Friday, February 10, 2012

The Phantom Menace 3D

Picture courtesy of Tina Aureus
Lucasfilm gave its employees in Singapore a screening of the Phantom Menace 3D last night.  The 3D effect is pretty strong at first, but then gets subtler as the movie goes on until you almost forget about the 3D.  I'd say it's worth watching if you want to see a Star Wars movie on the big screen again.  It's also a good excuse to dress up like a bounty hunter or a storm trooper.

I was too embarrassed to take a picture with the 501st Legion cosplayers though (this is coming from a guy who dressed up in a banana suit and danced in public in Thailand), so I stole borrowed this pic from one of my coworkers.  We still can't figure out if someone was controlling this R2-D2 unit remotely or if there was a midget inside. Either way, all I know is that I want one.. so if you're still looking for that perfect wedding gift for Carissa and me... this is the droid you're looking for...
I first watched The Phantom Menace in May 1999 when it was released but I barely remember anything about that first viewing.  The second time I watched it a few months later though, was much more memorable. It happened during my orientation week (A long time agO Week) at Rice University.  We were a bunch of hyperactive college freshmen packed into a theater, constantly brandishing our free lightsabers throughout the whole movie. Many  would cheer for characters they liked (Natalie Portman) then jeer and shout obscenities at not-so-likeable characters like JarJar, the Gungans, annoying battle droids, and of course, little Ani.

I don't have such a bad impression of the Phantom Menace (and the rest of the prequels) as most other people do. Yes there were big annoyances like JarJar Binks and Anakin accidentally winning the battle through utter stupidity, Steve Urkel-style (Anakin pushes a button, accidentally blowing up the power station and shutting down all the droids at once.... Oops, did I do that???)  However, there were things about Episode I that I really enjoyed, like Liam "I will find you and I will kill you" Neeson and Darth Maul with his double-sided lightsaber and his epic duel with Quigon and Obi-Wan. Plus, who can forget the exciting musical score, especially Duel of Fates? (which I hum every time I take a dump, just like John Williams does, I'm sure).

More importantly, after working at Lucasfilm for a few years now, I have a better understanding and appreciation of how much effort, blood, sweat, and tears went into this movie.  It pushed the envelope of visual effects for all movies, actually.  As stated in the video above, filmmakers and storytellers were essentially handicapped by limitations of practical effects, real stunts, and sets.  With the rise of CGI, anything that can be imagined can be put into the movie.  And while people complain that there's too much CGI (and like blaming Lucas for it), I think most can agree that when it's done well, it allows stories to be told the way they were meant to be told.  I doubt CGI haters would want to go back to the days of special effects and creatures like these:

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