LucasFilm starts the saga all over again with the release of the first film in the prequel trilogy in 3D, providing a whole new generation a chance to catch these films on the big screen.
Has it really been thirteen years since the Internet melted under the strain of dial-up modems accessing the first glimpses of a new Star Wars movie? Back in 1999, the levels of anticipation around the first Star Wars film in sixteen years were the closest thing to a movement for a generation taught to be cynical about such things, but not everybody felt that their patience had paid off. The hollow digital puppetry of these new creations instantly alienated millions of people who had already grown to love their films, and worse yet, Mr. Lucas had long-since begun to forever alter the original trilogy to align with his new vision. Over a decade later, the film returns to take advantage of the latest technological advances in cinemas.
Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The Trade Federation has blockaded the sovereign planet of Naboo in response to the taxation on trade routes. Two Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), have been sent to negotiate a settlement. However, no sooner than the Jedi arrive, puppet master Darth Sidious orders their deaths. The duo narrowly escape, and after an escapade on the planet’s surface (and under it), they collect the native Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and rescue Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) from the clutches of the Federation. Escaping to the desert planet of Tatooine, they encounter a talent young boy named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), unusually strong in the Force. The meeting will change all of their destinies forever.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 3D has been sent back to theatres for the enjoyment of a younger generation, and this time the old fans are not necessarily the primary audiences. Rehashing the problems of a film now a generation old would simply be tantamount to whispering into the digital wind, as the flaws to this film have not changed one bit. Indeed, with the benefit of time, we have even more cause to wonder what George Lucas was thinking. The basic premise has moved from the radical period of civil war of the 1970s to a tax blockade, full of trade franchises and votes of no confidence in the Galactic Senate. Yeah! Tax! This is perhaps indicative of Lucas getting older, but all the other elements in contention are probably more a sign of the aging audience. Frequent toilet humour and a admittedly cool Podrace sequence may appeal to the smaller ones, but us bigger kids are keeping our eyelids propped open until the magnificent Duel of the Fates three-way lightsaber battle ensues.
Even the podrace seems to take up 80% of the film now, although it probably always did. Perhaps this was a little bit of overcompensation for a exposition that largely involved intergalactic trade. Then there’s the usual gripes: a poor choice of child in Jake Lloyd, struggling with meagre scraps of cringe-worthy dialogue to feed on, frequently racist characters in the Neimoidians, Gungans and most certainly Watto and one of the best villains dispatched before his time. Nothing will ever make Jar Jar okay, and that’s the one thing that has brought this world together in times of crazy strife.
George Lucas being who he is, couldn’t help but tinker with the film some more, and there are a few additions to the movie. While we can’t verify an exhaustive list on a single viewing, there have certainly been some additions to the podrace sequence, with more debris to take advantage of the 3D effects. One of our younger, eagle-eyed Bothans also tells us that they noticed some additional changes to the podrace. Even scrubbed up for the Blu-ray release last year, the effects are looking dated, which is always the danger with any film that relies so heavily on technology-based enhancements.
Yet the draw-card for this reissue is meant to the be 3D, and it is disappointing that LucasFilm, who pride themselves on state-of-the-art technology, have released such a disappointing conversion. Never intended for the third dimension, much of the film is shrouded in a murkiness that actually improves with the removal of 3D glasses. There are undoubtedly moments of great visual depth, but the majority feels as though the only people who will benefit from the 3D are theatre owners able to charge 3D prices for a 13 year-old film. Yet at the end of the day this is Star Wars on the big screen, and it is great to actually have them back in theatres for a whole new crowd to enjoy. Let’s hope this leads to more releases in the near future.