Like most people I know, I was seriously disappointed in the Star Wars re-boot that creator George Lucas offered between 1999 and 2005. Of the second trilogy, I liked Attack of the Clones (2002) the best. But it was a snoozer, too, and the third and final installment, Revenge of the Sith (2005), was particularly bad. The first part of that series, The Phantom Menace (1999), arrives in movie theaters on February 10 at participating AMC Theatres for a special 3D re-release.
Besides an animated feature release called The Clone Wars (2008), the original three pictures (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), released for the first time on DVD in 2004 as I reported here, are the only other Star Wars films and they are an historic part of 20th century American culture. Like Disney classics, the original three pictures have also been re-released in theaters, and the return of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace to theaters, now in 3D, will undoubtedly be popular among Star Wars fans of all ages. Lucasfilm announced that it will give away an all-new Hasbro Star Wars Fighter Pod with the purchase of each RealD® 3D ticket for The Phantom Menace, all weekend long, February 10-12 only at AMC Theatres (limit one per ticket, while supplies last). Lucasfilm also issued a statement that, starting Saturday, Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. local time, select movie theaters will offer activities, giveaways and interactive experiences, including (while supplies last): exclusive Anakin Skywalker Podracer 3D glasses with ticket purchase; a Hasbro Star Wars Fighter Pods collectible toy with RealD 3D ticket purchase; a Lego® promotion; a Darth Maul face-painting; special character appearances for photo opportunities and promotional demonstrations of an upcoming Xbox Kinect™ Star Wars. Additionally, these ten AMC venues in the United States will host exclusive event screenings of Phantom Menace in RealD 3D: Atlanta: AMC Southlake 24; Boston: AMC Loews Liberty Tree Mall 20; Chicago: AMC South Barrington 30; Denver: AMC Highlands Ranch 24; Orange County: AMC Tustin 14 at The District; AMC Ontario Mills 30; New York: AMC Empire 25; AMC Garden State 16; Phoenix: AMC Mesa Grand 24; San Francisco: AMC Emeryville Bay Street 16. Visit StarWars.com for more information.
I did not write reviews of the original movies (which pre-date my film journalism) or either The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones (which were released between my newspaper and online film criticism) but I succumbed to the mystique and attended opening weekends for all six movies. I must admit that, by the time I was assigned to review the last movie, the series had all but played out, as I wrote in a 2005 commentary. I disliked Phantom Menace enormously, and still do, with the needless and boring podracing and the moronic Jar-Jar Binks, whom I still joke about with friends, so there’s that (Darth Maul is the best thing about the movie). Being romantic to a fault, I enjoyed the grand-scale romance of Attack of the Clones, contrasted to the rise of fascism, and still think it holds up well compared to the others. Revenge of the Sith, was, well, the proper capstone to the whole series, which is to say it was an exercise in faith-based, malevolent monster moviemaking. While I wish the series well and respect the right of its creator to fuss with his movies all he wants (read my “George Lucas vs. the Stormtroopers“), I look to Marvel Studios and others for heroic, larger-than-life, grand-scale motion pictures, such as Captain America. Star Wars was a milestone in its day – an escape in dark, dreary times – and, if you’ve already seen The Artist and The Iron Lady, the thrilling lightsaber duel between Liam Neeson’s Jedi knight and Darth Maul (to an exciting musical score), minus the annoying bell-bottomed alien and the half-hour artificial podrace, might offer a decent value in movie theaters.