For God’s Sake The Problem With The Star Wars Prequels Was Not Green Screen

[Rant] Anyone who has read or listened to The Movie Blog for any period of time knows that I am a Star Wars fanatic. Seeing the original with my mother in the movie theater is my earliest childhood memory. My first pet cat I named Luke Skywalker. I played the Star Wars Role Playing Game (and not the crappy D20 version either… I played the TRUE D6 West End Games system. Gotta love the wild die!).

Go ahead… ask me how many rebel ships attacked the first Death Star. Bet you don’t know off the top of your head. It’s 30 bitches! :)

The point is, I love Star Wars. However, as most of you also know, I (like most people on the planet) were deeply disappointed with the prequels and that piece of shit animated movie they’ve put out over the last few years. Now all three prequesl had their moments… and I even liked Revenge of the Sith ok… but come one… this is STAR WARS!!!! The greatest film franchise in the history of cinema! It should have been so much more. So much better. So much less Jar Jar.

But one of the things that really bothers me in the anti-Star Wars wave that’s been going on the last few years (much of which is quite deserved) is the nonsensical way that a lot of people have blindly pointed the finger at the technology as being the problem. I’ve heard so many people lament and whine over the years about how Green Screen ruined the Star Wars franchise. That somehow modern technology take creativity and imagination OUT of the filmmaking process. That computers sapped the imagination out of Star Wars.

This (to put it in technical terms) is absolute bullshit.

This picture below has been making it’s way around the web today, supposedly illustrating the reason why the new Star Wars films were so much weaker than the originals. People have been commenting on the picture about how it symbolizes everything that was wrong with the prequels too… which is ridiculous.

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Is anyone going to look at me with a straight face and tell me that the Pod Race scene in The Phantom Menace (one of the few good scenes in the movie) would have looked better with models instead of CGI? Not a chance. Can you say anything LOOKED better in the original movie than they did in the prequels? No, obviously not.

Oh sure, the nostalgic side of us would have liked to see the old Yoda puppet waddling around, but let’s call a spade a spade. The CGI Yoda looked and moved and “acted” a whole lot better than the puppet did. Don’t get me wrong, the puppet was fine back in the 80’s when that was the best option. But the CGI Yoda moved and breathed, had facial expression and an actual performance. It was, in every way, shape and form a better way to do Yoda.

But here’s the problem… a lot of people seem to confuse WHAT they decided to do with Yoda, with HOW they decided to do it. Using CGI and green screen was by far the superior way to do Yoda… but that’s just the tool. WHAT they decided to do with Yoda (his words, his actions) has nothing to do with the tool. The tool just offers options and the means of carrying out the WHAT.

Yes, there is something beautifully nostalgic about the old models they used to create the Star Wars universe, but they were the tools of the time. The magic of Star Wars wasn’t the tools. It was how they used the tools, the story the tools were used to tell. The imagination didn’t come from the tools, the tools just gave Lucas’ imagination an outlet for making it to the screen.

The tools today have changed, advanced, given filmmakers more options and FREED their imaginations to go beyond previous limitations. But like before, the imagination does not COME from the tools, nor do the tools create or limit the story. They are simply the vehicles used by filmmakers to express their creativity and imagination.

If puppet Yoda said or did something stupid, it wasn’t because he was a puppet. If CGI Yoda said or did something stupid, it wasn’t because he was CGI. He just LOOKED better saying or doing the stupid thing than he would have as a puppet.

It frustrates me a little bit when I hear some of the exact same people who lament the use of green screen and CGI technology in Star Wars then turn around and talk about how much they loved the new Star Trek (special effects done by ILM by the way… Lucas’ company), or talk about how fantastic James Cameron’s new film will be (all using heavy fx technology). How do you think they made Star Trek? Lord of the Rings? Transformers? Spider-Man? X-Men? Harry Potter? Jurassic Park? Etc. etc. etc.

Anyone who watched the very impressive DVD features for the Star Wars prequels know just how much physical visual effects and models were still used for the films. Those arts are still there… but some things call for the use of newer tools.

The bottom line is this: If there are weaknesses and mistakes in the Star Wars prequels (there are tons of them), then the fault does not lay with the tools Lucas decided to use to tell his story. The problem was the story and the story teller himself. The problems with the prequels are legion… but the tools used in the prequels are not one of them.

