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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Pushed off the Episode I fence

Posted on February 13, 2012 at 4:55 PM

As you likely know Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace was re-released to theaters this past Friday. In addition to little bits cut back in – identical to the recent Blu-ray release from what I’ve read – the big news is that this release is the first Star Wars film to be released in 3D. (I’m going to avoid the obvious, long-hanging Jar Jar in 3D jokes here.) And I have been straddling the fence about whether to pony up and go see this or not.

On the one hand, it is STILL Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. And it’s in 3D.

On the other hand, it STILL Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. And it’s in 3D.

So you can clearly see why I’m conflicted.

To date, I have seen every Star Wars film that George has brought out to the big screen in the theater. This includes the original Trilogy, starting as a 7 year-old youngling in Carmel, California. (I was also fortunate enough to see Star Wars at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. (Not so fortunate was 7 year old me eating an entire box of Movie Sized Red Vines solo.) And starting with Return of the Jedi – which I refuse to ever refer to as Episode IV – I have seen every film as a proper fan would; on opening day. This includes all the Special Edition re-releases and the prequel episodes. And, while not a cinematic masterpiece by any means, I'm also not a hater, nor do I feel that George raped my childhood with the prequels.

So, I felt compelled in a way to see the movie. You know, to keep the streak alive or something. And also knowing that one only has so many opportunities in which to see a Star Wars film on the big screen. So I made a mental list of reasons to choose one side of the fence or the other.

Pros for seeing Episode I:

* First and foremost, it’s Star Wars.

* It’s being projected digitally, so picture quality should be awesome.

* Ditto for sound quality.

* There is nothing like that communal experience of watching a Star Wars film in a theater with other fans.

* If anyone (besides James Cameron) could convince me that 3D isn’t a tool of the Devil, it could be Lucas and the geniuses over at ILM.

Cons for seeing Episode I:

* It IS Star Wars, but of the Episode I variety. A movie that I might have actually dozed off on during my second viewing.

* I’ve just recently watched both parts of the Red Letter Media review of Episode I and now dislike and question the film in ways I’d previously never known, imagined or thought possible.

* It’s a film that has 3D-ized in post, which, historically, is almost always a letdown.

* The $12/person ticket cost.

* I just bought the Blu-rays and haven’t even subjected myself to watched Episode I yet. (A lightning review of the Blu-ray discs here.)

* My screen at home is 115-inches, non-3D and has way better sound. That and I have a much more liberal “drinking scotch while viewing movies” policy.

* This re-release just kind of smacks of George looking for another way to milk more money from the faithful and to prepare for another round of eventual 3D disc releases. (Come on, like you don’t see that one coming.)

So, up until this weekend, I was still hovering on the fence about whether to go or not. Then a couple of things changed my mind…

First I read this rather hilarious recount from Moviefone writer, Mike Ryan, giving a recap of his experience at the midnight showing. Here are some of the highlights from his recap:

12:16 a.m. For some reason, I was really looking forward to seeing the title crawl in 3D. Thing I learned: Even in 3D, sentences like, "The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute," are still very boring.

1:03 a.m. Finally, I ask the group behind me, "Are you going to be talking through this entire movie?" Their leader looks at me and says, "Yes, I am." I have to admit, I wasn't expecting that and it threw me off guard. I had no response. So, well played, a-hole. I guess I should appreciate his honesty. Of course, a few moments later I had ten, "That's what I should have said," responses. (Yes, one of them involved a "jerk store.")

2:35 a.m. The Phantom Menace in 3D finally comes to an end. What I learned: There's really no thrill of seeing this particular Star Wars movie on the big screen again. The 3D is barely noticeable -- Lucas stated that he didn't want anything to jump out at the audience, he succeeded. And this movie has such a bad reputation, a good percentage of patrons will be there only to audibly and annoyingly mock the film.

Even still, I wasn’t totally decided.

Then Saturday night at 8:01 the phone rang. It was my friend, Byron. He had family in town and they were going to go see, you guessed it, Phantom in 3D. At 8:30. Did I want to come? All these swirling emotions came to a head; did I, didn’t I, would I, wouldn’t I? Ultimately, it was just too last minute and we were literally just sitting down to dinner.

So I talked to Byron the next day and he confirmed my suspicions. Even though almost 13 years has past, it was STILL Episode I, and it hasn’t really improved with age. (And Byron was now also somewhat poisoned by Red Letter’s review. “Yeah…why *didn’t* Obi-Wan use Force Speed to save Qui-Gon…?")

Byron also felt that the 3D fell flat, (ha! pun!) adding little or nothing to the viewing experience. He did feel that the 3D effect was best showcased in the Pod Race, where the extended depth added to the shots, but there were no screen-breaking effects. He didn’t have any heckling issues at the theater, but rather just a bunch of noisy, lightsaber waving kids.

