InASense, Lost… A Better Episode I That Will Never Be (WATCH THIS!)

There has been a lot of bro-haha over Topher Grace’s edit of the Star Wars prequels, which we, as a public, will never see.

That makes me sad.

This video makes me suicidal:

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The Silver Lining… Episode I: The Phantom Mess, I Mean, Menace

What’s that old saying?  Time heals all wounds.  Well, time might not heal all, but it sure can heal some.

Over the weekend, I went to the show to see the re-issue of Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D, and you know what?  It wasn’t as bad as I remembered, and here’s why:

1) It has two of the best characters in all the prequel story lines.

Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn, which translates to "Half Slice" and "Hole in Chest"

I always maintained that Liam Neeson brought a gravity to the Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn that Ewan McGregor never could to his Obi-Wan Kenobi.  I still don’t know if it’s his size, voice, or demeanor, but when Qui-Gon defies the Jedi Council to stand by his belief that Anakin is The Chosen One, his conviction is convincing.  Everything in the Star Wars universe we know and love hinges on his gut feelings, and we buy (and buy and buy) into it, too.

As for Darth Maul – once a bad-ass, always a bad-ass… until he falls down a pit like other fan favorite, Boba Fett.

2) Jake Lloyd is a much more tolerable Actor! than Hayden Christensen.

If he says "wizards" one more time!

Notice I didn’t say “better.”  He’s a kid, for Yoda’s sake.  What am I gonna do?  Ridicule him like how… he… will… eventually… kill a bunch of Padawans?  I also think this video existing helps his situation:

3) Jar Jar Binks wasn’t as jarring.

He's wearing Pajarjars.

I’ve come to Jar Jar Binks’ defense before (or at least George Lucas’ decision to include him), so it was no big surprise to me that this time around, he hardly annoyed me.  That’s probably because he was a big surprise in the first place, much like the Midi-chlorian debacle (which was nowadays just as negligible).

4) Were there more practical effects and sets in Episode I?

Seemed like it to me.  To all you non-film school students, practical effects means “it’s really there.”  Episode II and III relied heavily on CGI, whereas this one went partially old-school, and the look of the film benefits greatly.  Palpatine’s senate office looks real when he’s in it; Anakin’s Podracer and Naboo Starfighter look real when he’s in them.

There was an article I read (that I don’t feel like looking for) that stated mixing CGI and practical effects tricks the mind much better.  That’s why Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs were so convincing for early CGI.  It even explains why Ray Harryhausen’s clay figures can mess with us – they really exist.

Now I’m not knocking CGI in lieu of practical effects either, and here’s proof:

"There is no try... only do-over."

(For the flip side of this Silver Lining, check out this article on Time Magazine’s site.)

InASense, Lost… Nostalgia In 3D

Consarn it.

There, I said it.

And unlike how I didn’t see The Lion King when it was re-released last summer in 3D, I went and saw Beauty and the Beast in 3D.  And it was worth it.  And I’m probably going to see Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D because of it.  And I’ll explain why.  (And stop using “and” to begin sentences…)

Beautiful and the Beastly

Beauty in the Beast is twenty-one years old.  It can legally drink, and that’s crazy.

While watching it, at least for the first few minutes, I felt an odd mixture of two reactions:

  1. That increasingly familiar optical adjustment to 3D images
  2. And geez, cell animation sure can be sloppy

I noticed a few occurrences in the movie that seemed strange by today’s “family standards”…

  • They showed Gaston kill a duck.
  • They showed not one – but two – men in their boxers.
  • The village girls had quite the buxom bosoms.

Have I been trained to be that politically correct?

Another thing I realized in re-watching the first animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars (when there were only five nominations) was that they showed blood (when Gaston stabbed The Beast).  Pixar’s Up would be the next film to be nominated for Best Picture, and that too had some bloodshed (when Carl hit a construction worker in the head).

(SIDENOTE: Toy Story 3 is the third film to be nominated for Best Picture.  No bloodshed, but do toy guts count?)

So onto why I would bother seeing The Phantom Menace in 3D

It was the prequel I liked best.

There, I said it.

Happy Find… A Long Time Ago, In ASCIImation (Plus Star Wars Saved!)

For those of you uninitiated in the ways of the world wide web, ASCII (pronounced ass-KEE) stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. 

BASICally, this encompasses all 95 printable characters on your keyboard.  A term more commonly used in the early days of home computing, many pieces of art have been created using ASCII (and summarily ink ribboned out through dot matrix printers and onto continuous sheets).  

Until now, I have not witnessed a masterpiece like this:

 

Never upset a WOOCII...

Never upset a WOOCII...

