Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (in 3D)

I feel silly… It’s the kind of silly where you recognize that, for a period of time, your brain had shut down to the point where you’re unable to recognize that you are making some pretty terrible decisions. This is how I felt when I spent 14 dollars and 50 cents to go see Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace in brand spanking new 3D.

The movie’s over, and I’m not in any way surprised that I didn’t enjoy myself. Aside from a certain laser sword battle and the scene that has somehow added “podrace” to our vernacular, I sat through the experience, almost entirely numb. Am I jaded by years of Internet-fuelled cynicism or is it really that The Phantom Menace isn’t very good and I have just lived an experience where culture very overtly overcame my sense of intelligence?

I can remember the very second that I knew that I was going to be seeing this movie. It was within a moment of finding out that the film was to be re-released. It was an instant process. ‘Oh, hey, they’re re-releasing Star Wars in 3D, and when that comes out, I’m going to see it.’ Immediately, I had made a commitment to spend money on this product. I had completely become unaware that, to the best of my knowledge, The Phantom Menace is considered a giant stain on the Star Wars franchise.

It wasn’t until the credits were over that I started to realize that I had known better all along. It’s an amazing phenomenon of programming, making me think that it was a good idea. Firstly, because I know that part of the appeal were those two misleading letters, “3D.” I will admit to once being impressed with 3D film technology, and that was Avatar. Beyond that, there have been some nice moments with animated movies like How To Train Your Dragon but generally it hasn’t been worth it. I would honestly forget during Thor that it was supposed to be in 3D. So why am I willing to pay four dollars more to experience this thing? I wonder if my wearing corrective lenses affects my ability to experience 3D the way I’m supposed to. Are people with glasses just never going to be able to “get it?”

Even if that is the case, I think I am in agreement with the consensus in saying that 3D technology is especially poor when it is applied to materials that weren’t originally filmed for it. Like, for instance, with The Phantom Menace.

The other inspiration for going to see this movie was, I assume, brand loyalty. I remember having a conscious thought that ‘if we push through the bad ones in re-releases, we’ll eventually get to see the good ones.’ I think the worst part of all is that I recently, and unrelatedly, started watching the original Star Wars trilogy, and after watching The Empire Strikes Back, I don’t understand what I’ve convinced myself that I’m looking forward to. Aesthetically, I do not particularly enjoy the Star Wars films, at all. I have fond memories of enjoying Return of the Jedi quite a bit when I was younger but I am coming to grips with the fact that if I rewatch it, it’s not going to be any better than the other two. The only one that I feel like I could honestly enjoy, if the 3D was awesome, would be Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I was old enough when I saw it to have developed some taste. But still, paying for 6 (or possibly 18, if the wife and kid want to come) high-price tickets for movies that I know aren’t very good in order to eventually watch other movies that I don’t especially enjoy is insanity of a pretty high order. We’re talking about over $250 dollars going to feed a marketing machine that has convinced me, through toys and promotional cross-overs, that I love Star Wars.

I wasn’t really a “toy” kid, but I was an enjoying junk food kid, so to see The Phantom Menace plastered everywhere when we would go out for dinner to Pizza Hut back in 1999 was a special kind of thrill. I became a Star Wars kid back in 1997 when the Special Edition first came out. It’s amazing how on the twenty year anniversary of the first film, out comes this re-release of a fairly dormant cultural phenomenon followed by “Surprise!” a NEW movie just two years later. There’s definitely a symbiotic relationship there but it’s unclear which is the host. Did the Star Wars economy cannibalize the original trilogy in order to use it as advertisement for this new, soulless money machine? Or is The Phantom Menace just a two hour commercial for you to buy into the cult of Star Wars fandom which will continue to line the pockets of the powers that be with a new release of something every couple of years.

I don’t know if I have ever really enjoyed Star Wars or if I just loved the idea of Star Wars. That love doesn’t become a problem until, such as in the case of this re-release, I am asked to re-initiate with the source material. Sure it’s necessary for me to have seen the movies at some point in my life in order to be able to enjoy other, better parts of the Star Wars phenomenon (like the awesome and adorable Lego: Star Wars games, or Chewbacca bobble heads or what have you) but it has become abundantly clear that once is probably enough. With that, I make the solemn commitment to NOT go see Attack of the Clones in 3D… unless someone asks me to… or I see an ad for it.

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