I watched a little bit of Star Wars Episode I the other day. It’s been a couple years since I’ve seen the film and I had begun to wonder if maybe I’ve been mocking it unfairly. I decided to watch it again and find out if I had been mocking it unfairly.
There are a lot of things I don’t really like about the newer Star Wars movies. It’s not just Jar Jar Binks, complicated gambling and betting on Tatooine, and lame jokes that ruin Episode I. It’s not even how pathetic the battle droids are. In one scene, the head of Queen Amidala’s security looks into a room and says, “there’s too many of them!” Qui Gon looks and calmly replies, “They won’t be a problem.” …Oh, okay, there goes any tension the ensuing fight scene might have… No, one of the biggest bummers of Episode I, II and III was that Lucasfilm replaced plot and story with CGI effects.
In the original trilogy George Lucas had no money, but to make anything look convincing he had to film all over the place, he had to come up with some way of having great space battles and epic lightsaber fights without the convenience of making the whole thing up in a computer. If you ever wondered why the Death Star, Star Destroyers, ships, and fighters looked so real in the original trilogy, it’s because they were real.
…Obviously they weren’t real to the extent that you and I could climb in an X-Wing and go off and fight the Empire ourselves, they were all real models that had been put together by hand. Nearly every explosion was a real explosion made in some workshop. Also, all the aliens were real.
Did you ever notice how fake Yoda looks in Episode II and III? It’s because he became a CGI. Before that, he had always been a puppet, a real thing. CGI continues to improve at an impressive rate, but to this day you can still tell when something you are seeing is real or if it is computer generated. This is more significant than you would expect.
With CGI, big name producing companies can churn out Transformer-esque action romps quickly and relatively cheaply without investing too much in the endeavour. To put that in perspective, the trench run that Luke flies through in New Hope took thousands of hours to piece together. The original trilogy showed that time and effort pays off. The prequel trilogy departed from their original success.
Let’s see what George Lucas has to say about special effects…
Wait… seriously? This coming from the guy who spent 45 minutes of Revenge of the Sith on a lava planet fighting an unnecessarily long lightsaber battle with little to no plot value? hmm… Anyway, CGI will always be a serious risk factor in movie making because it’s ability to make things look cool could overshadow the ability to make things look real and the key to any story: plot. This is important to know because we already lost at least one film franchise to the dark side.