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myVoice: “Phantom Menace” does 3D right

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, left) and Darth Maul (Ray Park) wage a fierce lightsaber battle.
Darth Maul (Ray Park) wields a formidable double-bladed lightsaber in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace 3D.

The 3D movie is all the rage in Hollywood these days (even though 3D films have been around since 1915); some movies are being made deliberately for 3D, while other films are being re-released in the format.

I am not a fan of 3D movies. They are over-done, over-priced, and cause headaches. Many films lack quality content and ride solely on the novelty of being presented in the third dimension (I’m looking at you, “Avatar”). It’s been done so many times that the “wow!” it was intended to get has been replaced with “oh, not again.”

Additionally, most of the re-released films have no reason to be made in 3D. Later this year, “Titanic” is set to hit the big screen again. The movie is widely considered one of the greatest of our time, but there is not one good reason why we need to see Jack and Rose freezing to death in 3D (sorry, James Cameron). The effect adds nothing to the movie-viewing experience.

However, “The Phantom Menace” does not belong to either of these categories. It is the first 3D movie I have seen, original or re-released, that was actually enhanced with 3D. Somehow, it seems like George Lucas filmed it with 3D in mind.

The filming of the movie was not changed for the re-release. The angles were all kept the same as the 1999 version, but the 3D was incredible. From the opening sequence, the signature yellow text scrolling up over an empty star field, the 3D effects complemented, rather than interfered with, the movie.

Perhaps the most breathtaking scene was the pod race. The filming angles were fantastic, not only making it seem as if the pods were coming into the audience, but also putting the audience in the cockpit.

At the slower parts of the movie, the 3D effects did seem a little excessive (do we really need to see Queen Amidala’s extravagant hats in the third dimension?), but the action scenes, the pod racing, the battles, and the light saber duels, made the 3D well worth it.

The plot and characters were not altered in any way, an unusual move for Lucas in recent years. It’s unfortunate that Lucasfilms altered the “Han Shot First” scene in “A New Hope,” yet kept Jar Jar Binks, perhaps the most annoying movie character of all time, in “The Phantom Menace,” but the familiarity with the film lets the viewer enjoy the full force of the 3D effects.

Though “The Phantom Menace” (not to mention its two successors) was unpopular among die-hard fans of the original trilogy, the re-release in 3D makes up for it. Episode I is the best fit of the six-film series for the third dimension, though “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” have potential to make decent 3D films. The specific angles and action sequences in “The Phantom Menace” were perfect for the format.

However, if Lucas re-releases any of the original three films in 3D, he’ll have a large-scale riot of 40+-year-old fanboys on Skywalker Ranch. It would violate the integrity of the original series (although Lucas already did that with the 1997 version of the original trilogy), and the revolutionary special effects, though primitive by today’s standards, would simply not work in 3D like those of “Menace” did.

Re-releasing “The Phantom Menace” in 3D is one of the best decisions of Lucas’s post-“Last Crusade” career. Recently announcing his retirement from blockbusters, he has a chance to go out on a high note: the man to produce the first quality 3D film rather than the man who was an accessory to the creation of a fifth “Indiana Jones.”

After leaving so many 3D movies with a headache and $3 in the hole, it was nice to finally have a movie-viewing experience that was well worth the price of the plastic glasses

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Randi Peterson, Author

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    personal 3d viewerJul 15, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    entirely right. This put up actually made my day.