Monday, February 13, 2012

Star Wars in 3D

Becca and I went out to see The Phantom Menace in 3D yesterday. I've not been a supporter of 3D, but they finally put something out in 3D that I just couldn't resist. Plus we got a little extra from our tax refunds and we decided this would be a really nice treat for ourselves, especially considering that our wedding anniversary is right around the corner. Apparently the third anniversary, for us, is lightsabers. I like this better than whatever the hell it's supposed to be traditionally.

The Phantom Menace is kind of "our" Star Wars movie. We'd been together just four years when all the Episode I hype was ramping up, and that seemed impossibly long to me, because I was 23 and I'd never been in a relationship for so long before. I remember being surprised and very glad that Becca was so excited; she was more excited than I was. She was one of those people who stood in line at midnight the day the action figures were released at Toys 'R' Us; she was coming home from work at night, saw the line, and figured why the hell not? She came back with a small mountain of action figures and a little certificate they were giving out, which she still has. The toys are all hanging up on the "Star Wars Wall" of our library room. We still have vinyl models in the kitchen that Becca painted of the lightsaber duel between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul.

There were toys and merchandising tie-ins everywhere. I still have cups from Taco Bell and Jar Jar toys from Pizza Hut and I've never felt the need--or the desire--to get rid of them. These are totems left over from what still feels to me like the last ever film event. Even The Lord of the Rings, as much as I love them, never felt like EVENTS to me so much as just really great films. This was the last old-fashioned movie tie-in event of my childhood, even if it happened when I was 23.

I like having that delineation of time there. In a lot of ways, The Phantom Menace really was at the right time and place in my life to be the definitive end of my movie childhood, while The Lord of the Rings was the beginning of a whole new era of special effects. When the LOTR films were released, I was living with Becca and had moved into a whole new, more adult, more responsible phase of my existence.

I like The Phantom Menace, and I'm not going to qualify that or justify it or apologize for it. It's been 13 years, and if you haven't gotten over your disappointment by now, nothing I can say will save you. The 3D re-release has been, typically, another excuse for bitching about Jar Jar Binks and midichlorians, and the odds I'm going to see an insightful or original complaint about it are slimmer than actually seeing a Star Wars "fan" decide to just focus on the aspects of a vast fictional universe that he/she actually does like. I don't have anything to add about the film itself, because you've all seen it and you all know if you liked it or not.

I was more interested in what the 3D would be like. I'd never experienced this Real-D 3D before. It still gave me a headache--there is no possible way it can't, because it forces your eyes to focus on two things at the same time. Some of the previews were in 3D, and they were actually movies meant to be seen that way, and it made me realize that previews in 3D are a horrible idea. So much quick editing that I could barely look at anything. It seems counter-productive to actually getting me to want to see something. I don't know, maybe I'm too old for it.

As for the retrofitted 3D of The Phantom Menace, I thought it mostly worked. That first underwater shot of the Gungan city was amazing. There are some, for me, iconic moments that the extra dimension made look pretty cool. I noticed some slight changes, but mostly made to take advantage of the format. They worked for me because they weren't intrusive, they were there to add depth to some of the imagery. It wasn't shot specifically for 3D, so it doesn't take fullest advantage of it; it's more of a neat effect than anything else. If you've been dying to see Episode I in 3D, it's not going to blow you away. For me, the 3D was a hurdle I had to get over so I could see The Phantom Menace again in the theater, and then it was a nice surprise that it was so much more pleasant to look at than I assumed it would be.

One technical aspect: Yoda. I don't remember if they switched out the Yoda puppet for the CGI model on the recent Blu-Rays or what, but this is the first I'm seeing of it. I think it works better for the type of heavily digital film The Phantom Menace is. When they reused the puppet in Episode I, it seemed like they made him too bright; like they made his green skin brighter to emphasize that he was younger here, and it just didn't really work. This seems like a different CG model than the one they used in Episode III (the one in Episode II wasn't really very good), but Yoda here is very expressive and compelling. So that was a little added bonus for me, since I've already seen TPM so many times in my life. It's actually my wife's favorite Star Wars movie, and the only one featuring Qui-Gon Jinn, her favorite Star Wars character. I think it's worth noting, too, that so much of the film being digital effects probably made it easier to space it out into three dimensions, so there's no real damage done to it as far as things looking really bad. The next two will probably look even better in 3D because there's so much more CGI.

