So up until Wednesday night, I had never viewed Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace before. I had seen parts of the film on television, but none amounting to more than thirty minutes. I am sure I was not alone in my ignorance of The Phantom Menace, however it was a little odd considering how well I know the first trilogy and the fact that I saw Episodes II and III in the cinema.
As a stand alone film, The Phantom Menace is fairly average, perhaps above average compared to some of the sci-fi action blockbusters that are churned out. Nevertheless, compared to the previous instalments, it is easy to see why so many Star Wars fans were dismayed when the film was released in 1999. The dialogue is terrible, with truly clumsy exposition. The plotting of the film is clunky, perhaps hindered by setting up the next two films to fit in with the earlier trilogy. Pacing is poor, with the pod racer sequence losing momentum for the sheer length of it. Finally, Jar Jar Binks is an abomination.
The Phantom Menace does, however, continue the Star Wars franchise’s flair for the visual. Sets are great, as are the costumes and the depictions of the non-human characters. The climactic light sabre fight is quite exciting to watch, although Darth Maul is underused earlier in the film. The 3D does not have a great impact on the overall film. It is not obtrusive; most viewers will forget it is there after a while. Given this, it is questionable whether the film was worth a 3D re-release, although ardent Star Wars fans will probably flock to see it regardless.
The best thing about The Phantom Menace is that is cements how fantastic the original films were. Viewers are likely to want to revisit the series after watching this re-release; handy for Fox, given its recent Blu-Ray release and the 3D instalments which are due to follow every year.
Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 3D is out now.