REEL DEAL: Star Wars Episode 1 SPOTLIGHT


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…Twenty-two years ago, these words first flashed across movie theater screens around the world, and a modern legend was born.  Hundreds of millions of people would be introduced to a saga that would touch their lives in ways then unimaginable.  Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and the Special Editions of all three films, became defining events for two generations.  The fast-paced action adventures, set in a new and exciting universe, featured grand design and boundless fun. The films inspired countless of viewers with themes that are universal and timeless: the conflict between good and evil and between technology and humanity, the celebration of heroism, and the limitless potential of the individual.

The Star Wars saga is a modern-day fairy tale reflecting the vision of George Lucas.  Lucas imbued this new myth with pieces of American pop culture, including movie westerns, swashbucklers and – for seasoning – Japanese samurai epics.  Star Wars was also a reaction against Watergate, Vietnam and other periods of domestic turmoil that seemed to undermine the concept of the hero for disillusioned Americans.

With the Star Wars saga, Lucas decided to bring together these recognizable, modern-day threads under the umbrella of the basic mythic structure – the journey of the hero – that has been in place for thousands of years, in hundreds of civilizations.  With its mix of the traditional and the modern, Star Wars’ new mythology thrilled young and old alike.

Now, with “Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace” converted into 3D, Lucas takes us back to the beginning, in which Darth Vader is a hopeful nine-year-old boy named Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi is a determined young Jedi knight.  This first chapter, which is rich in art, design, costumes, architecture and technology, follows Anakin’s journey as he pursues his dreams and confronts his fears in the midst of a galaxy in turmoil.

George Lucas, the pioneering and brilliant filmmaker behind STAR WARS, has overseen the process with his renowned attention to detail. John Knoll, the visual effects supervisor for Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) was responsible for the actual conversion. He served as Visual Effects  Supervisor on all three of the Star Wars prequels. The remaining five STAR WARS films will be converted to 3D over the coming years.

“I'm really excited about the new big screen release of the film.  We’ve worked very hard to get the best quality 3D we could. The big screen experience is so much better than watching it on television. It was designed to put you in the environment and surround you with the sound and the picture. There is   nothing like it. I'm so glad that we were able to bring this whole experience to the next generation. This will be the third generation that will be able to see it on the big screen and when you're young, it’s an overwhelming and powerful event,” Lucas shares on converting Episode 1 into 3D.  

Lucas further shares on challenges faced on converting the movie to 3D - “Originally, I was not a big fan of 3D. I really thought 3D was a gimmick. Then later on I was trying to get digital projectors into the theaters. I was doing a presentation in Las Vegas. Bob Zemeckis and Jim Cameron came up to me  and said: ‘We want to get 3D into the theaters. Would you join us in showing the theater owners that you can do 3D?’   And I said: ‘That’d be good because in order to do 3D you have to have digital theaters. So it would promote my idea of digital theaters.’ Then when I saw the test that we did of STAR WARS in 3D, I realized how great it was and how great it looked.  I became  fascinated with the idea of converting STAR WARS into 3D, which was  easier said than done.  It took us a long time to develop a structure in which we could actually do a really good conversion of a 2D film into a 3D film.”  

“I don’t like things coming out into the audience.  I like everything to be behind the proscenium. I think 3D is an art. You need artists who have a sensibility about where things fit in the frame.   It's very  subtle but it’s very, very important.  We had an advantage because we had experts in visual effects like John Knoll. We had the skill set of ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) and people who had  worked in 3D  on films, including “Avatar.” So we could get a group of people together that could actually do this,” concludes Lucas.

“Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace” in 3D comes to theaters on February 9 from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

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