— Jeff Daniels as Harry Dunne from Dumb and Dumber, 1994
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June 15, 2009
For God’s Sake The Problem With The Star Wars Prequels Was Not Green Screen
— Posted by John Campea
[Rant] Anyone who has read or listened to The Movie Blog for any period of time knows that I am a Star Wars fanatic. Seeing the original with my mother in the movie theater is my earliest childhood memory. My first pet cat I named Luke Skywalker. I played the Star Wars Role Playing Game (and not the crappy D20 version either… I played the TRUE D6 West End Games system. Gotta love the wild die!).
Go ahead… ask me how many rebel ships attacked the first Death Star. Bet you don’t know off the top of your head. It’s 30 bitches! :)
The point is, I love Star Wars. However, as most of you also know, I (like most people on the planet) were deeply disappointed with the prequels and that piece of shit animated movie they’ve put out over the last few years. Now all three prequesl had their moments… and I even liked Revenge of the Sith ok… but come one… this is STAR WARS!!!! The greatest film franchise in the history of cinema! It should have been so much more. So much better. So much less Jar Jar.
But one of the things that really bothers me in the anti-Star Wars wave that’s been going on the last few years (much of which is quite deserved) is the nonsensical way that a lot of people have blindly pointed the finger at the technology as being the problem. I’ve heard so many people lament and whine over the years about how Green Screen ruined the Star Wars franchise. That somehow modern technology take creativity and imagination OUT of the filmmaking process. That computers sapped the imagination out of Star Wars.
This (to put it in technical terms) is absolute bullshit.
This picture below has been making it’s way around the web today, supposedly illustrating the reason why the new Star Wars films were so much weaker than the originals. People have been commenting on the picture about how it symbolizes everything that was wrong with the prequels too… which is ridiculous.
Is anyone going to look at me with a straight face and tell me that the Pod Race scene in The Phantom Menace (one of the few good scenes in the movie) would have looked better with models instead of CGI? Not a chance. Can you say anything LOOKED better in the original movie than they did in the prequels? No, obviously not.
Oh sure, the nostalgic side of us would have liked to see the old Yoda puppet waddling around, but let’s call a spade a spade. The CGI Yoda looked and moved and “acted” a whole lot better than the puppet did. Don’t get me wrong, the puppet was fine back in the 80’s when that was the best option. But the CGI Yoda moved and breathed, had facial expression and an actual performance. It was, in every way, shape and form a better way to do Yoda.
But here’s the problem… a lot of people seem to confuse WHAT they decided to do with Yoda, with HOW they decided to do it. Using CGI and green screen was by far the superior way to do Yoda… but that’s just the tool. WHAT they decided to do with Yoda (his words, his actions) has nothing to do with the tool. The tool just offers options and the means of carrying out the WHAT.
Yes, there is something beautifully nostalgic about the old models they used to create the Star Wars universe, but they were the tools of the time. The magic of Star Wars wasn’t the tools. It was how they used the tools, the story the tools were used to tell. The imagination didn’t come from the tools, the tools just gave Lucas’ imagination an outlet for making it to the screen.
The tools today have changed, advanced, given filmmakers more options and FREED their imaginations to go beyond previous limitations. But like before, the imagination does not COME from the tools, nor do the tools create or limit the story. They are simply the vehicles used by filmmakers to express their creativity and imagination.
If puppet Yoda said or did something stupid, it wasn’t because he was a puppet. If CGI Yoda said or did something stupid, it wasn’t because he was CGI. He just LOOKED better saying or doing the stupid thing than he would have as a puppet.
It frustrates me a little bit when I hear some of the exact same people who lament the use of green screen and CGI technology in Star Wars then turn around and talk about how much they loved the new Star Trek (special effects done by ILM by the way… Lucas’ company), or talk about how fantastic James Cameron’s new film will be (all using heavy fx technology). How do you think they made Star Trek? Lord of the Rings? Transformers? Spider-Man? X-Men? Harry Potter? Jurassic Park? Etc. etc. etc.
Anyone who watched the very impressive DVD features for the Star Wars prequels know just how much physical visual effects and models were still used for the films. Those arts are still there… but some things call for the use of newer tools.
The bottom line is this: If there are weaknesses and mistakes in the Star Wars prequels (there are tons of them), then the fault does not lay with the tools Lucas decided to use to tell his story. The problem was the story and the story teller himself. The problems with the prequels are legion… but the tools used in the prequels are not one of them.
So let’s not put the blame (even symbolically) at the feat of technology in the film business. Quite the contrary, if you enjoy summer blockbusters or any modern effects heavy film, you should be on your knees and thanking whatever god you worship for the advances George Lucas and his companies have made in the areas of technology for film over the years. Bad effects don’t make good movies, great effects don’t make good movies. Good movies make good movies, the tools just help the process. [/Rant]
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