Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D

George wants us to see The Phantom Menace again. Call a policeman. That's abuse.

 

2 stars

 

 

Director: George Lucas

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, and a CGI twat

 

Fight! In Star Wars Episode 1

In the 13 years since its original release, George Lucas' 'first' episode of his Star Wars saga, The Phantom Menace, still has the capacity to provoke, entertain and reduce otherwise sensible adults to foaming pillars of rage.

 

Now upscaled into digital 3D, this re-release of the perennial space opera follows a similar pattern to Lucas' late 90s strategy of putting similarly 'upgraded' editions of the original trilogy back into theatres.

 

Back in 1997 the changes to the original films were far more significant; enhanced CGI effects sequences, the reinsertion of deleted scenes and even the controversial decision to alter certain storytelling beats.

 

This time around the changes are fairly minor, with the major addition being the replacement of the somewhat shonky Yoda puppet, with the CGI version of the Jedi master that appears in Episodes II and III.

 

Unlike Han shooting first or the similarly crappy 'approach to Mos Eisley' sequence that was shoehorned into the original Star Wars, this is a well-handled and effective enhancement.

 

The Race sequence in Star Wars Episode 1

As you'd expect from a top-of-the-line production that's had time on its side, the 3D conversion is extremely good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that of the films upgraded so far, this is without doubt the best.

 

Surprisingly subtle throughout, the 3D is essentially concerned with adding background depth to the frame rather than having obtrusive objects fly out of the screen at you. It also has the effect of buffing up some of Episode One's more dated effects sequences.

 

Benefitting most is the Gungan/Droid battle during the final section of the film. A hugely ambitious sequence in its day, time has not been kind to that particular section of The Phantom Menace, and while the 3D doesn't cure its flat and cartoonish look, it certainly helps it feel more of a piece with the live action material surrounding it.

 

As for the film itself…well, what more can be added that hasn't already been said?

 

The script is still full of interminable, overly expositional dialogue, the opening act remains painfully slow and there's still no real indication of whose film this opening chapter's meant to be.

 

Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars Episode 1

Oh, and Jar Jar's as annoying as ever.

 

However, as was the case back in 1999, there are moments when The Phantom Menace shakes off its overly pixelated chains and springs into something approximating life.

 

The pod-race remains a terrific set piece, the space battle sequences still look top drawer, while the infamous Duel of the Fates battle between the Jedi and Darth Maul is still the best light sabre battle of the entire saga. But these are just moments and, overall, The Phantom Menace remains as frustrating, disappointing and two-dimensional as ever…despite what the marketing men would have you believe.

 

James Peaty

 

Click here for the trailer. Or don't, if you don't want to:

 

 

 

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D
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