Last fall brought the news that George Lucas and 20th Century Fox had plans to re-release the entire Star Wars saga in 3D. Fast-forward to today and that threat promise has taken one more step forward to becoming true, as the 3D version of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace has an official release date.

The Phantom Menace is now slated to return to theaters on February 10th, 2012 – more than fifteen years after the special edition of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was released in theaters, matter of fact.

Here’s an official statement from Lucasfilm Ltd. and Fox on the matter:

Set against the thrilling and exotic backdrop of a “galaxy far, far away,” Star Wars is perfectly suited to the immersive 3D theatrical experience, and ‘Episode I’ delivers some of the Saga’s most stunning and spectacular sequences – from the Naboo invasion to the Tatooine Podraces to the climactic lightsaber battle between Darth Maul and the Jedi.

Supervised by Industrial Light & Magic, the meticulous conversion is being done with utmost respect for the source material, and with a keen eye for both technological considerations and artistic intentions.

All three chapters in Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy feature a ton of digitally-created F/X, scenery, alien creatures, vehicles, etc…. and since computer-animated movies that are converted into 3D tend to look decent enough, the post-production conversion of The Phantom Menace should actually be okay as well.

The bigger issue is whether or not there are actually that many people who are willing to cough up the cash to see The Phantom Menace in 3D. It’s still by and large considered to be the weakest link in the Star Wars franchise (and considering fans’ feelings about the prequels in general, that’s saying something). Also, and this is more my opinion than anything else, the digital F/X in the film haven’t aged nearly as well as those in the original Star Wars trilogy – back when miniatures, matte paintings, and practical sets were all the rage.

On that note: sit down sometime and (if you dare) re-watch some of the footage from any one of the Star Wars prequels. Most of the time the camerawork is very sedentary, and there’s little in the way of creative movement or angles. Nearly every frame of those films are crammed full with computer-animated objects that distract from the fact that the camera is never really exploring these worlds, but instead just sitting back and admiring it all from a distance.

There's him, too.

The Phantom Menace may end up looking really impressive in 3D up on the big screen when it arrives next year on February 10th. But do you really want to sit through this mess of a movie in a theater again?

Source: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm