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Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
(1999)
Album Cover Art
1999 Sony
2000 2-CD Sony
Album 2 Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:

Performed by:

Vocals by:
The London Voices

The New London Children's Choir

Recorded at:
Abbey Road Studios, London (1998-1999)

Orchestrated by:
Conrad Pope
John Neufeld
Labels Icon
LABELS & RELEASE DATES
Sony Classical
(1-CD album)
(May 4th, 1999)

Sony Classical
(2-CD album)
(November 14th, 2000)
Availability Icon
ALBUM AVAILABILITY
The original 1999 album was a regular international release on CD, cassette, blister pack, and minidisc. Many of the international release dates were the same as the United States date of May 4th.

The commerial 2-CD set in 2000 had two official release dates, alternating between November 14th and November 21st in different areas. It was generally more difficult to find in stores.
Awards
AWARDS
Nominated for a Grammy Award.
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ALSO SEE




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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... on the original 1999 Sony release if you seek a decent overview of perhaps the best of the three Star Wars prequel scores.

Avoid it... on Sony's badly edited, but expanded 2000 "Ultimate Edition" if you absolutely demand that you hear all of John Williams' music for the film, because claims of its "complete" status are erroneous.
Review Icon
EDITORIAL REVIEW
FILMTRACKS TRAFFIC RANK: #10
WRITTEN 3/23/99, REVISED 7/21/08
Williams
Williams
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: (John Williams) And so the saga continued... Never in the history of cinema had one film been so eagerly awaited, with costumed fans lining streets for weeks, a few getting married right on the spot, waiting to be among the first to view the initial prequel to George Lucas' famed Star Wars trilogy of the late 1970's and early 1980's. The mystique of that original trilogy had been amplified when Lucas upgraded its films' special effects and re-released them to theatres in 1997, stirring the pot of hype to such frenzied levels that Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was assured phenomenal profits. The whole of the second trilogy that has followed is not revered to an extent even approaching the original classics, but they are nevertheless dazzling entertainment. Not only were fans of the films desperate for a glimpse of the Old Republic, but film score collectors were equally enthralled by the possibilities. The most anticipated film score in the history of Hollywood, the first The Phantom Menace album hit the shelves two weeks before the film's theatrical opening, causing enough explosive interest online alone to shut down entire networks because of bandwidth stress (bootlegged versions of the album, among the first to be immediately leaked online, didn't help the situation). Meanwhile, across the globe in Yugoslavia, as war between the Serbs and NATO raged at the time, the propaganda machine of Slobodan Milosevic was using John Williams' "Imperial March" from The Empire Strikes Back as the soundtrack to its films equating America with Nazi Germany. The same piece was endlessly incorporated into stadium playlists for sports events around the world. Even members of the public not familiar with science fiction, or even those who rarely venture to the big screens, could recognize the title march for the Star Wars franchise. The music itself was a phenomenon, and after several years of absence from the genre of high adventure, Williams fans could not have asked for a better gift. The original album cost Sony Classical millions of dollars to purchase the rights for and produce, though with an equal amount of copies sold worldwide, the popularity of the music for the franchise was confirmed.

In terms of film music history, the prequel trilogy that included The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith bracketed arguably the most respected and impressive trilogy of music of all time: Howard Shore's massive work for Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings. Williams' scores for the Star Wars franchise had always been considered the modern standard in the use of leitmotifs, and his incorporation of themes from previous films into a subsequent sequel or prequel is always intelligent and appreciated. When you look at the prequel trilogy of Star Wars films, a set for which Williams knew there would be follow-ups and had a general outline of how the characters and situations would mature, there was surprisingly little foreshadowing, if any, of future themes in The Phantom Menace. While he very adeptly included most of the major themes from the previous trilogy in the ranks of The Phantom Menace, you hear no previewed applications of material heard in Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith, even when such usage would have been more than appropriate (such as the potential use of a fragment of the "Across the Stars" love theme from Attack of the Clones when Anakin and Padme first meet). In these regards, the seeming lack of planning ahead by Williams sets his prequel trilogy music, despite its numerous strengths, a step behind Shore's excruciatingly developed set of countless motifs for the three The Lord of the Rings films. Indeed, the circumstances and time frames behind the productions were different, but whenever you go back and listen to the score for The Phantom Menace, this difference becomes blindingly clear. In short, how cool would it have been if when Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith had debuted, fragments of seemingly orphaned themes from The Phantom Menace were finally explained? Williams doesn't work like that, though, and instead he endeavors to very cleverly build upon previous material to produce continuity. Even the initial idea of re-scoring parts of A New Hope at the time of the "Special Edition" to include "The Imperial March" as the permanent identity of the Galactic Empire was axed.

