THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE 3D"
I have a very strict policy, which states that I will not see older movies that have been converted to 3D, especially when I can watch them on DVD in their original intended format. (It's why I didn't see/review The Lion King 3D or Beauty & the Beast 3D.) That policy was broken today. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D is the reason why. I debated long and hard as to whether I wanted to see it. On one hand, I hate conversions, feel they're basically cash grabs, and don't like to patronize them, just on principle. On the other hand, I've been a massive Star Wars junkie for 30+ years and, as such, was intensely curious. Plus, it was a chance to see a Star Wars movie on the big screen again. So I caved.
As soon as I was handed a pair of limited edition, Darth Maul-inspired red-and-black Phantom Menace 3D glasses, I knew I'd made the right choice. Whether the conversion was good or not, I had received a very cool collector's item. Here's the best part, though: the 3D conversion is magnificent. Absolutely stunning. Oh, it's still a cash grab, but I don't care. I'm so glad I made the exception.
It had been a few years since I'd seen Phantom Menace. The last time was circa 2005, when I was catching my wife up on the series so she could come with me to see Revenge of the Sith. This is easily the most maligned entry of the saga, but I've always liked it. As I said in my original 1999 review (which is not very well written, but can be found here), the film was clearly intended to set up things that would pay off in Episodes II and III. For whatever flaws it has – and there are admittedly more than a few - Phantom Menace introduced some things I really dug: Darth Maul, Mace Windu, the Galactic Senate, the idea of little Anakin being “the chosen one who will bring balance to the Force,” etc. The things that were faulty struck me more this time around, though. Young Jake Lloyd's acting, frankly, sucks. Jar Jar Binks is more annoying than ever. Dialogue like “yippie” and “ex-squeeze me” are out of place in the Star Wars universe, as is the movie's unnecessary fart joke. Basically, as a hardcore fan of the series, I'm willing to put up with a few lame things, simply for the joy of spending time in Lucas' universe.
The 3D conversion has obviously been done with great care. There's not much popping off the screen, but the depth is incredible. The famous pod-racing scene is mind-blowing; you feel like you're speeding along right beside Anakin. The sequences in the Galactic Senate now have an even more impressive sense of majesty. Space battles are almost dizzying in their sense of movement. The Star Wars pictures always have scenes set in spaceships, with views out the windows; in 3D, you feel the distance between ships and the planets they're heading toward. When Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi have their climactic lightsaber battle with Darth Maul, it's more exciting than ever, because those weapons feel as though they're right in front of your face. And the finale, with the Gungans doing battle with the droids, has an extended scope.
I was really impressed with how good everything looked. I'm still sticking with my anti-conversion policy, but based on Phantom Menace, I'll make exceptions for other Star Wars movies should Lucas choose to release them in 3D.
( 1/2 out of four)
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D is rated PG for sci-fi action/violence. The running time is 2 hours and 16 minutes.
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