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Movie review: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (3D)

Updated on February 9, 2012

It's difficult to really convey the deep felt disappointment at watching The Phantom Menace in 1999 for the very first time. Despite the name, the music and the scrolling titles, it felt nothing like Star Wars.

It' s now thirteen years on and perhaps now is a good time to let bygones be bygones, to re-evaluate its position in the hallowed Star Wars franchise, and take another look at the Phantom, but this time through 3D glasses.

It's easy to get sucked into the notion that being a Jedi Knight is all about fun, waving your lightsaber around, and playing practical jokes with mind tricks. Sometimes they have to do really dull stuff, like acting as ambassadors. Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi find themselves doing just that on board a ship orbiting the planet Naboo , where they are trying to find a peaceful resolution to a really tricky trade dispute.

They are unaware however that Darth Sidious is pulling all the strings, and that he's ordered the pair to be killed. Realising that there's a blip in the force, they manage to escape to the planet below. It's there that they run into a local by the name of Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) as well as Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman). As things start to heat up on the planet they manage to get away, but their ship is damaged in the process.

They are forced to land on the planet Tatooine, where they attempt to get the parts they need to be on their way once again. They get help from a young child, Anakin (Jake Lloyd), who Qui-Gon believes may have what it takes to become a Jedi.

Meanwhile Darth Sidious has sent out his Sith warrior Darth Maul (Ray Park) to put an end to the meddling of these two Jedis once and for all, allowing Sidious to complete his scuppering of any peaceful end to the trade problems at hand.

It's true that time has amazing healing powers, but it appears that even time can't defeat the very dark nature of the force.

Everything that made Phantom so deplorable back in 1999 still exists today. The script still has far too many words in it, with very few of them making any sense. At the heart of the original trilogy was a simple story of good versus evil. Sure it had a hint of incest about it, but it was the seventies/eighties so that didn't really matter.

Where Lucas set up a clear black and white scenario with rebels against the empire for the first set of films, this prequel begins with such a saturated, convoluted political story, it makes it really difficult to follow. What's worse is that it's littered with incredibly dry dialogue throughout. Of course the now infamous Jar Jar Binks character was supposed to be the film's much needed light relief, but we all know how badly that turned out.

None of the charm, magic nor spectacle from the original films are present here.

However, it fairs slightly better in the action department. If you remove the overwhelmingly dull pod-racing sequence out of the equation – watching someone play poohsticks would be considerably more thrilling and entertaining – the fighting sequences in space are reminiscent of great X-Wing/T.I.E battles of old. The only scenes that remind you that you are indeed watching a Star Wars film are those featuring lightsabers. And where it really shines is when Darth Maul shows up; but alas, his screen time is all too brief.

So this leaves the 3D side of things to breathe new life into proceedings. And sadly it fails here too. The post 3D production on this film is quite possibly the most subtle conversion yet. Don't be surprised if you find yourself often lifting up your glasses to check that you're actually watching a 3D film. Playing games on a tiny 3DS have impressed more.

It may well be thirteen years since its release, and if like us, you haven't seen it since, you won't be surprised to learn that the film is still as bad as it ever was.

Lucas has come under an incredible amount of criticism for tarting up this lame duck and releasing it in 3D, and quite rightly so; it was a painful experience watching Phantom the first time around, so he's only rubbing salt into the wounds by releasing it again.

Still, some good has come out of it. Lucas has sulked that he's not having anything to do with Star Wars again; although that statement may well be thirteen years too late.

What's more troubling however, is the fact that The Phantom Menace is still by far the most successful episode out of all of the six Star wars films. And this 3D release will only cement that fact. Now that's a worryingly dark disturbance in the force.

If you happen to be the only person in the world who hasn't seen an episode from this galactic space franchise, stick with the original trilogy and remember these wise words that were passed down from an elderly Ben Kenobi: this isn't the Star Wars film you're looking for. Move along, move along...

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    • profile image

      Domenick Dicce 

      6 years ago

      I actually enjoyed to 3D conversion. Going in knowing what to expect from the story allowed me to just enjoy watching a Star Wars film on the big screen. I am glad the conversion was subtle. It worked great for the space battles and was not distracting to the film. I was more worried Lucas was going to add unneeded scenes just to show off the 3D.

    • Robwrite profile image


      6 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      I completely agree that this movie is just as disappointing after years of reflection as it was on first viewing. I remember seeing this film and scratching my head wondering how such a great trilogy had fallen so low. It's strange to recall that when this film was coming out, George Lucas was complaining that he didn't like how the original triolgy came out and the new ones were going to be much better. Well, we all know it didn't turn out that way. "Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones" deserve all the criticism they got. (I did like "Revenge of the Sith", however.)

      I imagine the reason for the financial success of this film was that people waited 15 years for the next "Star Wars" film so the anticipation was at a fever pitch when it was finally released. Sadly, it didn't live up to the hype.

      Why release it in 3D instead of the classic trilogy? Who knows? They should have begun with "A New Hope".

      Nicely done review,


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great job reviewing this. I agree the first 3 movies (or the last 3) were the best. I have seen 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 MANY times but refuse to watch Anakin's downfall in 3. Just too depressing!

    • Abzolution profile image

      Abigail Richards 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Grreat review. I remember moaning out loud when I saw the trailer for 3D star wars. I did kind of enjoy episode I . Before that hardly anybody at my school knew what star wars was! Then BOOM, Everyone was having Jedi battles in the playground.Lucas is still a genius in my eyes. Voted up!

    • Boomuk profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from London, UK

      Not sure any more will be converted now. Lucas really wasn't happy with the criticism he got for this. Things may have panned out differently however if went and released Star Wars: A New Hope first...

      Hope you enjoy it if you do go!

    • georgiecarlos profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks for the review! However, even with the review, I think I will regret it more if I don't watch the movie. The fan in me is taking over and beating my common sense unconscious.

      I can't wait for the other movies to be re-released however! If ever, I think I will skip on the 2nd and 3rd movies. Those for me were disappointing.


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