THE PHANTOM MENACE Improves Slightly with CGI Yoda

     August 24, 2011


George Lucas may never be finished tinkering with the Star Wars films.  I wish he would leave the original trilogy alone, but he can play with the prequel trilogy all he wants since almost any change would be an improvement.  Case and point: the new Blu-rays have removed the awful Yoda puppet from The Phantom Menace and replaced it with the CGI Yoda we saw in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.  Hopefully Lucas won’t try to replace the puppet Yoda in the original trilogy because that still works.  A large reason puppet Yoda looks so terrible in Phantom Menace is because he’s surrounded by CGI whereas the puppet in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi exists in a practical environment.  The other problem is that the puppet makes the character look older than he is in the original trilogy.  Now if only Lucas could digitally repair the plot to the prequels, he’d really be cooking.

Hit the jump to see video comparisons.  The new Star Wars Blu-rays hit shelves on September 16th.  Please note that the original trilogy films are the Special Editions but there have also been some minor digital restorations to those versions.

Via /Film.

Here’s the original 1999 puppet Yoda.  Not great:

And here’s the updated CGI version.  I suppose we’re not at the point where we can digitally replace Jake Lloyd with something that can act:


  • sloan

    finally some goldberg snark we can all get on board with

    • George lucas is a chud

      cheers to that!

  • VALENTINEproductions

    i dont mind it but always bothers me to see them dismiss Frank Oz’s work by replacing it with that damn cgiYoda

  • JLC

    You know, with all the tinkering the guy has done, he could have remade all six films by now. Then he could tinker with those until he’s 90. Star Wars has become the modelling clay of the motion picture industry. Don’t like it? Just smush it up and fix it.

  • JC

    Is this posting a joke? Matt Goldberg has just lost all credibility in my opinion. Replacing practical with CG is textbook modern Lucas, the shitty Lucas who is trying to ruin all of the awesome stuff he made while he didn’t suck. I’m surprised that Yoda wasn’t CG in Phantom Menace already, but the fact that he went and switched it is pathetic and sad.


      Actually, this CG Yoda is a VAST improvement over the shitty phantom menace puppet!
      And if you watched the extras discs, it showed the ILM team had to seriously twist Lucas arm to get Yoda to be made in CG instead of puppet. But the CG they originally made was of the EmpireSB Yoda, but his age was too old looking compared to 30+ years between Clones and Empire, thats why he looks different. (Still, i’d have preferred that.)

      Also when Menace came out, people hated the new Puppet! And the CG ones are better than that. Also imagine puppeteering a Yoda puppet to duel in decent lightsaber combat, that would look ridiculous.

      Now, if only some of the acting/editing can be tweaked, and DUB /trim or whatever to Jar Jar, it could actually be a good film. Menace has slightly grown on me over the years, though Jar Jar needs deleting.

      • PatLang

        Agreed. Some of us actually like it, flaws and all. This was the film, for me at least, that made me fascinated with movies in the first place since I was 6-7 years old and has always been special to me.

      • Mike

        Wow, YODA’S GOOCH, you’re an idiot. Yoda never should have had a lightsaber duel. It completely destroys what Yoda is all about. Yoda was created as a tiny, physically weak, old creature in order to demonstrate that the Force is something beyond the physical. Having Yoda fight in a lightsaber duel completely ruins that idea because it implies that a good Jedi MUST be physically capable of fighting and be good with a lightsaber.

        And the plot in the prequels is abysmal.

      • Reggie

        @Mike I could’nt disagree more although I liked seeing Yoda duel I must admit I did’nt love it. But the arguement that seeing Yoda using his lightsaber in combat somehow diminishes him is wrong. If anything it fleshes him out more and makes him a complete Jedi. After Obi-Wan explains to look what a lightsaber is its clear that Yoda even though his past his prime and not actively being a Jedi Knight protecting the galaxy by travelling here and there. He still sees himself as a active Jedi ready to jump into action if needed. The lightsaber duel between he and Dooku was basically a challenge issued by Dooku since his force popwers had no effect on Yoda. He thought let me best him in physical combat since I’m much younger I should have the advantage.Once again just like with Luke in ESB Yoda teaches a lesson a show tht the force is indeed his ally as it imbues him with energy, strenth, and agility and allows him to hold his own against Dooku. The real problem I think is George went Too far in ROTS by showing Yoda and the Emperor dueling. I would’ve loved to see see Yoda, the most pure and impressive vessel for the light side of the force match his skill against the Emperor, the most pure and imposing vessel of the dark side of the force and illustrate to us all why the Light will always prevail over the dark I thought George really missed an opportunity there instead he went for the cheap thrill, and we already got that in the film before.

