Movie review: Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Originally released in 1999, the fun packed and exciting Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace is the first movie of the Star Wars saga to receive the 3D treatment.

Written and directed by the seasoned professional George Lucas, Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace focuses on the early life of Anakin Skywalker, the boy who grows up to become one of the greatest movie villains of all time: Darth Vader.

Anakin is rescued from his slave life on the desert planet of Tatooine and taken by Jedi’s Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi to begin his Jedi training. Due to Anakins age and his uncertain future, the Jedi council led by master Yoda, refuses to allow him to be trained. This leads to Qui-Gon taking Anakin on as his apprentice against the approval of the council.

The story is fun and light in tone, and has plenty of exciting, fast paced action sequences to keep everyone entertained. Granted, the movie leans somewhat towards childish at various points, but it is aimed more towards kids! There are plenty of child friendly characters including the classic droids C-3PO and R2-D2, and bumbling gungan Jar Jar Binks.  The Phantom Menace is the calm before the dark storm that is the rest of the Star Wars saga. And with a brilliant cast that includes Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Samuel L Jackson and Natalie Portman the movie was bound to be appeal to adults too and become a success from the word go.

An interesting addition to the movie is that the original (terrible) Yoda puppet from the 1999 release has been removed from every scene he was involved in, and in its place a fantastically detailed and life like digital Yoda has been seamlessly inserted instead. Lucas originally intended for the little green Jedi to be computer generated in the movie, however due to technological and time constraints it was not achievable.

The film has undergone the 3D treatment, and it has been perfectly pulled off. The 3D is not in your face or distracting, but it adds so much to every shot. From the epic, sweeping location establishing shots right down to simple shoulder-and-head shots, the 3D adds a fantastic sense of depth and scale that just can’t be achieved with standard 2D films. Oh, and the iconic opening crawl is worth the price of admission alone!

But Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace was always going to look good in 3D, as will the other two prequel movies: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005). The true test will come when the time comes to convert the original trilogy into 3D.

A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983) are classic cult movies that have generations of fans, and no doubt die-hard fans will want the films to remain as close to their original form as possible, but if the 3D treatment of The Phantom Menace is anything to go by, fans will have nothing to worry about.

They will however be waiting for quite a while. Lucasfilm intends to release one movie per year, meaning that the 3D saga won’t be complete until 2017!

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