Episode VII: Who cares about grain?

 

In case you didn’t know or were encased in carbonite, the film franchise known at “Star Wars” is kind of a big deal.

While the news that Ben Affleck will be the next thespian to  portray the iconic character of Bruce Wayne/Batman shattered the Internet, that will be just a footnote compared to when the first real news about Star Wars: Episode VII is announced.

We don’t know any story details so far, since Disney and Lucasfilm struck out swinging this summer, failing to give the public any worthwhile news at Comic Con, Star Wars: Celebration Europe II and even their own convention, D23. While Comic Con is forgivable, the ineptitude required to not have anything bigger announced at the latter two besides that John Williams will be returning to compose the score is astounding.

If you want to be in the good graces of your future audience (who will admittedly see it no matter what), then not having more at the largest concentration of Star Wars fans in the world in a given year is like not letting the Wookie win.

It should go without saying that most of us believed, that as long as he’s capable (he is in his 80s), that Williams would be back. Besides that, fans  were given the biggest dropping of the ball in recent memory.

No title, no release date and not even a announcement that Hamill, Fisher and Ford are returning. It has been 10 months since the news that Disney would be buying Lucasfilm and producing new Star Wars films. Even without a finished script, you’d expect Disney to announce something, especially now with the Affleck announcement and even the amount of information we have about “The Avengers: The Age of Ultron” (a Disney movie) which also comes out in 2015.

 

 

However, when it comes to the few things we do know about the production of Episode VII (some rumor, some confirmed), those few things have me concerned about Disney/Lucasfilm’s mindset about approaching the highly anticipated sequel.

First, it was announced a few months ago that production on Episode VII  would be in the UK, where all six live action films were shot at the likes of Elsree Studios and Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden (Episode I).

I’m not all worried about where the untitled Star Wars film will be shot. If Lucasfilm has a healthy relationship with our former overlords, then they should continue to use it to their full advantage.

I am worried about just how far the production team seems to be going in order to recapture the tone and “magic”of the original trilogy. In a report by Bad Ass Digest, Devin Faraci said he’s heard rumors that J.J. Abrams “is doing tests to try and recapture the exact grain of the film in the original trilogy.” In other words, Lucasfilm is attempting to make the new entries in the saga have the same texture and feel of the original trilogy, which came out 30 years ago.

On top of this, it was announced by J.J Arbams’ regular Director of Photography, Dan Mindel, at a recent event that Abrams would be filming on 35mm film instead of the digital format used on “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith.”

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t truly care what format a movie is filmed with or presented to me in. I can enjoy a digital projection at a state of the art theater and a film projection at a $2 theater just the same. In the link above, it says Abrams has yet to film any of his movies (“Mission Impossible III,” “Star Trek” and “Super 8”) digitally, so it will be more of the same for him.

But it’s the “grain” aspect I can’t wrap my head around, because quite frankly, it reeks of a desperate to placate the angry hordes of fanboys who have spit venom at the Prequel trilogy since the day Episode I debuted 14 years ago. While no one can speak for the story, and I’m honestly just complaining about something equivalent to what brand of paint you’re going to us on the house, the only way you can truly hope to match up with the classic films is through the story, character and how well you blend together digital and practical effects.

 

JJ Abrams Star Wars George Lucas

Part of what is fueling my intrigue with the new trilogy is being able to see elements (locations, characters, aliens) from both the OT and Prequels mixing together. Finally seeing Luke Skywalker walk around the Jedi Temple let alone hearing characters from the OT (who weren’t in the Prequels) simply SAY the word “Coruscant” is enough to make me giddy.

To be play the honesty card again, I do want to see a return to the film making methods of a more civilized age. Not the early 1980s though, preferably the mid-90s when practical models, puppets and animatronics co-existed with CGI in its infant stages. The 1993 movie “Jurassic Park” is still considered the gold standard for striking the perfect balance, and much of the work done by Steven Spielberg in that 20-year-old movie is arguably a better product than much of what we get today. (Other great examples are “Independence Day,” “Star Trek: Generations” and “Men in Black.”)

Since we don’t know anything about Episode VII story wise, there’s no way of knowing how much Abrams and screenwriter Michael Arndt will crib from the world established in the Prequels. But what has made the Star Wars series as a whole so captivating is how for its first 30 years, every installment pushed the film making envelope and redefined how movies were made. George Lucas refused to become complacent with the tools he had and dared to create new ones.

Lucasfilm would not be doing itself or its audience any favors by trying to take the film making process back to the 80s. Abrams recaptured the feel of early 80s films to near perfection in “Super 8” without bothering with “grain levels.”

Hopefully they will be minimally influenced by the angry fans who make up Internet comment sections and recognize, as I believe, that they far outnumbered by those who love Star Wars in all its forms.

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About Daniel McFadin

NASCAR writer for NBCSports.com. Former Sporting News intern. Graduated from IUPUI in Indianapolis with a master in sports journalism in 2014 and from Arkansas State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism. Originally from Lewisville, Texas, now in Fort Worth. Ask me if I like Star Wars. I dare you.
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