Monday, February 13, 2012

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 3D (experience review)

First off... check out the new banner at the top of my page! Illustrator Dean Stahl is an amazing artist who I asked to help me with a quick banner, and he cooked this baby up in less time than I thought possible. So now you don't have to cope with my ugly mug on the banner... now you get the Redcap Jack greetings you every time you log on to this blog! WOOHOO!!!!

-Mark Cunningham

Star Wars: Episode One

The Phantom Menace

Far and wide accepted as the “weakest” entry in the Star Wars series, “Menace” is the first of the films to be given a 3D conversion and released to theaters. And while I realize that this is yet another attempt from Lucas films to dig their fingers in my wallet, I’m also a big fan who is raising a smaller fan that absolutely loves ALL the films and this includes the first installment of the Prequel Trilogy. So with an afternoon off from work and an eager six year old boy carrying his bucket of popcorn, the redcap wrapped some crappy glasses around his head and sat back for the full experience of Star Wars up on that big screen. So was it worth it?

A terrible 3D conversion looks like cardboard cut outs in the traditional of bunraku, Japanese paper theater. There’s really no depth and it looks like things going back and forth on a two-dimensional board. Most films that are not shot in 3 Dimension receive this fairly standard post-conversion technology, with few films actually capable of handling it well. So when you throw in the talents of Industrial Light And Magic, you would assume they could do something special with the technology. Your assumptions would prove disastrous, as is the conversional technology for this film. Not only is Natalie Portman giving a wooden performance, but now she looks like a piece of cardboard on the screen. The most impressive scenes are those that were created through CGI in the first place, so it’s post conversion techniques are perhaps a little more polished in that the images themselves were adapted… but traditional film stock is still nearly impossible to modify and we’re pretty much left with what we have.

As for the plot? Come on! Do I really need to get into the details surrounding any film in this series? We already know that the acting is wooden, the dialogue is stilted, and the pacing is way off. Jar Jar Binks will go down in character infamy as one of the worst concepts brought to life, Qui Gon Jin carries the entire narrative before his death, and Natalie Portman is saddled with some of the worst costumes ever designed. Lucas is not a great director and I’ll never proclaim him as anything of the sort, but even a bad Star Wars film has all the fan fare and prestige of actually being a Star Wars film! You know what you’re getting; Jedi with lightsabers, space battles, strange aliens, and all the cool stuff we buy tickets to see anyway. There’s really nothing to complain about at the end of the day.

But with all the negatives there is also that opening scrawl, the beginning theme, the moment where the theater falls silent and applause begin and your sons eyes go wide and he smiles. You stare up at the screen and think back to your own youth, and then later to the first midnight showings back in the day. You think back to when they re-released Star Wars on the big screen, you think back and remember all the figures you used to own, and you take that moment to connect with the young boy sitting beside you. You feel warm, you feel happy, and you reach in to the popcorn bucket and get slapped by that boy you love so much. “Stop it. The space ship is gonna’ come! See?? See Daddy?!?!” I see more than you could possibly imagine, Little Boy.

Yes. It was worth it.

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