Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 3D (2012) – Review

3 Stars


To 3d or not to see? That is the 12 dollar question for most casual moviegoers. The answer is …sort of. If you already harbor a disdain for this episode then no amount of visual trickery is going to change your mind. The negative critical reaction that greeted Phantom Menace when it premiered in May 1999 was as venomous as any in recent memory. Fanboys turned their back on the venerable franchise and focused their attention on the ‘fresh’ ideas presented by The Matrix.

George Lucas’ first entry in the prequel trilogy is a solid saga with an array of spectacular effects and colorful space creatures-including the much loathed Jar Jar Binks. This elaborate space opera also provides a few answers to the mystery of how a young Anakin Skywalker started on his fated path to eventually becoming Darth Vader. It’s far more sentimental than the subsequent sequels, which ultimately mars the much anticipated finale. This particular film is aimed at the youngest of viewers, which turned off hardcore fans but (from the reaction in the matinee showing I attended) absolutely delights kids. The jarring ebbs and flows that punctate the film are a product of Menace being the first film Lucas directed in nearly a quarter of a decade and only his fourth film overall. Call it ring rust or whatever but it’s painfully obvious Lucas’ ability to direct actors is second to mastery of digital effects.

The film suffers from the same problems it always has, the first act is well done, if a bit cartoonish, that gives way to a soggy second act. The highlight being a pod-race that brings the film to a grinding halt only to showcase the fetish love Lucas has for hotrods. It’s not without irony that the pod-race sequence is the best looking and most spectacular reason to see this 3D retrofit. Phantom Menace is widely available on home video formats and is frequently shown on cable channels. There are no additional scenes tacked on or tweaks in this re-release so it comes down to weather you are willing to go back to the beginning, again. I would argue the film plays better on the big screen than on home systems but that isn’t really an enticing reason to journey back into cinema auditoriums.

The Star Wars Saga is something like apple pie in this country, it’s damn near an American institution. If you don’t agree then consider this fact from the WSJ dated May 19th 1999 “an estimated 2.2 million full-time employees did not appear for work to attend the film, resulting in $293 million in lost productivity.” Now, with this re-release and the promise of new 3d retrofitted sequels to follow for the next five years, George Lucas has found a way to reach a new younger audience while squeezing the last drop out of goodwill from longtime fan(atics).

Director: George Lucas
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman

3 thoughts on “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 3D (2012) – Review

  1. Joe,

    Thanks for taking the time to write. I’m glad you had the experience of viewing Star Wars with your son thats a treasure in its own rite. It’s too bad this generation will be saddled with this trilogy, but they may grow to have as much fevered passion for them as we do for the originals. Just make sure he sees the Burton Batman films and the original Karate Kid someday.

    1. Jason,

      That’s exactly what I took away from the experience; that I had the opportunity to see a Star Wars film in the theater with my son and as miserable as I was watching Phantom Menace, I’ll be the first to admit I’ll be seeing each one (with my son, of course) as it’s released.

      Now if only Universal would re-release Jaws (2D only please!!!!!) on the big screen, so I can experience it!

  2. Jason,

    I gotta tell you, it pained me to no end to watch this again. My son, who is 8, LOVED IT! However, 25 minutes into the movie the reason I hadn’t watched the movie since the it’s original opening weekend hit me like a ton of bricks…the movie, although visually stunning, is a load of crap. The dialogue throughout the film is borderline insulting, the 3D was practically non-existent, and Jar Jar Binks still sucked! The one scene I anticipated looking somewhat decent was the podrace, since I figured George would make an extra effort on what I figured was his favorite act; unfortunately, I watched just about the whole scene without the 3D glasses, because they weren’t necessary.

    You made the comment during one of your earlier podcast that this is the Star Wars that children of today have come to know, and I couldn’t agree more. Hopefully as they get older they are going to realize how terrible this film really was, and gain more of an appreciation for the original trilogy.

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