The new 3D version of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones was supposed to be released to US cinemas this September, with Revenge of the Sith following shortly after, but the purchase of Lucasfilm by Disney and their plans for an Episode VII appear to have gotten in the way of this release and it’s been put on hold for the time being.
But those attending Star Wars Celebration Europe have the opportunity to see the 3D version of Attack of the Clones this weekend, at one of just three screenings. I was at the first of those screenings, which only just finished as I start writing, and I have a few things to tell you about it.
It’s worth mentioning before I go any further that the film was projected under less than optimum circumstances, in what appeared to be a general hall converted for this sitting. It was long and narrow with no rake at all, and there was a lot of light leaking in from various angles. Any issues that I saw were most likely made more extreme as a result of the screening circumstances, but I’ve no doubt that the imperfections were only intensified by the conditions, not created by it.
The primary concern of those supervising the 3D conversion appears to have been mostly with regards to the depth of the 3D image, the positive parallax. They have pushed this very far in a number of scenes and there are a great deal of sequences in which rooms that once seemed reasonably large now appear cavernous, stretching far back into the distance.
This effect often splits the characters within the scenes, with one appearing in the foreground slightly and one appearing very far in the background. This is particularly evident in a couple of scenes in which Anakin, played by Hayden Christensen, and Padme, played by Natalie Portman, share their more serious conversations. It’s actually quite effective in separating the two characters, enhancing the division already suggested by the blocking.
One unfortunate result of this extra depth in certain scenes, though, is that it also occasionally highlights some of the more unconvincing looking interiors, the depth of the sequence drawing one’s eyes to particular objects and details in the background that don’t look as convincing as those objects in the foreground. The film was, obviously, conceived for 2D so these are issues that have transpired because of the conversion.
Action sequences are a very mixed bag with the gladiatorial sequence and ensuing battle being the main highlight. With colours and brightness levels being relatively similar between objects and backgrounds there are none of the ghosting issues that plague darker scenes, such as the chase through Coruscant.
In that sequence there are a number of issues with crosstalk, particularly with the vehicles whizzing past in the background. Even when stationary they still often bleed at the edges and ghost quite badly. There is even one moment when Anakin is flying fast through the night sky in pursuit of the assassin where you can see duplicates of the ships in the background. Your eyes might struggle and it could become unpleasant to watch. It’s a shame as some action beats in the film do work rather well in 3D.
In addition to the aforementioned battle, the scene in which Obi-Wan, played here by Ewan McGregor, pursues Jango and Boba Fett is another highlight, with the added depth making the sequence more dynamic. Despite the sequence being a chase the cuts are not too quick and the shifts between spatial depths are not too extreme between edits so there’s little to no struggle or strain for the viewer.
Quick cuts, fast action and bright lights on dark backgrounds generally cause a lot of issues, especially with ghosting, so the scenes set on Naboo between Anakin and Padme work reasonably well without any issues, but they are also arguably the weakest and most cringeworthy scenes across the three prequels in other respects.
3D can’t help Hayden Christensen’s stiff and sometimes agonising line deliveries. As he delivers one awkward line after another he is surrounded by some rather beautiful backdrops, though, and these certainly pop when given the 3D treatment. My least favourite scene in all of the prequels is somewhat more pleasant when the three waterfalls in the background can draw my focus away from the dialogue.
This screening of the film did expose some real issues, and the ghosting in particular is incredibly bad at times, but I must stress again that this was not under optimal circumstances. I am keen to see this version of the film once more but with better projection and in a proper screening room, though on the basis of what I saw tonight, there are more issues with this conversion than benefits.