Regardless of this minor retrospective complaint, The Phantom Menace is still an outstanding standalone score and entry in the franchise. Williams once again uses the London Symphony Orchestra to its fullest capacity, and this time intersperses massive choral accompaniment throughout the score (a technique missing from most of the original trilogy scores and only prominently used for a scene or two in Return of the Jedi). The second trilogy truly defined a new style of extraordinarily complex action writing for Williams. The roots of this sound come from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (and, to a lesser extent, Hook) and these techniques are most evident in the rhythmic staggering of primary and counterpoint harmony, explosive sixteenth notes on trumpets, and a distinct progression of timpani and cymbal accents. One of the few faults of this score is that its music for the encroaching droid army, as well as some of the more noble statements of theme on low strings, are highly reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. By the end of the prequel trilogy, however, Williams had redefined the identity of this sound as that of these films specifically, and in subsequent efforts, including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Crystal Skull, the trademark sound of Williams' Digital Age action writing is commonly referred to as that of the Star Wars prequel trilogy of scores. Within the three efforts in that group, an argument can be made that the cohesiveness of Williams' handling of thematic and instrumental continuity declined in each successive score. While some fans complained about a lack of truly tight thematic structure in The Phantom Menace, it has a much stronger core identity than Revenge of the Sith, which, by necessity, had a certain chaotic element to its personality. Williams achieved this success with The Phantom Menace in part because of the consistency in action material as already discussed, and also partly because there were fewer thematic elements to constantly juggle. That said, Williams' handling of the classic trilogy themes, in conjunction with the two major new ones, is about as well organized as anyone could have expected. And, as we all know, the expectations with this score were extremely high.

Of the two major themes that Williams introduces in The Phantom Menace, the more famous one is ironically quite limited in its application, both in this movie and its successors. The "Duel of the Fates" theme only appears as the three-location battle late in the film gets heated up, and it specifically accompanies the lightsaber battle between the two Jedi and Darth Maul. Distinct because of its sixteenth notes for brass and chanting adult chorus over turbulent percussion, "Duel of the Fates" is an explosively frightening theme to hear over the pivotal battle sequence. Woodwind interludes can barely compete with the brass, which convey both the heroic and tragic elements that emerge from the outcome of the duel. The chorus performs with the same overbearing sense of gravity as in Williams' Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom, and while its contributions really present the theme of the piece, the rowdy five-note brass bursts over the top produce the lasting memory. Some listeners have complained that the choral element is overblown, and on album that can be the case; in the film, you don't suffer as much from the mix (or the repetitive false endings) that you hear in the concert version of the theme. Although the boisterous title theme has more raw orchestral power to offer, the beauty of the score resides in "Anakin's Theme." Ever so carefully crafted, this idea for the "chosen one" has a tender, floating quality on the one side and a morbid sense of doom on the other. In the latter stages of the theme, listeners are greeted by a subtle and haunting foreshadowing of "The Imperial March." So no matter how cute the kid is (and no matter how often his theme starts each segment with hope and loftiness), the idea always returns to its destiny with "The Imperial March" in its final four notes. This masterful touch is one of the best uses of theme from Williams in years, and its continuous, brooding truth returns at regular intervals in the score. This theme, unlike the "Duel of the Fates" (which only rears its ugly head again in Revenge of the Sith), is developed extensively in the two subsequent prequel scores as well, being integrated directly into the love theme at the heart of Attack of the Clones and fading away to only hints as the boy's innocence is lost.

