Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D – Film Review
Yes, I’m well aware that Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released 13 years ago. I’m also aware that this film has already been reviewed and chastised to death (heck, one guy even produced a review of The Phantom Menace that’s almost as long as the film itself). Still, having been a proud Star Wars nerd ever since I saw the original trilogy when I was about three years old, I thought that since the entire saga is coming back to theaters in 3D every year until Return of the Jedi is released in 2017, it might be good to experience the Star Wars films once again in their proper manner: in the theater. However, is the first (and arguably worst) film in the saga’s chronology worth seeing again with the added price of a 3D ticket?
Most of you reading this review probably already know the story behind the first film in the Star Wars saga, so if you do, feel free and skip this paragraph. For those of you who have for some far-fetched reason never seen any of the Star Wars films, reading this may be a good idea. A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Trade Federation was disputing over control of trade routes with the sovereign planet of Naboo, and at this point they have set up a blockade in Naboo’s orbit. The Supreme Chancellor of theGalacticRepublic secretly dispatches two Jedi, Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his Padawan learner Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to hopefully negotiate a treaty between Naboo and the Trade Federation. Things go badly for the two Jedi, and soon Naboo is under the threat of invasion from the Trade Federation, throwing the Jedi and the peaceful citizens of Naboo into a state of turmoil. From here the Jedi, Naboo’s Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) and others are forced to flee the planet in order to seek help from the Republic.
Of course you can’t mention a Star Wars film without also mentioning the Skywalkers, the family that George Lucas focuses most of the story’s attention throughout the entire saga. In this film, we meet Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who Qui-Gon believes to be the Chosen One, a prophesied, young Jedi who would be born to bring the balance to the Force and completely destroy the enemies of the Jedi known as the Sith. But I won’t talk about that, because the main point of this review is to talk about the 3D aspect of The Phantom Menace. For a film whose main draw for moviegoers is seeing Star Wars in 3D, The Phantom Menace 3D is slightly disappointing. First off, the 3D conversion results in the way you would expect from most 3D films: the image becomes much darker than the original print of The Phantom Menace, which will most likely leave your eyes dry and sore after the credits roll. Then again, what 3D film hasn’t done that to a person’s eyes?
The main disappointment associated with the film’s 3D conversion is that most of the time, the image is too flat to make a difference between the 2D and 3D prints of The Phantom Menace. Seriously, the only scenes that look noticeably 3D are of course the podrace on Tatooine along with the final battle on Naboo. Even so, it’s Star Wars in friggin 3D. Plus, when do you expect that you’ll ever again have a chance to see the Star Wars films in theaters? That’s right, you probably won’t, so simply the fact that the Star Wars saga is back in theaters is reason enough for you to go see The Phantom Menace. I know that many of you hate this film (especially you, fanboys!) with a passion, but here’s another rationale for why you should see this film: if this film, along with the inevitable releases of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith in the next two years, does not make enough money to warrant a decent enough profit, then George Lucas and the folks at 20th Century Fox may cancel the releases of the original trilogy in 3D. We cannot let that happen. One last comment about this film: even though The Phantom Menace may be a little disappointing in 3D, the epic scale of the film’s visuals, action and story (albeit flawed) remain. This means that you will still smile when the Star Wars theme kicks in with the scrolling titles in the beginning, the podrace will once again get your adrenaline rushing, and then the duel between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul with “Duel of the Fates” playing in the background still remains as one of the greatest action scenes of all-time. I would also argue that the visual effects actually look prettier in this 3D release than (dare I say it) even the Blu-ray version. I know, holy crap!
So, I guess The Phantom Menace will still live on as a disappointment, because its 3D conversion never truly impresses. Even so, there are moments when the 3D effect does its job at immersing you into the action, making for one of the most cinematic Star Wars experiences yet. The Phantom Menace may be one of the saga’s worst entries, but nonetheless, the fact that Star Wars is back in theaters should be reason enough for you to pay to see this film in 3D. Now is an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with Star Wars by starting with The Phantom Menace 3D, and if you are a longtime fan this film is also a good way to introduce the new generation (more specifically, your children) to arguably the greatest film saga that the world has ever known. All the same, the Force still isn’t that strong with this first entry in the saga, especially in “eye-popping 3D.”
NOTE: I originally gave The Phantom Menace a standalone score of ***1/2, but I took off half a star because of the 3D.