Last time, I said I was going to keep track of all the movies I saw in the theater this year by reviewing them in this blog. Well, it's mid-February, and this is the first movie I've seen in the theater in 2012: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D. If you didn't already know, George Lucas plans to release all the Star Wars movies in 3D, starting with this one and going in numerical order (rather than in order of the original release date).
I don't know if there's much point in reviewing Phantom Menace; if you liked it in 1999, you'll like it now. If you didn't like it, 3D is not going to change your mind.
I normally don't care for 3D, I don't think it adds anything other than a distraction to most movies. Plus, the glasses never fit and they give me a headache. This time, it was hit and miss; some scenes had a really spectacular illusion of depth (the pod race comes to mind here) but other times it really didn't add much. Frankly, the special effects are already so great in these movies, there's not much 3D can add.
The only change I noticed from the original release, other than the 3D, was that Yoda is now completely digitally animated. In 1999 Yoda was still a puppet (like in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) but they never got it quite right. For some reason, the Phantom Menace Yoda puppet looked far less realistic than the earlier ones - maybe it was the crossed eyes. People rag on George for all the constant tweaking of these movies he does, but digitally animating Yoda was a Good Thing. (Let's hope he didn't get carried away and digitally animate the Empire and Jedi Yodas - those are fine the way they are.)
Personally, I think everybody disses Phantom Menace too much. Sure, Jar Jar is any easy target to hate for everyone over the age of 10, but there was a lot good about this movie. Darth Maul and his double-ended lightsaber, for example. Who among us didn't geek out when he lit that thing up the first time? After seeing Phantom Menace, my now-husband and I went to the toy store, bought the Darth Maul lightsaber, and had a lightsaber duel in front of my apartment - and we weren't kids, either, we were 28 and 29 at the time.
If you revisit this one, try to go in with the mindset of an eight-year-old and just enjoy the ride.