Brian Henry Martin at the movies

Star Wars 3-D

Published Thursday, 09 February 2012
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A re-fit too far? The re-release of Star Wars: Episode One, The Phantom Menace in refitted 3-D has reignited the hot debate over cinemas most divisive gimmick.

Supporters hail 3-D as the saviour of modern movies, regenerating a tired and flat entertainment while detractors view it only through annoying specs as an irritating ruse to charge more and enjoy less.

3-D is as old as cinema itself. In the 1890's, British film pioneer William Friese-Greene was experimenting with the third dimension, designing pictures to enhance the illusion of depth perception.

However, it would not be until the 1950's that 3-D technology would capture the public's imagination with thrilling schlock like House of Wax, It Came From Outer Space and The Creature From The Black Lagoon. This was all part of cinemas bitter audience battle with television, one that home entertainment would ultimately win.

In the early 80's there was a brief revival for what seemed like a doomed sideshow. Who could forget the truly awful Jaws 3(D)? These were the dismal days of the green eye, red eye cardboard glasses. The specs were cheap, the films cheaper, and any depth of field was trashed by the shallowness of the plots.

All that would change in 2009 when James Cameron released his sci-fi epic Avatar in spectacular 3-D which had audiences immersed and entranced like never before. The box office was bottom-less too, as Avatar became the most successful film of all time with global takings of more than $2.8billion.

Suddenly, every new release jumped onto the 3-D bandwagon, whether filmed in 3-D or not. The retro-fit was born, there was mega bucks to be made with an extra depth charge. We were soon watching everything in 3-D from the truly awful Alice In Wonderland to the totally pointless Clash Of The Titans.

Unfortunately, the simple fact is that if the story and characters are one-dimensional, no amount of 3-D will save it from being boring.

Now to The Phantom Menace, which has inexplicably been re-released in 3-D. Originally released in 1999, this was the fourth Star Wars film but the first in the series. That was only the beginning of the confusion!

Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away, well the 1970's to be precise, filmmaker George Lucas changed the course of cinema history with a trilogy of brilliant space adventures: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. If like me, you were lucky enough to grow up when these films were first released, then the wonder of watching them on the big screen will stay with you forever.

However, The Phantom Menace is the cinematic equivalent of The Beatles turning into Steps.

After sixteen long years since the last film, Star Wars fans had tears in their eyes with the opening music and even more tears in their eyes at the end credits. Because the Phantom Menace is a phenomenal mess, failing as a film on every level: drama - none, humour - zilch, emotion - nil, thrills and spills - minimal. Watching this re-release through smudged 3-D spectacles does not improve its fundamental flaws.

Has a film director ever induced such terrible performances from such great actors? Liam Neeson - wooden, Ewan McGregor - monotone and the Oscar winning Natalie Portman - a speaking alarm clock! Worse is come with the 'Little Lord Fauntleroy' casting of Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker. Are we seriously to believe that Justin Bieber grows up to become Darth Vader!

However, the biggest faux pas by George Lucas was to create the most annoying movie character in cinema history, the totally dreadful, painfully unfunny Jar Jar Binks.

And this is indeed the most incredible revelation of the refit. That Lucas did not try in anyway to repair the glaring mistakes. Re-edit, re-voice, and mercifully cut out some of the worse film dialogue ever spoken on screen. No, simply construct in 3-D and all will be well. Sadly not, you can flog a dead horse in 1-D, 2-D or 3-D, I'm afraid it is still a dead horse!

What's next for the re-fit? Certainly the next five Star Wars films, probably Titanic and maybe even every single James Bond movie!


Star Wars: Episode One, The Phantom Menace 3-D (Cert U) is on general release for a limited time.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.

Twice.

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