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"Star Wars" fans seem angered by 3D release plans

September 30, 2010

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Like a lightsaber to the midsection, reactions to news that George Lucas is planning to rerelease 3D versions of the "Star Wars" sextet have been swift and, more often than not, deadly.

But when the Force actually is with them, will fans be able to stay away?

For every "I'll be first in line," there are another 20-30 Web comments along the lines of "SW is just a machine now," "I'll stay away in droves," "Lucas is beating a dead horse" or "Never have I seen something so amazing be systematically destroyed."

Lucas and Fox plan to rerelease the "Star Wars" franchise in state-of-the-art 3D conversions beginning in 2012 with one film annually led by the much-mocked prequels. That means the original "Star Wars" and its two sequels won't start rolling out until 2015.

The rolling theatrical releases inevitably would set up 3D DVD versions that would facilitate the ultimate home-viewing experience once 3D-capable televisions have become fixtures in four to six years.

A specific date for the first release, "The Phantom Menace," has not been announced, but sources said Fox and Lucas are looking at a mid-February launch.

On paper, the news should be every fanboy's dream. The groundbreaking nature and scope of Lucas's original trilogy, launched in 1977, have practically begged for a 3D treatment to match its ambitions. But for many of the die-hards, that starship has long since sailed.

A lot has happened in the three decades between the theatrical release of "Return of the Jedi" in 1983 and what will be the first of the new 3D versions. For one thing, Lucas made three other movies in the saga, which were almost universally panned. He also has already done several rereleases and recuts of the original trilogy that updated the effects and added new or deleted footage in ways that many found sacrilegious (see: the widespread "Han Shot First" campaign, or Alexandre O. Philippe's documentary "The People vs. George Lucas," which had its world premiere at SXSW this year).

For those with a negative view of the post-1983 "Star Wars" output, the idea of yet another iteration -- especially using a conversion process many have found lacking in recent releases such as "Clash of the Titans" and "The Last Airbender" -- is cause for great despair.

"People are just too down on conversions," said Jeremy Smith, West Coast editor of Ain't It Cool News. "It doesn't even matter what the film is -- with the exception of animation. The conversations have gone from 'F--- conversion' to 'George Lucas is a money-grubbing whatever.'

"There has been some enthusiasm for the new development. A lot of parents, who grew up during the original fever, are excited for their kids (and grandkids) to see the original films in the theater. And some just can't get enough "Star Wars," no matter what the reservations.

For those on the fence, their loyalty remains partially intact but devoted only to the original trilogy. (NotMalcolmRee'sd comment on Ain't It Cool News is typical: "i will not sit thru the prequels again even in 10 dimensions.")

Many wish Lucas would do something new rather than keep futzing with the existing movies -- even make a seventh film in the series or a whole new trilogy with new characters, in 3D or otherwise. But in the absence of that, just how many fans would be willing to bypass the chance to see what Lucas would do with 3D?

"My gut feeling is that it will do well, on the level of what the '97 releases did," Smith said. "They'll get the die-hards out, they'll get people taking their kids. These kids are as into 'Star Wars' as their parents. And kids don't have the hatred toward 'Star Wars' as people in my generation."

The 1997 "special edition" rereleases of "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" grossed $138 million, $68 million and $45 million, respectively. Notable is the decline in interest as the trilogy progresses (most loyalists place the first two as the only genuine classics), with the second trilogy -- the prequels -- drawing limitless derision despite having grossed more during release.

Returns on a 3D rerelease of "Phantom Menace," the first scheduled, are likely to be significantly less than a 3D rerelease of "Star Wars" or "Empire" and thus a questionable test case for future conversions.

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