      • Jeff

        @Reggie: You’re a putz! Mike has it right. It’s completely ridiculous that Yoda would have to stoop to using a lightsabre to best Dooku.

      • Mike

        @Yoda’s Gooch: It was probably not necessary to call you an idiot. Different opinions should be encouraged, I suppose.

        @Reggie: I will admit that (because i was like 14 or so when Star Wars 2 came out, I did like the Yoda fighting scene. But after much reflection, I stand by my opinion that, while they are “cool,” the Yoda fight scenes dismantle the idea of Yoda.

        @Jeff: Agreed. If Yoda has studied the force for, say, 700-800 years, he should be able to like, tear Dooku’s body apart with a single thought, lol.

      • Hiro the Eighth Samurai (and 14th Assassin)

        When I first imagined Yoda fighting, I envisioned him engaged in a battle of the Force and the mind, not lightsabers. And definitely not flipping around like a whirling dynamo, as if he’s a green, Force-fueled version of the Tasmanian Devil.

        The initial fight between him and Dooku, and the senate pod battle between him and Palpatine was more like it.

        Once Dooku went for his saber, Yoda easily should have been able to switch it off and disarm Dooku. And then we see Dooku quickly try to make that pillar fall on Obi-Wan and Anakin, which Yoda keeps from happening, allowing Dooku to escape.

        As others have said many times before, seeing Yoda engage in a battle more of physical strength and swordsmanship went against all that he taught Luke. Yes, I know he’s “younger” in the prequels, and one could argue that he learned this lesson because of his failure. But given that Yoda is so old, even at the time of the prequels, he would have already learned that lesson.

    • Reggie

      In theory you’re right but you must admit the cgi Yoda is a marked improvement.

  • PatLang

    The altered Yoda shot actually isn’t brand new. The shot appeared on bonus material for the Episode III DVD back in November of 2005. It seriously took you 6 years to notice. Wow.

    • Peter

      Maybe he didn’t notice because no one gives two shits about the Star Wars prequels. Hell, I’ve done my best to try and forget that they even exist.

      • PatLang

        I know many people were disappointed, but I honestly have no problems with the prequel films. I really don’t. Am I saying that they’re better than the originals, no, because the originals are classic and always will be. But for a younger generation of filmgoers, it made an impression on some people, I’m sure, while others were let down, which honestly was to be expected when they were released. Don’t get me wrong, there are some flaws in it, but those didn’t make that huge of an impact on me.

      • PatLang

        And if you don’t like it, then I’m terribly sorry, but it is what it is.


    Matt, the PLOT is the prequels saving grace! Sure it has a few hiccups, mostly fixed or explained in the underrated and superior Clone Wars series. But the storyline of the prequels is actually pretty cool. Its the acting, design and execution that sometimes lets it down.

    • George lucas is a chud

      No, the plot is pretty shit to mate!

    • Brett

      I love the plot of the prequels, it’s far more interesting than the plot for the originals. Maybe I’m just biased because I love the prequels better than the originals and I saw the original Star Wars in 1977. PS. Yoda’s Gooch: Do you know what a gooch is? It’s the sweaty, smelly space between your butt crack and your testicles. Not as foul as an @$$ pit but still, what is it you’re trying to say, exactly?

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  • Tarek

    Luca$ has become senile I told you. Maybe in 5 years ahead, he will replace Sir Alec Guinness in the original trilogy with a CGI character just to fit with the Obiwan’s prequel.

  • Steeeve

    Matt, FYI — the phrase isn’t “case and point” but rather “case in point”, as in “let me summarize my case in a single point,” or “let me cite the most egregious example of the assertion I’m trying to make.”

    • jimmy3vil

      Yup. Case in point – “this is the case I am using as a reference to the point I am making”.

  • Reelworld

    I might be in the minority, but I think the new Yoda is an improvement! Look forward to seeing the Blu-rays.

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  • Northern Star

    The plot wasn’t the problem in the prequels, but rather the poor scripts, appalling dialogue, wooden acting, some below-par CGI, and bloated final cuts were the problem!

    Had Lucas gotten Frank Darabont to co-write the screenplays (as originally intended), brought a top-notch editor like Stuart Baird or Walter Murch onboard to help shape a tight final cut (without the countless scenes of unnecessary exposition and double-talk), spent a little more than 60 days in shooting each episode (between 70-80 days would’ve been better), and had ILM work exclusively on each episode during their respective post-production phases (and not on any other film project) so each effects shot is given the proper time to make it the very best it could be, the prequels would have stood a better chance of being better.

