It’s time to put your foot down. Stop giving money to George Lucas.
This week sees the release of yet another repackaging of the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Yes, it’s those late 1990s “special editions” with enhanced CGI effects, among other questionable changes. The selling point this time is that, as bonus features on each of the three films, are the original, unaltered versions we saw in theaters in 1977, 1980 and 1983.
The problem some fans have is that the original versions are the same outdated, non-anamorphic laserdisc transfers from the early 1990s. In a way, Lucas is giving the fans what they want. But two weeks ago, Lucasfilm announced a big box-set anniversary edition for 2007, to commemorate 30 years of “Star Wars.” Any chance that set will include pristine, cleaned-up transfers of the original, unaltered three films? Yeah. Why? Because he’s George Lucas, and he has nothing but contempt for you.
How many times can this guy get you to buy the same movies by doing things to them you hate?
It’s apparently not stopping with George Lucas. They don’t appear to be Peter Jackson-condoned (although I’m sure he’ll be happy to cash the royalty checks), but New Line just re-released new packages of the “Lord of the Rings” films, which include the theatrical versions and the extended versions in the same package — versions you probably already bought separately. Admit it. You did. And you’ll buy these new packages as well, because there’s a new, never-before-seen documentary on each of them.
I’m not against extended versions or director’s cuts, but don’t add modern effects to something that’s 40 years old. I’m no Trekker by any stretch of the imagination, but Paramount recently announced they’re adding CGI effects and new music to an upcoming high-definition syndicated version of the original TV show. Changes to old movies and TV shows are made for a variety of reasons, and they’re all wrong. Some are done with noble intentions, like Steven Spielberg digitally removing any guns from “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” or any “Mammy” stereotypes with Tom’s owner in some old “Tom and Jerry” cartoons. I can see the reasoning behind changes like that, but they’re still wrong. Films, TV, music — they’re forms of popular culture and one of the main tenets of popular culture is that it reflects the time and the society in which was created. Is the “Mammy” stereotype offensive? Yes. But it was 1940 and it was acceptable then. In no way does that make it “right,” but it was what it was and to change that is the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling “La la la la! I can’t hear you!” Look at some of the bucktoothed Japanese caricatures in WWII-era Bugs Bunny cartoons. Are they revolting? Absolutely. Should they be swept under the rug? Absolutely not.
George Lucas must find something about the “original” original “Star Wars” trilogy revolting. Maybe he thinks today’s technologically savvy kids will find the special effects too dated? Maybe that’s what Paramount is thinking with “Star Trek,” but aren’t the silly cardboard sets and chintzy effects part of the charm?
This is history. Good or bad, offensive or not, it is what it is. “Star Wars,” “Star Trek, “Tom & Jerry,” whatever. Leave them alone.
The contempt for the audience will stop when the audience stops paying. Start this week with Lucas. He doesn’t need your money.