OK, now that I've seen the movie twice, I'm a little happier with it. It definitely works better on a digital screen. Why? Because the projection technology reduces the sharpness of the entire movie to a lowest common denominator. This really helps your mind suspend disbelief and get into the movie. The digital projector also accentuates colors and some of the worlds that Lucas has obviously created on the computer.
Also, the second time around I didn't need to pay attention to the insipid acting to find out what was going to happen, so I got to enjoy more the music and the lush and interesting backgrounds. I won't take back what I said last night, though. Lucas has merely put together a decent product this time around (as opposed to Episode I which didn't catch my interest at all).
Lucas is obviously designing for a small screen, mostly, I'm sure, due to the limits of computer graphics technology. How many pixels can a projector display? How many can you work with efficiently? How many do your latest digital cameras collect? Certainly not enough. I hope Hollywood doesn't get rid of its 70mm cameras and projectors. I remember seeing Top Gun in 70mm and was just amazed at the scope and sharpness. If you go to Star Wars thinking this is a "big screen" movie, you'll be disappointed. See it on digital on a smaller screen and it simply works better. I'll bet that it works even better at home on DVD, where the lower resolution of TV will hide some of the inadequacies of creating worlds inside a computer.
I go back to my comments last night. If you go expecting a comic-book-like adventure, and not a film that makes you believe you're actually witnessing a real event, then you'll really enjoy the latest film.
Talking to people in line they don't care what the critics say. I doubt anyone reading this weblog does either. You've made your mind up whether or not to see this long ago and what I say won't change your mind.
As one person in line asked "is it better than the last film?" When I said "yes" she said "that's all I need to know."
Lucas still hasn't come up to the standard that his first Star Wars film created, though. That film introduced us to a new type of film with a new type of music and a new type of special effects. Yes, this film has new effects, but they really aren't dramatic.
Of course, it's going to be a lot harder for film makers to do something like Star Wars. After all, we've seen two huge buildings come down on live TV. We're jaded now and it's harder for movie makers to show us the goods.
That all said, I'm done with Star Wars for another three years and I'm looking forward to the next Matrix and the next Spielburg film. Spielburg does something that Lucas hasn't done yet: tell a decent story without over using the technology.
One last thought: it's looking like a good summer for movie blockbusters. I'm sure the movie industry will do well this year. That's too bad given their view of their customers ala copy protection and the like.
More in a second.
If you can see the new Star Wars movie on a digital projector, do it. I enjoyed this particular film more on digital. But, there's a reason for that. I don't want to see most other films on a digital projector. Why?
The sense of scale just isn't there.
I've seen the second episode of Star Wars (Attack of the Clones) now twice: first on a regular film projector and tonight on a digital projector.
Digital has many advantages:
1) It's cleaner. Even though we saw it on opening night, I saw several defects in the film version. There were no such defects in the digital version.
2) Colors are better. The light sabers "pop" on the digital version.
3) Bright scenes are even brighter.
4) No flicker. During some of the bright scenes you can see a definite flicker when viewing the film version that you simply don't see on the digital version. This is due to how film is projected (a little "gate" comes down and blocks the lens 24 times a second so that the film can be advanced to the next frame. On digital there is no "frame" of film, so the flicker is gone.
But, digital has several disadvantages too:
1) It's lower in resolution. This is noticeable. It also meant that the digital projector needed to used in one of Century 22's smaller theaters. When viewing scenes with a lot of spectral detail (for instance, in scenes with waves of water) you could see that the resolution just wasn't the same.
2) You can see a grid of pixels on many scenes. A digital projector is a whole lot like an LCD monitor. You can often see the individual pixels of the projector, while film doesn't have a grid of pixels, but randomly appearing grains of developed silver halide. Film appears "smoother" and "richer" to your eye.
3) Digital can't do black or dark scenes as well. Dark scenes (there are many in the new Star Wars) just don't look right on digital. The digital projectors don't display as much shadow detail as film does. Plus, when the scene is supposed to be black, the digital projector shows an image that looks grey, much like a TV set that isn't adjusted right.