Mark Monahan questions George Lucas's recent announcement that his Star Wars films will be converted into 3D
George Lucas’s decision to convert all six Star Wars films into 3D has an inevitability to it that could crush a horse. How, after all, could this inveterate tinkerer resist the opportunity to tinker further with his sci-fi hexalogy?
As it happens, it was only recently that I was watching the very first Star Wars film on DVD and inwardly bemoaning all the hideous little CGI embellishments that he bolted on a few years ago. His argument was that had the new digital technology been available back in the day, that is how he would have done it – and yet, in technical terms, there was very, very little wrong with the 1977 film in its original incarnation. The then-visionary Lucas and his extravagantly talented team had ensured that was the case by pouring infinite love and care into every aspect of the filmmaking process, and the last thing Star Wars needed was a slew of Rentokillable little digital creatures goofing around Mos Eisley space port.
Which takes us back to the present, and to Lucas’s bid for the third dimension. Is the conversion likely to improve the six films, at all? In fairness, it will, in all probability, be done with Lucas’s time-honoured forensic attention to technical and visual detail, and the result is likely to have some of the immersive, fairground-ride quality of James Cameron’s Avatar. And, as for the last three films, they are such sow’s ears that it’s tricky to imagine that anything could possibly make them piggier. So galumphing are they as pieces of cinema that you might as well try to wring a few superficial thrills from them, even if the prospect of coming to close quarters with a 3D Jar-Jar Binks is enough to make many a sane person rip their own head off in horror.
But what about Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and the admittedly rather dwarf-tastic Return of the Jedi? Yes, it could well be fun to feel as though you are attacking the Death Star with Luke Skywalker and chums, or whatever, but this fresh technical makeover smacks of gilding an already over-gilded lily. Besides which, I wonder if – on the old principle that once you start polishing a car, you can’t stop until you’ve done the whole thing – the extra dimension will somehow unearth ’70s and ’80s visual/technical shortcomings that will then also need to be fixed. In other words, mightn’t the finished product wind up being even further still from the original, terrific films?
Time will tell. And the most infuriating aspect of the whole thing, of course, is that however sceptical one may be about this particular enterprise of Lucas’s, curiosity will inevitably win out, and at least one of them will demand to be seen. But if only Mr L could bash out a new, 2D feature film with even remotely three-dimensional characters. Now, that would be something ...