    Lucas could still salvage them by bringing Murch in to re-edit each prequel episode and get them tighter and better flowing, fix some of the dodgy CGI shots, and re-release them as ‘special editions’, he would probably get back some of the goodwill he’s lost over the years…

    • Northern Star

      Oh, one more thing I forgot to mention, Lucas should have had four years between each prequel episode and not the three years he actually had, that way he could’ve had more time to fully develop and craft a decent script and spend more time developing conceptual designs for each episode…

      • Hiro the Eighth Samurai (and 14th Assassin)

        I agree in full.
        There were so many different ways to approach the material, even if the set destination (the original trilogy) is the same.
        And the general idea wasn’t bad either. But practically the entire delivery of these ideas, from their focal points, to their staging, to their editing… almost all wrong.
        I thought Attack of the Clones was the best because it focused a lot on Obi-Wan. If he were the center of the prequels, the movies likely would have been all the better for it.
        But Lucas now has an Empire-sized ego and he had to be in control of everything. And because he’s the one signing the paychecks, everyone around wouldn’t dare question him.
        While I think these prequels are like sows’ ears and thus can’t be turned into a silk purse, they could still be improved with some re-editing into three whole brand new cuts. They could first start with cutting down on the Jar Jar junk, and also clean up how Phantom Menace comes to an end. There’s just too many things going on, and the tone is all over the place due to those four simultaneous battles.
        It’s too bad re-editing can’t take care of how Obi-Wan is left on the Queen’s spaceship while Qui-Gon brings Jar Jar along. Ridiculous. More nonsense by Lucas — have to have the goofy comic relief brought along to amuse the little kids.
        Lucas’ script needed major tweaking.

    • Disnywhite

      God, you Star Wars fans are pathetic. Quibbling over horrible acting, plot, and sensibilities when it comes to the prequels. I have news for you: Everyone not lacking in personality (i.e. those folks who don’t NEED to stand in line dressed as an imperial stormtrooper costume their trust fund bought them…) knows that the acting, plot, and sensibilities of ALL the movies are utter dogshit in equal measure. It’s a fluff kids flick, get over yourselves. Lucas has made it clear he would rather do more stuff like THX-1138 and American Graffiti than Star Wars. Probably because they’re BETTER FILMS BY LEAPS AND BOUNDS. “Fans” like you are no more that target market victims who can’t stop pissing and moaning about Jar Jar Binks but will give something as incredibly stupid as the Ewoks a hall pass. Proof positive that your priorities both in and outside the world of fantasy are completely out of wack. Just shut up already and relax for christ’s sake. No one cares about the new revelations you read about in Star Wars insider. Grow up.

    • DJFury

      i agree.

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  • Brian B.

    I get it, Mr. Matt Goldberg. You hate the Prequel Trilogy, but please, stop your whining. They’re not amazing like the Original Trilogy, obviously, but its not as bad as people make it out to be. The Godfather Part III, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Spider-Man 3, Die Hard: With A Vengeance, and Alien 3, among others, get a lot of bad rep, but I have to say that most of these are good but obviously not to the extent of their predecessors. The prequels’ biggest mistakes were the over-abundance of CGI, the blandness of some of the dialogue (i.e. the dialogue between Anakin & Padme), the miscast of some of the actors (i.e. Jake Llyod & Hayden Christensen), and the inclusion of underdeveloped or worthless characters (i.e. Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jinn, Count Dooku, and Mace Windu=underdeveloped; Jar-Jar Binks & General Griveous=worthless).

    But despite that, they were very entertaining. The Phantom Menace was the weakest, without a doubt. Attack of the Clones was a near return to form for the series, despite the hokey dialogue and Hayden Christensen’s bland acting. Revenge of the Sith was an epic finale to the series, and it ended the saga on a bang. The CGI was better utilized, the acting was better & more assured, the dialogue was improved, to an extent, because it still felt bland in the romance scenes between Anakin & Padme, and action and the orchestral score were truly amazing. If there is someone here, who claims to be a Star Wars fan, that was underwhelmed by the final duels–Anakin vs. Obi-Wan & Yoda vs. Sidious–those people are not true fans, IMO. So like I’ve said, these films sure had flaws, but no film is perfect. If they weren’t masterpieces like A New Hope & Empire Strikes Back or amazing like Return of the Jedi, then they were good at the very least.

