Is it Lucas's fault if audiences can't see past the special effects?

Discussion in 'The Phantom Menace' started by DarthHomer, Apr 1, 2002.

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  1. DarthHomer Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 29, 2000
    star 5
    I thought the initial argument that TPM was all special effects/no plot would disappear once people rewatched the movie, but it still seems to be around three years later. For example, an article I read about the Oscars mentioned one of the highlights of recent years was The Matrix beating the "vacuous" TPM in all the technical awards.
    Even the people who don't think TPM was empty usually complain that the visuals were so OTT that they distracted from the plot and characterisation that was there. I have to admit that on MY first viewing of TPM, I didn't really understand the plot either. :) But on every singe viewing afterwards, I gained new insight into the story and the characters' motivations. That, to me, is the sign of a film that will stand the test of time.

    I think part of the problem is that Lucas is layering the prequels with so much information (both visual and plot-wise) that some people can't just sit back and enjoy the adventure like they did with the original trilogy. Personally, I love what Lucas did with TPM. He didn't make a film that explained everything for the non-fans. I know this because I still get friends who aren't big SW fans asking me questions like "So what was that whole Queen decoy thing about?" or "What was with that politics stuff?" TPM jumps right into things and hardly ever pauses to allow the uniniated to catch up.
    I've also heard many compaints about the amount of detail that Lucas puts into scenes, especially the action sequences. We're used to seeing action films that use close-ups and other techniques to draw the audience's attention to the main focus of the action - usually the hero and villain. But Lucas doesn't do that. He paints a broader canvas (especially in the Gungan/Droid battle and the space battle) which allows the audience to choose where they want to look. True, many people just focussed on Jar Jar in the battle, but there is actually more interesting stuff going on in the background. People are even bashing the trailers for AOTC, saying Lucas is just throwing CGI at the screen again. That's not the way I see it. He's just adding more and more layers to give the settings and the action a more epic feel. Maybe some viewers lose focus on the content because of this, but I don't believe Lucas is to blame for that reaction. It's like a painter who adds so much detail to his canvas that not everyone can see the underlying themes. But they're still there.

    I think the "CGI overkill" is actually a continuation of Lucas's documentary style filmmaking that he adopted for ANH (i.e. the matter of fact presentation of otherwordly creatures and locations). He doesn't present each new effect as a "wow, look at me!" moment. Instead, it's just part of the background in the complex galaxy that the characters inhabit.
  2. Patches Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2002
    star 3
    I totally agree with you. TPM was probably the deepest Star Wars film to date. I personally liked the CGI. Without it, Star Wars becomes less its own galaxy and more like are own. With CGI, Lucas was able to create things that were more alien and not possible before. It really made the Star Wars galaxy more complete.

    -Patches
  3. Shelley Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 9, 2001
    star 5
    --For example, an article I read about the Oscars mentioned one of the highlights of recent years was The Matrix beating the "vacuous" TPM in all the technical awards.--
    Jeez, I knew the press was spiteful toward SW (except, of course, when it's exploiting SW for its own publicity purposes) but I didn't know it was that spiteful.

    I find it laughable the way "The Matrix" is portrayed as a technical marvel and somehow "deeper" than TPM. Why? Because it's dark (literally and figuratively)? If any movie is vacuous, it's "The Matrix." I'm not fooled by the pseudo-Zen dialogue such as "there is no spoon." The movie is deeply in love with its own effects. And the effects aren't that great.
  4. Smuggler-of-Mos-Espa Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jan 23, 2002
    star 6
  5. Go-Mer-Tonic Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 22, 1999
    star 6
    You know what's funny? I heard someone complaining that Palpatine's office (in the Clone War trailer) was "too plasticy looking", and things were "too symmetrical to be beleivable as a real environment".

    The punch line is that was a physical set.

    I think some people just have it in for the prequels, and then there are others who are afraid of appearing like a "Lucas Drone" so they go along with that. Or Lucas really has changed his style for the worse, and those of us who think he is on to something are just plain delusional.

