Thursday, 9 February 2012

Movie Reviews: Star Wars - Episode 1: The Phantom Menace 3D

Star Wars - Episode One: The Phantom Menace (3D)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson
Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox

In Cinemas Now
Review by Rob Wade

For the select few who are taking this opportunity to immerse themselves in the most important franchise in cinema history for the first time, I'll give you a brief run down of the story. The Phantom Menace deals with the story of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, two Jedi sent to resolve a trade dispute on a ship orbiting the planet Naboo. They are involved in a scuffle with some robots shortly thereafter, and uncover a dastardly plan by the Trade Federation to occupy the planet forcibly in order to force through a new trade treaty. Taking the ruler of Naboo to safety, our heroes make a forced stop on the planet Tatooine, where they meet Anakin Skywalker, a boy whose destiny will forever change the course of the galaxy...

Pretty good, eh? I should totally write those blurbs on the back of DVDs. Anyway, 95% of you (give or take, 97% at a push) aren't looking to get the plot summarised for them (albeit masterfully). What most of you want to know is simple: Is the 3D conversion a good one, and is it worth seeing at the cinema, despite being an oft-maligned film in the Saga? I've got my feelings on 3D in cinema, and ultimately it boils down to the fact that films made since the advent of 3D play up to it, and deliberately shoot certain scenes in certain ways knowing that they will play out in a different way in 3D. The prospect, therefore, of seeing something that wasn't created specifically with a 3D showing in mind, was an intriguing one, and along with fellow E14er Omer, I vowed to check it the fuck out.

In short, I got one of those flutters that people talk about when speaking about classic movie moments. Usually it's actors making moving acceptance speeches when accepting things like Academy Awards and so on, but cinema does have that ability to give chills when done well. It's the feeling I got seeing The Phantom Menace for the first time in 1999, and it's the feeling I got at points in the 3D version.

First of all, if you've never had a chance to see a Star Wars film at the cinema on the big screen, you should most definitely take it. The picture looks incredible at the best of times, the sound is outstanding (and despite home cinema systems being of really high quality nowadays, it's still not the same) and the atmosphere in general is something pretty special. Ok, maybe it helps to have Anthony Daniels introduce the film like our showing, but nonetheless it's still an awesome experience.

Now, as it pertains to the 3D, it's much like many 3D conversions in that it's not 100% successful in every single scene. It has to be said that unlike Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the movie didn't suffer from tremendous amounts of motion blur during fast-moving scenes, and this was particularly noticeable during the lightsaber battles, with even the most acrobatic action-packed scenes being displayed clearly. Maybe it has to do with laser swords rather than cutlasses. Who knows?

With regards to which scenes work really well, frequent viewers of the movie may not be surprised to know that the pod racing sequences look incredible in 3D motion, especially during crashes and pod racers passing each other. The space battles also look really good, although at times the 3D doesn't really do much. What was surprising was how good other random scenes looked. All the scenes involving the Gungans, particularly those which occur underwater, looked absolutely breathtaking, and the bongo sequence underwater looked great in motion.

Probably the best thing about this conversion is that it doesn't make any scene worse at all, but there are scenes which have little niggles as a result of either the 3D or necessary digital conversion. A lot of the forest scenes give the viewer the distinct impression that the scenes were filmed against a green screen, maybe due to the edges being just a little too defined. It's minor gripes only, however, as overall the film is not only great to see on the big screen again, but probably the first 3D conversion I've known of that feels organic.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Lightsaber battles, space battles and Ray Park getting cut in half.
Sex/Nudity: Not on screen. I had a Portman/Knightley thing going on in my head, but...nothing on screen, no.
Swearing: None.
Summary: An excellent 3D conversion, and a fantastic opportunity to get that 'movie magic' feeling. 9/10

Second Opinion: Omer Ibrahim: Overall, I really enjoyed it. The picture was nice and crisp, not dark, but it didn't take my breath away like some 3D-designed movies. The addition of CG Yoda was a nice touch, and the extended podrace sequence was really good. That said, the 3D could have really added to the big lightsaber fight, and I didn't feel like it did so much. I'm going to go with 8/10.

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