The Phantom Menace: My Multi-Dimensional Review

Given: I am a Star Wars fan.

Given: I am a fan of the prequels. I’m a fan of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as much as (if not more than) A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Given: If you give me a chance to see any of the six movies in theatres again, for any reason, I will go. I’m honest about it, and if you have a problem with it, well, I don’t care.

Given: I am skeptical at best of the 3D experience and/or its ability to enhance a film not originally shot for the format.

Given: I went to go see The Phantom Menace in 3D this past weekend.

What was the result? Only those who dare view the whole post will know.

Which Version?

The greatest question any Star Wars fan can ask when going to see a modern re-release is, “Which version of the movie will I see in 3D?”

Now, set aside the petty quips about Special Editions, DVD variances and Digital Tinkering. It becomes a more valid question, actually, because the recent 3D re-release of Beauty & the Beast was the non-DVD version without the additional musical number “Human Again” (which, actually, is the only version my girls watch anymore). Strangely enough, I also learned while going through final edits for this blog that Disney® ™ had released a 3D BluRay edition of Beauty & The Beast before even releasing it to theaters. Not a peep from people about .

So all fans can rest assured that the cut released in 3D is the superior BluRay version complete with digital Yoda (best digital character I’ve seen yet), smoother conversation edits, alternate reaction shots and the music soundtrack re-timed and re-mixed to maximize the emotional undercurrent of dialogue scenes.

Does It Improve the Experience?

It’s kinda neat. I’m still not sold on 3D, and I think that audiences are going to get tired of it.

But when the opening title crawl rolls up, against the star field, it’s immediately cool. I saw it opening day with my daughter, and she thought that was pretty neat. In fact, she liked the film so much that she’s watched the BluRay three times since.

Which actually brings me to my next point. There are some sequences that are extremely cool in 3D. For example: the pod race, space battle and lightsaber battle at the end do indeed pop, and there is actually some background “stage business” that comes out in some scenes that makes them flow more organically. There are actually some reaction shots and character interactions that are different takes and/or enhanced by the background characters having, at turns, more and less emphasis.

But for all of the neat 3D effects that happen whenever there are digital characters or a lot of effects layering, you do in fact lose a lot of the color vividity. When I re-watched once with Maddy, the colors in HD on the BluRay just smoked the 3D print.

So it does underline the trade-off: what’s most important to you? HD picture and breathtaking color? Or sitting in a theatre enjoying popcorn and enjoying the ride?

(Tangentially: I said to a friend that Titanic is going to be the watershed moment for the re-release formatting: if that 3-hour behemoth can draw people back in (who have seemingly since soured on the experience and opinion of the film based on my anecdotal conversational evidence), then 3D re-releases and the 3D format will stick around for a good long while. If Titanic fails to open in the Top Five, then we could see the format fade more quickly.

Of course, please remember that when Disney® ™ and James Cameron® ™ re-release things in 3D, that’s OK. But never George Lucas.)

The Final Lesson

Again, 3D post-processing is not perfect and I’m not a particular fan.

But I figure if you’re going to re-release a film for the fans to come see in the theatre, what the heck.

At least it’s something different.

And as I pointed out above, any shots with a lot of layering look pretty cool.

Given that Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were basically shot in front of green screens, I’m anticipating that the post-processing method will actually work even better. And I’m definitely looking forward to the key sequences from Revenge of the Sith like the opening space battle.

It was $10 a ticket when I went to a morning show with Roo. Granted, we went pretty early in the morning, which isn’t always practical, but it was still fairly equal to the average ticket price. It was cheaper than the $11.50 I encounter normally for a ticket, so cost wasn’t a factor this time.

Will it change anyone’s opinion of the film, or 3D post-processing in particular? No.

Did I enjoy it? Yes.

But I enjoy The Phantom Menace genuinely, and this more–tightly–edited version in particular. To me, it was worth the time and effort, and I got the surreal experience of taking Roo to a Star Wars film in the theatre the way my dad took me all those years ago.

And it’s kinda more about our experiences than the things that spur them anyway…but that’s a blog for another day.

2 thoughts on “The Phantom Menace: My Multi-Dimensional Review

  1. I was thinking about your statement,

    “I am a fan of the prequels. I’m a fan of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as much as (if not more than) A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.”

    I think I feel the same way. It’s strange, because I do see the two trilogies as one story, but at the same time each trilogy has a different meaning for me.

    Also, when I was a kid, I always had so many questions about the OT, such as why Anakin turned to the Dark Side, how the Emperor and his Empire came into power, how Vader ended up in the suit, and what exactly the Clone Wars were all about.

    Even though I’ve watched the PT several times by now, it’s still fun to watch them to see how everything leads up to the OT.


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