Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 3D

By: Addison Wylie 

At first, it’s puzzling as to why filmmaker George Lucas feels the need to keep milking the intergalactic cash cow that is Star Wars. Billions of dollars have been made off of the success of the saga that follows the rise and fall of Darth Vader and his prospering son.

One would say that George Lucas has been beating a dead horse for ages; reinventing the same films. However, after watching all three restored re-releases in theatres in the late 90’s and after enduring the painful and poor Clone Wars animated feature, one can see that Lucas’ true goal is to introduce the Star Wars films to new generations utilizing different methods to connect to modern audiences.

As the restored re-releases were the gateway for kids growing up in the 90’s, these post-converted 3D releases are the way for tech savvy children who eat up blockbusters like Avatar and Clash of the Titans. A target group who could easily school all of us in a game of Angry Birds.

The 3D conversion isn’t wanting to “wow” us. Lucas would much rather make his visuals pop; creating a more immersive experience. He doesn’t want Anakin Skywalker’s podracer to protrude out at us, he wants us to be riding shotgun.

However though, the conversion only does a halfway decent job of executing this. The visuals do stand out more often than not and during lightsabre battles, we can’t help but feel like part of the action.

The moments that lag are the long stretches of talky exposition and, now that the film is presented in higher quality, we can’t help but notice the bored expressions on the actors’ faces as they try to make Lucas’ dry script sound interesting.

That’s the thing with this new version as well. The post-conversion emphasizes the film’s flaws and this is coming from someone who has never been überly bothered by the first prequel.

The problem with running older films through the 3D machine is that we see just how dated and out of touch the movie is; making us really only enjoy it on a nostalgic level.

For instance, take Jar Jar Binks and his band of annoying Gungans. With the Gungans now being more physically rounded creatures, audiences can now see just how undefined the creations are. Back in 1999, we may have been impressed with the animation but because there have been drastic movements forward in CGI and motion capture technology, the stale animation makes us focus on the personalities more than the visuals; making us realize even more how uninspired these Gungans are.

The progression of technology is obviously something Lucas nor any other filmmaker can’t control. So, there are two ways the director could’ve avoided this. He could’ve either halted production on these 3D versions or he could done what he’s famous for, make more updates to his film.

Should Lucas have given his animators the go-ahead to give the Gungans and other space-age inventions a detailed face lift? It’s a tough call.

Fans hate when he tweaks any of the six films. When the online community heard that Yoda was going to be changed from a puppet to a computer generated being for Episode 1 3D, the forums ran bolded red Helvetica.

It may be blasphemous for me to say this but the new CG Yoda actually works in this updated first episode. His presence is more comfortable since the film has more computer generated work than puppetry, thus, he doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Having Yoda stay a puppet in the ’99 version of Episode 1, it pleased die-hard fans but it never fit in with the rest of the flashy universe.

But, back to the Gungans. Unfortunately, the Gungans are those types of characters that can’t be improved. No matter what kind of post-work is done, those characters would still fail because they are poorly developed characters. They’re only here to entertain young ones with embarrassing prat falls, “funny” talking, and “hilarious” catch phrases. But, even kids in the current generation are going to roll their eyes at the pandering exchanges and create their own juice-box drinking game everytime the goofy creature says, “how rude!” It’s a hole that Lucas would never be able to dig himself out of.

As you can see, this 3D revamping is problematic but, as I stated earlier, I was never a big Episode 1 hater. The exciting action was enthralling and it still is and it’s a lot of fun witnessing that on the big screen once again. Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace 3D is more interesting than immersive for us adults. Young kids who are new to the films and want to start from the beginning of the saga are going to have fun with this. For everyone in the middle who are fans of Episode 1, it’s an enjoyable time at the movies that you won’t regret. Naysayers, stay at home; your minds won’t be changed.

As for George Lucas, he can keep entertaining children with his movies but I wish he would leap frog to A New Hope; a phrase that has more than one meaning.

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