    I guess either way is fine with me as long as I get to live in a world where SW movies are actually quite good.
  6. PruneF8ce Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Feb 5, 2002
    star 4
    People are even bashing the trailers for AOTC, saying Lucas is just throwing CGI at the screen again. That's not the way I see it. He's just adding more and more layers to give the settings and the action a more epic feel. Maybe some viewers lose focus on the content because of this, but I don't believe Lucas is to blame for that reaction.

    100% with you. Maybe even 1000.
  7. Smuggler-of-Mos-Espa Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jan 23, 2002
    star 6
  8. Go-Mer-Tonic Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 22, 1999
    star 6
    Don't fret, your icon is 100% real.

    Well except for the stuff outside the windows.
  9. DarthSeti5 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 6, 2001
    star 5
    The Matirx was far too dark visually for me to enjoy the effects. It had to be all dark because to special effects, all the CGI, was sub-par and couldn't be used in regular light areas. They simply couldn't make it work. Look at TPM, a lot of light. Day scenes by the basket full, the Invasion of Theed and Courscant are the two best examples I can think of right now. The Matrix was good, but it certainly didn't deserve an Oscar for effects.
  10. DarthTorgo Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2002
    star 4
    I think what is meant by "no plot" is actually hyperbole. TPM does have a plot, and it could even be a great one if executed well. The problem is that it isn't really executed all that well (at least that is how I see it). I mean, a lot of important parts of the story happen offscreen, or are downplayed a lot, and a lot of the things which are focused on aren't important at all, and IMO, even somewhat stupid. We don't see stuff like the actual invasion of Naboo (you know what I mean, we see the transports heading towards the city, and then, all of a sudden, the city is conquered. If they actually showed it being conquered, it would allow for a lot of dramatic tension and punch, but that was completley sidestepped), or the actual election of Palpatine (although it is alluded to in dialogue), or the fact that Republic is crumbling (again alluded to in dialogue), and many of the character's emotions, and human qualities and traits, are downplayed more than I feel they should be. Instead, we see stuff like Jar-Jar's "hilarious" escapes in the end battle, JAr-Jar getting farted on by an Eopie, and, well, lots of Jar-Jar. We also see stuff like the adventures and trials of a couple of middle-class slaves, monster after monster after monster eating each other underwater, and the fact that some long-haired guy slowly comes to realize that the happiest kid in the galaxy is some kind of force messiah. The long-haired guy dies at the end of the movie, and doesn't even show up as a ghost or disembodied voice in the next movie, and I am ultimately left wondering why the Hell Lucas didn't just have Obi-Wan do all this, as originally wriitten. And the fact that Jar-Jar ( a special effect, the first one with over 90 minutes of screentime, as he was hyped up as) is such a presence in this movie while all these other things are downplayed, well it's not to hard for some people to put 2 and 2 together and say that the effects distracted Lucas from what was important.
  11. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 7
  12. ShaneP Ex-Mod Officio

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 7
    Well said DT.

    Great story, with some poor execution.

    As for the topic, I think that Lucas, as a commercial filmmaker, is responsible for directing his scenes with a point of focus for the audience, characters we care about, and action that advances the plot.

    It's his responsibility as a commercial filmmaker to draw the audience in and not lose them.
  13. Go-Mer-Tonic Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 22, 1999
    star 6
    It's George's job to tell the story.

    He knows why he downplayed the "real" goings on in the film in favor of (apparently) meaningless slapstick/kiddie elements. It wasn't called The Phantom Menace for no reason what so ever (right Hawk?).

    George Lucas (on Episode I): "Nothing is what it seems."

    You have to trust they guy, he's done this sort of thing before you know.
  14. NiktosRule Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    May 8, 2001
    star 4
    No it is not Lucas' fault if people can't see past the special effects. Would you rather of crummy effects? I believe the answer to that question is no. Some people just don't accept changes like that of special effects. The movie industry changes so get over it.
  15. Doo-Kimmie Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Oct 22, 2001
    star 1
    Wow, great topic.

    It's actually nice to hear that someone else thinks that the fx in "The Matrix" were "sub-par" and hidden by dark sets.

