy, that’s not a hand… this is a hand!”

7. Motherfucker.

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8. This Entrance

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This entrance is fucking glorious. They got other shit on their mind, and then BOOM, doors open, this motherfucker is standing there, and then this is playing.

That might be the best 15 seconds in all the prequels, this moment.

Colin:

Poor Maul. Such an underused character. He could have been (should have been!) so much better. The guy certainly looks new, and there’s no way he isn’t evil. Like, look at his face and tell me that he could interview well enough to get a job at a daycare. As I’ll mention tomorrow, Darth Maul is the thing that Lucas fucked up the most. How does he (dis guy ^^) feel about that?

9. Double Lightsaber

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Seriously, that’s the baddest thing in this movie. Motherfucker whips out a lightsaber, then whips out another lightsaber from the same hilt. He was already badass with just the one. This just makes it better.

Completely sad that they killed him off so quickly.

Colin:

I was CRAZY into the saberstaff when this movie first came out. I just about lost my fucking mind. The lightsaber was cool to begin with, and then they did…more. I like this (or duel wielding) a lot more than Grievous with his seventeen lightsabers. The new sort of fighting style that goes with it is totally cool, and you always have the possibility of losing half so you have to fight with only one side, like Maul ends up doing. It keeps an otherwise boring fight a little more interesting.

Speaking of which, you guys should have all seen the homemade lightsaber duel videos put out by Ryan Wieber; Ryan vs. Brandon 2 (2011) had some great saberstaff fighting in it. Of  course, Ryan vs. Dorkman 2 is the best. These kids are seriously about as good as Lucas’ people. He even went to work for them for awhile, but apparently it didn’t work out. Can’t imagine why.

10. This

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He’s deliberately being an asshole, and it is glorious.

Colin:

He just taunts him! That’s so amazing. It’s like tapping the glass at a zoo. You’re just provoking whatever’s inside, knowing that it can’t harm you. He could probably lean down and chop Obi Wan’s fingers right now, but instead, he just makes it rain sparks because he’s a scary motherfucker.

– – – – – – – – –

Honorable Mentions:

  • Amidala

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I like both of these shots. I like the first one because it looks real. They put effort into that makeup and that costume. And the whole thing just looks really nice. Compare it to (and I refuse to link to them), any of the shots from the battle of Naboo. It’s a real breath of fresh air.

And the second one — it’s a long shot. You know we love long shots. It’s just a nice image. One of those images Lucas seems to have forgotten about that reminds you, “Oh hey, there actually is a pretty good filmmaker in there somewhere.)

(I think Lucas, from movies 4-6 to 1-3 is like Anakin from 1-6. He goes completely wayward by the midway point of the third movie, and then redeems himself at the tail end of the last one.)

Colin:

She has quite the makeup going on. And the get-up. It’s kinda geisha-y. And those orange things in her robe in the second shot can only be fish eggs to me. Ikura. Then again, maybe I live in Japan.

  • This ship

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I really like the design of this ship. Almost circular, with the donut hole in the middle. I feel like a lot of people are going to not like this, but I do. If this is what space looked like for the duration of the prequels, I could live with that. Maybe a little crisper CGI, but for the most part, I could live with it.

But the real point of this shot was the ship, and I just really like it. I like circular things (which we’ll get to more in next week’s articles.)

Colin:

I don’t hate these ships. They actually look way less CGI than a lot of the stuff that gets shoved down our throats. It’s a decently cool design for a space station, and there are a lot of them at random intervals. Not too shabby. I would have been on board with this if the rest of the film had been awesome.

  • This shot

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Colin:

Okay, this is where I know Mike and I differ. I really like the idea of a pod race, if not in the context that it happened in the film. I though the whole thing was set up clumsily and everything, but a race like this is actually pretty neat. I like the speed of it, I like the way some of it was shot, and they made good use of the terrain. When you remove it entirely from the story (or better yet, find a more suitable way of putting it in the story), it’s ultimately something that I’d love to watch. Not the dumbass announcers or comic relief, but the race itself. And this shot looks pretty good. The heat waves making the desert’s surface appear all glassy, with the mesas in the background. I just love races.

See, to me, if the pod race isn’t in the context it’s in for this film, there’s absolutely no point to have one whatsoever.

My point with the pod race is — what purpose does it serve? It’s just taking away time from Palpatine development or real Anakin or Obi-Wan development. That is to say — THE TWO MAJOR STORYLINES OF THE PREQUELS! This is developing nothing, except showing us that he knows how to fly and giving us something “exciting” to watch. Narratively, it’s useless, no matter how you want to cut it. Even in a movie as convoluted and stupid as this one, it’s still useless.

That said, shot-wise — this is the one from this sequence I can live with. I like the way the speeders looked on Tattooine in the first film. I don’t think we got to use that shot in those articles, so this will (not quite) make up for it.

