I went to the midnight screening of TPM 3D last night. There was a nice sized crowd for a re-release weekday winter show. The place was 3/4 filled at least, with most people staking out their prime viewing territory at least 30 minutes before lights out. The crowd was in a good mood and mostly in their 20s. Apparently they misplaced the memo that they’re supposed to hate this movie.
The screen I saw it in wasn’t great. It was one of those dim 3D screens that muted down the vibrancy and brightness. It was like watching the movie, well, with sunglasses on. Too dark. But that’s the theater’s fault. I recommend you search out the best screen available for this.
The 3D conversion was WAY better than I’D expected. As others have said, it isn’t gimmicky but it puts you in the movie. The depth is layered and it brings the landscapes to life. The spaceship cockpit shots are really a highlight because space is now “out there” — you feel like you’re traveling in a void. That’s cool. I only wish George had put a POV hyperspace shot in the movie. That’s going to ROCK in ANH 3D!!! Coruscant, Naboo and Tatooine all feel like real places.
As for the digital characters, like Watto, Sebulba and Jar Jar, they’re now objects in the space. They walk around objects, characters touch them — they’re part of the reality rather than something matted in. The digital Yoda is terrific, especially when his head turns and his ear points out toward you. Way cool.
As for the movie itself, what you love about TPM you will LOVE. When this movie works, it WORKS! The pod race is outstanding in 3D. Again, it’s not so much in-your-face 3D as it puts you in the action. You’re in the cockpit, the soundtrack is pumping and the intensity is ramped up, up, up! The same is true for the Naboo battle, space battle and Maul fight. The movie just envelops you and you’re on a ride until the end. Say what you will about other parts of the film, but in its strongest moments TPM is Star Wars at its best. That being said, what people don’t love about TPM they probably won’t love any more here. The Oota Gunga scenes drag, though the 3D is impressive. The Nute Gunray scenes still seem stilted. Jar Jar is still Jar Jar — though there were laughs at the appropriate places, such as when he’s zapped in the energy beams.
The biggest surprise was that at the end of the movie, at 2:30 am, the credits rolled and the crowd clapped. Spontaneous applause for a 13-year old movie that self-appointed cinema anarchists have worked relentlessly to kill. Walking out, there were smiles and snippets of “that was cool” and “awesome” and “sweet.” The Phantom Menace 3D brings Star Wars to life. Tomorrow I’m taking the kids and living it again through their eyes.