Historically, Unless it happens to be a cartoon, I really don’t do very well when it comes to 3D films. The effect for me tends to wear off really quick. The only real movie exception for me lately was last year’s Drive Angry 3D and Hugo (which to talk about in full requires it’s own review). The tail end of 2011 saw some of cinema’s Old Schoolers jump into the 3D scene, with Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin adding to the lot. So really, it was just a matter of time before George Lucas would blow the dust off his legacy and take all six of the Star Wars films into the 3-Dimensional arena.
I grew up on Star Wars, like many kids born early enough to have seen the Originals. I remember the lines, the scenes, all of that. With the release of the Prequels, I took my little brother on Midnight premieres for all three of them. Those are by far the biggest and best memories of the series, the sharing of those “wow” moments either with my family or with friends growing up. Of all of the films, The Empire Strikes Back remains my favorite (as it is for a number of people).
So, here I was, back for The Phantom Menace on 3D. You’d think that Lucasfilm and ILM would go to some great lengths to make sure that the effects were great, and I have to admit that there were really only a few key scenes in the movie where the 3D really shined – The Opening Credits, the Podrace and one of the fight sequences. Still, for me the ability to see the 3D faded within 15 minutes, so I was pretty much left with watching a film I wasn’t particularly fond of, save for the key scenes.
That isn’t to say that The Phantom Menace is a dreadful film, Jar Jar and all. The movie was made with kids in mind, and watching it from that position, the story does make some kind of sense. Ideally, 3D really isn’t a compelling reason to have the Star Wars films return to the cinema, yet at the same time, that they’re there may actually warrant a theatre visit if you like watching them. If any film is going to use the 3D well, it’ll probably be one of the Originals. What the film does excel at is it’s use of sound. Ben Burtt is always great when it comes to sound cues and The Phantom Menace is easily a good example of this. Lightsabers hum, sparks are loud and it flows well.
Back in 1999, George Lucas it was necessary to give us a reason why Darth Vader became the man he was, and decided to create the first installment of Star Wars films that would focus on Anakin Skywalker’s rise and eventual fall. Sitting in the theatre and hearing the Fox fanfare go up, one can’t help but smile as the “A Long Time Ago…” phrase appears. Of course, that quickly fades as the cast actually starts talking. Man, the Phantom Menace was a hot mess, but a beautiful mess at that.
The Podracing scene was just as fun as it always was, and the Darth Maul Double Bladed Lightsaber reveal is just as hair raising, but watching it, I had moments where (just as I did on the first run), I wondered how much better it could be if Lucas didn’t hold on so tightly to his creation. Star Wars overall is an awesome concept, but there are just so many better writers and filmmakers out there. The material feels a little wasted, just a little.
If anything, The Phantom Menace does work as something to bring the kids to see, but if you already have the movie on video, it’s not completely required.