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VIEWER RATINGS
43,962 TOTAL VOTES
Average: 4.26 Stars
***** 27,103 5 Stars
**** 7,876 4 Stars
*** 4,651 3 Stars
** 2,087 2 Stars
* 2,245 1 Stars
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COMMENTS
124 TOTAL COMMENTS
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Alternative review at movie-wave.net
Southall - February 25, 2012, at 11:11 a.m.
1 comment  (874 views)
Duel of Alexander Nevsky
Classical music fan - January 29, 2012, at 4:18 p.m.
1 comment  (776 views)
What about the "Escape from Naboo" track?   Expand >>
Richard Kleiner - October 12, 2009, at 5:26 p.m.
2 comments  (1980 views)
Newest: November 27, 2009, at 4:07 p.m.by Mark Malmstrøm
This is how The Phantom Menace complete score should have been   Expand >>
Pudge - February 3, 2009, at 5:46 a.m.
6 comments  (5076 views)
Newest: February 8, 2015, at 10:38 a.m.by Jorge
Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
Todd China - July 21, 2008, at 8:45 p.m.
1 comment  (1779 views)
The complete score not the ultimate edition
Daniel Estrella - November 21, 2007, at 12:25 a.m.
1 comment  (2545 views)
More...


Track Listings Icon
TRACK LISTINGS AND AUDIO
Audio Samples   ▼
1999 Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 74:15
• 1. Star Wars Main Title and the Arrival at Naboo (2:55)
• 2. Duel of the Fates (4:14)
• 3. Anakin's Theme (3:09)
• 4. Jar Jar's Introduction and the Swim to Otoh Gunga (5:07)
• 5. The Sith Spacecraft and the Droid Battle (2:37)
• 6. The Trip to the Naboo Temple and the Audience with Boss Nass (4:07)
• 7. The Arrival at Tatooine and the Flag Parade (4:04)
• 8. He is the Chosen One (3:53)
• 9. Anakin Defeats Sebulba (4:24)
• 10. Passage Through the Planet Core (4:48)
• 11. Watto's Deal and Kids at Play (4:57)
• 12. Panaka and the Queen's Protectors (3:24)
• 13. Queen Amidala and the Naboo Palace (4:51)
• 14. The Droid Invasion and the Appearance of Darth Maul (5:14)
• 15. Qui-Gon's Noble End (3:48)
• 16. The High Council Meeting and Qui-Gon's Funeral (3:09)
• 17. Augie's Municipal Band and End Credits (9:37)
2000 2-CD Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 124:31

Notes Icon
NOTES AND QUOTES
Scoring Sessions
John Williams conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and London Voices for the recording of the finale sequence in February, 1999.

The 1999 album's insert contains notes from both Williams and Lucas about the score, and the packaging unfolds into a poster featuring the film's major characters.

The 2000 expanded album's insert contains only one short, general note about the music. The design of the packaging is phenomenal, with beautiful colorful screen shots for each track and a holographic outer casing. Several flaws do distinguish this set from previous "complete" Star Wars albums, however. First, there are no track listings on the outside, and since the insert cannot be removed from the casing (it's glued in), you have to keep the entire package opened to reference the tracks while listening to either album. Secondly, the album contains no in-depth notes about the scoring of the film or production of the music, including a surprising lack of complete credits. Thirdly, the cover is among the ugliest ever to exist on any soundtrack album.

In the news at the time of the score's initial release on album were several performances of the various concert arrangements in The Phantom Menace by The Boston Pops. The group's regularly scheduled performances from May 26th through May 28th, 1999, conducted by Williams, contained these tributes to the work. The concerts featured a collection of "Classic Film Music" in addition to the highly anticipated new Star Wars music. The May 27th performance also featured a special appearance by guest Itzhak Perlman at the violin for a supplemental arrangement of Schindler's List. All of these performances took place at the Boston Symphony Hall, on the Avenue of the Arts in Boston.

Much of the online hype about the score in April and May of 1999 was due to extensive advance information and previews of the score released on the official Star Wars web site. After the original album's release, the site remained active for a few years with an excellent look at the Star Wars/John Williams collaboration and biographical information about members of the score's production crew. This original incarnation of the site has since been removed.
Copyright © 1999-2015, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace are Copyright © 1999, 2000, Sony Classical (1-CD album), Sony Classical (2-CD album) and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 3/23/99 and last updated 7/21/08.
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