Earlier this week we received mixed reports on the future of the 3D re-releases of Star Wars Episodes II and II that were due out in theaters later this year. Websites and news sources couldn’t decide if they had simply been postponed, or if they had been completely canceled.
Several days later, the word on news sites seems to be the latter, even though there has been nothing official on the cancellation from Disney or LucasFilm. In fact, starwars.com only reports that they are being postponed and that new details will emerge at a later date.
This decision comes rather suddenly, and there seems to be a few factors affecting it. The first is that the 3D re-release of The Phantom Menace in early 2012 was very underwhelming, earning only $23 million domestically. Of course, The Phantom Menace is long-held by many Star War fans to be the weakest of the six films and is almost universally panned, mocked, and lambasted.
Another decision point (and one where the language used, quite frankly, scares the hell out of me) is that Disney wanted to cancel the projects so it could “[put the] focus only on ‘rebooting the franchise with three new Star Wars films.” Now, I haven’t been able to find that language repeated on any of the other sites reporting this story, and I hope to god it’s simply a misused turn of phrase and not the seeds of something darker coming with the new Star Wars trilogy. After all, director J.J. Abrams has already rebooted one major sci-fi franchise.
But that’s all beside the point.
The point is that, with this move, I am incredibly disappointed. I was looking forward to seeing all of the films once again on the big screen, and seeing them again for the first time in 3D. This is saying something coming from me. While I may be an unabashed fan of the prequel trilogy (it’s part of the greater story of Episodes IV, V, and VI and here to stay no matter how much venom is spewed over it), I’ve never been a fan of the 3D fad that’s been sweeping Hollywood these last few years like it was the 80s all over again. In fact, when they first announced this venture, I was very, very resistant to the idea. Sure, I’d still be in line for every single one of them, but I wasn’t excited.
Then slowly, but surely, I started thinking about the project. I started to think about all of the great scenes that had the potential to look even more jaw dropping in 3D – The trench run to destroy the first Death Star in A New Hope; the Millennium Falcon’s desperate plunge into the asteroid field to avoid Imperial pursuit in The Empire Strikes Back; the frantic high-speed speeder bike chase through the forest of Endor in Return of the Jedi. And don’t forget the epic battles of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith that could have been absolutely mind-shattering if given the proper treatment for 3D. And what better company to give the treatment to films that weren’t recorded in 3D than Industrial Light and Magic? The more I thought about it, the more and more excited I became about the project. I went with my wife to see The Phantom Menace when it hit theaters and was more than pleasantly surprised and walked out of the theater thinking that it was money well spent. If I didn’t know it was post production 3D going into the movie, I would have never known. It was never gimmicky or unnecessary. It was treated the way it should have been treated, and I actually caught myself noticing details in the background or foreground that I had never seen before.
It was, in a word, magical. Like seeing any of the movies (yes, even The Phantom Menace) for the first time again.
And that’s what I was most looking forward to with the other re-releases in the coming years. The magic of being able to recapture that first time, something that I won’t be able to do again until I have children of my own, and even then, only vicariously through them. That’s what disappoints me the most about the news of this apparent cancellation. I keep hoping that word will come down from Disney or LucasFilm that the 3D re-releases are still on, and that they’ve simply been delayed for a little while. Afterall, what better marketing campaign could Disney have than the re-release of all of these films leading up to the seventh installment of the saga?
But I suppose only time will tell. And until it does, I’ll be sitting here holding my breath as I hit the refresh page over at starwars.com.