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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D (PG)

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Review byMatthew Turner17/02/2012

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 136 mins

Despite a competent post-production job, the 3D effects don't really enhance The Phantom Menace and it's still easily the worst of the six Star Wars films, thanks to a deathly dull plot, some dodgy acting, a truly atrocious script and – its two decent set-pieces aside - a baffling lack of action.

What's it all about?
Directed by arch-meddler George Lucas (though, for all his tinkering, Keira Knightley's name is still spelled wrong in the credits), The Phantom Menace is the first of the six Star Wars films to get the 3D rerelease treatment. Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor star as Jedi ambassadors Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, who are dispatched to the planet of Naboo to negotiate the details of a trade dispute but are attacked as they arrive and escape to the planet of Tattooine with Naboo's Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman), annoying floppy-eared local Jar-Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and plucky droid R2-D2 in tow.

Whilst making spaceship repairs on Tattooine, Qui-Gon, Amidala (posing as her own servant Padme) and R2-D2 meet gifted ten year old slave (and pod racer) Annakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who Qui-Gon senses will become a powerful Jedi. Meanwhile, two representatives of the sneaky Trade Federation enter into a pact with the mysterious Darth Sidious and his apprentice Darth Maul (Ray Park) that will have dire consequences for the Galactic Republic.

The Good
It's painful to remember the sense of crushing disappointment that Star Wars fans first felt on seeing The Phantom Menace back in 1999. Still, it's worth remembering that it does have at least two good bits: the central Pod Race set-piece (sadly, the 3D is barely noticeable here) and a climactic lightsaber battle between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul.

The Bad
There's so much that's terrible about The Phantom Menace that it's difficult to know where to start. Aside from the fact that Jar-Jar Binks is the very worst character ever committed to celluloid, the main problem is that the dialogue is excruciatingly bad (only Neeson somehow makes it work), while the plot itself is ridiculously boring, right from the opening crawl (ironically, one of the few elements of the film that's properly enhanced by 3D).

Other than that, none of the comedy bits work, several of the accents are borderline racist (the suspiciously Japanese-sounding evil Trade Federation duo in particular), the performances are either wooden or flat-out terrible (McGregor in particular) and there's a general lack of action that's downright baffling. And let's not even get started on the film's worst scene, where Anakin saves the day by ACCIDENTALLY flying a spaceship into a space station and blowing it up.

Worth seeing?
Given its reception amongst Star Wars fans, it will be interesting to see how the 3D Phantom Menace goes down at the box office. It's still a crushingly disappointing film, it's just that now it's crushingly disappointing in 3D.

Film Trailer

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D (PG)
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Content updated: 19/01/2020 11:38

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