To 3D or not to 3D?
Before James Cameron's Avatar, I was firmly against 3D movies. They always looked like crap and tended to be more of a distraction than an enhancement to the film. But then Avatar did 3D right. It was stunning. It added to the entertainment value of the movie. I decided to start taking a look at the rash of 3D films that followed... and was disappointed. Unlike Cameron, who developed special 3D cameras, the vast majority of films were "post-processed" into "fake 3D" that were headache-inducing garbage.
But then things started to change.
Even though most films were still not filmed in 3D, they were shot with 3D conversion in mind. The end result just kept getting better and better. Unfortunately, theaters didn't keep up. Faulty equipment and old projector bulbs meant 3D movies were dark and muddy. Even though the films themselves were looking great, you rarely got to see them that way. I gave up on 3D for a second time.
And then I got a 3D television and Blu-Ray player.
After a few "test" 3D films, I became more and more impressed with what I was seeing. After a while, any major movie I had to own was purchased in 3D. It's more expensive, but you often get the iTunes digital version along with it, so it seemed worth the investment.
I mention all this, because I just got Star Wars: Rogue One on 3D Blu-Ray, and while the movie is fantastic, the 3D quality seems to be going backwards. Instead of the stunning 3D conversion we got with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this film is bland by comparison. The 3D is weak, dark, muddy, and even a bit blurry...
Given how much I loved the movie and how high my expectations were after the last Star Wars 3D Blu-Ray release, this was a major disappointment. Especially given that it cost a whopping $30 plus tax.
Before I get to my spoiler-ridden observations, I think it would be helpful to explain just how much I loved Rogue One by putting it into context of the other movies...
Yes. You are seeing this correctly... I put it above the original Star Wars. It's that good. Heavy on awesome special effects, but with a story that doesn't get overwhelmed by them. Flawlessly cast and faithful to the original "world" in just about every way.
If you haven't seen it yet, don't go any further. If you have, my thoughts are in an extended entry...
If you've seen the film... AND YOU HAVE SEEN THE FILM, RIGHT?!?... you know that the big "twist" to Rogue One is that everybody dies. Every single character on the movie poster is killed. That's not something you see every day... especially in a Disney "Family-friendly" franchise like Star Wars. But, when you think about it, this is a completely logical outcome given that the characters were involved in a horrendously dangerous mission against overwhelming odds. Since you know they are successful (that's how Star Wars was made possible) killing everybody was about the only surprise left to the filmmakers.
The story is pretty straightforward. The Empire drafts a weapon designer into service to create The Death Star. The weapon designer's daughter escapes and grows up to be habitual criminal Jyn Erso. When the Rebel Alliance learns that Jyn's father has snuck a message out to an old friend, they enlist her to meet the guy and get it. This results in an insane plan to steal the Death Star plans from a heavily-fortified Empire base.
The results of which leads directly into the original Star Wars.
Probably the biggest controversy for Rogue One was the return of Grand Moff Tarkin and a young Princess Leia thanks to digital special effects trickery. It might not have been such a big deal if it had been radically successful... but, alas... it looks fake. Especially in 3D. The characters look like something out of a very good video game instead of real-life. But what can you do? People grow old and die. If you need an actor's character from decades ago, you can either hire a look-alike (As was the case with Mon Mothma, again) or use special effects. In truth, they're not that Bad for being the latter. And the way they tie Rogue One to Star Wars is pretty important, so I'm going to call it a win.
Somebody who doesn't need digital enhancement is Darth Vader, who is epic in every possible way. Finally... FINALLY... we get to see the Sith Lord live up to his potential, kicking copious amounts of ass in a way that's genuinely frightening. His final scene is worth the price of admission alone.
One final shout-out... the production design on this film is amazing. They had to make the tech seem "old" so the movie looks as though it could pre-date Star Wars, but they also needed to modernize the effect considerably so that Rogue One looks like it was released in 2016. They succeed on all counts. The computer displays... even the Death Star plans... look like they came straight out of Star Wars... but somehow better. They agonized over how to make it work, and it shows (unlike the prequel trilogy, which seemed to be from a separate universe).
So... even though I was somewhat disappointed by The Force Awakens retreading what we've already seen... if Rogue One is any indication of what we're going to be getting out of Disney's take on the material, I'm very happy indeed. Hopefully Star Wars: The Last Jedi will take note... and the new Han Solo prequel will be just as amazing.
Now... where's my Boba Fett movie?