September 30, 2010
Posted by Danny
So, the long-standing rumours have proven to be true. As has been reported everywhere, and to most people’s utter lack of surprise, Lucasfilm have announced that the filmic Star Wars saga – that’s all six films, covering the “Holy” and “Other” trilogies – will be re-released to cinemas converted into the de rigeur 3D format beginning in 2012 with 1999’s Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and with each (narratively) successive entry released the following year.
Which means that, depending on your point of view, you don’t need to mark anything down in your Cinematic Appointments diary until 2015. Old-school fan snark aside, it was my erstwhile friend and animation director Dave King who made the most pertinent observation regarding this news:
“Funny that it ISN’T too expensive to convert the films into 3D, and yet it IS too expensive to simply re-master the original, non-CGI trilogy for a simple Blu-ray release…”
The man makes a very good point, of course. It is indeed utterly unlikely that the cost of remastering the original, unaltered versions of the groundbreaking first trilogy for high-defenition presentation – which Lucas weakly maintains is “prohibitively” expensive – exceeds the cost of doing a 3D conversion on six films, three of which are three-decades-plus old. Furthermore, any excitement about the prospect of Star Wars in 3D is just a little bit tempered by the recent, overwhelming evidence, as anyone who has endured the recent remake of Clash of The Titans will attest, that post-production conversions of films to the 3D format frenziedly suck in excess of 75 billion acres of Satanic Phallus – and that’s a conservative estimate.
Which is not to say that Lucasfilm are inevitably doomed in their attempts to add some visual dynamism to their flagship films – hardly. We are talking about Industrial Light & Magic after all, Lucasfilm’s pre-eminent Special Effects wing and legendary purveyors of some of the most lauded and breathtaking examples of special effects – both practical and digital – in the last thirty years. You can be entirely assured that they are applying their “A-game” to this endeavour as well as their considerable financial resources (even if said resources don’t apparently stretch to digital remastering for hi-def formats) and that the final product will be, one would hope, suitably spectacular.
Speaking of ILM, another friend of mine offered a delightfully-cynical (and plausible) take on the possible impetus for the saga’s release on 3D. Granted, releasing Star Wars, one of cinema’s greatest and most beloved action-adventure films in 3D is a no-brainer, an eminently viable revenue stream to harness. Yet, it could also be construed that it’s also one massive pitch by ILM for future work, making them the go-to-guys for 3D conversion much in the same way that Skywalker Sound is for sound design. Think about it: a studio on the lookout for a production facility to convert a tentpole film in to 3D would have great confidence in a company that had done such a bang-up job on one of the most famous and profitable franchises in cinematic history. Remember: Lucasfilm is a business… I’d be surprised if they didn’t think like this.
Whatever, the ultimate question is this: why in buttered Christ would I want to see The Phantom fucking Menace in 3D?
Even if I wanted to see that film’s centrepiece “Pod Race” sequence in 3D, it wouldn’t change my fiercely-held opinion that it should have had “LICENSED BY NINTENDO” slapped over it in glowing red letters. Nor would eye-popping, ultra-slick 3D negate the films woeful storytelling, its ill-conceived expansions of the mythology, the laughably-racist renditions of aliens, that Darth-Vader-to-be is a lil’ cutie with a massive bowl haircut, that the previously mystique-rich Jedi are reduced to humourless, bureaucratic morons and all the myriad other deficiencies of this film and its money-hoovering sequels.
The primary motive of releasing the Star Wars saga in 3D is purely profit-based. There’s nothing artistic about it and it would be the height of disingenuousness to claim otherwise. This isn’t A Bad Thing, by any means: realistically, Star Wars is a brand and brands have an innate need to continue their profitability. With no more films planned and the live-action series pretty much dead now – so I hear – this is an ideal manoevure towards maintaining profitability in the franchise’s signature medium, harnessing the continued enthusiasm of the fan base with the hook of cinema’s latest fad.
Of course, releasing the unaltered, original versions of the classic trilogy on Blu-Ray would be motivated by profit as well – obviously – but, it would have massive value in the realms of film history. The spruced-up Special Editions of the late 90’s – most particularly the one of A New Hope – is not the film that international cinema audiences of 1977 were so rightfully staggered by. It does not represent a clear document of special effects-driven fantasy film making of that specific period of Hollywood history. Watching the revised film, it is impossible to truly appreciate – especially for younger fans – just how special, how mind-blowing, how inspirational the original version was at the time, the sheer level of its technical achievement in the face of massive odds and overwhelming cynicism, because you are not watching that film, you are watching a hybrid. I fervently believe it is vital that this is showcased and George Lucas’ continuing refusal to let these pioneering films be seen the way they were made, in the best quality possible, remains his most potent failing.
But hey, if you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it. Right, George…? 😉