My wife and I screened The Phantom Menace in 2D at home last night to see whether it was soft enough for our 5-year old to see in 3D in the theaters. the verdict there is that the sea creatures scene and the fighting at the end (perhaps the war scene on Naboo as well) probably are not 5-year old material. I think that some pieces and parts – particularly Anakin’s famous scooter run – are fine. I think it is more appropriate for 6 1/2 or 7-year olds.
The film itself seen 12 years later was, well, underwhelming. Besides the irritating racism of the Jah Jah Bink character and the terrible acting from nearly all the characters apart from Padmé, the script itself was pretty bad. OK, we can give Lucas credit again and again for re-inventing science fiction with cool looking spacecraft (although wasn’t that shuttlecraft that Obi Wan & Co stole from the Federation space station just a little too much of a copy of the SR-71?) and creative names for creatures, aliens, and planets. But, the story line was so weak. Come on, Anakin/Vader as a sort of father-less (anti-)Christ figure? That was pushing my suspension-of-belief just a bit far. Also, on further reflection, why was Naboo such a critical lynchpin for Palpatine in his diabolical plot to get the Chancellorship? It was a pretty backwards-looking planet, what with the Gungans, and a more Moroccan-look on the surface (they must have visited Marrakech during the filming because one scene looked like it was straight out of Djemaa el Fna). So I have a hard time understanding why Padmé/Queen Amidala’s acceptance of the trade agreement was such a big deal. The evil Darth Maur looks kind of pathetic close-up and the poor guy doesn’t even get any lines to say. Qui-Gon Jinn was terribly acted and his lines were wooden and devoid of any humor or irony. This movie seriously missed the mark in terms of humor – the buffoonery of the bumbling Gungans got on my nerves. In fact, it drove home for me the key reason why Star Wars IV – A New Hope still makes it as a sci-fi flick – Han Solo. This film had no Han Solo and I think honestly it really didn’t have a soul.
The special effects themselves have not aged well. The war scene played on a green field looked pretty fake as did the sea creatures in the sea between the surface and Otoh Gunga. Where the Lucasfilm team really excels is more industrial/modern landscapes like the various space stations and especially Coruscant. I recall being disappointed the first time around and this time was not any better. At least they probably won’t make us suffer through books VII-IX…My understanding from reading the web reviews is that the 3D version that was just released was not very good because of the technique used – they couldn’t reshoot in 3D so they just had to decompose the images and add depth artificially while recomposing them. So, I’ll keep my 10€ and go see Ghost Rider II instead!