Showing posts with label The Future of Film-making. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Future of Film-making. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Lucas Effect (Jillian)

Dean of "Heart of the City", voice of a generation... or two.

You may have heard in recent weeks about the Blue-ray release of the entire Star Wars saga. Many fans are less than pleased with this event, as it is just the next installment in the re-re-release saga of George Lucas' films.

I am not rejoicing about the Blue-Ray release - 1.) because of the blue-ray exclusivity, 2.) I have DVDs from 2004 that work just fine, and 3.) I actually think the older, untouched versions of the films say more about storytelling in film than Lucas' recent perfectionistic and revisionist ventures do.

Besides, he's bribing us to give him money. The biggest lure: including longed-for and legendary deleted scenes from the original trilogy. For now, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

In a nutshell, the man has not learned to stop meddling. Last year saw the thirty year anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. In thirty-one years, Lucas has tweeked, subtracted to, added on, "improved" and "enhanced" the original Star Wars Trilogy from "fixing" outmoded special effects to adding dialogue to adjusting (unnecessarily) threads of the story that would later be added in the "new" trilogy. Mine was the "Han Shot First!" generation, referencing the scene in the first film where Han Solo shoots thug Greedo dead in the cantina; in 1997 Lucas toyed with the image, insinuating that Greedo actually shot first, and Han's act was self-defense. This was just one of many examples - small, yes, but enough to keep tempers flaring to this day. Why? Because once Star Wars came to the theatres, it was complete; it became someone else's story, too.

In the 1997 release, he said in a documentary that "Someone once said movies aren't completed, they're only abandoned." As I writer I understand this attitude completely. I myself am guilty of second, third and fourth guessing my work, wishing I could go back and add X to W, Y and Z. It's that perfectionistic streak we can never completely abandon, but never fulfill. Lucas, unlike many of us, actually has the money (and the legal right) to go in and do so... and so he has. Several times. You may have heard he's aiming for a 3D release somewhere in the future. Heaven help us.

Unanswerable questions:

* Is his goal to revamp/update Star Wars actually achievable?
* Can the man employ his energy for new creative ventures? (Besides Indiana Jones?)
* If you write a story, complete it to the best of your present abilities, and years, decades later go back and graft on dialogue, scenes, new characters, etc is it the same story?
* When will this possibly stop?

Please, Mr. Lucas. Please stop. This hurts.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Future of Story-telling (Jillian)

I grew up on the Star Trek: The Next Generation notion of the holodeck, literally a room where you could create/recreate your own worlds, your favorite stories as a form of recreation or escape. I enjoyed the idea of the characters of the show transporting themselves into Sherlock Holmes (does anyone remember which characters??) or Shakespeare - literally to interact with well-loved stories instead of just reading them or just merely watching the DVD.

These days, I am not so sure that's a good thing. This comes up as I'm reading an article on possible sequels for James Cameron's juggernaut 3D film Avatar. The producer for Avatar, Jon Landau, has said recently: "I don't think we will ever make another 2D film. Why would we make a movie in black and white if we have color? I think ultimately all movies are going to be in 3-D."

Really? All movies in 3D? I beg to differ. I don't deny what 3D films have brought to the movie-making industry - yes, it is innovative, clever and cutting-edge. But does it really tell the story better? Having seen Avatar, I can answer "No," with complete confidence. While the visual effects were breath-taking, the story was allowed to hover on the level of cliches and stereotypes... the same themes of the evil Americans plotting destruction of a Nature-worshipping native culture. Critics had every right to snicker and mutter "Dances with Wolves in space."

With this in mind, I cannot envision the future of film as an art form to be a very good one. Film is story-telling. When the writing is poor, everything else about the film suffers. But that doesn't seem to matter to an industry that sees dollar signs instead of innovations of the human spirit.

What I enjoyed about Avatar's technology was hardly the 3D eye candy. It was Cameron's ability to digitally create Pandora and recreate the actors to fit that world. Like turning Andy Serkis into Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, the doors are opened to turning actors into characters or create landscapes, animals, epic battles that couldn't otherwise be rendered with stunt-doubles and models. 3D is a sugar coating that makes all of those things feel as though they're surrounding you. But objects jumping out at you from the screen isn't anything more than a distraction and a catalyst for a headache. If you happen to be sitting in the middle of a theatre and the 3D glasses don't bother you... or if you don't have any conflicting vision problems, perhaps this isn't such a problem.

Avatar's severe story-deficiencies remind me of George Lucas' prequel Star Wars Trilogy. The script was poorly developed, and a green-screen created backdrop of a galaxy far, far away could not save the story. It was a profound disappointment and made me cling to the original trilogy all the more strongly. The prequels look more like a computer game than a film with the actors feeling like puppets rather than players. And honestly, I want a story, not a headache. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way. 2D, Mr. Landau and Mr. Cameron, isn't a technological backwater; it is a medium - a canvas - that works and has worked for decades... because nothing can ever quite be the holodeck.

That is a good thing. Our personal imaginations need not be superseded by someone else's delusions of grandeur. Eye-candy is seems just an excuse not to be able to think and create for oneself.


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