The heady atmosphere that surrounded this most anticipated of movies in 1999 does not survive this 3D re-release.
The Phantom Menace is not the classic that Star Wars was and remains. This film’s script can be described as weak at best.
Set two generations before the events of the first film, now known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, The Phantom Menace is an often unwieldy introduction to the Star Wars universe. The story centres on the blockade of the planet Naboo by the powerful Trade Federation, which is flexing its muscles over the taxation of trade routes. Yet the strings are being pulled by a sinister villain, Darth Sidious, who, with his terrifying apprentice Darth Maul, aims to instigate an interplanetary war.
The plot brings in a gallery of aliens, some stupendous battle sequences, new creatures and a bright-eyed moppet called Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) who will grow up to become Darth Vader. Director George Lucas packs the story with old faces – Yoda, R2-D2, C-3P0, tusken raiders, Jabba the Hutt and Senator Palpatine – the man who will eventually become the Emperor.
Characterisation is sketchy and dialogue verges on the banal. Thus the introduction of 3D is but a distraction. What makes this movie 1,000 per cent better than its contemporaries, though, is Lucas’s vision and the beauty of his aesthetic. Human characters continue to play second fiddle to effects, and Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor, as Jedi knights, labour to inject gravity into their performances.