I recently attended the midnight release of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D. I was very unsure as to what I should expect for this movie. The two primary things I asked myself were: how would this movie be able to be converted into a 3D film worth watching more than ten years after its initial release, and what kind of turnout would I run into for the midnight showing? Now if anyone can remember back to when The Phantom Menace was first released, there were people camping out for weeks just to be the first ones to see it; it was one of the most hyped movie releases of all time. This time around…not so much. I arrived at the theater around 1030; 90 minutes prior to the start of the film so that I could find four seats together. When I got to the theater there was only one other small group waiting to see the movie and they looked too young to have been able to see the film the first time around. The theater wound up being maybe half full once the movie started.
This is not so much a review of the movie itself as it has been out for so long and everyone has already formed their own opinions on it, but a review of the re-release in 3D and what we can expect for the 3D release of the remaining 5 Star Wars films.
The 3D for this movie was actually a lot better than I had expected it to be. The opening scroll is one of the most important parts of any Star Wars film and it was quite enhanced and pops right out at you. All of the text throughout the film is this way, including all of the subtitles used when another language is spoken. I found myself taking my glasses off and on from time to time to see what really was and was not enhanced. This was because it didn’t really feel like an obnoxious 3D movie you might see where it is hard to focus your eyes because of the poor quality of glasses or too much happening or whatever other reason. I can’t really stress this enough. Most 3D movies I have seen in the theaters are very straining on my eyes and never focus as well as I want them to, this conversion seemed to flow very well for me. The scenes just kind of popped and looked nicer and clearer and certain things really stood out much better like foreground characters(specifically CGI/holograms), special effects, and most importantly…lightsabers. The only time anything really was thrown at the audience was during the Droid Army-Gungan Battle when a blue ball is thrown towards you.
The highlight of the enhanced 3D film is the same as the highlight of the original movie: the epic(I do not use this word loosely) lightsaber fight between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. I cannot start to explain how excited I was for this part of the movie; I was ten years old all over again. The lightsabers were 3D while the characters looked slightly enhanced but weren’t popping out of the screen. All of the subtle 3D additions seemed to somehow enhance these scenes. There was also one major change to this movie from the original 1999 release and this was Yoda being converted from a puppet to CGI. This change was included on the recent Complete Saga Blu-Ray release. The change bothered me initially, but makes sense for the continuity of Episodes 2 and 3 using a non-puppet Yoda.
If you have not yet seen The Phantom Menace then by all means go and see it in 3D. Qui-Gon Jinn played by Liam Neeson and Darth Maul by Ray Park remain two of my very favorite characters in the entire expanded Star Wars universe. Despite it not being the best of the “Saga” it is still very enjoyable and begins to show the progression of many important characters and the very political demise of the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire.
The following is going to be extremely opinionated: Seeing The Phantom Menace for the first time in a few years and listening to many Star Wars “fans” opinions on the prequel films made me somewhat unexcited for certain parts of the movie, i.e. Jar Jar Binks and podracing. After watching it again I cannot see why everyone is so down about the movie. Jar Jar is obviously not Han Solo, so don’t expect him to be more than the silly comedic character he was intended for. Not everything George Lucas makes is going to be The Empire Strikes Back or Raiders of the Lost Ark so don’t expect it to be and you won’t be disappointed. I for one cannot wait another year for Attack of the Clones 3D, but that’s mostly the fanboy in me.