So let’s not put the blame (even symbolically) at the feat of technology in the film business. Quite the contrary, if you enjoy summer blockbusters or any modern effects heavy film, you should be on your knees and thanking whatever god you worship for the advances George Lucas and his companies have made in the areas of technology for film over the years. Bad effects don’t make good movies, great effects don’t make good movies. Good movies make good movies, the tools just help the process. [/Rant]

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91 thoughts on “For God’s Sake The Problem With The Star Wars Prequels Was Not Green Screen

  1. I completely disagree with you. The problem with the prequels was not greenscren, but BAD greenscreen and also BAD CGI. I can watch today Jurassic Park and The CGI look fantastic, the prequels look like crap. The original Star Wars movies looked much better in my opinion because one simple fact, they seem tangible. Yoda could have been more expressive or walked better but you had the feeling you were there and that you could touch it, is was tangible. Almost none of the droids, creatures, or environments on the prequels look real. CG Yoda looks like its…CG. Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One, don’t. Both are CG, one bad CG one good. The abuse of CG scenery and greenscreen even make the real characters look bad and adds up to a global fake look.

  2. ok, the problem with the green screen technology in the prequels is the fact that it is not used appropriatly. Subtle changes in the background can add a texture and depth to a scene, but in a scene where 98% of the things we see are fake it starts to not look real and just seems stupid. Take the halls of the jedi temple for example. Every single thing in there is CGI. The Floor, the background, everything, It looks like the actors are walking on air because they would not take the time to make the floor with actual carpets and buling sets. It creates a sterile environment that you cannot believe is a temple that is thousands of years old. CGI can help a movie verty much but when ued at times when it is unecessary it can make a film look fake and stupid. That is the problem with the CGI in the prequels.

  3. George Lucas said it best: “A special effect is just a tool…”

    The problem with today’s movie-making(and especially George Lucas) is that people design their movies around the special effects in order to impress the audience into seeing the film. Special effects should be there when they’re needed, not looked at as an assumed part of these types of movies.

    The problem with the prequels is that the creative focus was so heavily based on graphics and visual action, Lucas never bothered to employ other techniques to tell his story. The green screen ends up being the star of the movies. The script is so poorly written that it drags the actors’ performances down. This leads to them being overshadowed by the amazing visuals going on around them. While they’re standing still and talking about whatever, I find my eyes are drawn away from them to the highly animated CGI backgrounds in almost every scene. These movies are literally a series of computer animated action scenes punctuated by a few live action dialogues. The story is so incoherent, you could reorganize the scenes at random and it would have the same impact.

  4. WTF?!!!There were already Blue Screen back when the original trilogy was shot (hey do you know how they could have pulled together thousand of models for Death Star II Battle without blue screen and Computer Motion Control?) (not to mention the holographic Death Star plans were Primitive CGI at the time)!!!!

    What’s the point of this fuck*n rant?!!!By the way, you can make a CGI looked like a model with depths and way more possibilities than all the things your nostalgia is blinding you about…Prelogy s*cks primarily by its poor dramaturgy and dumb acting direction. Nuff’ said

  5. I have not read all the above comments so I apologise if this has been covered but the problem is not GREEN-SCREEN. The problem is that instead of using good writing, ingenuity and creativity George Lucas has gotten used to saying “We’ll put some CG in later” thinking that that can replace good writing and acting.

  6. This is an old post but I’m bored. The title should be “the problem with the prequels is not JUST green screen”. The main point of John’s article is that yes the prequels sucked, but not because of green screen. Uh, yes they did suck because of green screen. But they also sucked because of the screenplay, cast, and direction.

    Where I work the prequels are playing on tv’s all day. The CGI is NOT holding up well. Looks more like a cartoon than live action.

    I don’t blame Lucas at all for trying to push the technology envelope for his baby. Too bad it didn’t work out for us fans though.

  7. People aren’t really saying that GL made inferior stories because he had access to better tools. They’re saying he got distracted by the new, shiny tools and forgot to tell a story. Big difference.

  8. You’re missing a key factor about green screen in this discussion, John: it limits what the camera can do, and constricts actor’s performances (witness Terrence Stamp having to act with a stick one day of shooting because Natalie Portman had the day off – can you honestly say greenscreen doesn’t matter in circumstances like that?).

    Part of the charm of the original trilogy is Lucas’s so-called “lived in universe” theory of building the world around his actors by way of scuffed-up sets and dirty, real-world feel technology. Just think of any shot in the first trilogy of the Millennium Falcon, of how the camera would move through the set, how the actors would interact with it, how everything onboard the ship looked like it had been spit out of a space slug: none of that is easy with greenscreen and much of it, particularly how the camera moves, is impossible. This “lived-in universe” was totally absent in the prequels, partly because of it’s “Golden Age” of the Republic setting, but also because of the sets that were built (many were not) each was only partially built and had to be digitally extended in post.