    I think that people tend to focus on the effects because that's what they've come to expect in a Star Wars film: ground-breaking effects. And TPM had some ground-breaking effects. But what it also had was a very strong plot that will, I believe, deepen with the next two films.
  16. halibut Ex-Mod and 2015 Celebrity Deadpool Winner

    Game Winner
    Member Since:
    Aug 27, 2000
    star 8
    To play Devil's Advocate here

    Yes it is his fault. People pay money to see his movies, and if the general consensus of the audience is that the FX were OTT, then there has to be some validity in that
  17. PruneF8ce Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Feb 5, 2002
    star 4
    if the general consensus of the audience is that the FX were OTT, then there has to be some validity in that

    if OTT means overdone or whatever, the general consensus of veteran fans are biased toward the PT and completely sided with the OT. Thats the only consensus that can be used on these boards. And if non fans DID think the SFX was overdone, they must not know the spectacle that SW is supposed to be. Just as Many vets dont realize the spectacle that SW is supposed to be but couldnt be realized for the OT, and by this i do not mean colorful themes etc, just good all around SFX.

    So you see, this supposed consensus would be flawed anyway.
  18. hawk Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    May 3, 2000
    star 5
    The effects in TPM look disgusting. They look disgusting in that AOTC trailer too. Can anyone really tell me those clonetroopers don't look like cartoons? If the II and III suck as much as TPM, I am out for good. I'll still watch the classic trilogy but won't waste my time with computer games for movies.
  19. Raincitygirl Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Apr 1, 2002
    star 1
    <<if the general consensus of the audience is that the FX were OTT, then there has to be some validity in that >>

    Halibut has a point.

    <<if OTT means overdone or whatever,>>

    I believe it means Over The Top.

    << the general consensus of veteran fans are biased toward the PT and completely sided with the OT. Thats the only consensus that can be used on these boards. >>

    Well, to join Halibut as devil's advocate, isn't it possible that some of the veteran fans are prejudiced against TPM and biased towards the original trilogy because the originals were better films? I'm not saying that's necessarily true, but I think some vets were disappointed because they felt the OT was superior to TPM. Maybe they felt that the special effects were better integrated into the story in the OT. Now, obviously, not everybody agrees. Some vets adored TPM. But to assert that disappointed vets are biased towards the OT without allowing for a rational basis for their disappointment paints the disappointed vets as unreasonable.

    <<And if non fans DID think the SFX was overdone, they must not know the spectacle that SW is supposed to be. >>

    So if veteran fans thought the FX were overdone, it's because they're judging TPM unfairly in comparison with the OT. And if non fans thought the FX were overdone, it's because they aren't familiar with the OT. That seems to be what you're saying, and I'm not sure that it stands up to critical analysis. The one set of malcontents can be explained away by saying they're too familiar with/attached to the OT, while the other set of malcontents can be explained away by saying they just don't know/understand the OT. In other words, criticism of TPM's effects is about prejudice or ignorance, and there is no valid criticism coming at all from the malcontents.

    I'm not saying that we're necessarily right, but dismissing all criticism as specious is a little insulting to people who feel they have very rational reasons for disliking TPM. I'm not saying that one side is right or wrong, but let's not dismiss all criticism with a blanket condemnation. I doubt TPM-lovers like it when TPM-haters "explain" away their love for TPM by saying "Oh, you just mindlessly accept whatever Lucas feeds you." For either side to dismiss logical criticism of their position is unhelpful to debate.

    << Just as Many vets dont realize the spectacle that SW is supposed to be but couldnt do it for the OT,>>

    I'm utterly confused as to what you mean in this sentence. Could you clarify please?

    << and by this i do not mean colorful themes ETC, just good all around SFX. >>
  20. Go-Mer-Tonic Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 22, 1999
    star 6
    Hawk: "The effects in TPM look disgusting. They look disgusting in that AOTC trailer too. Can anyone really tell me those clonetroopers don't look like cartoons?"

    Go-Mer: They don't look like cartoons.

    Hawk: "If the II and III suck as much as TPM, I am out for good. I'll still watch the classic trilogy but won't waste my time with computer games for movies.

    Go-Mer: I am sure they will be just as good, maybe you should cut your losses now.
  21. DarthTorgo Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2002
    star 4
    <<<<if the general consensus of the audience is that the FX were OTT, then there has to be some validity in that >>

    Halibut has a point.

