The release date of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” in 3-D has come and gone, and the news is not so great for Mr. George Lucas. Though the film didn’t exactly underperform in its opening weekend (it took in $22.5 million), three other new films did better. Fourth place: there’s not even a medal for that.
I can’t say that I’m surprised; most adults who have already seen the film probably wouldn’t care to see it again, even in 3-D. And the new generation of young moviegoers was likely distracted by “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.”
As for myself, there will be no trip to the megaplex to watch “Menace” once again on the big screen. But my avoidance of “Episode I” has little to do with midi-chlorians or Jake Lloyd or Jar Jar Binks. It’s because of the most heinous, sacrilegious act perpetrated by The Creator: the CG-ification of Yoda.
Lucas seems very proud of the fact that he was able to replace the Yoda puppet in “Episode I” with a digital version so that he now matches his counterparts in Episodes II and III. Comparing it to the rest of the new trilogy, my opinion of “Menace” had always been, “It’s not good, but at least this one still has old-school Yoda.” Now it doesn’t even have that.
I can accept most of the changes Lucas has made to the Star Wars films over the years, but this one was really tough for me to take. For me, Puppet Yoda is the only Yoda. CGI Yoda can suck it.
Brooklynite Christopher Scheer, a fellow Yoda fan, wholeheartedly agrees with me. He’s a bit biased though – he’s a puppeteer. Coolest job ever, right?
“CGI allows you to do new things, like have Yoda hop around like a badass,” Scheer acknowledges. “But I think that we have lost so much more in terms of Yoda’s expression and presence in the scenes, because it’s this prefabricated, very elaborate computerized illusion instead of puppetry.”
It’s not that Puppet Yoda is any more “real” than Digital Yoda. “You’re talking about whether a puppet that someone has his hand in and is moving around is more realistic than a computer image,” says Scheer. “But the puppet is still performing in real time and there’s still a performer there following his impulses and creating subtleties in the performance. There’s a quality of performance that I don’t think you can ever get with CGI.”
The Puppeteer has spoken, but it’s too late… my beloved Yoda has been dealt yet another blow. As I’ve said in the past, The Creator has every right to tinker with his own creation. But Mr. Lucas, if you’re listening, I wish you’d remember these wise words: “If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny; consume you it will.”
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