For Our Consideration

Star Wars: Episode I Racer

Jedi Outcast

A Star Wars racing game makes the case that The Phantom Menace wasn’t all bad

By Drew Toal • October 1, 2013

Since it was released in May of 1999, reams and reams of both real and internet paper have been spent analyzing the train wreck that was the Star Wars prequels. Perhaps the most hyped film of all time, The Phantom Menace—the first of the trilogy—was almost doomed to failure from the start. Still, none could predict just how awful the movies turned out to be. The addle-brained alien Jar Jar Binks, touted as a revolutionary advance in cinematic CGI, quickly became one of the most reviled characters in movie history. The moment that will stay with me, I think, was my high school friend Tom, moderately stoned and in total anguish, issuing his plea to the heavens: “Where were the fucking stormtroopers?”

The stormtroopers do eventually appear in the second movie, but by then, the terrible realization had sunk in: Stormtroopers or no, Star Wars was ruined forever. But did anything worthwhile emerge from the twisted wreckage? Surely something of value arose from the ashes of the nerd apocalypse, some elixir that could wash the acrid taste of “midi-chlorians” out of our mouths?

Like a breath of fresh, recycled Death Star air came Star Wars: Episode I Racer, which was released alongside the film. Based on the pod races seen in The Phantom Menace—fittingly, one of the least exciting alien death races you could ever hope to see, an anesthetized, medium-speed circuit populated with computer-generated Muppet rejects—the Nintendo 64 adaptation (plus later releases on other platforms) injected George Lucas’s should-be abortion in a galaxy far, far away with much-needed testicular fortitude. Episode I Racer is not just the best video game to come out of that mess. It’s the best thing to come out of that mess, period. And it’s one of the better racing games ever made.

Racer grades on steep curve, and it gives you a wide selection of characters, not limiting the player to fresh-faced desert grease monkey Anakin Skywalker. In the initial races, it doesn’t much matter who you pick, so long as you’re fairly proficient at racing games. The turns are gradual—no hairpins here—and the obstacles are less fearsome than they will soon become. Plus, your winnings can be used between races to buy parts from Watto, the diminutive black marketeer, so these gentler tracks provide an opportunity to improve your ride.

As the game progresses, though, your driving skill or affinity with the Force or alien reflexes will only get you so far. The game gets hard, fast, and you’ll need to jack up your pod if you want to win this thing. Your driver’s specific pods and abilities—the game features over two dozen distinct pilots and tracks—are suddenly the difference between winning and finishing last. Racer may resemble Star Wars, but in its DNA, where it matters, it’s more Paul Bartel than George Lucas.

Like all good racing games, Episode I Racer features responsive controls and varied environments, but there are elements that set it apart. For one thing, the parts you’re buying from Watto (at his outrageous prices) degrade more rapidly if you push them too hard. Spend all the money you want on a R-600 Repulsergrip, but if you keep scraping the paint and hitting the walls head on, you’ll soon find yourself back to square one, equipment-wise. You can purchase pit droids to maintain your investments, but the best way to care for your new gear is by learning to steer and not blowing up every hundred feet.

Driving a pod is dangerous. It’s essentially a hovering sled pulled by two gigantic rocket engines. These massive turbines have a tendency to overheat. Sometimes, during a race, one will catch on fire. In a normal race, you’d immediately pull over and make a pit stop. But the pod race waits for no conflagration, and there is no slowing down. The only choice is to extinguish it on the fly, and that’s the kind of high-speed hero shit and calm in the face of adversity that sets champions apart. The final circuit is extremely, sometimes unfairly difficult, even for a pod racer in their prime with a vehicle in fighting trim. Yoda’s time-worn adage comes to mind: “Do or do not. There is no try.” Or maybe it’s Quintus Arrias’ words to Ben-Hur: “Your eyes are full of hate, forty-one. That’s good. Hate keeps a man alive. It gives him strength.”

I think the lesson here is that there was really nothing intrinsically flawed in The Phantom Menace. It was all terrible, terrible execution. Stripping the film down into its components—much like Watto would scavenge a wrecked pod for parts—could produce quality entertainment, especially in the realm of video games. Knights Of The Old Republic and other games, for instance, included Darth Maul’s double-sided lightsaber as a playable option, immutable laws of physics be damned. Star Wars Battlefront used prequel settings to good effect. Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing was…well, mistakes were made.

