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Is it wrong for a behind-the-scenes documentary to be better than the film
it's focusing on? Now, I'm not one of those Star Wars fans that despised
Episode I. In fact, I still quite enjoy it, but it isn't one of the best
sci-fi movies you'll come across. However, The Beginning is probably one of
the best making-of documentaries you will ever see. In fact, I bet The
Beginning probably inspires current DVD makers on how to do a making-of
Before writing this review, I read Guido Henkel's review on dvdreview.com, and I agree with him wholeheartedly on one aspect of this documentary that makes it so great. Instead of having a narrator tell you what's going on, you get to see what's happening for yourself as the documentary follows George Lucas, the staff, and the cast of Episode I around. Doing it this way, you really get a sense that you're watching this happen right in front of you. It's a true `fly on the wall' experience.
I have a lot of favorite parts in this documentary. I found it very interesting to see how the staff rebounded after their set was devastated by a storm in Tunisia. I also enjoyed watching Ewan McGregor through this documentary from when he talks to producer Rick McCallum over the phone about joining the project, to meeting George and his kids for his Jedi haircut, to the funniest line in the documentary when he perfectly lands a stunt in the lightsaber duel. Lastly, it was also great to see George Lucas in action and also seeing other great filmmakers, Steven Spielberg and Frank Oz, make appearances in the documentary as well.
Overall, this documentary is great for inquiring Star Wars and movie fans. I think it can also serve as a great learning tool for future filmmakers on how to make a big budget picture. You may not like the movie itself, but you have to respect all the hard work and dedication that went into Episode I.
My IMDb Rating: 10/10
It's funny how life works sometimes - with this documentary I watched
it with the Phantom Menace DVD when the movie was released in 2000, and
I found I got genuine insight into the filmmaking process, from
storyboarding to release and all the troubles that can come with it (at
one point during the production the filmmakers lost their sets in a bad
storm that swept through Tunisia where they were filming - an incident
that oddly repeated what happened to Lucas 20 years earlier on his
first Star Wars movie). But then some years later, when Jay and Mike at
Red Letter Media made their Phantom Menace review (still, whatever you
think of the movie, a triumphant piece of R-rated film criticism), they
used many clips from this documentary to highlight points ("It's like
poetry, it rhymes" and "everything shot is so dense" two of the most
Watching it again today, I could see why it's funny to sort of mock Lucas and the hubris he had to pull off this film when the script wasn't completely solid - and to do so much in CGI when he could've used practical effect and sets, not all the time but certainly much of the time - and no one really questioning any of his decisions. But there is still a lot here that is just genuinely interesting documentary stuff. I have to wonder if the director put together the footage to make a point about Lucas and his sort of self-contained empire of filmmaking (the prequels are actually independent films in a sense, despite their gargantuan budgets they were made outside of the studio system in a special deal with Fox). Or was he just a fly-on-the-wall and allowed all this access to simply chart from start to finish what happened? Needless to say, there's plenty of insight into the process, and whether it went right or wrong for you I think the director Jon Schenk got things honestly as far as seeing that what Lucas, Rick McCullum and company did shows up on the screen.
And it must say something that the documentary in full is on the official Star Wars Youtube page; in other words, it doesn't show Lucas as being necessarily evil or greedy, or being particularly courageous or super-visionary with what he was doing. He was just... George Lucas in the late 90's, ready to try and wow audiences and with some ideas that were just not altogether great. It's a fair depiction of what it must've been like to make something this gargantuan.
This is a feature-length documentary found on the 2-Disc Set of Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace. Coming in at just over an hour, this takes us through basically the entire film-making process on said title. I'm not sure there's really any aspect of the production not seen here. Casting, rehearsing, auditioning, shooting, special effects work, debating to solve one of the many problems that arise, and even staff meetings. The manner in which this is done is also notable... rather than the usual type, with interviews, "talking heads"(thank you, Adam Bertocci) and the like, this offers you the perspective that I allude to in my Summary. No one is really speaking to the camera, rather, they're conversing with each other, and we're "present" to experience it. We're usually only given enough information to understand the situation. This was put together from 600 hours of footage, the majority of which was shot on the sets and locations, including at ILM. It's well-edited and interesting throughout. The pacing isn't bad. There is a bit of suggestive dialog and minor language. I recommend this to fans of the movie, and/or those who want an inside look at it. 7/10
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