Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace 3D FILM REVIEW

February 6, 2012

WELL, I HARDLY need explain anything about a movie the trailer trumpets as “the greatest saga of all time”, and ended up being even more monetarily successful than the original trilogy.
The only thing people need to know about the new version of The Phantom Menace is: Is it worth seeing all over again in 3D?
And ultimately, only the hapless public can answer that.
Opening in NZ this Thursday, February 9th (a day earlier than it opens elsewhere), it marks the revving up of a trend that’s starting to get traction and grow wings: old films reprocessed in 3D. In fact, before we could torture our eyes for two and a quarter hours at this preview, we had to witness a 3D trailer for Titanic, a movie that, even if James Cameron does end up moving to NZ, I couldn’t convince myself to sit through twice.
As you no doubt know if you’re reading this, The Phantom Menace came out in 1999, and despite huge box office takings, was mauled by critics, and by many fans. The action sequences were hailed, but the narrative and characterisations were slammed. Having watched the film for the first time today, I can concur.
But let’s get to the only thing that matters. There’s nothing, it seems, very different about this version from the previous version except that it’s been rendered into 3D, after the fact. That means that, because it wasn’t envisaged for 3D, we don’t have too many objects hurtling towards the screen.
The merits (and otherwise) of 3D have been debated at Witchdoctor, and the jury is still out. It seems to me that we’ve finally got high definition pictures, only to sacrifice them all over again for the thrill of a rather distorted perception of depth.
During the quieter moments of the film, which involve people having conversations and walking around rather gloomy set pieces, 3D does nothing at all for the picture, and even renders it a little indistinct and verging on blurry. (And on top of that, the idiot next to me felt that it was necessary to have a running dialogue with his child during all of the quieter scenes. People suck.) For the action scenes, it mostly works a treat, and it’s brilliant on particular visuals, like anything involving space ships and actual stars. The famous rolling and disappearing-into-space script looks particularly awesome in 3D, and the prolonged race section certainly benefits in a video-game kind of fashion from the technology, making those too-long scenes much more immersive.
Overall, I don’t know. I can take or leave 3D, and feel like I would have enjoyed it probably just as much watching a good, crisp HD rendition. The sound, on the other hand, was fabulous. Our preview was (for some bizarre reason) held at Howick’s Hoyts cinemas, and the sound system there was certainly up to scratch, which effortlessly deep bass and very crunching (but not fatiguing) top end.
So that’s it, really. A deeply flawed Star Wars film with some good action sequences given new life by some post-production 3D tampering. Seems like a cheapish way to make some cash quick cash all over again, but it might float your boat. GARY STEEL

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here


  1. you managed to review the phantom menance without mentioning jah jah binks – something that wasn’t possible given the shock the first time round

    he’s meant to be a lovable tyke like jerry lewis … “don’t you start!” liam neeson cautions him (dean martin-like) early on , even though he hasn’t done anything yet

    but mainly like a 1930s movie black man …. and the trader fly is jewish … (i know these film have a ’30s movie serial template, but this is crazy… Could it be subconscious?)

    (in the next film JJB is glimpsed briefly & he’s a senator .. so hey, no disrespect)

    ewan mcgregor sounds constipated presumably on the instructions of george lucas because that’s how a young alec guiness would have sounded

    there is absolutely no foreshadowing of young darth vader’s nascent evil side … and he looks like little jimmy osmond

    starting with episode 1 is stupid — when they get to the “i am your father luke” revelation in episode 5(?) everyone will go doh! we know that!

    if the original star wars films were made for teens of all ages this one was made for 8 year olds

    & the car race seems like its made with the video game in mind

    a popular question at the end: ‘um, so who was the phantom menance?’

    all the star wars prequels sound like dietary ailments: the phantom menance, atack of the clobnes, revenge of the sith

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