Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in 3D

As I'm sure you know, Episode 1 was released last Friday to 3D theaters.  I debated for quite a while about whether I was going to see it.  There are two main reasons why I debated so long.  The first is that I really don't care for the movie because it has always felt to me like George Lucas couldn't make up his mind who his audience was going to be.  There is too much Jar-Jar Binks, too many poop and fart jokes, and really bad slapstick for adults to enjoy.  On top of that is a totally-incomprehensible-to-children story about trade agreements.  In addition to that, two of the main characters are played by horrible actors, in the forms of Natalie Portman and Jake Lloyd.  The other reason I debated, besides my dislike of the movie itself, is that I have always thought that 3D is overly-hyped, and that there's no way that paying extra for 3D would ever be worth it.

Having said all that, I'm a died-in-the-wool Star Wars fan, and I can't pass up the opportunity to see that universe back on the big screen.  So I got tickets online for my local theater.  And that's where my distaste for modern theaters is proven correct again.  They service-charged me for getting my tickets early.  Except that I didn't really get them early.  I had to print the email, bring it with me to the theater, along with the credit card I used to buy the tickets.  How is that worth the service charge?  And they didn't tell me that I had to do all that until after I "purchased" the tickets.

We arrived at the theater, got our commemorative glasses, and got our seats.  It turns out I shouldn't have bothered to get my tickets early, because there were only about 10 of us in the theater, and we were the first ones there anyway.  The trailers eventually started, and I expected to get blown away by the 3D on those movies that were designed with it in mind, but I really wasn't.  It could have been our theater, but there was a slight background "echo" of the image that was distracting.  We saw trailers for The Lorax, Paranorman, and the new Spider-Man, and while there were a couple moments that gave me the "wow" feeling that I wanted, they were few and far between.  In reality, the things I liked most about those trailers would have worked perfectly well in 2D, such as using Spider-Man's point of view while working his way across the city, including flipping the view upside-down when he was walking on a ceiling.

Then the feature started. My feelings about the movie itself are unchanged.  It's still a confused mess.  The 3D worked okay for things like the space battles, the pod race, and the final battle between the Jedis and Darth Maul.  In fact, the shot of Obi-Wan hanging in the tube made for a wonderful perspective shot.  They also did some interesting things in order to accentuate the perspective from the flat, 2D film, such as adding window frames to the foreground to add depth to long-shots.  Unfortunately, though, one of the ways they did this in medium and close-up shots was to blur the background, which gave the background a "rear-projection" feel, so that it seemed as if the background wasn't really there (which it wasn't in most of the shots, since they were doing green-screen, but the green-screen work in the original still felt present, rather than added later).

At any rate, the conversion was at least partly successful, but I'm still not impressed with the 3D technology.  I suspect that it was a combination of my theater and the hype and recommendations I've gotten that got my expectations too high.  I will probably see the other five movies in 3D, because how can I not?  But I have to console myself with the fact that I'm not seeing them for the 3D, I'm seeing them because I love Star Wars, and I prefer it on the big screen.