Much to the cringing of most die-hard fans of the series, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace has found its way back into theaters– this time in 3D. If there was anyone left pondering whether or not Lucas and by relation Hollywood had any sense of dignity left, your answer has arrived. They do not. This is a direct and transparent attempt at obtaining more of your movie-going money for little-to-no effort. And what’s worse is that it kind of worked.
According to Boxofficemojo.com, The Phantom Menace took fourth place on its opening weekend with an estimated $23,000,000. That brings Episode I’s all time gross to 454 million dollars which is just shy of the 460 million set by its predecessor A New Hope. While 23 million is not necessary an impressive amount of money for an opening weekend, even for a re-release, it does basically ensure that Lucas won’t have to worry about money problems any time soon (not that he had to worry about that anyway).
So who cares? Well… I do… I guess. I have many problems with it, actually. Enough that I don’t know where to start.
Okay. I’ll start with the most obvious.
1. People are paying to see the same thing again.
“YIPEE! Dazzling 3-D! Can you guys relate to me yet or am I still just a terrible, poorly written protagonist?
George Lucas has made several fortunes off of simply re-releasing the Star Wars franchise. He gussies the films up just enough to warrant some traffic and then sits back and watches the money come in. Now, there are two potential reasons for this.
If you want to take Lucas’ own claims at face-value, he is simply doing it for the love of the series. He is trying to perfect his creations with ever-advancing technology. He’s trying to create the original vision of his beloved films that simply wasn’t possible when they were first released. It’s either that or he is an evil man hell-bent on duping the general audience into giving him extra cash for something he made years ago. My money is on the latter.
We have seen Episodes I-3 in the theater already and I’m not sure many people even like the idea of seeing them again. Episodes 4-6 have already run in theaters three separate times with their fourth release starting in 2015 with A New Hope. My problem? We’ve seen this shit already!
2. Gee, let me think. How could these piles upon piles of money be more sensibly utilized?
Using this 2008 Gizmodo snippet as reference, let’s go big and say that the cost of converting a 2D movie into 3D costs roughly $100,000 per minute. That means it cost a bit over $13,000,000 to reformat Phantom Menace into 3D. For the sake of my laziness let’s assume that each film costs $13 mil to redo. You’re looking at $78,000,000.
Know what you could do with that money? MAKE A GOD DAMNED NEW STAR WARS MOVIE. Quit feeding the population the same filth and create something new and wonderful. And I’m not asking George Lucas to direct new Star Wars movies. That’s how we ended up with… well… episodes 1-4.
“For my next act I shall re-release Return of the Jedi with the entire cast played by Ewoks. No, ironically too original. Let’s just throw in a cameo of Jar Jar’s son, Lar Lar, and call it a day. COME ‘ERE MONEY! It’s me, Georgie!”
3. Georgie… er George needs to outsource.
It can be debated that the only good Star Wars movies are Empire and Return of the Jedi. Personally I only like Empire. New Hope was a good starting point but it doesn’t hold a candle to what can be considered the best sequel ever made. Part of the reason they were so good? Other people had input. Lucas should be taking his money and giving the franchise to some of the all-star talent available today. Star Wars directed by Christopher Nolan? I’ll set up camp outside the theater today.
Why not take your $78 million and put it towards the ever-on-hold live action Star Wars TV show we hear so much about? Currently titled “Star Wars: Underworld”, the show is on hold due to budget restraints. Essentially, Lucas is waiting for the cost of technology to reduce so he can make the series on roughly a tenth of the typical SW film budget. Revenge of the Sith cost somewhere around $113 million to make, so you’re looking at 10 million dollar episodes. While I understand that number is daunting, the would be half-way to an AMC Season if they had refrained from this 3D gimmick-fest.
On the subject, rehashing a film in 3D is just the lowest of the low. Personally, I don’t feel that 3D is worth any one’s time or money. It is not a perfected technology and in honesty the televisions and extra-high ticket prices at the theaters result in something little better than the stereoscopic 3D that was popular in the 50s and 60s. It’s nothing more than a cheap ploy to get butts in the seats and honestly I wish it would just go away.
So what does society learn from this re-release of one of the most over-hyped and non-satisfying films of our time? What has become clear to me is that Hollywood doesn’t care. Growing up, movies were fucking ridiculous. Anything had a shot at making it to the screen. Nowadays, the magic of Hollywood is dead.
We’ve somehow allowed all the creative dreamers to be replaced with unimaginative businessmen. Modern studios are only interested in guaranteed returns and they accomplish this through remakes, re-releases and general redundancy. If you look at the three movies that beat Phantom Menace this weekend you have your generic Valentines Day love story at #1, Denzel Washington being his bad-ass self at #2, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson coming into his role as the new Brendan Frasier at #3. They are all formulated movies that were going to give back a higher return the moment they were green lit.
I’m somewhat bitter about all this, as you may be able to tell, but it’s something more people should be bitter about. It’s the fact that these no-effort money grubbers have taken over that we have to deal with the same dozen movie plots. It’s because of them that the whole ACTA/SOPA piracy has become such an overwhelming issue. Despite the series’ abundant amount of flaws, I do love the Star Wars universe. My only problem is that with Hollywood’s current mindset of no-risk, low budget, canned ham movie making, I’m not sure Star Wars could even be made today. That’s a sad thought.
Here’s one change I’m sure we can all agree on.