What were the main problems with The Phantom Menace? In no particular order, I’d identify the main culprits as poor casting, the clunkiest dialogue imaginable, impossible expectations, godforsaken Jar Jar Binks, turning a movie for adults into one for kids, vaguely racist aliens, and George Lucas. Episode I Racer suffers from none of those things, and thus the foundation of the film’s world can be judged on its own merits, which are considerable. It’s a crying shame such a good game is forever associated with such a leprous film, that shouldn’t diminish the fact that Episode I Racer is a damn fine game. If Vader can be in some way redeemed, why can’t Episode I?

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  • PugsMalone

    My favorite part of this game is Watto humming the Cantina song to himself.

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

      My favorite part was where Watto busted out a wicked rendition of Avinu Malkeinu with a swanee kazoo, if he did that.

      • Electric Dragon

        Ah, the graceful ululation of the swanee whistle and the earthy rasp of the kazoo. Speaking of which, Samantha is taking her gentleman friend to an exhibition of percussion instruments where she has promised to show him a magnificent pair of gongs.

  • Colonel

    Aw man, this game ate up at least one full summer of me getting first on all tracks.  My favorite tracks were the ones that had a zero-g section where you just floated in the middle, moving around was near impossible, and you had rocks flying at you.

    Me and a friend have been meaning to get together and play through it again and I might just get off my ass thanks to this article.

  • rvb1023

    Thank you for doing this. This game along with the incredibly shitty Jedi Power Battles are the two best things about Episode I. I really do not like racing games and I loved this game a ton as a kid.

    A lot of it was the little details they took from the movie and turning them into full-blown mechanics. Overheating, tilting 90 degrees, repairing, etc. That and the multiplayer was fun too.

  • The_Helmaroc_King

    Some friends and I re-watched all six Star Wars movies a while back and I was surprised at just how dull the pod-racing was. It was, like, the second biggest setpiece in the movie; how could they make it that boring?

    I rented this game as a kid and I remember enjoying it, but I never played it thoroughly. I liked to play as the one racer that mounted their engines behind their pod, probably because they were unique that way. Really, every other racer was just a disaster waiting to happen; what kind of engineer looks at two rocket engines and says to themselves, “Just tether the seat behind them”?

    Also of note was the arcade version of the same. I don’t recall if they two were released at the same time, but the main conceit for that one was the fact that you had two separate throttles (one for each engine) alongside a big, yellow, light-up boost button. Another impressive arcade game to come out of the Star Wars canon.

    • ferrarimanf355

      The arcade game was a Sega production, like the Star Wars Trilogy shooter. (fun fact: the latter was the last game to use the Model 3 hardware seen in Virtua Fighter 3 and Daytona USA 2, amongst others)

    • Colonel

      Neva Kee is the name of the most sensible podracer. He and “Bullseye” Navior were my favorite since their racers could take a turn and not end up killing me on all the cloud world tracks.

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

      The Pod Racing in the film was dull because there was absolutely nothing at stake. Was there any doubt whatsoever that Anakin would win the race? He had a few setbacks, but of course he was going to cross the line in first.

      If they had Anakin lose, and then later have Liam Neeson go and cleave Watto’s head open with a lightsaber to get his engine part and free Anakin, then that would have been much more interesting and unexpected.

      • HobbesMkii

        Speaking of lightsabers, apparently they’re a real thing now:

        http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/sep/30/star-wars-lightsabers-invented

        • http://gameological.com/author/mattkodner/ Matt Kodner

          THAT IS SO EXCITING

      • George_Liquor

        Well, let’s be honest here. Was there any doubt Luke would blow up the Death Star? 

        • Shain Eighmey

          Sure! Failure is always an option when the future isn’t known. Honestly, if Star Wars ended with the Death Star destroying Yavin IV and Luke being alone that would have been one heck of a profound movie.

        • TheKingandIRobot

           Sure but all we know about Vader from the original series is that he’s mean and powerful and apparently something seriously fucked him up a while back.  Was that thing a horrible podracing accident?  Maybe! (no)

    • fieldafar

      I know of an arcade place that still has the Sega-made Pod Racing game. Unfortunately, I never see anyone actually play it.