It was a nice time. I hope I get to see the other prequels in 3D, too. I don't know about the original trilogy, if only because taking a movie from 1977-1983 and trying to retrofit it for 3D seems like it wouldn't be very good. But maybe they'll be forced to make so many changes to the movie just to work it out that the "fans" will have new and different things to bitch about, so that'll make them happy, too.

After we walked out of the theater on 19 May 1999, Becca took my arm, pushed up my sleeve, looked at my watch and joked "How much longer until 2002?" That's what I'll always love most about The Phantom Menace, and why I don't care what your dismissive comments are going to inevitably be. Move along.


Roger Owen Green said...

The 3D is reason enough to avoid.

Tallulah Morehead said...

I gotta say, putting the images in 3-D seems kind of ironic to me, since the dialogue remains relentlessly two-dimentional in its best moments; the rest being one-dimensional.

SamuraiFrog said...

Hmmm. I think my prediction in the post that chances were slim that anyone would have any insightful or original criticism of the film by this point was too generous.

Kelly Sedinger said...

I still love TPM! And the dialogue isn't nearly as bad as all that, as I've explored in "Fixing the Prequels". The film does have one jaw-droppingly bad scene (Jar Jar meeting Padme in the Queen's ship, before landing on Tatooine), but as hard as I look for what so many people hate about this movie, I never find it.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Sorry Kelly, but you'll never be a a decent writer if you can't hear how wretched and thudding all the dialogue in this movie is. I just re-watched it myself about a month ago, and if anything, the dialogue is worse than I remembered. Not as bad as the dialogue in the Spartacus TV series, but extremely bad.

Last week I saw a picture of the kid who plays Annikin in TPM as he looks now. Needless to say, he does not look anything like Hayden Christensen, though he does appear to have the potential to be a Sith Lord.

At least I undestand fan over-reactions - postive or negative to messing about with Star Wars, even if I always want to shake people and yell: "Grow up!" but the Transformers bruhaha in the column above is a genuine mystery to me. Of course, why anyone spent a penny to see any of them remains a mystery to me. Star wars may be cribbed together out of lost, stolen, and borrowed parts, but it's a solid, if cliched, story about people (Not always in "people" form), made into eye candy with special effects.

Transformers is puerile trash for pre-schoolers who only require color and movement on the screen. The Transformers fan of today is the "I won't watch black & white movies" cretin of tomorrow, or later today, or was even before he, she, or it saw Transformers.

But I do not understand why you're annoyed that they're making another Transformers movie. Unless they actually stage a home invasion at your place and force you at gunpoint to watch it, it can be, and should be, entirely ignored. I live a full, productive life, I even have two books coming out this year, and yet I have never seen a Transformers movie, having taken the word of Roger Ebert, and every other critic alive that they are a total waste of time for anyone mentally older than 6, you know, like a Jerry Lewis movie. But until seeing them becomes mandatory, they can make all the Transformers movies they want, and screw with the characters (I'm told there are some entities referred to as "characters" in these children's movies) and the story (I'm told they have a sequence of events that passes for "story") all they like. It will never have any impact on me, nor will it ever relocate even a single dollar from my pocket to theirs.

Now I have to go and force myself to sit through the second hour of the pilot for The River. If this thing is going to be "The Next Lost, they need something better than the invisible "ghost" of a cranky person. I'm a cranky person, but I can see me without a TV series.

SamuraiFrog said...

I'm not annoyed that they're making another Transformers movie, or even surprised. Actually, the main thrust of that post is that I think people are being ridiculous for overreacting to a movie no one's forcing them to watch. I think people who act like they're being forced to sit through something they clearly don't like come across as exceptionally irritating. I assume that was the point of your ironic twist at the end there.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Wow, I do so love to see new variants on the "You suck if your opinion is not identical with mine!" notion.

TPM's dialogue is occasionally bad, one time jaw-droppingly awful, most of the time serviceable, and a couple of times downright good. And I confirmed this by recently watching the movie myself. I'll stick with my opinion, thank you very much. Even if it dooms me to eternal suckitude as a writer. (Note that I never claim to hold TPM as an exemplar of 'good dialogue'.

Vachon said...

Have you ever seen Red Letter Media's reviews of the Star Wars prequels? I found them to be rather hilarious.

SamuraiFrog said...

I've tried to watch them, and I just don't think they're funny (or insightful, though others have used that word to describe them, too). Just not my thing.