    Greenscreen sets often force the director to compose shots in a more static and straightforward manner to facilitate the digital extension, limit his camera movements, and all but eliminates standard coverage. Moreover, it forces director’s to shoot exclusively to storyboard. Even the editing process is hamstrung by being made to cut with only your digitally enhanced footage (in other words, you can’t swap out a shot at the last minute for a better take, because the better take is a greenscreen).

    Sure, a great director and cast can compensate for these limitations, but the prequels had neither going for them. Maybe it isn’t solely to blame for the prequels (I would pin that on Lucas’s financial security, which put him in a position where he was able to choose not to collaborate with anyone in any phase of the storytelling, which he did so well in the trilogy, when he was forced to over schedule and money concerns) but greenscreen didn’t do much to help.

  9. I agree that the biggest problem about the prequels was not the green screen. If Lucas had eliminated Jar-Jar, replaced Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson with actors that actually have talent, and had someone who can write good dialogue pen the script, I think the prequels would have been 1000% better and none of us would be complaining about how Lucas raped our childhood. Having said that, I have always felt that the overuse of green screen CGI was one of the weaknesses of the films (not the biggest, but definitely a factor). To me, it took away any semblance of reality to the world. And, yes, I understand this is a fantasy story in a galaxy far, far away on alien plants. But look at the original films–they felt real because many of the effects were practical. Now, I’m not saying that Lucas should have only used practical effects and completely avoided CGI. As John said, there are many things you just can’t do without a computer. But when the only real-life objects on the screen are the human characters, you know you’ve crossed the line and strayed way too far into CGI Land. As with many things in life, balance and moderation is the key.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. I actually do think the models looked more real (because they were objects that were photographed) and had more depth than any of the CGI. If CGI is necessary for telling a story then it usually works, but the original Star Wars movies proved that Star Wars doesn’t need that much CGI. I concede that the speed race would not have been possible, but I also disliked that part of the film immensely, so could have done without it.

      Laughing at the “raping our childhood” comment.

  10. an example of over using CG…

    the clone troopers! how come temuera morrison’s face was always cg in the third one when they couldve just use the actual actor… and i have to agree with some of the other posts, its not about nostalgia, the sets and some of the aliens looked alive in the original… even when you watch it now… the star destroyers, the death star, all of them looked like they were actually there. someone mentioned that he liked the look of th naboo fighter, well john, phantom menace used alot of models compared to the last 2.. and the pod racers, alot of those hots weren’t cg. they actual models! thats why they looked great! (except of course when they would crash, those were cg. but still looked great because it was mixed in with actual models.

  11. I was looking at the photos more or less as a commentary on the “anti-star wars trend” ie: its the number of fans (or friends?) that Lucas has now compared to then.

    I do agree with you, it was the story that killed it more than the technology, however, just to play devils advocate, if you watch A New Hope, the effects still hold up pretty well after all these years. Put Phantom Menace in your DVD and those groovy CGI affects just don’t look so sharp as they did when the film came out. I don’t think the effects of the prequels stand up to the “test of time” like the originals do.

  12. I totally agree John. it’s like building a house. if the design and workmanship was bad in the first place, you don’t blame the hammer and nails, right?

  13. I Agree with you John. It’s not the green screen.

    It was George NOT letting someone else write and direct. If George just came up with the rough draft of the script, and then handed it over to a good writer and director, the movies would have been awesome.

  14. Hey John I think it’d be cool if you could review every single Star Wars movie with the good/bad style of reviewing that you do now.

  15. We all know the problem with the Prequels were the scripts. The story was fine. The execution was horrible. I will say that too much green screen and cgi can take you out of a movie. Especially when you have whole CGI sets. A movie shouldn’t depend on CGI. James Cameron Avatar might change this. I will say Peter Jackson in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong used CGI the way it should be done.

  16. Over react much? I’m just as big of a Star Wars fan as you; maybe bigger. T.I.E.? Twin Ion Engine. Yeah.

    The photo is still funny. It’s just fact. I’m not even sure the photo was intended to be negative. Maybe it was, but maybe it’s just an observation. And the way that observation is captured here is pretty funny and thoughtful. I posted this picture last week just as an endcapper to a Friday as something humorous. I don’t take it as a slap in GL’s face.

  17. John, you’re lumping in CGI with green screen. The picture you posted says nothing about CGI. It shows the emptiness and dead-wood-osity of green screen when actors are pitted against it. So it’s not the CGI that everyone laments. People love CGI. It’s the fact that actors were given wooden dialogue and told to say it to a green tennis ball inside a green room. The only ones competent enough to rise above George’s lackadaisical directing and poor script were the seasoned British actors, as usual. They’re used to making ham-handed dialogue sound like Shakespeare. It’s in their blood. Haydensen, Portman and Samuel L. Jackson were way out of their depth.