    • WorldCivilizations

      I just watched all six in a row (i.e. starting with IV) too, as a roommate revealed she had never seen any of them. Then we talked about Star Wars video games: 

      Pod Racer is one of my favorites, though I have to give shoutouts to the underrated Star Wars: Starfighter and the awesomely deep lightsaber dueling (online) in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

      Also, I’ll throw this out there: Phantom Menace was shitty, yes, but I think II and III are totally awesome and I don’t care who knows it (every scene between Anakin and Padme excepted, of course).

      • Scott Thomas

        No.  You are wrong.  And to prove let me just say “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo…..”

      • Kevin Johnson

        Rogue Squadron was pretty great too, even if it got harder towards the end. And I remember Shadow of the Empire being a lot of fun too, although I doubt that dates well.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       I don’t understand that at all. I love the pod racing scene. I think it’s one of the few good parts of that movie. The sound design alone is amazing.

  • ferrarimanf355

    Hey, at least Samuel L. Jackson was in it, he was good. And the pinball game was good, too, even if it was the last thing Williams released before closing down their pinball division. 

    • http://www.theoverprivileged.com/ greenspanDan

      Revenge From Mars was better.  ;)

      also Sam Jackson, though I love the guy, sucked in the Phantom Menace  :(

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    Back when beloved know-it-all John Hodgeman was still little Johnny Hodgeman, gearing up for personifying fussy consumer electronics by doing radio stories, he did this amazingThis American Life story where he talks about re-writing Episode One in his mind as a bedtime meditation during a particularly shitty year of his life. It’s both a fantastic story in it’s own right, and he, not surprisingly, had some awesome ideas concerning the movie.
     As for the game, it was the first where I was able to flex the might of my N64 RAM expansion pack. I turned on the game, mentally cataloged the opening sequence, then turned it off, plugged in the RAM, then turned it back on, anticipating an astonishing evolution in detail and on-screen elements.
     I don’t think it made a single iota of difference, but it was a fun-ass racing game.
     Though I do have to argue one point. I can’t really say Star Wars was a movie for adults. I mean, it’s a universal movie; but my folks took me to Jedi and they took me to Amadeus and there’s a reason my friends and I weren’t taking turns pretending to be Salieri turning the Austrian Emperor’s sympathies from the genius, but boorish Mozart.

    • Citric

      The line fun-ass racing game makes me sort of yearn for a fun ass-racing game. Some kind of Donkey Turismo.

      • duwease

        I think you can choose a donkey in Red Dead Redemption‘s online horse racing..

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        2 Asinus 2 Furious?

      • The Guilty Party

        Yes! I want a game where I can pimp my ass!

        … er, wait.

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch

           I’m sure that sounded better in your head.

    • Melancholic_Rodeo_Clown

      I love every time I hear Hodgman on TAL, his story about breaking into the London Zoo in one episode (I think it was about how couples remember anecdotes differently) was ridiculously funny.

      • waxlion

         …Huh, I remember that in one of his books (I think More Information Than You Require?) but I didn’t realize that was one of the anecdotes (read: like a sentence or two) based more in fact.

        Like I think that same book also basically transcribed his incredibly charming TED talk about aliens/physics/love/travel which I’d previously seen before and I think I sort of felt annoyed there was content that I’d encountered previously, but on the exact opposite hand I’m also kind of offended there were further zoo details that weren’t included.

        • Melancholic_Rodeo_Clown

          Oh if I could remember the name of the episode I’d tell you! He’s not introduced as John Hodgman but if you’ve heard his voice before then it’s very obvious that it is.

    • Dr. Clint Handsome

      See, my friends on the other hand, we were all running around the playground in 5th Grade yelling “Too many notes!”

    • Kyle O’Reilly

       John Hodgman did meditation Star Wars fan-fic?  You don’t say?

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        I do say. I really can’t recommend the story enough.

  • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

    You know what, Super Bombad Kartracing looks like a bunch of fun and would have appealed to me when I was just a Naked Boy Holding A Fudgesicle. Brian Blessed in a racing game, what’s not to like?
    For anyone who is wondering what Jake Lloyd is up to nowadays, enjoy:http://www.avclub.com/articles/star-wars-episode-i-actor-jake-lloyd-has-been-thro,70466/

    • Chum Joely

      Wow, you’ve been holding that Fudgesicle all your life, have you? And naked the whole time, too? All building up to that one incident with Nick Cage… and now that your life goal has been fulfilled, what will you do now?

