Star Wars: The Phantom Menace


Sony Classical Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez


Before we begin, let me be clear on one subject. What follows will be an open and frank discussion of the soundtrack. If you wish to not be spoiled for the movie, turn back right now. I know that some people are trying to save themselves for the movie and that's cool - some of my friends and family are in that group. But I can't speak honestly about the soundtrack without possibly stepping on some toes. So, you've been warned.

With that out of the way, let me say: Gorgeous. That's about the only adjective this soundtrack really needs. Because that's what it is - absolutely gorgeous. The sound and texture of this music is amazing. In fact, let me say another thing: believe the hype. Drop whatever cynicistic views or jaded outlooks you may have against this movie. If I could, I would be with those crazy s.o.b.s that are sitting outside a movie theater right now in line for the first tickets. This movie will not be the craze of a few Net-freaks (though that particular demographic is first and foremost). This movie will appeal to all - young, old, child and adult. The movie will give you a unique feeling. And the music plays a tremendous part of that feeling.

(Note: don't think I've seen the movie, cause I haven't. But the music sold me to it. As if it really needed to, though!).

The soundtrack begins with the world-famous "Star Wars Theme." This is recognizable and immediately drops you into that particular universe. In fact, several themes and cues will seem familiar throughout the soundtrack - because they are. Following that comes "The Arrival At Naboo" - which signals the Jedi Knights' approach into that planet. Again, the music drops you right into the emotions of the moment. There's a determination, but with a level of unneasiness.

After that comes the single, "Duel Of The Fates." This seems to be the main theme of the movie and is repeated in a couple of other places. There's a driving quality to it, as the music seems to be heading somewhere. The music goes through a number of changes. And the title "Duel" seems to fit quite well since the music and the choir - which is singing Sanskrit - seemed to be fighting for supremacy in the song. Quite cool.

However, here comes the soul of this soundtrack - "Anakin's Theme." As opposed to the action-driven pieces, this part is quite soft. But from the middle on to the end, you begin to hear a small piece that doesn't seem quite right. This is, of course, "The Imperial March" or "Darth Vader's Theme." This is a perfect way of hinting what will come in the future. Full of hope and wish, this will remind you of the "Binary Sunset" piece in the original Star Wars.

Following that comes the two-part piece, "Jar Jar's Introduction and The Swim To Otoh Gunga." While "Jar Jar's Introduction" could have reminded people of another race of aliens - cough*Ewoks*cough - the piece actually is more reminiscent of the introduction of the Jawas. Though playful and quirky, there is none of the childish quality that may have alienated some fans. Meanwhile, "The Swim To Otoh Gunga," is very haunting with a sense of exoticism. You feel like this is the introduction to a rare, strange, place that you shouldn't be a part of. "The Trip To The Naboo Temple" and "The Audience With Boss Nass" give you more of this sense of off-worldness. The visuals should be striking.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"The Sith Spacecraft" signals the arrival of the main villain in the movie - Darth Maul. With tribal drums and a slow increase, this piece seems to be reaching from the depths of nowhere to pull the meanness out. "The Droid Battle" is an action-filled piece that quickly pulls you into the fighting. A second piece later in the soundtrack - "The Droid Invasion" - is just as exciting. It sounds terrific and you can sense that there will be action everywhere with this piece. Tied to that cue, there's the awesome "The Appearance of Darth Maul." A few fleeting flute notes - that sound, like someone has already stated, like a lone wolf howling in the night - give way to the Emperor's theme from Return Of The Jedi. You have a sense of true evil emanating from this music. I can already tell you, Darth Maul's costume will be the top costume this Halloween.

There are also some tracks that feature pure exciting abandon. "The Flag Parade" will, without a doubt, remind you of Ben-Hur's chariot race. Meanwhile, "Panaka and the Queen's Protectors" features the main "Star Wars" theme and features more action-packed music. "Passing Through the Planet Core" combines both the weird cues from the Gungans as well as action packed movement that tells you some mean stuff is going down. "Qui-Gonn's Noble End" is both action packed as well as a moment of pure...hmmm...horror and determination. Care to guess why? Finally, "Anakin Defeats Sebulba," begins slowly but turns to great action - as it should, for it's the climax of the Pod Race.

Then there's those more quiet cues. "Kids At Play" feature some quiet and haunting music - you will even notice the "Binary Sunset" cue from the original "Star Wars." You feel a goodbye is being said here. In fact - if you've seen them - this is the music that plays behind Shmi Skywalker's commercial. "The High Council Meeting" meanwhile brings you "Yoda's Theme" and the quiet version of the "Imperial Theme" as a sense of both resolution and dread fill the music. Following that, "Qui-Gonn's Funeral" has that haunting piece from "Return of the Jedi" where the Darth Vader suit is burned by Luke Skywalker.

The soundtrack concludes with the fun-filled "Augie's Great Municipal Band." South American drums and rhythms contrast with children choirs. The piece sounds like a true celebration. From there, the "End Credits" feature the original Star Wars credit cues before turning to a repeat of "Duel Of The Fates" and concluding, eerily enough, with "Anakin's Theme." Again, you have a sense that there's a hinting towards the coming darkness.

So, why not give this an A+ - besides the fact we're not allowed to give that rating on "The Daily Vault"? Three reasons. First, I happen to think that for all the hoopla Lucasfilms went to hide the secrets of this film that the tracklist contains way too much information. Why? It's not necessary. For example, "Qui-Gonn's Noble End" could have been titled "Jedi Vs. Sith" and it would have hidden all the coming surprises. It's hard to believe that Lucas and Co. just decided to let all this slide by.

Second problem, all the cues are out of place. Anakin is not introduced before Jar Jar, yet "Jar Jar's Introduction" comes after "Anakin's Theme." While I know that "Anakin's Theme" is one of the major cues, it's wrong to flip them like this.

Finally, where is the rest of the music???? There have been many, many, quotes that say that the total amount of music recorded for this movie go from 90 minutes to almost 2 hours. Yet, here's only 75 minutes of music. Where's the rest? I know it's going to come to a re-release like the ones that came out for the Special Editions. I think that's wrong. They should have helped the fans and given them the music and all the music.

Overall, this is a classic now and will be so ten years from now. The fantasy is beginning once again. Get ready. Here comes Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. (Hey! By the way, if there's ever a need for a real Anakin Skywalker, my door's always open.)

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1999 Alfredo Narvaez and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sony Classical Records, and is used for informational purposes only.