  18. I never thought I would live to see a day with a post like this one.

    I can understand if someone said the CG Jabba in the New Hope update doesn’t match the puppet Jabba in Return Of The Jedi…
    …but the CG Jabba in Phantom Menace looks more like ROTJ Jabba. So I saw that as an improvement not as a distraction. Yes, CG Yoda in the prequels looks great. Does it steal from the puppet in Empire? Not for me. I look it as Yoda is older, maybe more senile (?) in Empire (indeed-ROTJ he “died” of old age!)

    I can understand the complaints about Jar Jar. One character out of the whole deal. A character who fades back into the shadows and who does a significant act which causes the entire galaxy to be under the control of the Emperor! But other characters have pointed out his flaws, so I didn’t have much of a serious problem with Jar Jar and his “Messas” babble, although I’ll crack a joke as much as the next person.

    Yeah, the Diner in Clones seemed out of place and self indulgent. Yes, Yoda embarrassing Obi Wan in front of Padawans er, Younglings, made some cringe. Some didn’t care for Emo Akakin.

    But this is the first time I ever heard that people thought the problem(s) with the prequels was the FX/Green screen Maybe this is a new thing…? Maybe I’m out of the loop? Oh, I know. I just never paid attention to these knuckleheads. In fact, I thought Revenge Of The Sith was the best FX I seen in a film that year. I could understand if folks had a problem with the actors, the dialog, Darth Vader screaming “Noooooooo!” I get it it. Alright?

    But the FX are a problem with the prequels? Those are the best thing about the prequels! I never felt they “took away” from the previous films. If anything soured the milk CG wise it was that animated abomination known as the “Marionette” Clone Wars- but that is another ballgame.

    So I’ll use another movie as an example here.

    Titanic.

    I have failed to understand what the masses hate about the FX and production design regarding the oscar winning film. Film is subjective; or it is supposed to be. There were some people out there who thought it should not have been an Oscar winner. Fair enough. Some people hated the soap opera story. Fair enough. Some hated the dialog. Fair enough. Some hate Celine Dion. I don’t know why, but fair enough.

    But then a line is crossed- I will hear “the production design and FX were “awful” because this was an “awful” film. The line is crossed, I say, because this is a herd mentality. I am always stunned when I hear it. Nothing is given to back it up. Film is subjective, that’s what I want to tell myself. But when I see behind the scenes stuff and see sets built, replicas of what the sunken ship was really like based upon scientific research and observation and I hear the moans and laments of those who think the film is horrid because of it.

    I am so out of the loop.

    So here I come across John’s post/rant. I’m not sure the kinds of kooks he’s been hearing it from, but while I was writing this I thought about Titantic…and the herd mentality.

    I look at that picture provided as “evidence” of what’s wrong with the Star Wars prequels. It proves nothing. Lucas is in a room full of models and props. I hate to break the news to some, but models and production design is still used from time to time, just not always as much as it used to be.

    By the way…

    What’s the difference between green screen….and blue screen?
    Anyone remember “blue screen”?

    Boy, am I out of the loop.

    1. there is no real difference between blue and green.

      the current thinking is that green as a back screen for effects shots works better then blue but some people still use blue. but green is becoming more and more widespread.some people feel green works better then blue and some people still prefer blue screen.

  19. Stars Wars movies are the greatest movies ever? Return of the Jedi is not good. In the first trilogy we get 2/3 good movies. Revenge of the Sith is the only good movie out of the second trilogy. So, thats 1/3. Star Wars is 3/6 and its the greatest series? I think A New Hope and Empire are the only really great movies here, the rest are riding the wave of these two.

  20. John I agree with you in part but I’m not sure that its the full argument. I think its also stating that the effects are OVER-USED. I totally agree that Yoda looks and acts a better part now that he is completely CG. Unfortunately I get tired of seeing an entire film with fake backgrounds, shitty looking cities and stupid lightsabre fight scenes on lava…Yes I get that its written into a pretty shit story but it also LOOKED like shit. There’s not enough substance with CG, we can pick out the tiniest flaws and the scene will mean less to us as an audience. The fact that these things were actually created and existed physically made you believe in the world all that more.

  21. In as far as the effects themselves, the CGI is superior in scenes likes the podrace and so on, but having to act surrounded by just green screens and tennis balls on poles to represent eyelines is different. I think the actors had a hard time in this environment, not being able to immerse themselves in tangible surroundings (not saying a movie set isnt fake but green screen is worse). I remember seeing or reading Ewan McGregor complain about this.