      • Enkidum

        He should really just admit the obvious, that at this point he’s just Naked Man Holding a Slightly Grotty Old Popsicle Stick.

  • psib

    I never hated episode 1 as much as everyone else. Maybe because I missed the original trilogies by about 5 years, but I loved the idea of podracing and the sense of speed that this game had was really mindblowing to 13 year old me. Also double lightsabers will always be cool.

    • Thor

      I loved it too. I was 10 when I saw it, and I re-watched it in-theater probably 20 times. In hindsight, yes, it’s a mess. But also in hindsight, we can see that the original trilogy was heading that way. Lucas was never as talented as everyone thought. 

      • TaumpyTearrs

        I knew a guy who was 19 who saw Episode 1 in theaters that many times. I was 14 at the time, and I didn’t come out of the movie filled with hate as much as confusion.

        I had devoted a large amount of my waking life to Star Wars at that point, and I just couldn’t understand how a Star Wars movie could be boring. I had watched the original trilogy dozens of times on video and TV and never got tired of them, was super excited when I got to see the Special Editions in theaters, so I was baffled when I came out of Episode 1 with no desire to watch it again.

        • Thor

          You know, people love to harp on about how bad the movie was, and how they “never saw it again,” but the numbers tell a different story: The movie made about a billion dollars at the box office. That number can only be reached in one of two ways (or both): 1. Repeat viewings. This happened with Avatar and The Phantom Menace, or 2. Demographics outside the target. This happened with Avatar as well, and Titanic. 

          The fact is, people loved The Phantom Menace enough to see it more than once, and people who never saw Star Wars went to see it too again and again. I think sometimes we people who frequent AV Club forget that there are other people than those who study pop culture with discerning tastes. 

  • ItsTheShadsy

    I want to draw attention to another podracing-based Episode I game for a second. (In the process, I need to self-promote a blog about obscure games that I occasionally update, because I wrote an article about it.)

    http://obscuritory.com/puzzle/star-wars-pit-droids/

    Star Wars Pit Droids! was a game that came out under the Lucas Learning label. It’s basically a Chu Chu Rocket-type puzzler that tasks you with instructing an army of the podracing maintenance robots to their destination. The most interesting element is that you can sort them by various attributes, like color, equipment, etc.

    It’s okay, but it sort of proves your point that the execution of Episode I was much worse than the components of the product. The pit droids are sort of charming on their own in this game. But the decision to appeal directly to children still makes it hard to enjoy fully in ways that the original trilogy never had problems with.

    • duwease

      You had me at Chu Chu Rocket

  • Chum Joely

    Damn, that’s a long race. 3 laps, and it takes almost 3 minutes per lap? Seems like a long time to be zipping around a completely empty track. Although the environments do look pretty cool.

    • WL14

      I guess you never played the game… I was stressed out watching that video. It’s too bad he didn’t include a video of someone not an uber-god at this game, as it’s INSANELY difficult. I agree, the environments look cool, and I think they still look cool despite this being 2 (?) console generations ago.

    • Thor

      The video doesn’t show you how hard the game is. Notice how the title is “no crashes” in that the poster is bragging about not crashing. Because the normal player biffs it like 12 times a lap. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

    Yeah, i’d rather have the guys making the TPM game do the Prequel films instead.

    • waxlion

       …As in this podracing game or the weird quasi-action meets adventure point and click dialogue intensive one?

      I was legitimately kind of bummed out they didn’t have another one of those or even any tie in game for AotC and I’d kinda given up on the franchise by RotS (but I heard that game was basically a combat-oriented maybe beat-em-up)?

      I thought it was kind of charming they’d do a exploration oriented puzzley nonsense game that nearly felt open-world and like opportunities to flesh out the environment. (In so much as I think they let you kill basically every single character you encountered even if that did generally end the level or summoned a bunch of NPCs to murder you.)

  • anonia5ever

    Yes. Yes it was.

  • flowsthead

    In case anyone was wondering,”Bullseye” Navior was the best racer. That little guy had one of the highest top speeds and acceleration while still having good turning. And since his pod was smaller than a lot of the other ones, it was easier to avoid dying and easier to fit in the smaller spaces.

  • zerocrates

    Wait, how does the double-bladed lightsaber offend the immutable laws of physics (at least, any more than the normal kind does)?

