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« Kubrick re-redux | Main | Pixelvision redux »

July 12, 2002

Moviegoing: "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones"

Friedrich --

Did I mention that I dragged the wife to the latest "Star Wars"? Showing at the Ziegfeld, digitally projected. What a turkey, as bad as the last one even if more richly produced. As David Ansen put it in Newsweek, by this point you either buy into the "Star Wars" world almost religiously, or you shake your head and say, basically, go figure. But it was bad, bad, I can't tell you how bad -- as bad as any Ed Wood movie, and considerably less fun. (To paraphrase one reviewer on Amazon, I defy anyone to tell me what the movie's story was.) At least the Ziegfeld's air conditioning was first-class.

All that said, I was there to see what the movie looked like, digitally projected. (The world of moviegoing has come to a sorry pass when perfectly good and willing movie buffs go to a movie just to see what the computers have been up to.) And the answer is.... not bad. After about a month of use, the image was eerily perfect. Not a scratch to be seen, not a dust fleck, not a shimmer or a shiver. And the colors were perfectly consistent all through the movie.

But the image was also dilute and flat -- I muttered to the wife at one point, "If a good celluloid movie image is like snappy fresh-squeezed orange juice, this is like watered-down Tang." It's a decent facsimile of a movie image, but it's sterile, and missing that je ne sais quoi. I think of it, for some reason, as chi -- that Chinese word for something like (so I gather) the life force. Maybe I should just say zing.

For one thing, the digital image just isn't dense enough yet. We moved up to the front-ish part of the theater at one point, and there you really register that the image simply needs more pixels. Darks are especially bad -- things get lost in a kind of dim, apricot-jam murk.

But judging digital projection from a Lucas movie is an odd challenge, because Lucas doesn't ever aim for poetry or even glamor or sex. He wants his imagery to be clean and functional, no matter how spectacular. ("Gladiator," which I didn't enjoy, did have a very juicy look, at least by comparison to the new "Star Wars.") And the digitally-projected image is certainly at this point a perfectly clean and functional image. But that's its problem, too. Watching it is like watching a PowerPoint presentation that happens to move.

I wonder if these problems will be solved as the computers and projectors get better. In other words, are more pixels all that's needed to solve the missing-chi problem? But I can't help worrying that when art gets sliced and diced into discrete digital bits, something falls away -- the connective tissue, the flow, maybe the poetry.

But maybe I'm being sentimental.

Your thoughts?

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at July 12, 2002




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