The Conversation: What Everyone is Saying About the 3D in 'Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D'

The Conversation: What Everyone is Saying About the 3D in 'Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D'

Feb 09, 2012

We don't need full reviews of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D to remind us how good or bad the actual movie is. We can do without the returned criticisms and hateful rants against Jake Lloyd, Jar-Jar Binks and anything else that disappointed us 13 years ago. Just tell us how the film is changed, and whether that change is any improvement or detriment, or if it has no major effect on the prequel we already know and love or, more likely, despise. Was all the time and money put into the 3D conversion worth it? For the audience, that is. We know it was worth it for Lucasfilm. 

To help you decide whether or not to check out this weekend's re-release, I've found some early responses and carved away the stuff about plot, acting and excruciating dialogue. What's left is the most important critiques for this current version, those of the 3D effect. Personally these reactions aren't increasing my interest in the obvious cash-grab enhancement, but maybe your kids will still be excited.

What are people saying about the 3D conversion of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace? Here's The Conversation heard around the Internet:

The time and money they spent working on this post-conversion is evident in the final result.  It is technically very impressive.  The work that was done to create a 3D version of the movie results in something that looks like that was always the point.  The pod race is probably the scene that most directly benefits from the conversion, and the space battle near the end of the film also looks particularly good.  In general, though, the film's environments are where the effect is most pronounced.  Coruscant, Naboo, the desert cities of Tattooine… they look fantastic in this release. - Drew McWeeny, Motion Captured (Hit Fix)

The 3D impacts from the get-go. The famous crawling text looks wonderful pulled out of the screen with the stars as its backdrop [...] If you know your Star Wars, the highlights of the 3D version are exactly what you might expect them to be. The aforementioned pod race is spectacular. [...] Then there is the final battle between the Jedi and the criminally under-used Darth Maul. With John Williams’ epic Duel of the Fates blasting out, this is more thrilling than any lightsaber battle you’ve seen before [...] In fact all the final battles benefit from the new technology. As Anakin and the Naboo battle in space and the Gungans take on the droid army on the surface, the action is enhanced. - Dave Burrows, The Shropshire Star

As one would expect, the 3D re-processing is executed with a high degree of care, but it's so unobtrusive and under-utilised that there seems little to gain from viewing it in 3D in the first place, other than the huge sweaty wads of cash that will inevitably fill the Lucas film coffers. - Jarrod Walker, Film Ink

I’m not mad about 3D for the most part, I’ve only seen a few films that have benefited from the effect. Thankfully the Phantom Menace uses it in a very practical way with George Lucas making sure that the 3D not only enhances the visuals but doesn’t destroy the film. The effects are used well for the most part, with special attention going to the pod racing scene that just gets blown out the water with it’s hyperkinetic stereoscopic prowess. The 3D isn’t just emphasised in the action scenes though, Lucas and ILM add the effects albeit more subtly to the entire film ensuring that we get our money’s worth but not the eye strain. - Joel Kan, In the Kan

Lucasfilm has done a smashing job on Star Wars -- it's easily one of the best post-3D conversions I've seen. The key to this is that most of the 3D effects are relatively subtle. In other 3D post-conversions, the makers are so keen to make it clear it's in 3D they make the effect too stark. There are times when it doesn't work very well -- occasionally an object is pushed too far into the foreground and you start to see two images rather than one, but that's rare. Occasionally the 3D gets in the way of a scene. When Anakin and his mum are saying their farewells on Tatooine, for example, the 3D effect distracts from one of the film's few tender moments. But mostly it looks pretty natural. But although the 3D conversion is technically very good, the 3D effect adds little to the overall experience other than slight eye strain. As always, you have to watch the movie with glasses on, which aren't terribly comfortable and make the screen seem smaller than it is. [...] The one stand-out 3D moment is the podrace. Remember those theme park rides you used to go to where you stood in front of a massive screen, watched a movie of a roller-coaster and felt like you were actually there? This is like that. The 2D podrace never did it for me -- it always felt way too long, but 3D bought out more of the excitement George Lucas originally intended. - Jason Jenkins, CNET UK

The 3D conversion of The Phantom Menace is, ultimately, pretty subtle stuff. [...] there’s some restraint shown here. It wouldn’t have been that hard to reframe a few shots and send exploding pod chunks out into the crowd, and that’s mostly been avoided. Still, some of the fast panning shots break up pretty badly because of the 3D effect. [...] Lucasfilm is to be largely congratulated; while there are missteps in the process they’re not particularly gruesome, and the restraint shown in making the 3D an organic part of the film is to be commended. I’m still not sold on the need for this film to be in 3D, but what they’ve done, they’ve done well. What that also means is that if you’re expecting The Phantom Menace to pop out of the screen at you every five seconds, you’re in for disappointment. - Alex Kidman, Gizmodo  Australia

The 3D in this - is to be honest, a little hit and miss. Sure, the opening space scenes and dogfights benefit from a greater depth [...] But in terms of whether it's better for the 3D re-release, to my mind, I don't think so - the pod racing sequence is still breathtaking and while it may have a little more depth, it has nothing majorly new to offer - regardless of whether more debris is flying out of the screen. - Darren Bevan, TVNZ

Only one sequence - the epic pod race on the planet Tatooine - goes close to making any worthwhile use of the 3D format. - Leigh Paatsch, Adelaide Now

Visually, the film still holds up as an impressive spectacle 13 years on from its original release, although the 3D treatment does little to enhance the big eye candy moments. - Simon Reynolds, Digital Spy

It is disappointing that LucasFilm, who pride themselves on state-of-the-art technology, have released such a disappointing conversion. Never intended for the third dimension, much of the film is shrouded in a murkiness that actually improves with the removal of 3D glasses. There are undoubtedly moments of great visual depth, but the majority feels as though the only people who will benefit from the 3D are theatre owners able to charge 3D prices for a 13 year-old film. - Richard Gray, The Reel Bits

The truth is the added 3D effects bring very little to the table. Lucas Arts has added a few new scenes that take advantage of the possibilities that 3D provides and has digitally enhanced a few others. Pod Racers give off considerable more debris in this re-release for example and Lucas Arts has done a good job of making it fly at you through the screen. Still for the most part the movie is unaltered from its original and for large swathes of the movie the 3D effect is little more than a subtle addition of slight depth. - David Greenway, The Tech Duel

No amount of money was ever going to make this distinctly flat film spring to life. None of those glossy effects – surely what might have been the saving grace, the intrinsic reason for paying to see this film again – ever truly pop. The 3D is underwhelming and scarcely noticeable but then, like so many other blockbusters, The Phantom Menace just wasn’t built with the future in mind. Ultimately it’s still the same critical Titanic it ever was only now you get to wear glasses while you watch it. The pod race is still an awkward visual spectacle that never really excites. If anything, the flaws are accentuated by the dashed expectation that the 3D process might have offered something new. - David Lillywhite, The Void


Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.

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