    • Roswulf

       I think its less physics, more biomechanics. That is, a human wielding a double-bladed lightsaber WILL slice their own torso in twain. It’s a ludicrously dangerous weapon.

      On the other hand, the force.

      • The Guilty Party

        The most fearsome sith warriors of them all got their training in high school color guard. Which probably explains a couple of things.

        • tejanojim

           This. Not even just torso, but severed hands, thighs, feet, etc.

    • EmperorNortonI

      A double sword would mean that you are always moving the sword in one direction against a counterweight.  In a chop or a slice, the weight of the sword works with your arm motion to cutting force – but a double sword would entirely negate that, but pulling the sword in the exact opposite direction.

      The real stupidity is the double axe, though.  An axe is top heavy to maximize the force applied in the chop – the double axe cancels that out entirely, making it pretty much useless.

  • gbc204

    “You cannot beat Sebulba, he always wins!”

    • Come On In Here

      I always liked the fact that in the video game Sebulba never won.

      • Boonehams

        Yes, but he was still able to use the spoken-about-in-hushed-tones flame jets in the game.

  • patagonianhorsesnake

    my cousins and i played this game on one of their n64s, and then we made pod racers out of legos and raced them around his backyard and crashed them spectacularly. i think that fills all of my criteria for a “very good game”

  • Dr. Leo Wollman

    The combination of unusual racing vehicles and thundering John Williams score made the whole game feel really epic. Many fond memories associated with it.

    Though frankly Drew, the thing I love most about this article is that you managed to sneak a Death Race 2000 reference in there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.o.white Brian odorimasenka White

    Even when you thought you knew the game, you could actually change the controller configurations. It would be one controller in the right hand for the right engine and another controller in the left hand to control the left engine. Just insanely hard try to race with the 2 controllers but it brought just another element to the game.

  • BrooksyInc

    I’ve been secretly waiting for this article for about 14 years now. Bless you Gameological! I absolutely love this game, probably my favourite Star Wars related thing since 1983

  • The Otter White Meat

    Did anyone ever play this with two controllers? If so, how did it handle? I’ve always wondered about that with this game.

    • WL14

      I tried it and sucked. Granted, I was like 16 at the time. And I tried it once.

  • craigward

    For me, the Star Wars universe begins and ends with Dark Forces

    Death Star?  What?  The Empire are those guys who made the Dark Troopers, but who were defeated by Kyle Katarn on the Arc Hammer.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      Dark Forces was a great game.  Hell, the entire Jedi Knight series was pretty great….though it always irritated me in the first Jedi Knight that Kyle was bearded in cutscenes but not in-game.  How hard would THAT have been to fix?

    • Thor

      The whole Jedi Knight series was always my favorite Star Wars thing, even over KOTOR. I loved that in the first Jedi Knight you had to basically just kill a bunch of dudes with light sabers. My favorite were Pic and Gore. A midget and a giant troll who hang out together. Also the cutscenes being live-action was awesome. We need more of that. 

  • CaptBackslap

    I spent a significant portion of my nights in 2000 getting loaded on Steel Reserve and playing this game and Darkstone. The weird thing is that, in retrospect, it still seems like a good decision.

    • snazzlenuts

      Steel Reserve is concentrated bad decisions. It’s black-out in a can.

  • Crusty Old Dean

    Dude, Star Wars was never a movie for adults.

    • Roswulf

       Sure it was! Twas a movie for all ages! I’m too lazy to search  (I’m really lazy), but on Youtube there’s a spectacular Nightline piece with Siskel and Ebert ripping into an elitist critique dismissing Star Wars.

      And honestly, I think there’s a reasonable argument that Empire Strikes Back is primarily for adults. This is part of why it is the internet hivemind’s favorite of the films.

      • Unexpected Dave

        I used to subscribe to the theory that a movie could be classified as being for children, adults, or both based on its themes. I.E., if a movie has adult themes then it’s a movie for adults.

        But then I realized that there’s no such thing as an “adult theme.” It’s never too soon for children to start contemplating their own mortality.

    • Citric

      I probably would have been super into Star Wars like the rest of the internet if I had watched it by the time I was 12. Instead, I didn’t see it until my mid-20s, and really wasn’t all that blown away, even if I recognized that a decade earlier I would have been totally into it.

    • ILDC

       But he killed younglings!

      • George_Liquor

        Oldlings, too.

