By Greg Payne
It has been almost 13 years since Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace debuted in cinemas. A film that got every Star Wars fan psyched before swiftly turning them psycho. Back in 1999 followers of the Star Wars franchise watched on in nothing short of despair as their childhood dreams were tarnished by the very person who once made them fantasise about that galaxy far, far away, George Lucas.
Now the film has been rereleased in cinemas in 3D with a new hope of inspiring a new generation. There’s not too much to say plot-wise about a film that has already been so widely discussed and criticised amongst Star Wars fans and general filmgoers – but before offering some insight into what the 3D conversion adds to this film it’s worth noting just how precise the marketing bods have been about who they’re aiming for this time round. Effectively, they’ve gone into hyper drive and aimed their ads at younglings.
LucasFilm seem to be fully aware that almost all ties with fans of the original trilogy, hence the child-friendly merchandising being re-released and – bizarrely – children interviewing crew members about the making of the film, all of which can be viewed online. Whether this is a clever move or a move that will once and for all sever the good will of original fan remains to be seen.
Although most may think that the Lucas’s decision to release this film in 3D is purely based on financial gain, there are sequences that do wonderfully stand out in 3D – the previously criticised pod race being one such example. The 3D element does a great job of making this scene much more awe-inspiring and engaging than it was on its original release. Sadly there are also certain sequences that simply don’t benefit – such as the Gungan/Droid battle towards the end of the film. A further noticeable ‘tweak’ is the inclusion of a CGI Yoda, which many will have noticed in the Blu-ray release of late last year. A small but arguably much-needed tweak as the original Yoda puppet was slightly distracting and, well… a little bit unsettling towards the end.
Admittedly, Phantom Menace does have it’s perks – say what you want Darth Maul has always looked cool and will always look cool – but the perks are simply too few and far between. After watching this film you can’t help walking away feeling short changed and wondering ‘was it all worth it?’. The answer to that is simply, no. It’s understandable how many original fans have come to view Lucas as the embodiment of Anakin Skywalker; he destroys his empire with his own greed, and to quote from the franchise, “lust of power”. To the Dark Side he has fallen with hardcore fans becoming rebel fighters. Oh the irony, they irony of it all.