  • The slums

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This one was entirely my choice.

I love sets. I really love sets. I like this slum area because of how close all the buildings are. And then there’s the lights on in the houses — it’s just really comforting to me. This reminds me of what city shots looked like in animated movies when I was a kid. I expect someone to be in one of those windows, singing like Fievel.

(But seriously, look how cool these sets look.)

Colin:

This is where the space cats come out to sing on the wall at night. Also, look at those houses and tell me Whos don’t live in there.

  • This shot

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Because look at it. Of course.

Colin:

I’ll get you, you motherfuckers! I love that his default stance is to just stand there seething with his lightsaber pointed up. Like they might come back and fight again. I would like this to be a BIT wider of a shot, but otherwise, it’s totally cool. Desert.

  • This set.

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I didn’t notice this shot until I went through for this article. It’s pretty badass. The double steps, the symmetry with them and the pillars, hologram Palpatine just chilling there the way people hang out in government building lobbies. The giant door in the background. All the other steps. It’s just a glorious set. And you now how we love great sets with lots of symmetry here.

Colin:

I had completely missed this shot and Mike brought it up when we were comparing. It actually is gorgeous. The whole room, bathed in pale blue light is great to look at. I really love the set, too, but I just have to point out — take a look in the background. There’s a stupid door control. Why the hell did you have to put that in there, George?

  • This hill

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Colin:

I had to include this, not because of what it is, but because of what it isn’t. You might think this is part of the scenery for a Lionel train set. It actually looks like some foam that’s been sculpted, painted and frosted to look like it’s covered in grass. The one thing it doesn’t look like is CGI, and my eyes zeroed in on this as I was going through the shots to pick out our favorites. It should really say something about the [lack of] visual quality in this film, that I felt compelled to chose a shot that has ZERO things going on it it and is otherwise boring as fuck. But there was a split second during this film when I went, “Hey, this doesn’t look computeri — oh, no. There are the tanks.”

Colin chose this shot. Immediately I went, “Wait… why?” And then I went, “Actually this is a perfect shot.” Because who the fuck else would single out this shot? I’m such a huge fan of this choice.

I also keep expecting that Teltubbies sun to pop up from behind it.

  • War

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I love formations marching toward one another. I love war. All war pre-electricity.

Colin:

This is Rome. Roman cohorts lined up like this, and it’s badass. If you wanna get me going, do some Ancient Rome shit. Of course, it helps if your Carthaginians aren’t dumb cartoon rabbits. Ceterum censeo Gungae esse delendam. 

And I promise you that is the first time those words have been uttered on the internet or elsewhere.

That happens a lot around here.

  • Duel of Fates

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I just put them all here so we could talk about them.

The first shot I love because he’s fighting them both at the same time. And he doesn’t even have to look at Obi-Wan. Which is so baller. He’s fighting Obi-Wan without even fucking looking. And he’s so good, he almost makes the two of them behead each other! Damn shame they had to kill him.

And the second shot I love because it’s a badass location for a duel. That’s it. It looks great. It’s old trilogy location plus giant electricity tubes in between. I like that.

Then the third shot — glorious. I don’t have to explain that.

Fourth shot — spatial relations. George used them. That shocked me. I had to include it.

And the last shot — I just love the hallway. No idea why it exists at all, but I love it anyway. It’s just a badass place to fight. Plus I love how we get character development (which is a shocker, in this trilogy, I know) while they’re just hanging out there. But mostly for me it’s about the hallway.

Colin:

Kinda have to admit that this is a sweet location for a duel. I mean, it makes NO sense whatsoever, especially considering that it’s off the main palace. But I guess by this point we’ve given up on logic and reason. We’re in for the duel. And what is it I always say? It wouldn’t be Star Wars without ridiculous drops with no guard rails to stop you from falling over the edge.

  • This

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Colin:

Just walk away. Don’t look back. That’s sexy as hell. That’s how you murder someone. Also of note, this is the first time we see someone run through with a lightsaber, rather than chopped with one. To me, one of the most remarkable things about this shot is that Lucas and his people paid enough attention to have his stupid CGI laser door’s image beautifully reflected in this obsidian floor. Maybe if you paid half as much attention to plot and story as you did to CGI details like this, we’d have gotten a better movie to watch. But whatever, just enjoy the door reflection, I guess.

There’s really nothing more badass than stabbing a guy and walking away.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow is Final Thoughts, and Monday — Attack of the Clones. Oh man, is that gonna be good.

(See the rest of the Fun with Franchises articles here.)

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2 responses

  1. Pingback: Star Wars locations in Greece | Aristotle, guide in Greece

  2. Pingback: Ο Πόλεμος των Άστρων στην Ελλάδα; Γιατί όχι; | Αριστοτελης Ξεναγος

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