Howdy to all who are reading this blog post and welcome to another film review and today’s review will be on the re-release of the first prequel in the Star Wars series; Star War Episode 1: The Phantom Menace… In 3D!! (not that the 3D part really matters haha)
Oh and before I go into this review I’m going to go into some degree of detail so beware of potential spoilers in the review.
Now when I found out that The Phantom Menace was going to be re-released in the cinema again in 3D I was like “What the hell!?! Why? Does George Lucas really need all that additional money? And doesn’t the majority of fans hate that film? Just why?” And so I investigated online and found out that this was going to be first part of the six films to be released again in the cinema in 3D. So then I was like “Oh good gravy, I should have seen this coming.” I mean with Star Wars being released on home video and DVD like 5 times in different editions with special updates to each one it should come as no surprise that it would find its way back into the cinema considering the potential money-making it could do and not only that, but with the addition of 3D and with the amount that those kind of films take in each year then it would be great for Star Wars to get a quick post-converted image job and then be released to the public. So here we are in 2012 with the first installment in the Star Wars film saga, The Phantom Menace that originally came out back in 1999, so after around 15 years does the film still hold up? Well yes and no in a lot of ways.
I’m not going to bother explaining the plot because most people who have seen Star Wars know what the deal is already, but if I had to summarize The Phantom Menace is basically meant to be the starting point of the entire Star Wars saga, giving us a story of a world set before the original trilogy, explaining the origin of one of the most pivotal characters in all of the films, Anakin Skywalker. This film gives us his origin story as well as an insight into the world of the Jedi before they became next to extinct in the original trilogy and it introduces us to whole new worlds and characters who play a part in setting the events that lead up into A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
The story overall is pretty decent for what it is, but as the starting point for a film series as highly regarded as Star Wars its kind of messy in a lot of ways. It deals in a whole lot nonsense that doesn’t really have a place in world of Star Wars like politics and corruption in the world of government-based things, long and dull conversations about things not overly relevant to what’s happening at the current point in time and its these aspects that really bring the film down. This is especially bad for kids watching Star Wars for the first time, they won’t care about all this talking bullshit, they’re just watching for the spectacle. The long-winded conversations and scenes of debate and government will turn them right off. But the rest of the film’s plot is pretty nice, we see how the Jedi get involved in Anakin’s life, we also get to see what the younger life of Obi-Wan Kenobi and see Yoda too in a more active state. We also learn more about the Sith and see how Queen Padmé Amidala’s appearance in the film series establishes a connection with Anakin Skywalker too. We get to visit some familiar locations and characters that fans of the original trilogy would be interested to see like the first appearances of R2-D2 and C-3PO, its like noticing subtle easter eggs lurking around that you spot throughout the film. Anyway as I said before the plot of this is decent, but as the start of a film series like Star Wars it leaves so many questions unanswered like say why the Jedi exist in the first place or why the overall new form of enemies are droids or why there is a Galactic Republic or why the Sith have returned randomly out of nowhere. While some of those points are kind of irrelevant or just nitpicking it does make one wonder about some of those things.
When it comes to the presentation of The Phantom Menace surprisingly it holds up pretty well and in many ways is the best part about the first prequel film. Say what you will about the story but when it comes to action and audio I believe that The Phantom Menace delivers on many levels of awesomeness. The CGI is still fabulous and works throughout most of the film, from the futuristic setting of Coruscant to the fight against the Federation droid control ship in space to the brutality of the podracing to the Gungan fight against the massive droid army, everything holds up pretty well. even small things like the look of Jedi’s lightsabers looks crisp, sharp and lovely and its pretty surprising considering that this was done back in 1999. But with the picture enhancements that the films have gotten in the last few years and the fact that Industrial Light & Magic worked on this film means that one shouldn’t be too surprised. And in terms of audio, the sound production on this film is pretty cool too showcasing some great sound effects for lasers and explosions and things of that nature, but all of that pales in comparison to the epic soundtrack constructed by John Williams. Good god the soundtrack for this film is so epic, so powerful, so absolutely incredible that it really is beyond words in a lot of ways. The song “Duel of the Fates” is simply incredible and totally orgasmic, yes I will even admit that. When it’s used in the film in the lightsaber fight between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul, holy man it just sets my soul on fire and my just mind just explodes!
Also I don’t think I can mention the presentation of this film without talking about the 3D aspect of the film. Was it good and did it add anything to the film? No, absolutely not. While I didn’t expect that adding another dimension to the film would make any proper difference, the thing is I’m sure I read in an interview that this film’s 3D would make an actual difference to the film’s quality unlike most post-converted 3D films of present. And yet I never really noticed the 3D aspects of the film after the first 10 minutes of the film, in some areas of the film its noticeable but otherwise the 3D in The Phantom Menace is invisible. The best films I saw in 3D have been Avatar and Kung-Fu Panda 2 because the 3D in those films felt like it had a presence, it was actually noticeable and it added depth of field to the picture. However this is not the case with The Phantom Menace, it’s just another film that didn’t need the 3D conversion at all.
There’s also one other thing to mention and that is new footage and picture quality. Before going to watch the film me and a friend wondered if they were going to show the original version of The Phantom Menace or whether it would have the additions that came with the recent Blu-ray release of all six Star Wars films and funnily enough we got to see The Phantom Menace with all of the enhancements from the Blu-ray release with several additional scenes, better picture quality and the massive addition of the CGI Yoda to replace the puppet original. These changes range from great to completely unnecessary. The new CGI Yoda looks great and now he looks like he fits in the whole of the prequel trilogy, though I can’t help but feel like he looks a little too detailed when compared to his later appearances in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, plus even though the new Yoda looks good I can’t help but look past it and remember every scene with the original puppet version. And when it come to the new scenes some of them are completely irrelevant like some additional bits in between scenes on Coruscant. Most of the new scenes are noticeable around the point of Anakin’s podrace from the introduction of the riders to additional scenes in the actual podracing itself which are interesting to see but not entirely necessary.
To be honest I’ve always kind of like The Phantom Menace. While it was one of the first films I remember from my younger days in the cinema, it does have a special place in my memories and has that nostalgic quality that has never left me since I was 9 years old. After the seeing the film recently I realised that my love for this film extends far beyond the nostalgic aspects. The spectacle is still pretty lovely, the Jedi kicked ass (especially Obi-Wan) with their brilliantly choreographed lightsaber duels against Darth Maul who I swear is still one of the coolest Siths ever. As I said before the soundtrack is still incredible with John Williams delivering in every way and the funnily the film was pretty hilarious too, though not for the obvious reasons, like when me and my friends were laughing at aliens from the Trade Federation as their accents are just frigging hilarious or just when we were completely ripping into Jar Jar Binks because he’s such an idiot. Plus my experience of this film was heightened on an epic level because I went to view it with two friends who are Star Wars fanatics like me and we were in our element quoting several moments from the film and we were so in sync about several parts of the film, it was perfect.
However now after watching the film again in 3D with the knowledge that I have as a media student who studied film beforehand I’ve noticed this film doesn’t hold up as well as it used to. For the most part it was nice for nostalgia’s sake, but there were several moments where I was just bored waiting for something more interesting to happen or where Jar Jar’s comedy antics were just getting on my nerves. But for all its problems I still like in The Phantom Menace, there’s a lot to like, but it’s really down to personal preference; if you like all of the Star Wars films then this’ll be a fun trip down memory lane, but if you’re one of those fans that only like the original trilogy than this film won’t change your mind at all and if you are new to the Star Wars film series than I would say give it a go.