[See also release of Star Wars Trilogy Original
On the weekend the film opened the American public proved their loyalty by
attending The Phantomn Menace en masse but the bad press and word of mouth
publicity slowed down enthusiasm quickly for The Phantom Menace quickly slipped
down the top ten box office weekly ratings losing out first to Austin Powers2-
The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Below we reproduce some of the comment from the American press as Star Wars
Telephone lines were jammed and theatres were stormed for tickets. MovieFone,
the nation's largest movie ticketing service, was processing thousands of
transactions per minute, and reported that demand far exceeded what anyone
had expected. "This is definitely the busiest afternoon we've ever had,"
they commented after sales day one.
John Williams's soundtrack was propelled to a top-three chart debut. The
soundtrack to The Phantom Menace made the year's highest debut for a soundtrack
album on Billboard 200 chart, coming in at No. 3. Its sales of 173,000 copies
nearly topped the first-week record for full-length film soundtracks, held
by Howard Stern's Private Parts, which bowed at No. 1 in February 1997 with
178,000 units sold, according to SoundScan data. (Snoop Doggy Dogg's soundtrack
for the 1994 short film Murder Was the Case is classified as a soundtrack
and technically holds the first-week sales record at 330,000.)
SoundScan did not begin electronically tabulating over-the-counter record
sales until 1991, well after the release of soundtrack albums for the first
three Star Wars albums. The Star Wars score peaked at No. 2 and has sold
more than 3 million copies. The Empire Strikes Back score reached No. 4 but
sold fewer than 1 million copies.
Critical reaction to John Williams score has been generally positive with
a few side swipes. Here are a few clips from media throughout
INSPIRED PHANTOM MENACE SOUNDTRACK RECALLS MOVIE MOMENTS
Joshua Kosman, Music Critic -The San Francisco Chronicle
"Amid the rush of ancillary products accompanying the release of the new
"Star Wars" movie, the soundtrack CD may well give the best value for themoney.
There's barely a dull moment in this latest score by John Williams
From the opening "Star Wars" theme -- still amazingly catchy after all these
years -- to the jazzy band music that accompanies the final scene,
Williams' soundtrack is an exciting blend of familiar components combined
in slightly new ways.
The newest thing this time around is the presence of a chorus (London Voices
with the New London Children's Choir), which belts out impassioned harmonies
in a space-age version of "Carmina Burana." The words are either indecipherable
or in a language known only on Naboo, but the sense of heightened drama comes
through pretty clearly
SPACE OPERA? SCORE IS PHANTOM OF ORIGINAL;
WILLIAMS' MUSIC HAS TINGLE BUT IT LACKS FRESH VISION
By Theodore P. Mahne (The Times-Picayune, Orleans)
. More than any other composer working in films today, Williams
knows how to
grab hold of an audience and manipulate its emotions grandly and memorably.
Which is precisely why his latest effort for "The Phantom Menace" is a bit
There's no threat of this score overwhelming "The
Phantom Menace." Indeed, if the entire "Star Wars" saga is seen as a space
opera, the visuals likely will always win out over the music
'STAR WARS': ANOTHER DIMENSION IN SOUNDTRACKS
Richard Harrington ,The Washington Post
Just as special-effects technology has changed drastically since the first
"Star Wars" movie in 1977, so has sound technology. The original "Star Wars"
helped popularize the Dolby noise reduction stereo system, and when the "Star
Wars Trilogy Special Edition" soundtracks were released two years ago, director
George Lucas created expanded and digitally remixed
soundtracks far superior to the magnetic tracks on the original 70mm prints.
For "Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (Sony Classical), Lucas and
composer John Williams are introducing Dolby Digital-Surround EX, an expanded
surround-sound system, which translates as louder and liver, particularly
when the London Symphony Orchestra kicks in full force during the action
RETURN OF THE JEDI THEMES
Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times
"Williams was faced with an unusual problem with the music for "Phantom Menace":
how to score a picture that predates the now-famous melodies associated with
the original "Star Wars" trilogy. Some--the primary theme--could be used;
others--Princess Leia's theme--could not.
To his credit, he's come up with a score that, as performed by the London
Symphony, the London Voices and the New London Children's Choir, effectively
matches the original music. Although it lacks the original's sheer melodic
invention, it delivers some attractive themes, especially those associated
with the characters Anakin and Queen Amidala, and makes
striking use of the carry-over melodies.
Somewhere, someday, a graduate student is going to write a dissertation on
the influences on Williams' "Star Wars" scores--from Prokofiev and Ligeti
to Bartok and Strauss. But he synthesizes it all in his own unique fashion,
and there's no denying its enormous power as orchestral film music. Nobody
does it better. ("Star Wars" fans, however, are warned to avoid reading the
album track titles, which refer to specific story points, before seeing the
'PHANTOM MUSIC CAN SPEAK FOR ITSELF
Richard Dyer, Chicago Sun-Times
One day 88 professional singers from London Voices arrive to record
two episodes with chorus. One is funeral music an emotional climax; the other
is for the closing credits, a terrifying, primitive pagan rite that makes
Stravinsky's "Les Noces" sound tame. Lucas loves this dark, driven music
so much he shows off the recording for Spielberg when he arrives. Spielberg
says to Williams, "I'm glad I didn't drop around for a cigar on the day you
wrote that." Lucas says Williams doesn't know it yet, but this music will
accompany a crucial scene in the third new film.
The words the chorus is singing in this dark, demonic cue are clear, but
the language is unfamiliar. It turns out it's Sanskrit.
"Sanskrit!" Lucas exclaims when Williams tells him. "That'll give the fans
something to figure out."
High tech will be everywhere on the screen, and in the studio there's far
more of it than anyone could have imagined 22 years ago, when this adventure
began. Williams' score is in a computer, which produces the parts for the
players; even the speakers in the control room look like droids from the
movie. "They have all this new stuff," Williams observes, a bit
ruefully. "But we're all still down there trying to make sure F-sharp is
Nothing seems to ruffle Williams' composure or the old-fashioned courtesy
that seems fundamental to his nature -- not even 10 successive
takes of the same passage. "Thank you," he says to the players after a
problematic reading. "I have learned some more things that I needed to know.
I think we can get it together better, and I know I can conduct it better."
"Let's see if we can make a more noble sound," he will say to the brass and
percussion, including himself in the equation. His experience shows in
everything. "Could you menace without getting louder?" he asks. "The audience
should feel this rather than hear it." "Let me ask the harp not to play
here -- I think the sound of the harp will take the eye away from
it needs to see right here."
Williams cannot conceal his delight at how some things are turning out. He
will deftly sidestep a compliment: "That's my homage to old man Korngold,"
he says, paying tribute to the Viennese prodigy Erich Wolfgang Korngold,
who fled from Hitler and wound up in Hollywood writing the scores to classic
adventure movies such as "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and
"Captain Blood." After the charging rhythmic excitement of one cue, Williams
jokes, "That ought to be enough to scare the children of the world."
When the music soars, Williams seems to soar a little, too. "I'm a very lucky
man," he says, smiling. "If it weren't for the movies, no one would be able
to write this kind of music anymore."