Digital Bits Editor Bill Hunt, who is, like, the dude when it comes to home theater stuff, posted his review of the Star Wars Blu-Rays today. Hunt sings the same refrain as so many others: While this set is far from what’s best in terms of current technology and many screw ups from the ’04 DVDs have carried over, it’s still the best Star Wars has looked since you paid to see it during Reagan’s presidency. Bill spilled an interesting/exclusive tidbit, however, while kvetching about the CGI revisions Lucasfilm whipped up for these Blu-Rays. To wit:
“For those of you who hate the past changes [to Star Wars] (and the new BD changes), believe me I get it. Let me just say, it could be a LOT worse. Sources well-positioned to know have told me that Lucas actually seriously considered replacing the puppet Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi with the all-digital version, and even had tests conducted to see how it would look. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed…”
Emphasis added. It goes without saying that the “cooler heads” in this situation should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Painting over Frank Oz’s superb puppetry would have been some cold, disrespectful shit. Just thinking about it makes me want to draw giant magic marker penises on every American Graffiti poster I can find.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE THAT, GEORGE LUCAS? IF I JUST DREW GIANT PENISES ALL OVER RON HOWARD’S CARTOONY FRECKLED FACE? YOU WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO STOP ME, YOU COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE IN FRONT OF EVERY AMERICAN GRAFFITI POSTER AT ONCE.
Meanwhile, Howard the Duck is still atrocious, and Lucas does nothing to try and correct that.
Bluray.com posted their take on the Star Wars Blu-Ray set Monday, the final sentence of which finds writer Casey Broadwater triumphantly stating “the films have never looked or sounded better.” Sure, things aren’t perfect—Broadwater is especially disappointed with the soft image quality of Phantom Menace and tags the latest round of CGI updates as “goofy”—but that’s small potatoes since the original trilogy now looks “amazing,” apparently free here of the wild color fluctuations that plagued the 2004 DVDs.
Geoff Dearth of The Digital Fix disagrees on that last point, stating in his write-up (also posted Monday) that the colors of the original films on Blu-Ray are “still far too oversaturated.” “Skin tones vary wildy,” Dearth notes, “looking lobster-pink in one shot and golden brown the next.” Various audio elements also let down, particularly the ADR work heard in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. In the end, Dearth laments that these Blu-Rays “don’t quite do [the Star Wars movies] justice.”
Strangely, Dearth’s review makes no mention of Lucasfilm’s highly contentious digital revisions. Either Geoff is one of those “ain’t gonna dignify that kinda stupidity with a remark” type of guys or this whole “Special Edition” nightmare is the hallucinogenic result of too much plastic in our drinking water. All I’m trying to say is I never noticed Greedo shooting first until around the first time I put my lips to an Evian bottle.
Vadergate: Let’s Pretend To Be Outraged By The One Shot In Phantom Menace Where Yoda’s Still Not CGI
Episodes I-III from the controversial and forthcoming Star Wars Blu-Ray set leaked over Labor Day weekend, which proved not to be such a big deal because A) the prequel films aren’t as universally revered as the original Ewan McGregor-free trilogy and B) reviewers/savvy consumers began receiving physical copies of the set this week anyway. Long story short: Unexpected alterations have been made to the prequels as well, including various color shifts and bits of rerecorded dialogue. The most drastic update was actually revealed last month—Lucasfilm has finally replaced the dubious Yoda puppet they initially insisted on using in The Phantom Menace with a CGI Yoda akin to what was seen in Episodes II & III.
Strangely, I think I support this specific tinker. Lightening did not strike twice for Frank Oz and the Yoda puppet in 1999, and I know several people who were confused by the diminutive Jedi Master’s shabby appearance in that first prequel. “Does Yoda age in reverse?” they all asked me after witnessing Jake Lloyd interact with what looked like a green decaying Bette Davis. I had no answers, so I simply shrugged and turned back to the “F-Troop” marathon I busied myself with the week Phantom Menace came out.
Reports are mixed concerning how well the newly minted digital Yoda emotes, but he definitely looks like Yoda now and not some hairy turd that sprung to life from the briny depths of Chaka Khan’s toilet. Yessir, that’s definitely Yoda the Jedi Master in Episode I now…well, except for the one wide shot where he’s still obviously a child in an ill-fitting Halloween costume:
That’s it. I’m flushing my last box of C-3POs cereal down the toilet in protest. WE WERE PROMISED DIGITAL YODA 24/7.
Of course, there might be bigger controversy over the fact the exceedingly detailed HD picture Blu-Ray presents now allows audiences to see with startling clarity the absolute shit makeup job Phantom Menace’s effects crew did on Darth Maul’s horns. The one legitimately cool part of that movie now tainted by what appears to be small lumps of congealed black glue. I guess fans should just be glad they didn’t CGI a pair of Oakleys on him.
Being the strident Star Wars prequel rebuffer/existence denier that I am, I’m not too invested in whatever other monkeying has gone on in Episodes I, II, & III and don’t plan to report any further details unless something utterly cataclysmic turns up (read: accidental Sam Jackson boner shot, Jango Fett breakdance sequence).
So, if we’re gonna keep talking about this hot Star Wars Blu-Ray mess, we need to come up with a catchier name. I vote for Vadergate. Let me know how you feel about that, Wampa jockeys. Also acceptable: Lucasgate, Jedigate, the Krayt Dragon Rock n’ Roll Swindle.
Phil Tippett (pictured) is a special effects master who’s worked on such incredible pieces of cinema as Jurassic Park, RoboCop, and—ahem—the original Star Wars trilogy. On Wednesday morning, Movies.com spoke with Tippett, a guy who spent countless hours whipping up creatures and spaceships for George Lucas at the dawn of the ’80s, and asked his opinion of the Star Wars creator’s continued CGI brush-stroking over the years.
“They’re shit,” Phil responded, damning all of Lucasfilm’s digital scribbling since 1997 as unnecessary. A not unexpected reaction from the co-genius behind Empire Strikes Back’s still-impressive Imperial Walkers. Tippett, who won an Oscar for his work on Return of the Jedi, also shared a behind-the-scenes story from that film which will surely not garner Georgie Boy any more cool points:
“[Industrial Light & Magic] had a little room where you could get chips and drinks and I was getting something. George and Richard Marquand, [Return of the Jedi’s] director, came in and Richard was saying, ‘George, I don’t totally get where we need to go with this picture.’ And George said, ‘Well, did you see Benji?’ ‘No George, I didn’t see Benji. ‘Well, what we’re doing now is kind of like a cross between Benji and what we did on Empire Strikes Back.'”
Ewok haters: You have a new enemy.