Generally speaking, you won't often hear conversations comparing this year's biggest film, Avengers: Infinity War, with 1999's Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace. However, the climax of both films bear one big similarity that you may not have noticed upon first viewing: Infinity War and The Phantom Menace each feature huge battles in their third acts between an invading force and the indigenous inhabitants. And in both films the heroes first endure an assault under the protection of a massive shield before engaging with infantry forces. Dan DeLeeuw, the visual effects supervisor on Infinity War, addressed this parallel and how the MCU blockbuster stands apart from the prequel film, saying:
It was in the back of our minds, for sure. I think it was something that... you get into the idea of a shield around a city, and you even go back to Thor: The Dark World which had the same idea of a shield around a city. It was just, with is, there's much more of a ground assault, which does kinda liken it a bit more to The Phantom Menace. It was kind of, taking those, the idea of the shield and putting the Russo brother's touch on it. So it was much more of a grounded way of shooting it and much more of war film way of shooting it and keeping it dirtier and a little bit more violent in a sense - the heroes were being taken down by the Outriders. And keeping it balanced with the jokes between Cap and Thor and the viciousness of the villains that hopefully set it apart. But it was definitely at the edge of our... we all remember The Phantom Menace. The best thing about Marvel is that you've got a lot of movie nerds here, so they can call out movies from way back in the day, and say 'oh, it's like this, it's like that, it's like this.'
So it sounds like the folks working on Avengers: Infinity War were aware of the similarities to Episode I in the third act, but felt that despite the similarities of a giant shield and a ground assault by an invading army, the two battles actually stand out from one another. It doesn't seem like this was something that was overlooked, but was actually something that they kept in mind throughout the process. As Dan DeLeeuw told ScreenRant, the way everything was shot and the tone of the scene in Infinity War gives it a totally different feel than the battle between the Gungans and the Trade Federation droids. Dan DeLeeuw notes the dirtiness and violence of the battle, as well as the menace of the villains, as distinguishing the Battle of Wakanda from George Lucas' film.
It's interesting that he also mentions the jokes several characters crack during the Battle of Wakanda. The jokes in this part of the film somehow still work within the context of a real war with real stakes and don't make the battle feel any less dire. Perhaps that is just a product of the hand-to-hand combat as opposed to blasters and the fact that, as he says, the Outriders are way more vicious than the droids. In The Phantom Menace, there is humor in the battle but the humor with the Gungans and the droids dominates the tone of the scene, and the battle never seems quite as serious because of it.
The idea of a giant force field didn't originate in The Phantom Menace, and there are enough differences between these two films and these battles that they feel completely different. In The Phantom Menace, the battle serves as a distraction to allow the heroes to capture the Viceroy. In Infinity War, the battle is the focus as everyone is trying to protect Vision. There is also the fact that Infinity War has many characters we care about in the thick of things in Wakanda, whereas on Naboo, the only character we really know engaged in the fight is Jar Jar Binks. That changes audience investment in the battle itself. Not saying one way is right or wrong, they're just different. Oh, and the Wakandans clearly had better tech, as ground forces could barely penetrate their shields.
You can relive the Battle of Wakanda at home with Avengers: Infinity War, now available on digital, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD. For all the latest from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, check out our guide.