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Phantom Fandom – A review of Star Wars Episode I in 3-D

Updated on January 3, 2013
Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) battle Darth Maul (Ray Park) in the climactic battle in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) battle Darth Maul (Ray Park) in the climactic battle in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Summary: As good as the 3D is, Lucas can’t hide the fact that the story is still an inferior installment to the original trilogy.

In 1999, George Lucas brought us back to that galaxy far, far away and showed us the sites and scenes only alluded to in the original trilogy that began 35 years ago.

We met Obi-Wan Kenobi as a young Jedi in training and his mentor Qui-Gon. Also along for the ride were a young Anakin (long before his fall from grace and the rise of his alter ego, Darth Vader) and a younger and significantly more agile Jedi Master, Yoda. Not to mention the revered and often underestimated Jedi Council.

Now, Lucas brings us back again in a way that we could only hope for 35 years ago. Much like the chessboard featured in the original Star Wars, the characters have now taken on a three dimensional hue. And if there’s one thing to be said for this version, it’s technically flawless.

Creatures and Jedi Knights, blaster fire and the sheer enormousness of the Senate chamber, evil holograms and epic space battles explode from the big screen and take on a life of their own. And the epic duel of the fates between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul is especially breathtaking.

Star Wars is a saga that was meant for 3-D and we can thank Lucas for taking the time to not only do it, but to do it right. Some 3-D renderings tend to seem flat by comparison (see my review of Titanic 3-D, for a perfect example), but here, the story explodes from the screen in vibrant imagery. As long as this level of quality is maintained, the rest of the series will be a treat.

It’s too bad, however, that even 3D can’t mask the fundamental flaws, though, in the prequel trilogy, not the least of which were the alien characters that were introduced. Watto may be particularly annoying, but even he pales in comparison to the hijinx of that perennial moron, Jar-Jar Stinks…er, Binks. Careful editing will be necessary to erase this blot from existence in future releases.

But, even if we’re stuck with Jar-Jar, we can remain comfortable in the knowledge that our favorite characters are destined once again for the big screen, first in 3D re-releases, then in a follow up sequel due out in several years.

There is no epic with greater potential at this point than Star Wars and in the right hands, the series is destined for greatness. Keep in mind, though, that the fans want a compelling story along with the special effects. The prequels had great effects with a less than compelling plot. With bad storytelling, even 3D will be just another effect.

I give the original film 4 out 5 stars and the 3D version 4-1/2 out of 5 stars.

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