    • TheInternetSaid

      They used to make movies for the everyone, like The Magnificent Ambersons.  For some reason that’s gone out of favor with everyone except Pixar.

    • 2StoryOuthouse

      Man, I hate how the new Star Wars focuses on things kids love, like trade disputes and senate resolutions.

      Really, I’ve never bought the argument that the prequels any more childish than 4, 5, and 6. (Though, really, Anakin should have been introduced as a teen.) All Star Wars movies are intended for all audiences. The problem is that 4, 5, and 6 gave its adult audience distinct, iconic characters and mythical overtones. 1, 2, and 3 replaced that with interchangeable characters, dry plot, and drier politics.

  • BuddhaBox

    I remember playing the hell out of this game when it came out for Mac. I actually don’t remember that much about it other than being pretty upset that I couldn’t play as Sebulba, who had a special move that involved setting other racers on fire, for some reason.

    I also recall one level in which there was a sudden twenty-foot drop right before the finish line. My friend and I would always play as Anakin on that level, and rather than racing, we would turn around and wait near the drop for a minute or two. Then, when the front-runner would come around, we would position ourselves just right so that they would smash into our pod racer, killing us both in a fiery explosion, usually while we yelled something about “The Backwards Ranger rides again!” I honestly don’t remember why we did it, but if I had to guess, I would say it was equal parts hatred for Anakin, contrarian desire to break the game, childish protest (if I recall correctly, that level was kind of bullshit), stupid fourth-grader humor, and a desire to see shit blow up.

  • stakkalee

    Man, this game looks like a lot of fun, a racing game that’s more complicated than the usual steer, brake, accelerate.  I’m still glad I intentionally avoided everything associated with the prequels, but it’s too bad I missed this because I definitely would have enjoyed it.

  • snazzlenuts

    Now THAT’S pod racing!

  • indy2003

    This one is right up there with TIE Fighter as my favorite Star Wars game (though it’s worth noting that I’ve never played Knights of the Old Republic, which definitely sounds like it would be my cup of tea). Spent way too many hours playing this one on my PC back in the day. 

  • http://www.theoverprivileged.com/ greenspanDan

    this really was a fun game.  I had it for PC.  the second video (the one in the lava level) is far more exciting than the first, and does a much better job of conveying the sense of speed and exhilaration.  when the announcer shouted “IT’S A NEW LAP RECORD!” memories just came flooding back.  HEY!  I REMEMBER THAT!

    the problems with the Phantom Menace are best described (in shockingly precise and insightful detail) in RedLetterMedia’s takedown of the film.  I assume everyone here’s already seen it, but just in case you haven’t, the following URL is MANDATORY:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxKtZmQgxrI

    (feel free to fast forward through the lame and gross parts with the woman in the basement…)

  • Kyle O’Reilly

    I guess I’m the only chode out here willing to admit to LOVING the pod race scene.  Most of my fondness for it relates to that beautiful chugging noise the guys at IL&M put together for when the pod racers whip by but it’s also worth praising because the pod race is one of the few parts of the prequels where the world feels lived in, rusty and a little bit broken down.  So much of the worlds in the prequels (and the originals if you believe New Yorker critic Anthony Lane) has a boring plastic sheen to it that doesn’t belay a world that is lived in but a world that is a cardboard cutout put up and taken down to fit what the story needs.  But pod racing was messy, fat and fast.  It’s one of teh few things in the sterile sequels that carries any weight.

    And again, that “phub-phub-pub-ph-ph-ph-phub” noise… Tres Magnifique!

    • Unexpected Dave

      I’m surprised to hear so many people rag on it now. In 1999, I remember the pod race scene being liked by even the movie’s most hyperbolic haters.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

         It was mass denial.  We all wanted to like something about that movie so much that we lowered our standards until we found something to hold onto.

      • 2StoryOuthouse

        I thought the Darth Maul duel and the accompanying overwrought music was the one thing everybody (still, as far as I know) enjoyed about Episode 1.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

          Duel Of The Fates created the “nonsensical Latin chanting” in movie trailers trend, right?

    • Boonehams

      I was working at a movie theater when Phantom Menace released.  A lot of people know that people who work at theaters get to see movies for free.  What a lot don’t know is that George Lucas had an embargo on free viewings of Phantom Menace, saying that any theater that carried the film could not allow anyone free access for the first month of its release.  We had to pay just like anyone else.