    However the biggest problem I think is that Lucas directed them all himself, and none of the prequel actors had Harrison Ford’s attitiude when it came to adapting the crap dialogue into something sayable.

  22. Who can blame Lucas for not taking advantage of the most current technology and special effects? No one in his position would step back 30 years for nostalgia’s sake. If he had, you know people would’ve ranted on about how out-of-touch and obsolete he was. But part of the originals’ charm was definitely the campiness of some of the low-budget costumes and sets. That rubber and plastic stuff he used to flesh out some of the characters and backgrounds is classic. Some of those things weren’t even current for the 70’s style of effects, but all of it came together to make Star Wars the icon it is today. I think a little less CGI would’ve been okay, but I agree that all of that had nothing to do with the actual review and quality of the new movies.

  23. Always took the knock on the green screened prequels as one in reference to the reliance on technology to flesh out those movies over the most powerful weapon in a movie’s arsenal – a top notch writer.

  24. I’m going to disagree a bit as well.

    But, did anything look better in the originals?

    Yes, actually.

    In the originals, the idea was to at least try to make things look real, and quite a bit of the CGI films are practically over the edge into being a totally animated movie that a person sticks their head in once in a while.

  25. All of the Star Wars movies were well made. It is remarkable that they tie well together. However, I don’t think Star Wars is perfect. I don’t like some of the things people complain about either. I can count on one hand how many movies I still like now, as an adult, that I loved as a kid.
    I think some of the improvements were necessary, and I think a few were not. I don’t need to elaborate. Overall the story, the impact of the music, film making, model making, fx technology, ultimately produced some great films.
    Many films today owe their ass to to Star Wars. I would like to see the story continued after, Return of the Jedi or movies about the Old Republic. I think it would also be great to see movies with stories of Han Solo, Luke and Leia between, Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. I would like to see those stories made as mini-series movies. How about Star Wars battles 360 on History Channel?

  26. John –

    Usually I agree with your SW rants, as I am of the same OT generation as you, but not this time!

    Did green-screen directly make the prequels bad? Of course not, but what the advancements in technology (represented by “green-screen”) allowed was for Lucas (and others) to write whatever they wanted – not having to worry about how they’d pull it off.

    My contention is that this “freedom” gave him TOO MUCH room resulting in the poor prequel films (yes all three of them). The films were heavy on graphics and effects and thin on character development and story execution.

    Can’t you just see him? “Ooooh! I can make this and that and 3 of these…and 1000 of those…and a planet with these and another like this…” And on and on he went, instead of spending time on writing tolerable dialogue or interesting plot details.

    In the end, it’s Lucas’ fault and not technology’s. The advancements since 1983 allowed Lucas to do whatever he wanted. As it turns out, the limitations he faced back in the day, are what helped to keep the OT somewhat grounded.

    It’s not about all the fancy robots and aliens you can make…nor their home planets and environments. That’s all secondary crap. It’s about characters and their relationships. It’s THAT which became secondary to all the “cool” ships and aliens and planets and robots that Lucas could dream up.

    1. Yeah. When actors are in the mix, the CGI goes too far. Just look at the remastered originals, and you will see he has replaced subtlety with CGI. When Han chased the stormtroopers down the corridor and bumped into more at the end, it was funny. Now he runs into a hangar contaning thousands of them, the joke is too broad. It seems that these comical touches were a result of technical limitations rather than deliberate restraint.

    2. i totally agree with christopher and party marty.

      limitations are what bring out creativity. it forces you to consider what you’re doing carefully, and bring to the screen the things that are ACTUALLY IMPORTANT. rather than every fanciful thought you have. more reflections! more ships! more physics! more cloth movement! i’m the best film maker ever!

      i also disagree re: pod racing. a scene built for the inevitable game tie-in if ever i saw one. the pod racing shouldn’t have even been in there. it was ridiculous. it could have been alluded to, or shown in part, but i guess that would been ‘restraint’…
      we didn’t actually have to see han solo make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. i’m almost surprised he didn’t add it into the remastered versions…

      but you’re right, it’s not all tech. the direction was awful, as was the script. and a lot of the acting. and ALL of the ‘humour’! plus the graphics weren’t even that great. for their time, sure, but boy do they get dated fast. real models/puppets on the other hand actually exist. so the lighting/volume will always be perfect, the details will always be perfect. actors will interact with them perfectly, and they always look like they belong in the scene. they don’t rely on current quickly-dated tech capabilities.

      plus i think the second two of the original trilogy were better. because their directors had more reverence for the source material. lucas should have been forcibly restrained, subdued, and replaced, halfway through the filming of ep1:pm.

