In his review of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Roger Ebert noted that he found many of the film’s visual effects to be hazy and ill-defined, as he was seeing a film print taken from a digital master. Now he has seen the film in an actual digital projection, and he writes this article about the difference.
Many Star Wars fans were surprised by Ebert’s lukewarm review of the new film, given his until-now unflagging support of the franchise — he is the by far the most prominent film critic to give The Phantom Menace a positive review, for example. But to experienced readers of Ebert, his opinions now don’t come as much of a surprise. Ebert has been fairly skeptical of digital cinema for several years now; he has written numerous articles detailing his belief that film is still preferable because the image is more organic. (The argument is reminiscent of the audiophiles who steadfastedly maintain that a pristine vinyl LP sounds better than a compact disc.) He has also been giving films that are not quite up to par passing marks for inventive visuals; it was on this basis that he gave probably the only positive review that Speed 2: Cruise Control received. It was on the basis of visuals that he recommended The Phantom Menace, saying: “As for the bad rap about the characters–hey, I’ve seen space operas that put their emphasis on human personalities and relationships. They’re called Star Trek movies. Give me transparent underwater cities and vast hollow senatorial spheres any day.” If he was truly disappointed by the look of Attack of the Clones, how could he give it any other review than the one he did?
(And he panned Spiderman for the EXACT same reason.)