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- Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 
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Lucasfilm Ltd. announced yesterday that the Star Wars movies will be converted to 3D to be shown in theaters, starting with Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace to be released in 2012.
The movies were, of course, shot in 2D, so they will need to be converted to 3D by teams of people supervised by famed special effects house Industrial Light & Magic (which is owned by Lucasfilm Ltd., which is owned by George Lucas, who created the Star Wars saga).
"Getting good results on a stereo conversion is a matter of taking the time and getting it right," said John Knoll, Visual Effects Supervisor for Industrial Light & Magic. "It takes a critical and artistic eye along with an incredible attention to detail to be successful. It is not something that you can rush if you want to expect good results. For Star Wars we will take our time, applying everything we know both aesthetically and technically to bring audiences a fantastic new Star Wars experience."
While Avatar 3D blew audiences out of the water and that positive reaction got studio execs so giddy with excitement that it seemed for a while that every new movie released was going to have a 3D equivalent, the results haven't lived up to Avatar's achievements. Avatar was conceived and created with the intention that it would be shown in 3D. After-the-fact conversion doesn't always exhibit the same impact and amount of immersion, often looking more like you're watching a movie through a ViewMaster.
The release of Clash of the Titans 3D earlier this year was widely panned by critics and audiences alike for having unimpressive 3D effects, and our featured critic has recommended that audiences see some 3D movies in 2D instead because the 3D was more gimmick than gold. The excitement over 3D has faded among audiences somewhat, probably due to the double-hit of less than stellar 3D work and the sting that comes from paying an upcharge for the 3D variant of a movie, that has just been converted from the standard 2D release.
So, what of the Star Wars movies in 3D?
While I'm sure that some fans will moan and grind their teeth at the very thought of the Star Wars movies being tinkered with (especially the original trilogy), Geoge Lucas has been tinkering with those movies since Star Wars: A New Hope - Special Edition was released in 1997. From that point on, Greedo shoots first, planets blow up with massive shock waves, and all sorts of miscellaneous additions were made to the 1977 original.
If he wants to continue to tinker, that's his perogative. Maybe these movies mean enough to him that the end result will be impressive, and the rest of the industry will be shown what can be done if someone actually cares more about the end result than they do about milking audiences for a 3D upcharge. Maybe.
The official Star Wars site features a video interview with supervisor Jon Knoll as he talks about the challenge he faces with converting The Phantom Menace into 3D. Especially heartening is his comment that "...really getting good results on a stereo conversion means a lot of attention to detail, and taking the time and getting it right... and we're going to take the time to get it right." Let's hope so!
What do you think?
Are you looking forward to seeing Anakin in a 3D pod race? How do you feel about Jar Jar in three dimensions? Let us know by leaving your comments below!
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