      As a theater attendant/concessionist, I had to routinely inspect the theaters to make sure that no monkeyshines and ballyhoo were going on.  I always made sure to time it so that when I checked the Phantom Menace theater, it was during the pod race.  And I slooooowly walked through the side aisles, pretending to look at the audience to make sure they weren’t up to no good.

      I couldn’t watch the film for free, but I could watch the only scene I liked not only for free, but get paid to do so.

      • Kyle O’Reilly

         Everything I read about George Lucas only confirms my theory that he is just a bitter, sheltered, sad little man.  Howard the Duck is most indicative of this.

        • Boonehams

          True story: One of my friends quit working at the movie theater when he found out about the ban on free viewings for Phantom Menace… and I got his job.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.furry.7 Lee Furry

    “turning a movie for adults into one for kids”… Here is the number one problem with prequel haters: They almost universally believe Star Wars movies are for adults.  I was 12 years old in 1977 and was naturally blown away by the original film.  By the time Return of the Jedi was released I was a senior in high school. I loved the Vader/Luke/Emperor stuff, but hated the Ewoks with every fiber of the my being.  They had ruined Star Wars for me.  But the truth is, I was just outgrowing Star Wars.

    My younger brother grew up on the films and loved the Ewoks.  My Dad went to see the original with me (it was probably about 10th time for me) and didn’t get it.  He especially hated C-3PO, he found him to be exceedingly annoying. (sound familiar?) To my Dad, Star Wars was a kid’s movie.  There isn’t a single person who hates Jar-Jar that wouldn’t have hated
    C-3PO just as much if they had been introduced to him as an adult.

    Fast forward to the prequels.  My kids love them, more so than they like the original three.  I went to see them, suspended my disbelief, channeled the inner child and enjoyed them the best I could.  Far too many people went into them expecting the “adult” films they remember from their childhood, but watched instead watched the same type of movie through adult eyes.  Of course they were disappointed!

    When I go back and re-watch the original three, I feel like a 12, 15 and 18 year old again.  I still enjoy the movies today because I remember how they made me feel then.  The prequel’s could never capture my imagination or tap into my teen angst the way the original did, and I never expected them to.  

    You should never watch any of the Star Wars movies from the perspective of an adult, they are kid’s movies.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tomstone Thomas Stone

      Up is also a kid’s movie. Up doesn’t become horrible as soon as you turn thirteen. Also, Phantom Menace came out when I was 14, and I’m still fully aware that it’s a horrible, horrible movie.

      • Aurora Boreanaz

        I saw The Phantom Menace when I was 22, and loved it.  I watched it five times at the theater.  The interactions between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and the duel with Darth Maul overshadowed the more annoying parts for me.  It wasn’t until after Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith came out that I really got upset at the overall quality of the prequels.

        For me, it’s really the idea that lots of others have stated that ruined them for me.  The original trilogy was great in part because Darth Vader was scary, but turned out to be Luke’s father and got redeemed.

        But then the prequels established that he was an annoying kid and extremely selfish and moody young adult who didn’t really deserve any special treatment, and then decided to become a child murderer.

        Seriously…Luke “redeemed” a guy who slaughtered a bunch of little kids?  Fuck that.

        • George_Liquor

          It’s amazing how little Lucas understood his own character.

    • Drinking_with_Skeletons

       The problem with that line of reasoning is that there isn’t some stark line between “kid” and “adult.”  Not all kids are just blank slates who will sit and watch and love whatever.  I was a kid (somewhere between 12 and 14; I’ll be damned if I do the math) when I saw Phantom Menace, and I mostly remember that it didn’t leave much of an impression on me.  I’ve never been much of a Star Wars guy, but I knew about the most famous bits enough to feel like the prequel didn’t deliver.

      Of course, I grew up on Who Framed Roger Rabbit!?, Beetlejuice, and other not-really-for-kids films that my mom probably shouldn’t have let me watch, so maybe my tastes were skewed.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

        ah, the HBO school of child-rearing. There are worse ways to go.

        • Drinking_with_Skeletons

           It was more like “it’s got cartoons, so it’s for kids!”  Nevermind the bitter, alcoholic private eye or hyper-sexualized nightclub singer.

