Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 3D Review

As you may or may not be aware, the Star Wars films are being released in 3D in cinemas across the UK, in chronological order. This, of course, means that we have to chew through the outer shell that is The Phantom Menace before we get to the gooey insides of A New Hope and so on. 

This first re-release resembles, to this writer, a night out gone awry. You remember, at the beginning of the night, drinking something that looked faintly odd. You could have told yourself it was going to taste rubbish before you drank it, but drink it you did, because, well, it just seemed to be the done thing on these kind of occasions. Hours later into the night, you take a bit of a turn and hurl up the contents of your stomach, including the aforementioned beverage. Once again, sitting in a pile of human discharge, it looks revolting. But you just can’t help but look. Look at the mess you’ve made. And this, reader, is EXACTLY what the Star Wars prequels in 3D are like. You’ve seen them before. They were bad but you saw them because they were Star Wars. Now you’ve been given the chance to gaze upon them once again, and, despite knowing that it’s going to be the same car-crash it was the first time around, our basic human instincts prevent us from not being a little bit curious, if only you can fill yourself with pity for the creation in front of you. Or at least that’s how it worked for me (that or the fact I work in a cinema, meaning I got to see it for free). 

[pullquote_right]I won’t bother recapping the film itself, if you’ve clicked on this review then chances are you’ve seen the film before. Following the plot is like throwing five different jigsaw puzzles on the ground and giving yourself an hour to create each one. But we’ll leave that aside. Clearly this re-release is intended for visual purposes, so I’ll concentrate on those.[/pullquote_right]

It was always going to be difficult to remaster in 3D a film that was never released with that concept in mind. In modern blockbusters most films have a kind of ‘oooooh’ moment when a character will reach out into the audience, to make the 3D crowds feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. Of course that isn’t the case here, and the effects are therefore slightly more subdued, which is no bad thing. I’ve always found 3D to be a bit intrusive at its most intense moments, kind of like the film was choosing which bits for me to remember instead of letting me decide for myself. That being said, there are times in the film where the textures look out of place (which I guess is a result of the primitive CGI Lucas used back in 1990-whatever when this film was made- not that I remember any marked improvement on Star Wars CGI from there on in) and things just get a little bit blurry. There were times when I thought there must have been some kind of problem with the 3D glasses I was wearing, and I am still open to this being the case so if any readers have seen the film and disagree with me, pop your views in the comment box below.

So at the moment it’s all looking like a bit of a lead balloon. The film is, as well all already know, terrible, the CGI is flaky and there aren’t any 3D-specific moments to engage the audience. But thankfully, I have saved the best until last. The Pod-Racing is spectacular. This is probably just (and I mean just) about worth the price of the ticket on its own, as the racers leap out of the screen and make the audience feel as though they’re really there. Because after all, that is the purpose of 3D. Not to have huge orchestrated moments that make the rest of the film look a bit of a mess, but to add to the sense of immersion.

Ageing rock star Peter Gabriel once compared the difference between 2D and 3D to the difference between mono and stereo sound. Nobody tried to do anything differently for stereo sound, it just appealed to more of the listener’s senses, allowing for a more engaging experience. And this is, for me, the point of 3D. Not to allow for spectacular one-off moments in blockbusters that add nothing to the story, but to give the audience a greater sense of depth perception and by extension a more captivating and engaging film-going experience. This is the sole advantage of the Star Wars re-releases. They were never intended for 3D, and so Lucas didn’t include any 3D specific moments (and lord knows he would have done if he could) meaning that the 3D takes nothing away from what is essentially a character driven story (albeit a very bad one) but simply contributes to the levels of escapism that we as an audience experience.

 So overall, the film is bad, but the 3D is, while messy at times, brilliantly subtle at others, which makes for a decent enough film in my books. Roll on the original trilogy!

Adam Bennett

Adam is a writer and editor-in-cheif of News and Views website The Media Filter. If you like what you've read here then he'd love for you to check his site out at