Okay, the art is sub par, but the site is insane (click here).  It’s (almost) the entire first film animated in ASCIIDOS it help erase the memory of the prequels?  Not quite.  But Rob Bricken of the awesomely nerdy Topless Robot has theories about what went wrong (or did everything go as planned?):

I’ll tell you my greatest nerd theory, which I’m still kind of proud of — regarding the midichlorians from Phantom Menace. Like all of you, I was aghast that the Force had suddenly turned into biology and racked my brain trying to explain it. And I did — I became convinced that (George) Lucas had put it in the movie to suck on purpose. I reasoned that Lucas was intentionally making these early Jedi shitty, to which I also ascribed Qui-Gon’s dickish refusal to un-enslave Anakin’s mom — and that Lucas was trying to tell us these Jedi had lost their way with the Force. They had turned it into a science, forbidden Jedi from loving. Had shitty committee meetings instead of doing good. They’d lost their way, and that’s why they could no longer sense the Dark Side when it was right under their fucking noses. So I figured by the third movie, there was going to be a major moment of revelation as the Jedi were getting destroyed, probably by Yoda, about how they’d screwed up, and in that sense, by destroying the corrupted Jedi, Anakin truly was bringing balance back to the Force. And when Luke restarted the Jedi order, he would embrace the spirituality and the compassion that the Prequel Jedi had forgotten, finishing the work.

If you ASCII me, that sounds about right!

The NYC Saga Prequels

The NYC highlights are finito, so now I shall present the problems that almost made the trip impossible.  And to keep up the nerdery spirit, I present them as… the Star Wars prequels, because they’re just as shitty.

EPISODE I
THE FENDER MENACE

To keep it short – I was going to drive my car to New York.  It’s a bit newer than Steve’s car, and it gets better mileage.  On the why to get its brakes checked, an accident occurred that smashed my radiator (and my front fender and headlights).  So much for that…

EPISODE II
ATTACK OF THE PLANS

I’m not sure on all the details, but Steve was on a business trip for the first half of the week.  He was supposed to get back Wednesday (we were leaving Thursday).  Then his job needed him to stay a bit longer.  Then his flights were delayed.  Then his layovers were lengthened.  He made it back barely in time for our night soccer game.  He didn’t get to get the oil and tires on his car checked, like he hoped.  So much for that…

Oh yeah, so that, plus I woke up at 6am on Thursday, hoping to get home early from work in order to nap before soccer.  But instead, a client’s computer blew up on me and it consumed – no, devoured – my day.  I was at the office until 8pm trying to fix it, and to print out all the maps and instructions for our trip.  So much for that…

EPISODE III
REVENGE OF THE SPECTRAL FOX

On the drive to the Big Apple from the Motor City, I was wired.  Steve slept a bit for the first part.  Around 5am, I drank one of those 5-hour energy boosters, and Steve woke up to talk.  All of the sudden, I hit the breaks.  I thought an animal ran in front of the car.  It wasn’t until the shock of it all settled in that I could describe it.

A small red shadowy smokey spectral creature, like a fox, rushed into the road, looked at me, then darted back to the brush.

Needless to say, at the next exit, we switched.  So much for that…

(Not So) Artisitic Representation

(Not So) Artistic Representation

So what’s next?  Perhaps this:

Drunken Recollection… In Defense Of Jar Jar Binks

Where's a wampa when you need one?

Where's a wampa when you need one?

Jar Jar Binks was the beginning and the end of “Star Wars” for most.  It was the clearest sign that George Lucas had lost his damned mind, and the pandering to kids that began with the Ewoks in “Return of the Jedi” (which was fine when I was a kid), had spiraled out of control.  And it wasn’t just the fans that thought this.

According to Wikipedia:

Additionally, Rob Coleman, who was the lead on the Industrial Light & Magic animation team, warned Lucas that there was concern among the team that the character of Jar Jar was coming across poorly for the team and how the character was to be projected. Lucas told him that he especially put Jar Jar in the film to appeal to small children. After that, the issue was dropped.

So after all is said and done – why would I choose to defend Jar Jar?  As he is, I can say nothing.  But of what he could have been – I have to say this.

I believe in George Lucas’ out-of-touch brain, he had grander plans for Jar Jar, besides having him be at fault for giving Palpatine power in Episode II (heaven help me for writing this… all of this.)  I think it was the fan backlash that shrunk Jar Jar’s role.

Even if he didn’t have better intentions for Jar Jar, I believe the series would have benefited from having a permanent sidekick for Anakin.  Jar Jar, the simple creature he was, could have been used to contrast how far into darkness Anakin decended.  Jar Jar could have been his confidant when he Obi-Wan pissed him off.  Jar Jar could have ran interference to distract others when Anakin was hooking up with Amidala.  Then, when the moment arrived where Anakin had chosen his destiny… when he wiped out all those little Jedi kids… how much more powerful would it have been for Anakin’s best bud to walk in and catch him doing such horrible things?  Anakin, realizing how far he has fallen, would then lash out and destroy the mirror of his lost innocence – Jar Jar.

Especially after what Jar Jar would probably have said: “Ani, whatsa yooza doin?”

(If you’re brave enough, there’s a pic of the hotness that is me after jump…)

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