  27. The polished look, due to green screen or not, is one of the things that realy bugged me about the films. And I liked them a lot especially the second two. The first ones were had a grittier fell that made the movies seem mor real to me.

    1. I agree with this, but the prequels are meant to represent a glorious and flourishing time. In the originals, the galaxy is in an opressed state of decay, so thematically it kind of works.

  28. Let’s be honest, the CGI wasn’t the only thing wrong with the prequels. But it was A KEY PROBLEM. I think it’s fair to say that if Uncle George put as much thought into the script and the story as he did into the special effects, we would have a different set of movies.

    To quote Dr. Malcolm from Jurassic Park, in regards to the FX, Lucas and Co. “were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” I think Lucas was so determined to make the prequels his special effects opus, he was blinded by the possibilities and he had no restraints, which would have helped in this case. I love special fx as much as the next guy, and true a lot of scenes would have been impossible otherwise, but many scenes were over the top. I mean, can you give me a good reason why there was not a single live action clone trooper?

    Simply put, the blitzkrieg of special fx (I feel), served as distraction to Lucas and became the focus of the movies. So instead of seeing the compelling back story to the dysfunctional Skywalker family saga, we got a couple bitchy kids, crap dialogue, and an occasional whiff of something awesome.

    1. “I mean, can you give me a good reason why there was not a single live action clone trooper?”

      exactly, the fact that they never even made clone trooper armor for the new movies says it all.

    2. There were so many things wrong with those movies, I can’t say I’ve put a moment’s thought into the Clone Troopers and how they were created.
      Honestly peeps, that is the least of the problems.

    3. My point was not strictly the clone troopers themselves, but the fact that not a single live trooper existed shows the mentality of Lucas. He could have easily had actors in armor in certain scenes, but he grossly overused CGI for what should have been easy practical shots. This line of thinking is what I think people are talking about when they say the prequels lack a lot of soul (which they do).

  29. John your post with the trailer for the upcoming Star Wars game really says it all. It’s a sad commentary on what could have been. More to the point, what really makes me angry is that it really illustrates WHAT COULD BE, BUT WILL NEVER MANIFEST.
    That’s the really tragedy, that old fat neck won’t look at that trailer and tell that studio to just make the whole damn movie.

  30. Im not gonna say green screen is the only reason I didnt like the prequels as much, but it was defintally a reason. I personally think they overdid it with the green screen. It seemed like there was no sets and it was all fake. (I know there were sets, im just saying it seemed like that) The actors had to of been bored making those movies.

  31. I agree the tech isn’t the biggest problem. There were many a gorgeous shot in the prequels. However I do think CGI was horribly overused, and the puppets/props still win for looks and believability. I didn’t like prequel Yoda at all, and while CGI R2 wasn’t quite as bad…I could still tell everytime he was CGI.

    Jar Jar on the other hand was an incredibly impressive bit of CGI. So there’s a place for the green screen certainly.

    I’m a big Henson fan. So I losing that mix was a big let down for me.

    There was a grit factor missing which I always found a big part of the charm of Star Wars. Lot of the prequel sets were just too clean.

    1. i agree & disagree with you, i thought CG yoda was superior to the muppet in the original trilogy, & i thought jar jar was very impressive visually, however i like the original R2D2 better that his CGI counterpart.

  32. kinda like watching old hand colored episodes of the simpsons & the watching newer ones that were digitally colored… visually, the charm, & soul are gone.

  33. It’s kinda ify for me on this one. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the prequels(some more than others, in reverse order) as much as I enjoyed the original as a kid. On the other hand, the CGI did somewhat ruin it for me.

    I was totally bummed when I bought Attack of the Clones on DVD and watched the special features to only see that more than half of the film was shot in CG. But it really had me going effects wise as to, “wow,I couldn’t even tell what was CGI and what was a puppet”, which truly shows how ahead of the game Lucas was thinking in terms of how much future directors would take to shooting big budget action films in CG.

    I think Lucas does better at smaller more personal films.

  34. i dont think the overuse of green screen ruined the prequels but, i believe it was a part of it. i think in movies like this cgi & greenscreen make it pretty soul-less. remember the death star’s hanger in A New Hope? they had to build that. it was huge & a set that big had not been made at the time. if george lucas had to film in that hangar now, he would just make it with cgi & put actor in front of a green screen.

    i remember watching the ‘making of’ of one of the sequels & they had the actors in front of a green screen, they said that that scene was going to be taking place in a hallway of some sort… a fucking hallway! i mean, its ok to use cgi for the stadium during the pod race, because its huge, & its outside, but usi cg & green screen for filming inside of whats supposed to be a small room… thats pretty soul-less… i think.

    it should have been surprising that lucas’ newest star wars movie was fully cgi.

