STAR WARS Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 3D
With Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Peter Serafinowicz, Terence Stamp, and the voices of Frank Oz, Kenny Baker, Brian Blessed and Ahmed Best
Written & Directed by George Lucas
In many ways the new 3D technology has breathed new life into theatres at a time where the underhanded see it fit to illegally leak unreleased or current movies onto the Internet for all to download. But this also made it possible for older movies to get enhanced and re-released in the cinema. And who better to tap into that than George Lucas, the man who made an art of marketing and re-packaging with his Star Wars franchise. This cultural phenomenon has been a presence in 5 decades (from the late-'70s to the beginning of the 2nd millennium's 2nd decade), spawning a legion of fans across many generations.
If you've just arrived from a galaxy far, far away, and unaware of the Star Wars sextet, Lucas had six movies in mind, but opted to make the last 3 of these, Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (1983).
There is just something about John William's brilliant thematic score swooping in with the opening text scrolling across a star field, that charges you with excitement.
Within the Star Wars universe fans have been screaming for the full package, so in 1999 Lucas kicked off the 3 opening chapters with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It's hard to believe that it has been around 13 years since that anticipated first chapter hit the screens! Now it is reintroduced (or maybe rehashed?) with an added dimension.
The Phantom Menace sets up the drive of this epic space opera, introducing the politics-laden conflict backdrop for the action, drama and spectacle of the evil forces in the Trade Federation and the Republic's resistance, starting with trade disputes, but growing into something much larger, driving towards a full Dark Side take-over, set to swallow the cosmic mysticism of The Force. The peaceful planet of Naboo is annexed but Queen Amidala escapes to Tatooine.
Viewers are introduced to the Jedi and the Sith, key figures like Obi Wan Kenobi, Yoda, a young Aniken Skywalker (to become the legendary Darth Vader), Queen Amidala (to give birth to Luke and Leia), the Emperor, as well as droid favourites R2-D2 & C-3PO, and blubber gangster Jabba The Hutt (plus many peripheral races and beings).
The 100% digital battle between the dumb looking stick insect droids and the floppy eared Gungan tribe does not have the desired effect, but the scenes like the high speed pod race and Darth Maul light saber battle supply adequate excitement amid the many dialogue-driven plot set-ups for the rest of the series.
And yes, unfortunately the unforgivable, annoying, puerile and absolutely unnecessary comedy relief of the digital Jar-Jar Binks character was not removed(!). While kids may find him a hoot, I know I didn't like the Ewoks back when I was a kid, and sure as hell would not have enjoyed Jar-Jar's dumb-ass antics. Star Wars devotees and Lucas disciples would beg to differ, I'm sure.
So, the 3D treatment...
I feel it was not much of an improvement with the basic perspective shifts hardly blowing your hair back. Some newly created 'flying-at-you' effects should've been added to justify this re-release. On the upside, those who didn't get to see it in theatres on its original release can now get to do so.
For many of us growing up during the period of the original Star Wars movies taking cinemas by storm across the late-'70 & early-'80s, these movies hold a special place we identify with our youth, and the innovative real special FX pioneered along with the movies have a far greater sense of reality and authentic mood than the overwhelming digital enhancements of the new prequel episodes.
3 / B
- Paul Blom
- A - B -
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