Star Wars 3D Will Be a Moment of Truth

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Unlike the most die-hard Star Wars fans, I have no strong opinion on whether Star Wars should be re-released in 3D, but when the conversion is finished and released in 2012, I think it will be a pivotal moment for 3D movies.

This is only partly because of Star Wars' ability to draw a crowd. Of course, Star Wars 3D will bring people to theaters - assuming 3D hasn't been dismissed as a cheap gimmick in two years, and that's not a given - but it will also prove, or disprove, that 2D-to-3D conversion can be done in a way that doesn't completely stink.

Obviously, Star Wars was not originally filmed in 3D. Doing so requires two cameras, positioned carefully in a way that can mimic the vantage point of each eye. The really good 3D movies, like Avatar, use two cameras. Cheap live-action movies, like Clash of the Titans and Piranha 3D, don't bother, because the process is too time-consuming and expensive, and it shows. Michael Bay and James Cameron have expressed scorn and skepticism for 2D-to-3D conversion. Dreamworks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg ripped cheap 3D as Hollywood's newest way to "make a bad movie worse."

Star Wars, we're told, will be different. John Knoll, a visual effects supervisor for Industrial Light & Magic, said in a statement that the 2012 release date is necessary for a quality 2D-to-3D conversion. "It is not something that you can rush if you want to expect good results," he said.

If time is really all it takes to craft believable 3D from a 2D movie, the implications are huge. A successful Star Wars 3D would surely spawn other re-releases - imagine The Matrix, Terminator 2, Aliens, The Road Warrior, Indiana Jones - thereby extending 3D to the classics. A failure would expose the pitfalls of 2D-to-3D conversion on a grand scale, jeopardizing any future efforts.

How fitting, then, that the first re-released Star Wars film will be Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. If Jar Jar Binks isn't the biggest cause of headaches when filmgoers don their glasses, 3D will be in big trouble.

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