  35. I agree with Alain above; I think it affected the performances to a degree that you’re not quite appreciating. Too much of it was done on virtual sets or opposite characters that didn’t exist until much later in postproduction. It’s much easier to give a convincing performance when you’re acting with a muppet or at least inside of a “real” set than to stand in an empty green room and then try to get into character.

    1. So why did people have a problem with Jar Jar Binks? Didn’t the actor show up to help not only the animators but to help the other actors have a point of reference? But the character is the usual “Number One” on a CG “hate list” hands down.

  36. “Can you say anything LOOKED better in the original movie than they did in the prequels? No, obviously not.”

    Disagree. Here’s why:

    I still find the original sets and optical-effect matte paintings way more realistic-looking and satisfying than digital sets. Actors on a well–designed and ‘aged’ set looks natural, actors on a digitally created set is distracting. Could be because I was raised on videogames, and find them easy to spot? Who knows.

    The other point is with the spaceships/walkers. Miniatures and models have a visual detail that draws me to them, and comparing a digital shot with a model shot is no context (except for shiny… nothing does shiny like cg… The Naboo starfighters in the prequels looked great). The space battles in Return of the Jedi were perfect for me. The space battles in Revenge of the Sith looked like videogames.

    And please lets not forget Digital Jabba the Hutt vs CG Jabba the Hutt. No contest there.

  37. I think green screen had a lot more to do with the quality (or lack thereof) then you are giving credit for John. Alot of the charm of the original series came from Lucas being over budget and having to be incredibly creative and resourceful. I think the prequel trilogy lacks alot of that spirit because Lucas was able to just “yadda yadda yadda” alot of ideas (for lack of a better term)with CGI. You really cant fault him, but I think we can all agree there were several missed opportunities in the prequels, some of which can at least be indirectly related to overuse of CGI and its butterfly effect on the creative process.

    1. Sure, but which of those resources is most utilized by Lucas?

      Either way I agree that the problem is/was not CGI itself. Without Lucas’ innovations we wouldnt be able to salivate over a visual feast like Transformers next week.

      The root of the problem was Lucas trying to do it all himself. He should have come up with the outline of what the story was going to be, handed that off to a team of writers, and then handed that off to a talented young director and produced the gig.

    1. Slumdog,

      Check out the post John did titles “Top 100 Movies Based on Books”…..that article is longer than this one.

    2. and about the 100 movies based on books, thats a list of 100 movies and synopsis’s. this is a just a rant/post. it, unlike the 100 movies post, couldve been cut shorter

    3. And its STILL longer…besides you did not specify what kind of post, but whatever it doesn’t matter arguing over the length of a post is stupid.

  38. the picture works as a metaphor.

    the originals were packed with life and had a soul while the prequels were empty and soulless.

    plus the podrace was fucking boring. it never felt real. it was really was like sitting at a friends house and watching him play video games and you never get a turn.

  39. I agree with this and feel grateful that as filmmaker a descent film can be made for very little money. However, I must play devil’s advocate for a second. I do believe that there is a certain detachment to the heart of the material that can occur when dealing with green screens and modern special effects. When the Star Wars prequels were made, the technology was relatively primitive and I do see how it wouldve been dificult for an actor to give a valid performance to an object that wasn’t there back in 1998 or whenever it was shot. It’s also possible that the filmmaker’s imaginations were so free that they didn’t slow down to let ideas settle in. The original Star Wars films had a genuine heart to it because of it’s restraints and because it was an honest and humble approach. Nowadays, the technology has been perfected. Filmmakers understand the need to not let the technology control the art. Lord Of The Rings was part CGI, part minitures. Star Trek was shot on film. When Lucas and his team went in in the late 90’s with these new toys to make Star Wars, it is possible, just possible, that they put more on their plate then they can handle.

  40. I love your passion, though, John. ;) And for the record, your creativity shines through a lot more when you’re at home doing your video podcasts than it did in that Hollywood studio.

    There!

  41. In a nutshell: Lucas hasn’t had to try since he became a rich, solipsistic bore. He had to try a lot harder when the ability to do this stuff was not available at his fingertips. That kind of passion shows through. Whether he ever had the talent to make these things anything other than bad fantasy that no one who saw them when they were 4 would consider quality cinema is up for debate, of course.

