Filmmaker George Lucas is taking a big risk by tinkering with his classic movies.
As just about everyone saw coming, Lucasfilm is going to convert all six “Star Wars” films into 3D format. (George Lucas himself told “Access Hollywood” that after years of tinkering with the idea of 3D conversion and not being a fan of the format thus far, the success of “Avatar” was “a new impetus to make that happen.”)
The films, starting with “The Phantom Menace,” are expected to come out every year starting in 2012 and ending in 2017, which will be the 40th anniversary of the original “Star Wars” release. Though Lucasfilm says it hasn’t set exact dates for each release), we suppose it’s important that they’re shown in chronological order, because the movies are such cliffhangers now, decades later.
But will they be worth the two-to-seven-year wait? As the slapdash, 11th-hour 3D conversions of “Clash of the Titans” and “The Last Airbender” proved, when you don’t have steady hands at the 3D tiller, it can make a film murky, dark, and nearly unwatchable. Like Lucas, James Cameron, whose “Avatar” started this whole 3D craze by conceiving it as a 3D film from the beginning, has come out against conversions, saying, “They will probably work against the adoption of 3D because they’ll be putting out an inferior product.” (Cameron and Lucas certainly have a history of publicly referencing each other – when “Titanic” stole the biggest-box-office-film-of-all-time mantle from “Star Wars,” Lucas placed a congratulatory newspaper ad.)
There’s evidence to support Cameron’s point: Daniel Engber at Slate recently did a box-office study that, using a chart showing the waning profitability of 3D movies, convincingly argued that audiences are already getting bored with 3D, conversions and otherwise. Lucasfilm’s gambit isn’t just assuming 3D will remain Hollywood’s focus over the next few years; it’s assuming people will still want 3D in 2017, when “Return of the Jedi” is the last of the sextet to be released in 3D.
Lucasfilm certainly has the technological wherewithal to put together the best 3D conversion possible; if anyone can pull this off and still make it look good, it’s them. (They also insist they will take their time to do it right.) There’s still the question of whether this is just another Lucas cash grab from “Star Wars,” with Lucas giving fans the opportunity to pay $15 to see Jar Jar Binks in 3D.
Lucas has already tinkered with the original trilogy to the point of madness; see the famous “Han shot first” reference, for example. When does the original start to become unrecognizable? Though Lucas himself would probably note: The movies aren’t for us adults anymore. They’re for kids. Like we were once.
Someday, if humanity figures out a way to expand into a fourth dimension in which we are all revealed as a intricate construction of inert gases and clumps of hair, George Lucas will probably figure out a way to make money by re-releasing “Star Wars” in new “xenon” format.