Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace ★★★★½

*previously a 53, now an 84*

I think I've reached the tipping point of my love for this thing, but then again, each rewatch is practically exponential in how it affects me as a Star Wars fan and a cinephile. Each frame of world building - cascading waterfalls, forests festering with fog, dusty Tatooine landscapes - is rich and lively in its conceptual work, with costuming, CG effects, and sound design providing a textual beginning to the saga. Lucas paints this picture as delicate and grandiose; a far cry from the uncertainty of Attack of the Clones and the devastating tragedy of Revenge of the Sith. All the puzzle pieces - galactic politics, bureaucratic interplay, Jedi as spies and samurai, "Sith" as unknown pawns - are laid out and placed in precise order. So much of Anakin's central emotionality - literally born without a father, a spiritual being chosen to bring balance and peace to the galaxy - and his humble beginnings as a character lead the way in this narrative.

Shot on 35mm, The Phantom Menace is more overt in its filmic energy than its next two installments (which seem to prefer pastiche, digital refinement, and the strong textural undercurrent of industrialization taking over an organic sense of peace within the galaxy), evoking exotic locales through distance and grand wide glimpses. Its conclusion, a communal celebration on Naboo, is strangely adrift in the fears of the unknown, ignoring the rapturous joy of its surroundings. Considering the opening moments of Attack of the Clones, it's even more prevalent. And the editing - seamlessly intertwined, mixed, and woven, is also based off a more cinematic, nostalgic sensation; entangling *three* separate sequences of action into an intoxicating climax right out of 70s blockbuster filmmaking. It's a miracle how it all flows as one coherent film, let alone a solid building block in Lucas grand mythology, but by the time I'm observing the Pod Race careen past, my jaw always on the floor, not even a Jar-Jar or a "yippee!" can sour my astonishment. Time to turn the ship around on the prequels. They deserve more than your nerd-rage hatred.

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