Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Podrace

TPM’s major showpiece was the Boonta Eve pod race. It’s like the big showstopping musical number right before intermission. It’s Lucas at his very whimsical, bizarre, and entertaining best.

We know the stakes are high. The heroes all need Anakin to win to get off-planet. Anakin needs to win not only to help his new friends but also to win his own freedom (though he doesn’t know it yet). If that’s not enough to put on the young boy’s shoulders, the kid has never finished much less win a race before.

It’s not a soapbox derby either. It’s a very dangerous race where extreme speeds, topography, unpredictable vehicles, Tusken Raiders, and cheating competitors guarantee some casualties every time.

But along with all of this tension and drama is a great deal of goofy humor throughout the scene: whimsical and silly-looking aliens, the hard luck of Ben Quadinaros, the even harder luck of Ratts Tyerell, flatulent eopies, a pit droid getting sucked into an engine, Fode and Beed the two-headed commentators, the Jawas yelling “utinni,” etc.. It’s “Ben Hur” meets “Spongebob Squarepants.”

Of course, the scene also allows Lucas to indulge in one of his favorite things ever, racing. Races are in several of his films, going back to his student days. If it involves speed, Lucas is there. He lives for it and it shows throughout the scene.

This scene is largely built on editing and on ILM’s visual effects. The latest in effects for that time, ILM combined model work with new digital effects. John Williams’s music doesn’t kick in until toward the end, just as it’s down to the wire between Anakin and Sebulba. Otherwise the only score is the sound of the racers’ engines.

The drama and comedy culminate in a victory for Anakin and his friends, set to Williams’s soaring score. We know it’s another step down Anakin’s path to his destiny but for that moment, he’s on top of the world.

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17 Responses to “Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Podrace”

  1. Nobody Says:

    I’ve never understood how you could watch something like the Pod Race and think that all of the effects in the Prequels were digital. If you watched stuff like the clones attacking on Geonosis or the battle of Corruscant, sure– but there’s just so much obviously finely crafted models and miniatures on display in this whole sequence, it beggars belief.

  2. darth66zannah Says:

    The sound for the sequence is incredible! I love to blast the Dts sound as loud as I can until the house shakes for the Pod Race!

  3. Keith Palmer Says:

    When I was “returning to TPM” after a too-long nervous exile from all of Star Wars (not because I’d been convinced by “everyone else” to dislike it, but because I was afraid something would snap in me too if I experienced any of it), I was sort of struck by the feeling the podrace starts off “light-hearted” with the stuff you mentioned and then grabs me and pulls me in as the race narrows to “Anakin vs. Sebulba,” right about when Anakin’s engine catches on fire. That a good number of events in it are to be grasped without requiring commentary from the announcers (or even “now I’ll do this” monologuing) does kind of impress me, and I also remember old comments about how it can be seen as encapsulating Anakin’s entire journey as a character. I suppose I’m still conscious of how some people will work against all of that to find negative interpretations of it, but that doesn’t bother me as much as it used to.

  4. Adam D. Bram (The Nilbog) Says:

    My favorite sequence from my favorite movie in my favorite franchise of all time,

  5. peacetrainjedi Says:

    Love this scene, the flag parade before and the celebration after. Pure movie magic. Also love the podrace announcer Fode and Beed!

  6. ladylavinia1932 Says:

    Although TPM is not my favorite SW movie, the pod race is my favorite SW sequence of all time . . . from the arrival of the main characters to the arena, to the moment when Anakin says good-bye to Shmi. For me, it’s just the best ever.

  7. Tony Ferris Says:

    A masterclass in sound design, editing, and visual effects. That The Phantom Menace didn’t win an Academy Award in at least one of the technical categories, is a travesty.

    • Nobody Says:

      Well, it was up against The Matrix, which was admittedly a revolutionary special effects film, what with bullet time and all. Sad that they didn’t use the same photographic effect they had in the first one and relied wholly on CG for the sequels. As the Prequels and their exhaustive miniatures and models have shown, sometimes the old ways are actually best.

      • Tony Ferris Says:

        The Matrix displayed a single revolutionary technique, The Phantom Menace revolutionized VFX across the board, making so many things possible that simply weren’t before hand. Not just in terms of the graphic veracity of the techniques, but also in terms of streamlining the production pipeline so that it could be possible deliver the shear volume of work required to make a movie like The Phantom Menace to work.

        The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and so many of the superhero movies, and even historical dramas we enjoy today simply could not have been made without the advances made by ILM for the first of George Lucas’s prequel episodes.

        The Matrix (fan though I may be of those films) simply doesn’t touch it.

    • Jim Raynor Says:

      The Academy really snubbed the Prequel Trilogy. I still remember when ROTS, the one prequel that actually got very strong reviews from the critics, wasn’t even nominated for a VFX Oscar.

  8. Carsten Says:

    This is definitely one of the greatest scenes of the saga.

  9. Dawn Says:

    Agreed with all the above, and this sequence was just *stunning* in the 3D re-release (proves all the more that the format is, in a sense, I think like made and meant for the PT particularly, given its scope and grandeur, its multi-layered and marvellously-detailed immensity!)….so visceral, so real, my heart was pounding anew with the invigorating excitement of it….what a ride, true enough!…. 😀

  10. slicer87 Says:

    The pod race is awesome. I even like how instead of the racers just exploding when they crash, they instead spin break apart. Makes it seem real.

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