Oh, and he said the sound levels were low and sucked. Which, after complaining, the theater somehow blamed on the film’s soundtrack. (Note to theater owner: Skywalker Sound mixed this movie. I have personally watched it at The Stag Theater at Lucas Ranch, and I can assure you, there is nothing wrong or lacking with the digital mix of this film. Thanks.) (Byron, feel free to jump in the comments section and correct/add anything that I missed.)

So, that pretty much sealed it for me. With Lauryn being too young to see Star Wars yet, there is really no reason for me to go back and see this film commercially again.

(Note: I reserve the right to TOTALLY flip-flop on this post and actually end up seeing this movie; either now or in a few years when George re-re-releases it in 4K 3D...)

Categories: February 2012, 3D TV, Movies

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Reply Dennis Burger
5:54 PM on February 13, 2012 
My thoughts:
Reply Dennis Burger
5:54 PM on February 13, 2012 
Or, I could include a link that actually works:
Reply Byron
6:46 PM on February 13, 2012 
I think your assessment of my movie experience was very accurate. I too had mixed emotions about whether or not to see Episode I in 3D for almost every one of the reasons you mentioned, both pros and cons. Remember when they would rerelease the original Star Wars movies during the summer a year or so after each movie left the theater from its original release. I saw all 3 movies and thought it was the greatest experience of my life, especially for Star Wars and Empire because my family didn't have a VCR, Betamax or a premium movie channel to watch the films outside of a theater at the time. I thought how could I miss out on a big screen Star Wars movie release. I must keep my big screen streak going. My cousins who were in town convinced me it was my duty to go see this movie and so I went. I completely block Jar Jar from my consciousness during the movie. As far as I was concerned, George digitally removed him from the movie (in my dreams). I concentrated on the Red Letter Media Review of the film and was pleasantly distracted by disproving or at least giving plausible doubt to many of the criticisms (could not get past not using super Jedi speed to save Qui-Gon). Will I see Episode II on the big screen? The jury is out. It is my favorite of the Prequels. It helps that my daughter is nine and never saw any of the Star Wars movies on the big screen except the Clone Wars movie which was embarrassing. I guess the streak is alive. Oh and by the way, the movie theater I went to was very scotch friendly whether they knew it or not.
Reply Slavik
8:06 PM on February 13, 2012 
Unfortunately my 5 year old begged me to see it which we did on Saturday. What a waste of money and time. My kid took off his glasses after about 30 minutes. I asked him why, he replied watching it with the 3D glasses made everything blurry, he was right. Anything with fast movement on the screen WAS blurry. Agree with your friend Byron, the sound was way lacking. When the opening sequence where the famous Star Wars theme song comes on, there was no punch, just fell flat. Same holds true for the rest of the movie soundtrack. I could have placed my DefTech STSs in the front and it would have filled the room with better sound than that the theater produced. Dont get me wrong, Im a HUGE Star Wars fan but there is nothing gained in watching it in 3D. Old Georgie once again got my money. Check and mate.
Reply paul b
10:07 AM on February 19, 2012 
I too was on the fence about seeing this flick in 3D.Like you said, why pay $12.00 when I have the BluRay and can watch in the comfort of my own home w/ much better sound. BUT, my 6 year old daughter is a HUGE Star Wars fan and wanted to have a date night w /Dad at the theater. Here is my take:

Sound: Flat w/ no punch, very low volume.
3D effect: eeh, it was ok, but nothing that gave me goosebumps
Watching w/ your 6 year old: PRICELESS....the smile on her face was worth every penny....would I do it again??? Absolutely!!!
Reply POVoutfitters
2:06 PM on February 19, 2012 
I was in Phoenix, AZ for a trade show this week, and had a free night to myself. I remembered that there was a theatre close by, with a Hooters next door. Hooters and Phantom Menace seemed like the perfect guy's night out.

I forgot how annoying this movie was. I now remember, and longed for, the bootleg version that had Jar-Jar Binks cut from the movie. I realized how smooth the transitions would be without Jar-Jar. He adds NOTHING to the movie, other than time filling.

I was gleefully anticipating the Pod-Racer scenes, as I was expecting the 3D to be the ULTIMATE 3D demo.... 3D so amazing that Sciacca would rip his projector from his ceiling, and fill his entire blog with the reasons he was wrong about 3D.... Instead, I barely noticed any difference, and would have felt more adrenaline if I were watching the movie at home, on my non-3D system.

I also found the audio levels low, bland, and compressed. I would have rather listened on a Bose mini-cube system.

Plus, I wish THX would require a comfortable temperature in the theatre. The AMC 24 in downtown Phoenix must have had their thermostat set on 80. I thought it would cool off, once the movie started. However, it only got warmer. That, along with the annoying Jar-Jar, and bland 3D effects, kept me constantly checking my watch to see how much longer I would have to endure Lucas's cruel joke on all his loyal Star Wars fans.