Latest ‘Star Wars’ fails in 3D

2012-02-18 00:00

A LONG time ago in a world that now seems far, far away, George Lucas thrilled the world with his tale of a young boy, Luke Skywalker and his confrontation with his fallen father, Darth Vader.

The theme of the story was compelling enough to grip our emotions and allowed Lucas to unleash a new and magical way of seeing things.

His talent for special effects is legendary and along with his company Industrial Light and Magic, he paved the way for future generations of sci-fi film-makers and audiences. It is not surprising then to see Lucas dabbling in 3D technology.

Most fans regard The Phantom Menace (1999) as their least favourite in the Star Wars series. It suffers from a meandering plot and less than convincing performances from its A-list actors.

Seldom have the likes of Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Samuel L Jackson and Ewan McGregor failed to light up the screen and the blame must fall squarely on the shoulders of Lucas. It’s no secret that directing actors is not his forte. Both The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983) were handed over to other directors after Lucas disliked the experience of helming A New Hope (1977).

The re-release of The Phantom Menace in 3D does it no favours. On a technical level, with both medium and close-up shots, foregrounds and backgrounds have been separated by accentuating the shallow depth of field.

The characters are thus seemingly extracted from their environment. The impression created is similar to that of an actor on a stage rather than a character within a realistic scenario. As you can imagine the wooden performances become starker, highlighting one of the films key weaknesses. For those who despised Jar Jar Binks — he’s more in your face.

At the other end of the extreme, in wider shots, the idea of depth is enhanced, and in the pod race this works to great effect.

One of the main criticisms of 3D films such as Clash of the Titans, that are not shot with 3D cameras, but rather created in the post-production process, is that in many instances the effect is gimmicky rather than beneficial to the story. 3D can become tiresome and rather pointless.

My recommendation to George Lucas would be to regard this as a failed experiment and rather to leave the rest of the films as they are. It would be a pity for him and Star Wars to be remembered as  an exercise in money-making.

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace 3D is currently showing at cinemas around KwaZulu-Natal.

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