    <<if OTT means overdone or whatever,>>

    I believe it means Over The Top.

    << the general consensus of veteran fans are biased toward the PT and completely sided with the OT. Thats the only consensus that can be used on these boards. >>

    Well, to join Halibut as devil's advocate, isn't it possible that some of the veteran fans are prejudiced against TPM and biased towards the original trilogy because the originals were better films? I'm not saying that's necessarily true, but I think some vets were disappointed because they felt the OT was superior to TPM. Maybe they felt that the special effects were better integrated into the story in the OT. Now, obviously, not everybody agrees. Some vets adored TPM. But to assert that disappointed vets are biased towards the OT without allowing for a rational basis for their disappointment paints the disappointed vets as unreasonable.

    <<And if non fans DID think the SFX was overdone, they must not know the spectacle that SW is supposed to be. >>

    So if veteran fans thought the FX were overdone, it's because they're judging TPM unfairly in comparison with the OT. And if non fans thought the FX were overdone, it's because they aren't familiar with the OT. That seems to be what you're saying, and I'm not sure that it stands up to critical analysis. The one set of malcontents can be explained away by saying they're too familiar with/attached to the OT, while the other set of malcontents can be explained away by saying they just don't know/understand the OT. In other words, criticism of TPM's effects is about prejudice or ignorance, and there is no valid criticism coming at all from the malcontents.

    I'm not saying that we're necessarily right, but dismissing all criticism as specious is a little insulting to people who feel they have very rational reasons for disliking TPM. I'm not saying that one side is right or wrong, but let's not dismiss all criticism with a blanket condemnation. I doubt TPM-lovers like it when TPM-haters "explain" away their love for TPM by saying "Oh, you just mindlessly accept whatever Lucas feeds you." For either side to dismiss logical criticism of their position is unhelpful to debate.

    << Just as Many vets dont realize the spectacle that SW is supposed to be but couldnt do it for the OT,>>

    I'm utterly confused as to what you mean in this sentence. Could you clarify please?

    << and by this i do not mean colorful themes ETC, just good all around SFX. >>>>

    Raincitygirl, again I agree with your post completely.
  22. Raincitygirl Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Apr 1, 2002
    star 1
    Well, golly gee whiz. Thank you! <blushes, shuffles her feet>

    One final thing to add to my earlier post. Some TPM-bashers are just as guilty as some TPM-gushers when it comes to dismissing a point of view that contradicts them. Personally, I think people should be able to defend their position logically and *politely*. There's no point in everybody hating each other just because they perceived a movie in different ways.

    <and I break into a rousing but off-key chorus of "Give peace a chance". Everybody better be nice and respectful to each other or I'll be forced to sing. Now that's a threat>
  23. DarthTorgo Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2002
    star 4
    <<One final thing to add to my earlier post. Some TPM-bashers are just as guilty as some TPM-gushers when it comes to dismissing a point of view that contradicts them. Personally, I think people should be able to defend their position logically and *politely*. There's no point in everybody hating each other just because they perceived a movie in different ways.
    >>


    Exactly true.
  24. AgentCoop Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 16, 2002
    star 4
    My answer to the question is yes, obviously it is Lucas' fault if his film's story winds up getting submerged under a barrage of special effects. He's not an innocent bystander and these are not home movies. He's the director, his job is to tell the story. One of the main arguments in TPM's defense is always that Lucas was trying to reach a larger audience and that's why it has this tone that is so off-putting to long-time fans. Unfortunately, most non-fans (his new audience) found the film incomprehensible. One of the reasons for this is that you have to sift through the glut of effects that fill every shot just to get at the story. One of the most basic rules of storytelling (and filmmaking especially) is "show, don't tell". TPM fails in this aspect by allowing the story to get lost in the visuals and by relying on expository dialogue to pick up the slack. Who made all those decisions? Lucas.
  25. Go-Mer-Tonic Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 22, 1999
    star 6
    Isn't there a chance that any of you might -try- to see the stuff going on besides the effects? Honestly, I don't understand how people could get so side tracked that they miss the point of the film. What is it you guys want? Would you rather Lucas sit you guys down and explain it to you with a few hand puppets?
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