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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hey George Lucas, Will You Please Just Leave My Star Wars Alone!!

For Star Wars fans, Lucasfilms is coming out with the most modern way of getting the group to shell out a fresh round of cash…by releasing the six films on Blu-ray. 

For those keeping score, the movies have been released in pan-and-scan and widescreen versions, as both the original and re-released versions, and then on DVD. 

Oh, and there was the theatrical re-release that proceeded the second video release.  Kind of like Elvis and Marilyn Monroe and Tupac, the people in control of Star Wars keep managing to find ways to make money. 

I don’t begrudge that. I might not like it, but I’m a capitalist. If you find a legal way to make money, and you want to make that money…well, good for you.  Where I do have an issue with is the changes that the capo dei capi of the organization, George Lucas, continues to make with the property in order to make the fans want to buy whatever the most recent money grab is.

A director or studio deciding to add back in a deleted scene to a film is nothing new. Maybe there was time or enough money in the budget to fix something about it. Maybe the studio and director disagreed on the scene. Maybe there was a time or rating issue that doesn’t matter after the theatrical release. Whatever the reason, it’s a fairly accepted practice and Lucas has done some of that.

However, Lucas insists on taking it one step further and actually changing context. There was the famous controversy when the original film – which we all still call Star Wars, but that the Lucas people now call Episode IV – was re-released with a scene altered to show Han Solo not drawing first on a bounty hunter trying to take him in. Despite the fact that in some of the Westerns that had influenced the story this type of behavior would have been acceptable, Lucas decided in the intervening years that it was unseemly for his hero to do so.

Now, he has tinkered with the movies again prior to the Blu-ray release. From here forward, when Darth Vader rescues Luke by tossing the Emperor into the heart of the Death Star, we will hear a “Nooooooooooo!” emitting from the Dark Lord. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it seems eerily similar to the much mocked exclamation by noted thespian Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker upon being told that his love Padame had died in the last of the not really beloved prequels (OK, it does have a name…”Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” which I’m acknowledging only for the damn search engines). 

In addition – although slightly less distressing – Lucas has replaced the Henson puppet Yoda in the first prequel and replaced it with the CGI version that appeared in the other two films.

Lucas once campaigned against those – like Ted Turner – that wanted to use colorizing techniques on old black and white movies, complaining about compromising the artistic integrity of films. He was right then – colorizing, thankfully, never really caught on and was hideous on a number of levels – and he’s still right. Unfortunately, Lucas is now in the Howard Hughes stratosphere where he doesn’t listen to anyone and even if he asks for an opinion, people are too afraid to give him an honest one to his face.

There is also the little fact that while Lucas did direct the original Star Wars and the prequels, he actually did not direct The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Granted, that was just because he thought it was tedious and just hired people to do it that took their orders from him, but he’s still not the director of record.  If someone else was doing this to a film, Lucas’s ‘70’s reared director brethren like Scorsese and Spielberg would go nuts about it. Yet, when Lucas decides to “tweak” the Star Wars films, including the ones that he didn’t direct everyone but the fans just shrug.

There’s sure to be more coming from Lucasfilms as well. Fans have already nervously joked about the possibility of the CGI Yoda somehow making his way into the three original films, but no one laughs that hard about it since no one would put it past Lucas to do exactly that.  It’s just a shame that Lucas doesn’t trust his work enough to just leave it alone.


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