Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Held hostage by this menace
Do you think it might be cool to see the original Star Wars trilogy on the big screen in 3D?
Regardless of your skepticism about 3D transfers, are you tantalized enough by the prospect of the Millennium Falcon warping out of the screen directly into your lap that you'd think it was a shame if it didn't happen?
Then you better get out there this weekend and see The Phantom Menace in 3D.
Until now I'd thought it was a foregone conclusion that all six Star Wars films were returning to the big screen in three dimensions. Just yesterday in a Facebook thread, however, I learned that the fate of the remaining five films hinges on the success of this first one.
That's right, producer Rick McCallum let it slip that if Star Wars Episode I does not do enough box office on its 3D re-release, the remaining five movies will be not be re-released in 3D on the big screen. (This news is not new -- he said this mid-way through last year -- but I didn't learn about it until yesterday.)
Just an idle threat, to force us to go out and see a 3D Jar Jar Binks and a 3D baby Annakin Skywalker? Or a legitimate concern?
I'd be very surprised if George Lucas et al would pass up any chance to make a buck on any part of the Star Wars saga. Of course, the ordinary Hollywood business approach is not to greenlight sequels unless the first movie does well, and some of the same logic applies here. But would Lucas really want to take the PR hit that would come from shelving his remaining 3D transfers, simply because many fans didn't want to shell out $14.75 to see the Star Wars movie many of them considered the biggest disappointment?
And if that's the case, shouldn't we be even more disappointed that he chose to re-release them in this order, rather than the order of their theatrical release as many fans would have preferred? Surely many of us would be treating these 3D releases with more excitement if it were the 1977 Star Wars hitting theaters this weekend, right?
Then again, there's a good chance that The Phantom Menace will in fact make decent money this weekend, and for one or two weekends after that, which would make the whole thing moot. See, Lucas is not catering these 3D releases to the fans of the original movies -- he's catering them to the audience that grew up knowing The Phantom Menace as their first exposure to Star Wars. These are also the same fans who have to some degree grown up with 3D. Sure, 3D has only really taken off in the last couple years. But it stands to reason that the people who love The Phantom Menace are also younger and less jaded about 3D in general, meaning they are less likely to poo-poo these plans than us crotchety old thirtysomethings, who take every opportunity we can to shit on both Lucas and 3D.
But what if that group doesn't turn out either? It doesn't help that The Phantom Menace is hitting theaters on the most crowded release date of the new year. Movies like The Vow and Safe House don't figure to siphon off much of the core Star Wars demographic, but you can't say the same for the family adventure Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Which is also in 3D.
I'm sure some of you reading this are rooting for the box office failure of The Phantom Menace, and don't give a shit what effect it has on other potential Star Wars re-releases. In fact, seeing Lucas eat crow might satisfy you more than anything else that has happened in the movie business for years.
Me? Well, I'm just tantalized enough by that Millennium Falcon jumping out of the screen at me that I have very mixed emotions.
But will I be supporting The Phantom Menace with a $14.75 ticket this weekend?
At least the decision has been taken out of my hands. My father and stepmother are in town until next Monday, so I can't exactly sneak off to the movies by myself. Their presence does give my wife and me the opportunity to see a movie together while they babysit our son, but she's having none of The Phantom Menace, and rightly so. Really, I'm having none of it either ... but that doesn't mean I don't feel some ambiguity about it. So I guess I'm having "almost none" of it.
We'll probably be giving Chronicle our money instead, and that will feel right for my soul.
Besides, if we give The Phantom Menace a big box office, it won't create the necessary conditions for us to call McCallum's bluff.
Let's see how committed they really are to scrapping the other 3D transfers, or if they really were just trying to hold us hostage.