Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (U)
Directed by: George Lucas
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman
Running time: 136mins
We all know the story with Phantom Menace. Some of you love it, some hate it and others wonder what the fuss is about. And to be honest, this 3D conversion won’t change any minds.
The plot is contrived: tax routes, politicians, deception. There is much to dislike: Jar Jar Binks, the dialogue is cringe worthy in parts: ‘Oh, Annie, you have given hope to those who have none…’ and to be perfectly honest, it has a flabby mid-section that adds 25mins that feel like an hour.
But when it shines, it really shines. Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gonn Jinn is never less than a joy to behold, Darth Maul is menace personified – when those hangar doors opened neither love nor money could have made me face him. The music is classic John Williams, with Duel of the Fates being arguably Williams’ best work in the whole saga next to the Imperial March. And don’t forget that we waited all our nerdy lives to see Jedi fight the way they did here, and it does not disappoint.
But enough about the movie, no matter how good or bad my review, it will not convert any haters to the cause. And in all fairness, neither will the 3D transfer.
There’s something you need to know before you go in to see this movie. Do not expect the ships or podracers or lightsabers to come tearing out of the screen. That’s not what Lucas has done here, but rather he has given subtle dimension to his movie. With the digital transfer already looking impeccable, the 3D simply builds on it.
Everything on the screen pops to life, but never intrusively. Indeed, as weird as this sounds, the 3D, rather than making it feel overdone and exaggerated, gives it a feeling of reality. Lovingly done, I noticed no distortion from the 3D rendering… it looked clean and flawless.
Now, there was some rumours online that, once again, uncle George has been tinkering with the movies and this one it was different than the previous versions. Well, he has tinkered and most are very understated and virtually unnoticeable – but we’ll get to those.
In Star Wars’ history there have been a few real controversial changes. Han shooting first, Jabba becoming CGI, evil looking Anakin popping up at the end of Jedi. But the change at the end of the 3D edition will really get you all up in arms. You know how Darth Maul is back for Clone Wars? And everyone is complaining because he was definitely dead at the end of episode I? Well, not any more. Maul no longer falls down the shaft, but rather he escapes… presumably to make his reappearance in Clone Wars easier to digest. Nooooooooooooooo, only kidding! The only changes are the odd addition of a tree, droid or fish here or there to give the movie an extra bit of depth, otherwise the movie is exactly the same as the previous releases.
But, here’s the big question: Does it improve the movie? Hard to tell, I really enjoyed it tonight but that said, I like it more each time I see it. But Star Wars is a little bit more than other movies… in preparation for tonight I bought my son a toy Darth Maul double lightsabre for him to take with him because I wanted him to remember this – going to Star Wars late on a school night and eating sweets and drinking coke (normally a forbidden beverage at home), playing with his new toy – seeing Return of the Jedi when it opened with my parents is one of my first memories and I want this for my son too. Star Wars is an event. A family event that still retains a little of the magic our lives had as kids, before we became jaded by work, cars, responsibility. I’m learning to see the world through the eyes of my son and tonight I caught a glimpse of what it was to be five again and to see Star Wars for the first time on the big screen AND in 3D.
So while I can openly admit Episode I is flawed, deeply in parts, I still recommend it heartily to you constant readers. Because sometimes something is more than the sum of its parts and that definitely applies here. Forget hating Jar Jar and try to embrace the fantasy. Adventure? Excitement? A Jedi may not crave these things, but as a cinema going audience we do… and Episode I, despite its flaws, delivers in abundance. And now with the added dimension, you really feel immersed in that galaxy far, far away and never at risk of drowning in it.