The least loved of the space-opera sextet,
The Phantom Menace
is the first up for the stereoscopic treatment (the rest are on their way at a rate of one per year). So, now George Lucas has gone back to tamper with the film that tampered with your childhood, what's changed?
The answer is disappointingly little, except for Yoda, whose puppet self gets a CGI makeover (as per the Blu-ray).
The plot is still impenetrably dull, lacking the fairytale-in-space simplicity that helped
A New Hope
endure. Kids, or grown-ups for that matter, probably haven’t become more interested in the taxation of trade routes over the last 13 years.
Mini-Vader Anakin is still brattily irritating, the awkward racial stereotypes haven't been banished, the A-grade cast underperform across the board (the pitch still sounds great on paper - Liam Neeson is a Jedi! Oh...), and time hasn't been kind to Jar Jar, who still makes the Ewoks look like bad muthas.
The so-so 3D conversion highlights the peaks and troughs experienced first time round. It's the pod race that benefits most from the upgrade, its speed-thrills boosted by arcade-style immersion. Similarly, the final three-way lightsaber duel remains a series highlight, in however many dimensions.
But the added visual depth does little to disguise quite how flat everything in between is.
Sure, the scrolling prologue will get your inner kid grinning from ear-to-ear, but that all-too-familiar feeling of disappointment soon kicks in, meaning this re-release will likely be most appreciated by the generation too young to have experienced it on the big screen before.
Anakin's still irritating, Darth Maul's still cool and everything else is just as you remember it. Phantom Menace works best as kids' wish fulfilment stuff, so it's best left for the under 10s.