We might as well go ahead and get one thing out of the way. It’s still The Phantom Menace. If back in 1999 you thought it was a turd that ruined your childhood, now it’s a gold plated turd with smell-o-vision and 3D stink lines. I freely admit, The Phantom Menace is probably the worst of the Star Wars franchise, but it’s still enjoyable. I’m not going to try and analyze a movie that’s been analyzed to death for the last 12 years, but I am going to share a few quick thoughts. If you just want to know if it’s worth shelling out to see a movie in 3D even though you’ve seen it before, skip to the end.
I don’t remember what I thought when it was originally released in 1999, but these days it strikes me as a childish movie. Jar-jar’s antics had the kids in the theater rolling in the aisles. The humor was so over blown and obvious it almost seems like a movie written for kids. I think it’s safe to say that wasn’t intentional given the franchise as a whole. Star Wars isn’t exactly intellectual, but it was never aimed strictly at kids. More likely it’s an example of Lucas wanting to make sure everyone knew he was trying to be funny. Mostly, the comic relief overshadows everything else that goes on.
I do vaguely remember little Jake Lloyd getting savage reviews for his portrayal of nine year old Darth Vader. I wouldn’t call it a great performance, but I mostly wrote that off to an inexperienced child actor and an inexperienced director. (I’m not sure Lucas qualifies as an inexperienced director, but he certainly seems to make the mistakes you would expect from one.) Lloyd’s line readings are more like line readings than dialogue, but he comes off with a fair amount of charm that was severely lacking when Hayden Christianson took over the part. (On my charitable days I’m willing to assume that’s the way Christianson chose to play the role of the galaxy’s second greatest villain.) Lloyd does hint at a dark side that we all know will win out in the end.
I was interested in seeing the 3D, but my main reason for going was just to get the theater experience again. It’s fortunate that was my mindset because the 3D was almost non-existent. I may have been spoiled by all the movies coming out lately that were specifically made for 3D, but I got very little out of the 3D conversion here. It did add a little excitement to the action scenes like the pod race and the three way light saber melee at the end, but mostly it just seemed to add a little depth to the scenes when the actors were standing around talking. I didn’t see much point to the conversion. On the plus side, it didn’t have the ghost images that some recent 3D conversions have been getting complaints about.
I don’t feel like I can provide a good see/don’t see recommendation on this one. If you hated the original release, or if you’ve seen it countless times on the small screen, I’m going to advise you to stay home. If you’re a fan of the movie, or a franchise fan who hasn’t seen this installment in a long time, then you’ll probably have an enjoyable two hours. If you do go, try to be impartial because it really is a better movie now that it has 13 years and two sequels under its belt. My enthusiasm for seeing the original trilogy in 3D is a bit dimmer than it was a week ago, but I still look forward to seeing the Death Star trench run and the battle with the walkers on Hoth when those conversions come along over the next few years.
My biggest regret is that my kids aren’t yet old enough to tag along. Phantom Menace is the most kid friendly of the series, but I can’t quite bring myself to take a couple of four year olds in. On the plus side, by the time the3D versions of the original trilogy come out they’ll be slightly older than I was for the originals, so they’ll be able to experience them the same way I did without the prequels muddying the water. Being able to experience it with my kids is the real plus of the rerelease.
Did you notice how I very carefully didn’t mention how Darth Maul, a potentially great villain, is killed off after only a few minutes of screen time? An enormous waste….