    But no, we’ve reached a generation that bashes on The Godfather Part III and the Prequel Trilogy yet they give out millions of dollars to films like The Smurfs, Transformers, and Resident Evil. I know my little rant won’t change anyone’s mind about the Prequel Trilogy, or all those other films I mentioned earlier, but I honestly remember a time when films like Blade Runner, The Shining, Scarface, and Fight Club were hated by critics and audiences at the beginning of their release, but as the years have passed by, people have grown to accept. In most cases now, people hail these films to be masterpieces. The Prequel Trilogy aren’t masterpieces but they’re aren’t terrible films neither.

    • Hiro the Eighth Samurai (and 14th Assassin)

      … in your opinion.

  • tarek

    ” If there is someone here, who claims to be a Star Wars fan, that was underwhelmed by the final duels–Anakin vs. Obi-Wan & Yoda vs. Sidious–those people are not true fans”

    Then I am not a true fan. No emotions at all in these battles.

    ROTS was the weakest of the 3 with all its inconsistencies ( anakin killing babies and padme, his swiftness to turn into evil, etc.) It was like watching a 10 hours movie savagely cut to make out of it a 2h movie.

    I hate you Luca$

    • DJFury

      I’m with you. These films are emotionless. Other than the disappointment they brought about in their audience, that is.

      I pretend that there is no sequels to The Matrix and I pretend that there are no prequels to Star Wars. It’s easier that way. :)

      • tarek

        Exactly bro. We’re on the same wavelength. Matrix sequels was an abomination.

      • Northern Star

        … not to mention the Indiana Jones sequels, the ‘Dirty Harry’ sequels, the ‘Planet of the Apes’ sequels/series/remakes, the ‘X-Men’ sequels, the second and third and fourth ‘Superman’ sequels (not the Donner ones but including ‘…Returns’), the Schumacher ‘Batman’ sequels, the Rambo sequels (excluding the recent one), the ‘Rocky’ sequels (III, IV, V, and the recent one), the ‘Jaws’ sequels… need I go on…?

      • tarek

        Yes, just another one: Conan sequels and reboot.

        And soon, the Spiderman reboot. ^^

        I am afraid that they will plan to reboot also The Good the Bad and the Ugly, or who knows 12 Angry Men…

      • Northern Star

        Sheesh, you’re right Tarek, I forgot about ‘Conan the Destroyer’, what a stinker (as I hear the new one is also!), but we could’ve had a great Conan sequel in ‘King Conan: Crown of Iron’ written and directed by the great John Milius if Ahnold hadn’t decided to be Governor of California…

        I’ll also add the third and fourth ‘Lethal Weapon’ movies to that list (third was okay just unnecessary and it had Leo Getz in it, ’nuff said!), and the last two ‘Terminator’ movies, I think that’s everything…

      • Northern Star

        … no, just remembered more, the last two ‘Alien’ movies (‘Alien 3′ and the truly terrible ‘…Resurrection’), the two “Alien vs Predator movies, and the last ‘Predator’ movie, there, now I really am done!!!

      • Tarek

        May I add the last one for the road ? ^^

        Cube 2: Hypercube.

        Regarding Alien 3 & 4, What destroyed the saga was the fact that they turned Ripley into an “anything but Ripley” character.

  • Jericho

    Now if only Lucas could digitally repair the plot to the prequels, he’d really be cooking. : ) Genius

    I for one have no problem with the kid.

  • wilkinson martin

    very nice picture of alien,I have also seen many alien movies,I have seen all of them in the movies.

  • Salfie

    Should have left him a puppet. Looks like garbage. God forbid he leave a practical effect in one of his movies. Ugh.

  • jefry boycott

    I have seen many of Alien movies,so now i don’t like movies like this.

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  • DJFury

    Even kids hated the prequels, so any argument about fans wanting to relive their childhoods and then being let down is nonsense. Conversely, adults loved the OT when it was first released. If the prequels didn’t have the Star Wars franchise attached to them, they would have been laughed out of the cinemas like Ishtar or Waterworld.
    They are horrible movies. I loved George, but he should have really passed the prequels on to younger and edgier writers and directors. The Clone Wars TV shows are infinitely better than the prequels and that is saying a lot. Don’t even get me started on the Crystal Skull …


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  • Doug Jones

    Leave Yoda alone George! lol

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  • Jamie Mathers

    It’s not an improvement you idiot!! CGI Yoda is utter shite! Nothing will ever replace the coolness of the puppet. That is the original version and always will be anyway. Long live the 90s the final era before the CGI shit overdoses took over.