Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Fantasy
In theatres Friday, February 10, 2012
Run Time: 2 hours and 16 minutes, Rated PG
Starring: Jake Lloyd, Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid
Written and Directed by George Lucas
OK, so I admit that I feel guilty having gone to see this 3D re-release of the 1999 film, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. A large part of me hates the idea of old movies being re-released in theaters just to bank a few extra dollars. Another part of me loves the movie-going experience, and I kind of like the idea of screening old classics on the big screen.
Therein lies the problem with this one then...The Phantom Menace is by no means a "classic." By far the worst of the 6 episodes (in mine and many others' humble opinion), The Phantom Menace is also the most kid-friendly. Although us old-timers hate to admit it, younger whippersnappers often say that Episode I is their favorite. My nephew thinks so...and he's always spot-on when it comes to helping me review movies. He especially likes Jar Jar Binks...
Going into the theater to screen any re-release, my goal is not to critique the movie itself, but rather to pass along my thoughts on the effectiveness of the upgrade, which in this case is the added 3rd dimension. I can now unequivocally say that it is a complete waste of time and energy to try to take a 2D movie and "make" it 3D. Like the recent animated re-releases, The Lion King and Beauty & The Beast, the addition of 3D really does nothing to the enjoyability or effectiveness of the story. In fact, it seems that only a handful of scenes benefit from the added depth. One would think that if any old movie could be remade effectively in 3D, that it would be digitial wolrd of The Phantom Menace. In the hands of ILM and George Lucas, if they can't make a scene like the Pod Race pop in 3D, I have no faith that any other movie would benefit from the re-do.
And that's exactly the result of The Phantom Menace in 3D. No added pop. When compared to movies shot and intended to be seen in 3D, like the recent live-action Hugo, movies like The Phantom Menace might as well be in the same category as the original Jaws 3D...they simply don't compare to movies that are storyboarded and imagined with the depth of 3D in mind, not thrown together years later as an afterthought.
But there is something to be said about experiencing a film in the theater, and I stand by that assessment. I was in awe when ScarFace was re-released a few years back as a special event, and it was great to see that classic film on the big-screen, since I was too young to experience it in theaters originally. So yes, 3D is gimmicky and you can almost see George Lucas's hand popping out at you, palm up, asking for more of your money. But don't hate on the re-release itself people. To do that would be limit the power of the theatrical experience during a time where it is being threatened by home theaters, instant downloads, and mobile movies.
In 1999, I remember standing in line for 6 hours just to buy advanced tickets to The Phantom Menace. I wasn't dressed like Chewbacca, but I was as giddy as a child, eagerly anticipating the moment I would see this film on the big screen. That's the power of movie magic, folks. Guess what? Fast forward 13 years to today, when I begrudgingly shuffled my way into the cinema to see the same film, bracing myself for disaster and bitterness. But looking into the eyes of my 7 year old nephew as we sat waiting for the film to begin, who has seen The Phantom Menace at home hundreds of times, I saw the wonderment that only movies in a theater can bring. As the iconic opening "Star Wars" graphic floated off into space on the big screen before us, he was living a dream. It was then that I realized that although I hate Hollywood's tampering of "classic" films, there are certain young ones who are experiencing the power of the cinema for the very first time.
Boo the tampering and the new wave of re-releases if you must, but applaud the ability for new audiences to re-live these iconic films on the big screen...that being said, The Phantom Menace was also re-released in 2D as well, and if the theater experience means more to you than the mediocre upgrade to 3D, by all means, check out the 2D version instead...I don't think you or your child will miss too much.
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