May The Force Be With You; Star Wars Rebooted

10 02 2012

In 1977, a small boy sat in a darkened cinema in London’s West End and fell in love.

The object of his affection wasn’t a punk rock star, a female superhero or even a muppet that appeared to be a pig but a man dressed in black that seemed to have some kind of breathing problem (probably asthma, the small boy thought) and who was able to crush the necks of people who annoyed him by just squeezing his fingers.

From the moment that Darth Vader walked through some destroyed doors, picked up a “rebel” by the neck, politely asked him for the location of some missing files and then threw him against a wall…the small boy was hooked. Terrified, confused and about to experience a series of unexplained nightmares that involved heavy breathing…but hooked.

We all know what happened next.

Star Wars; A New Hope (the first film, despite being apparently #4 in a series) was a worldwide hit, one of the first blockbusters.

George Lucas, the director and creator of this space opera (despite pilfering shamelessly from Kurasawa’s  ‘The Hidden Fortress’ and with a closing scene that was “influenced” by a Nazi propaganda movie) become one of the most famous people on the planet. The film ushered in a new era of branding and marketing with toys, t-shirts, books and collectibles flooding a pop culture market that was still in its infancy.

It spawned a new religion, was associated with a Ronald Reagan-endorsed space program  and made the wearing of a bathrobe in public while carrying a glowing stick acceptable.

Two more films followed – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983) – before Lucas took a break from the galaxy, far, far, away that he had introduced to the world and instead concentrated on counting his millions at Skywalker ranch – named after the “hero” of the series.

Twenty-two years after the original trilogy, the Star Wars universe returned with a new movie; The Phantom Menace (1999) which was  supposed to give audiences the back story to the previous movies. All it really did was show that an annoying character can ruin the enjoyment of any movie (despite having an incredible racing scene and a great soundtrack)  but the next two movies – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005) – tried their best to complete the saga in a way that made sense to anyone who had seen the original in 1977.

Because the original was fantastic.

It was the first time in my life that I had watched something that actually made me want to keep returning to the cinema. This was 1977, there was no video, no dvd and no YouTube. If I wanted to get my fix of Vader, I had to go back to the cinema and drag my reluctant mother to a film that she had fallen asleep in the first time she saw it (after the tenth time, I was told in no uncertain terms that she would not sit through this “silly film” again).

It was fresh and exciting, it was the best movie I had ever seen and I loved it. But I was innocent and naive.

Obviously I didn’t know that Darth Vader was the father of the annoying kid from Tatooine or that Han Solo was destined to become Indiana Jones. I wasn’t too sure what a Galactic Empire was but I was fairly confident that it wouldn’t eventually be brought down by a tribe of small teddy-bears with primitive hunting equipment, likewise that if someone in Research & Development had actually been paying attention to the design of the Death Star then the fatal flaw in the defence system could have been sorted before it was sent out for space trials.

I didn’t care about the politics, wasn’t worried about the ability to wipe out planets, didn’t understand the significance of the Force and was also blissfully unaware that stormtrooper weren’t the best shots in the Empire – although their failure to even get one shot on target when Luke Skywalker (whinging farm-boy with lusty thoughts about his own sister) is standing on the edge of a shaft with nowhere to go did make me think that perhaps the Death Star wasn’t filled with the best recruits that the Empire had at it’s disposal.

Star Wars; A New Hope was a turning point  and has continued to be a part of my life for the last thirty-five years (I even have a Jawa instead of a gnome in my back garden).

So why I am posting about Star Wars today?

It’s very simple. For the first time since 1977, I am going to experience a Star Wars movie in a way that I have never done before. In 3D. On the big screen.

Granted, it is not going to be Episode IV. It’s not even going to be Episode V (personal favorite of the series, including the moment when Vader cuts off Luke’s hand and then calmly tells him that he is his daddy).

No, George Lucas has decided in his infinite wisdom that he will be re-releasing the entire series in 3D and that the best place to start is with Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace.

Which means two things. Firstly that I am going to have to endure Jar Jar Binks (annoying creature, directly responsible for the collapse of the Old Republic and the creation of the Galactic Empire) in all his 3D glory and secondly, that Anakin Skywalker will still fail to convince me that he grew up to become Darth Vader.

But it’s Star Wars. In a new format. On the big screen. I have to go.

Otherwise my lack of faith would be disturbing.

Postscript : 

I have now returned from watching the movie. The plot hadn’t changed, Jar Jar Binks was just as annoying in 3D (although the kids behind me who talked thorough the first 20 minutes until I moved seats came close) but overall the conversion to 3D wasn’t as bad as I feared.

The podrace sequence was greatly enhanced by the 3D, the speed and the camera angles just looked so much better. Same goes for the climactic light-saber battle between Qui Gon Jinn, Obi Wan and Darth Maul, the picture just seemed a lot cleaner and the depth of field was hugely improved.

Landscapes looked crisper, the scene in the senate had was easier to follow and the final battle was satisfying without increasing any previous wow factor. But for the majority of the film, the conversion was OK without blowing my eyeballs out.

Lucas is going to do this to every film in the series. The prequels already have the advantage of being shot with a fairly high-def camera so it will be very interesting to see what he does with the footage that he cleaned up for the extended editions in 1997 (the twenty year anniversary).

But I still get chills when that 20th Century Fox logo comes on the big screen and the crawling words appear…even in 3D.





One response

10 02 2012

i hate, with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, the manipulations to the original trilogy. i can only assume i’ll hate them all the more with the addition of 3D (i’m not a fan)

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