Saturday, February 11, 2012

Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace 3D Review

When it was announced that the Star Wars movies would be converted and released in 3-D (3D), it was hoped that technology would turn 2D film icons into 3D icons. The first movie of the saga to be converted would be Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace. And in April, James Cameron will bring out his 1997 blockbuster Titanic in 3D. The hype is led by Star Wars creator George Lucas, who notes all the artists needed to bring The Phantom Menace to the screen in 3D. (Digital Spy video.)

While The Phantom Menace gets a 3D paint job, what isn't new is the story. It's still the tale of the Trade Federation tying to force the Quenn Amidala (Natalie Portman) of Planet Naboo to surrender her planet to them. Trying to help her are two Jedi knights, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Ewan McGregor) Meanwhile the planet is under attack by a full droid army. They decide to flee to get help from the Galactic Senate. Along the way they meet Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), aka Darth Vader, as a young boy and comic relief in a Gungan named Jar Jar Binks. (Ahmed Best) Ugh. Binks speaks with an annoying high pitched, bad English accent.

Also not new is George Lucas wildly inconsistent writing and directing. His screenplay refuses to explain what the Trade Federation is, leaving the audience trying to figure out the politics of the sides. He then makes the mistake of trying to explain a spiritual idea, "The Force" by giving it a physical presence called "midi-chlorians" when there was no need to. Lucas also fails to see problems with the acting. Yes, Jake Lloyd was a little boy but wow, there are moments were he's not acting at all. And of course, there's Jar Jar Binks who's such a dumb character that you want reach out and choke him.

The art direction is also still bad. While Naboo represents a nineteenth century European city, there's nothing futuristic or alien about it. Fighter ships look like tear drops. Costumes look like they're from the sixteenth century. And don't get me started on the leather fighter pilot helmets. World War I? Not all is bad. The special effects are still astounding.

But the big question is should you spend the extra bucks to see The Phantom Menace in 3d? The answer is no. Everything wrong with 3D conversions are in The Phantom Menace. A little girl behind me said, "I can't see with these glasses on." That's right. One problem with 3D movies especially conversions are that they're too dark. The Phantom Menace is too dark. I have this movie on video and it's much darker in the 3D version. Of course, that's a symptom of filming in 2D and not adjusting the lighting for 3D.

There is very little depth perception. Look, there is only so much artists and computers can do with a 2D movie. They can't fill in missing information like light and shadow. A good 3D movie will have effects will pop. That can mean you have things thrown at you but it can mean objects push out of the screen. None of that exists in The Phantom Menace. Part of the lack of pop is with the conversion process as stated above. But the bigger issue is that George Lucas directed this movie without thinking about setting up shots for 3D. I mean I don't remember hearing George Lucas ever saying I directed particular shots with the idea that in 2012 he was going to release the movie in 3D.

The best way to demonstrate why The Phantom Menace fails as good 3D cinema is to compare it to a film shot in 3D. Take Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) and The Phantom Menace's sea monsters. The Phantom Menace's sea monsters don't pop, i.e. they don't push out of the screen nor do they have any depth. Mysterious Island's electric eel makes you want to duck in your seats as it swims by. Now before you say, I shouldn't compare conversions to native 3D, I say why not? If they're going to hype up the converted 3D movie, it had better be at least close to native 3D. Otherwise the moviegoer is wasting his money.

I can't say this is a blatant cash grab since Lucas has passion for the project. But to say this conversion is somewhat better than The Last Airbender (2010) is not a compliment. Save your money. If you like this movie, go out and get the 2D Blu-Ray version. The grade for the conversion, Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace 3D is C Minus.

1 comment:

Drackedie said...

And I thought I was the only one struggling with the darkness of this movie!