          I think both films were taped off of a free weekend of the Disney Channel, back when they were more of an HBO-for-kids premium station.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

       the original trilogy movies are movies for teenagers.  They deal with relationships on a teenage level and they deal with issues of loyalty and morality on a teenage level.  Like all good monomyth stories, they are intended for those becoming adults but not there yet.  They are about wrestling with the balance of black/white looking gray but still believing in absolutes despite realizing those absolutes are less attainable than you used to think.  That’s teenager stuff. 

      The prequels are about good people becoming more good and bad people becoming more bad.  Even though some of the scenes in the third movie are dark subject matter, morality-wise its played on a much more elementary level than the original trilogy.  The humor, action, and philosophy is all aimed at a decidely early period of psychological development.  Thus, it is a kids movie.

      An adult star wars movie wouldn’t even be possible in that universe.  There are too many stereotypes and archetypes flying around that the only way for it to grow up would be to present both trilogies as fictionalized simplifications of whatever the real events would be.

    • JamesJournal

      It is possible to make something that appeals to multiple age groups. Nothing about the Harry Potter movies alienates older viewers, but it is designed as a coming of age story for younger kids 

      • Thor

        Harry Potter is basically a more well-executed version of Star Wars. They are both essentially the Hero’s Journey, but Harry Potter easily beat Star Wars for highest grossing film series of all time. Honestly, I think it’s the Sci Fi elements too. I don’t know why some people are inherently turned off by Sci Fi, but the numbers don’t lie. If you like Star Wars, you’re a “nerd” and if you like Harry Potter, you’re just like everyone else. 

    • Enkidum

      “There isn’t a single person who hates Jar-Jar that wouldn’t have hated C-3PO just as much if they had been introduced to him as an adult.”

      I can assure you that’s not the case. I know plenty of people who liked the original trilogy as adults (like, say, my father) who would find Jar-Jar unwatchable. C-3PO is bumbling, but not a racist caricature, and his accent is nowhere near as annoying. 

      • Aurora Boreanaz

        Bingo!

        1) A British accent is far more pleasing to the ear than whatever Jar-Jar’s is supposed to be.

        2) Plenty of characters in the original trilogy tell C3P0 to shut up.  Nobody ever says that to Jar-Jar.

  • Boonehams

    I got as far as Grabvine Gateway (the track from the first video you posted) before I hit the wall–literally–and couldn’t go any further.  Something about those snake and hairpin turns; my little high-schooler mitts just couldn’t react fast enough.

    I also blame the fact that all the upgrades I purchased prior to that race were for speed, so when those turns came, I was done for.

  • TheLivingTribunal

    I thought the pod racing scene was the only exciting scene of the entire new trilogy.  What do you mean “anesthetized and medium speed?”

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch

       No, it’s not, and it totally doesn’t end in the way you know the race in TPM is going to end.  We *know* Anakin is going to win that race, he’s the “Chosen One”.  We didn’t know, for certain, that Leia was going to get away with the speeder bike in RotJ and, in fact, she doesn’t.

  • Thor

    Oh man I totally forgot about this game. I probably logged more hours on this than GTA V. 

  • DrZaloski

    This just makes the death of Wingman all the sadder D:

  • Biclops

    In Rogue Squadron (which came out in the fall or winter of 98, and was awesome), there was a code to fly a Naboo figher jet. Of course the code only came to light when Phantom Menace was released, but I had always thought it odd that, provided you had the code in advance, you could experience something from a movie several months out (and very possibly still in post production).

    • Trevor Parmele

      I remember this very clearly and the amazing thing about that code is that NOBODY knew about it until it was officially released. Gameshark hackers didn’t even find it, and the N64 was incredibly easy to Gameshark hack. That code was, hands down, the best kept video game secret there has ever been. Such an awesome surprise when it came out.

  • Scootinfroodie

    Not a huge Star Wars fan, but a discussion on episode 1 lead me to find out that the double-bladed Lightsaber actually appeared first in the 1995 comic “Tales of the Jedi: The Sith War 3: The Trial of Ulic Qel-Droma”, ~4 years before Episode 1… so not only is The Phantom Menace not responsible for it, but you can also use the usual expanded universe excuses :P

    So really, the only thing good that came out of the Phantom Menace was Pod Racing, which (as stated in the article) was executed far better in a Nintendo 64 game. I suppose there’s an argument to be made for locations, but the question is; how many of those already existed in other comics and stories, and could equally good or better locations be found there regardless?

  • Infinidecimal

    Neva Kee was my maaaaaaang