    Jackson will turn into the same thing. Watch.

  42. I couldn’t agree more..

    I love what technology has done for the movie industry.. because of it we have the prequels… and other amazing films as discussed…

    The problem were the screenplays for the prequels.. Tho I did love Revenge of the Sith.. It’s my third favorite for the series. I love reading scripts of movies I like.

    I think the photo in question is silly. I am glad that George Lucas sat in a Jurrasic Park Screening and was insprired to start working on the prequels. CGI is here to stay. Get used to it.

    1. you might want to re read what mr happy wrote here john.
      so you don’t disagree that the originals are equally shitty?

    2. the prequels lack a creative force? i remember in an old podcast you said that if you looked at a 4 page outline of the plots for all the prequels, they sound like great ideas for a movie, but lucas adapted it poorly

    3. Hey Slum,

      Creativity is not in the premise itself, but rather in the full expressive execution. Yes, the 4 page treatment of the prequels all read really well… but that’s easy in 4 pages. Real creativity comes with fleshing it out and making a full movie out of it.

    4. Hey Film Fan,

      That’s not an adjustment… that’s the truth. Creativity is not saying “I want to paint my house blue”… it’s the ability to then come up with ways to execute it and make it a reality.

      Your definition is “creative” is far too limited

    5. You say that “[c]reativity is not in the premise itself, but rather in the full expressive execution.” Are you suggesting that one cannot be creative in coming up with a good premise? You also propose that “[r]eal creativity comes with fleshing it out and making a full movie out of it.” To do this well might involve aspects of creativity but to imply that coming up with the premise itself does not involve any creativity is 100% incorrect.

      Also, creativity is creativity. There is no “real creativity” and if there is, I’d love to know the definition “fake creativity.”

    6. Hey Film Fan,

      I NEVER said ZERO creativity goes into coming up with the concept… but that’s only 2% of the creative process. The real work of creativity is the challenge of now fleshing it out and making it a reality.

      Anyone can sit around and just come up with ideas, but to then take those ideas and come up with the 5000 ideas and solutions it takes to bring that concept to life is the vast majority of where the creative process comes into play.

      Trust me… I just made a movie… the original idea took some creativity for sure… but it took the vast majority of creativity to then flash it out and make it into a movie.

    7. You wrote, “[c]reativity is not in the premise itself.” Than where is it? That sounds like there is no creativity in the premise unless my English is really awful. You also contradict yourself right afterwards by saying that it is only 2% of the creative process. So it does include creativity?

      You are also making an unrelated argument. The argument is not comparing the difficulty it takes to make a premise versus executing the idea. The argument is whether the premise itself involves creativity. You clearly said it did not but I have to respectfully disagree. And again, I’m not trying to be rude but you contradict yourself/prove my argument in your last sentence. You said “the original idea took some creativity for sure.” Well there you go, the premise DOES involve creativity and this “real creativity” you speak of DOES NOT only occur when “fleshing it out and making a full movie.”

    8. Hey Film Fan,

      Now you’re just playing a game of semantics.

      If I said the effort of moving is not in packing your socks but rather with transporting the heavy appliances and furniture, I obviously wouldn’t be suggesting that ZERO effort is required for packing socks… but rather the true, vast majority of the effort lay with moving the heavy stuff, you would have got what I said.

      In stating the fact that the real work of creativity is not with coming up with a concept but rather in the execution thereof, I was obviously not suggesting that it takes ZERO creativity to come up with a concept, but that creativity is insignificant compared to the creativity required for the rest of the job.

      It sounds to me like you’re arguing just for the sake of arguing.

    9. I’m sorry but I completely disagree with your argument and reasoning. The argument was never about degrees of creativity, it was whether the process of coming up with a premise involves creativity. I am not arguing just for the sake of arguing, I’m simply stating my opinion which seems appropriate considering this a blog. Isn’t it the point to facilitate discussion? Well I’ve said all I could say regarding this topic.

    10. Hey Film Fan,

      YES… this is a place for discussion… what I’m saying is that I CLEARLY was not saying ZERO creativity goes into coming up with a concept… but rather the vast majority of the creativity goes into making the concept into a movie.

    1. Not true Alex. Explain how. Are you saying the Balrog in Lord of the Rings sucked or could have been done “better” without green screen?

    2. I was just being sarcastic, lol!

      I don’t think anyone “truly” believes the green screen effected the starwars movies in such a way, if you did it means you don’t know jack shit about movies!

    3. A blend of techniques is always best. In a sci-fi movie like Star Wars green screen and CGI make sense, but especially in more modern films practical effects are just more real and impressive.

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