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2012 Fantasy Films and 3D Makeovers of Classics: It’s Mailbag Time

It’s a slow week, science fiction film-wise, so let’s go to the mailbag and answer a couple of ever-so-slightly off-topic questions, about fantasy films and 3D rereleases. First question:

You covered science fiction releases for 2012, but any thoughts on the upcoming fantasy films?
Well, sure. I don’t think it’ll be any surprise that the fantasy film I’m looking forward to the most is the first of the Hobbit
films, which will be out in December — although I have to be honest
and say that I’m looking forward to it slightly less now that Guillermo
Del Toro, who was originally slated to direct the films, is off the
project and has been replaced by Peter Jackson. This sounds a little nuts, I’m
sure, since Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series proved the man knows his
way around Middle Earth. But as I noted in my very first of these columns,
that same familiarity may breed fatigue, whereas Del Toro could have
brought a fresher but still visually fantastic eye to the world. Now, of
course, we’ll never know what Del Toro’s take on Middle Earth will be
like. I’m still excited for The Hobbit — very much so — but I wonder about what could have been.

Other than The Hobbit,
I’m not entirely sure this year in fantasy films is meant for the likes
of me. The Twilight series closes down (which is fine because I suspect
the Hunger Games series is taking its place) and I think it’s curious
that we’ll have two competing Snow White films — Snow White and the Huntsman, with Twilight’s Bella herself, Kristen Stewart, and Mirror Mirror,
with Julia Roberts as the Evil Stepmother — when I’m not entirely
convinced the market will support even one (see the lackluster
performance of Red Riding Hood). Speaking of ill-advised fairytale movies: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters? Yeah. I wish them well.

The horror end of fantasy is actually more intriguing to me: I’m interested to see how they’ll pull off Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and I want to see how Daniel Radcliffe fares post-Potter in The Woman in Black. And while my gut tells me that Dark Shadows
is going to be a bit of a mess, there’s also the fact that a Tim
Burton-Johnny Depp failure will still probably be more interesting than
many other filmmakers’ successes. So it’ll get my butt in a seat.

Next question:

Any thoughts on all these old films being rereleased in 3D?

First, please don’t call them “old films” — you’re making me feel ancient. Beauty and the Beast, which is the oldest of them (and which comes out this weekend), is from 1991, while Titanic is from 1997, and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is from 1999. The ’90s aren’t old. The ’70s! Now, that’s old.

I’m not hugely convinced that their recurrence in movie theaters is
necessary, and I’m not sure that 3D is going to add much to any of
them … but I suspect that their filmmakers will do a far better job
converting them into 3D than, say, Warner Bros. did converting Clash of the Titans or Paramount did with The Last Airbender a
couple of years back. In both of those cases (and in several others
recently; I’m just using these two as egregious examples), the 3D
conversion process was hastily jammed into the back end of film
production in order to cash in on the 3D craze, and it showed; they were
a mess to watch.

These older films are also hoping to cash in
on the 3D craze, but in each case there’s reason to believe more care
will be taken. Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney’s crown
jewels of animation — the first animated film ever nominated for a Best
Picture Oscar — and Disney’s not going to get sloppy with it; see the
recent 3D adaptation of The Lion King for evidence of that. Likewise, George Lucas’s effects-oriented OCD is an advantage when it comes to Phantom Menace. And to be blunt, I don’t see James Cameron — i.e., the guy who showed Hollywood how 3D is done with Avatar — being any less exacting about the 3D makeover of his Oscar-winner than he was with Avatar. He has his own standard to live up to.

Of the three, I’m likely to see two of them by choice: Beauty and the Beast because it’s one of my favorite films ever (yes, that’s right, so there) and I’d like to see it on the big screen again, and Titanic
because I have a 13-year-old daughter who has never seen it and I think
she would go nuts for it just like all the 13-year-old girls did back
in ’97. Note that my interest in seeing both really has nothing to do with
the 3D makeover.

I’ll go see Phantom out of duty to this column. That’s right, people; I’m doing it for you. I hope you appreciate it.

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