The Pod Race Extract from Star Wars Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace 1x 400ft colour sound Approx. 15 minutes

The most exciting single sequence from the 1999 Star Wars offering was ‘The Pod Race’. Now unbelievably, here it is on Super 8 in the glory of the scope frame – the way it was meant to be seen.

The race itself pits the boy Anakin Skywalker in his home made ‘dragster’ against a field of aliens of supposedly superior ability in superior machinery. The young lad’s racer looks puny compared to some of the other massive contraptions on the grid. The reason he’s in the race is to win parts for repairs to Princess Amidala’s spacecraft – but who cares? He’s in the race to win and that is all that matters as some of the most spellbinding special effects take to the screen.

Obviously influenced by the chariot race from Ben Hur, the reel begins with Qui Gonn-Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Anakin setting up the Pod. Jar-Jar Binks is present and however annoying any of us find him just the creation of this photo-realistic character is something to be marvelled at. Princess Amidala’s hand maiden Padme, Natalie Portman, (who is actually Amidala in a not very good disguise) professes her annoyance at the risk the Jedi is taking – putting all on a boy they hardly know. Her concerns are dismissed and the race is to commence.

Sebulba (another computer created character) is the villain of the race playing the part of Terry Thomas from Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines. He sabotages Anakin’s pod by pulling an unspecified component off the side. When the race starts Anakin doesn’t go anywhere and is left on the grid whilst all his opponents speed off into the distance. Nothing that a few button presses and flicked switches can’t sort out and he’s soon chasing after them.

By the end of the first lap he’s making up places and moves into second behind Sebulba by the last lap. We all know he’s going to win but still it is tense. Finally Sebulba causes his own downfall by trying to destroy Anakin’s pod and his own pod tumbles along the desert in a raging fireball. The reel finishes soon after the finish line is crossed.

Like all the Star Wars films except the original there are parts I don’t like and this extract is no exception. I actually don’t care much for full-blown digital effects. Whereas these effects are for the most part amongst the best so far committed to film it has too many cartoon charicature aliens for my taste. In particular, the needless commentary by the double-headed creature seems merely there for comedy that American kiddies will appreciate. Now when was Star Wars ever aimed at kids??? These are minor personal criticisms that I don’t expect many will agree with so I should make it clear that I think this release is excellent and just what your Super 8 shows require. Try watching it as big as possible whilst standing up; in places you may find yourself swaying and ducking to avoid the oncoming obstacles on the screen.

The print quality is excellent when compared to the 35mm original. Please bear in mind though that The Phantom Menace was in the main created on a computer screen and therefore does not have quite the same look as a film based entirely on film – colours are partially muted as is the crispness of the definition. It is still however first class. Sound is mono but downright good. Crank it up to annoy your neighbours. That’ll soon get them round for a film show and will lead to more customers to keep this wonderful hobby going.

Amazing stuff and yours for £40.

Print A Sound A John Clancy