Yeah, George Lucas is messing around with “Star Wars.” Again. And fans are going ballistic. Again.
It had been widely speculated that the famous filmmaker would once more be tinkering with his most famous work in advance of the Sept. 16 release of all six films on Blu-ray. This was confirmed with the release of details on changes to several of the films, beyond the “Special Edition” alterations made when last the films saw release.
Yoda, portrayed by a puppet in “Phantom Menace,” will now be replaced by a CGI-generated character in the film. (He remains as-is in the original trilogy.) Little tweaks have been made to effects here and there in several of the movies. The cry Obi-Wan Kenobi makes to scare off Sand People in “Episode IV: A New Hope” has been altered, for reasons no one can guess at.
And, most galling to many “Star Wars” fans, Darth Vader will now scream “Nooooo!” as he hoists the Emperor to his demise in “Return of the Jedi.” This seems to be a callback to the single most maligned moment in perhaps the whole of the prequel trilogy, when a freshly resurrected Vader cries a pathetic “Nooooo!” upon learning of his wife Padme’s demise.
Fans are up in arms as never before at these changes. Once more, people are calling for Lucas’ head, decrying him and everything he stands for. Any positives he may have contributed to the world up to now (like, say, creating the whole “Star Wars” enterprise for everyone to obsess over) are rendered null and void, because “Vader can’t scream ‘Nooooo!’ darn it!”
Is it Lucas’ right to change the movies? Yes and no. Yes, as a director, he has every right to alter a film in any way he sees fit. So he can have at the original “Star Wars” and the whole prequel trilogy, as far as I’m concerned. But, no matter how involved in the production he was, I’d argue that he has no right to mess with either “The Empire Strikes Back” or “Return of the Jedi,” because they were not his films. Especially now that neither of those films’ makers, Irvin Kershner or Richard Marquand, are still with us.
But even if you want to consider Lucas the auteur of the entire enterprise, whether it is fair of him to alter the movies is still open for debate. It’s not as if directors haven’t been changing their classics for years. “Special Editions” are released with alarming regularity these days. The great Ridley Scott has messed around with “Blade Runner” almost as much as Lucas has with his sci-fi epic. Steven Spielberg re-edited and changed “E.T.,” adding new effects and subtracting guns. Neither of these directors, however, has been the brunt of anywhere near the flack Lucas takes. Why?
For one thing, Lucas is the only one who insists upon his latest cuts being the only version of the films available. Pretty much anyone else who releases a new edition of a classic includes the original film, so fans can choose. Lucas has made it clear his new versions are to be considered the true version. For years, the original cuts were never released on DVD at all.
A 2006 edition of the films finally corrected this, apparently without Lucas’ blessing — though the versions released were bare-bones transfers that didn’t look nearly as good as they could have.
That’s what galls fans most — the idea that Lucas is dictating to them what their favorite movies should look like. Of course, he dictated what they would look like before they were ever released, too. But once they have been sent to the public for consumption, they stop really being the artist’s work alone.
I acknowledge all the amazing work Lucas has done. I don’t hate him, as many claim to. Lucas has contributed far, far more artistic good to the world than bad. And if he wants to tinker with his work, that is his right. But it is also my right, as a consumer, to choose not to buy it. If fans are genuinely that upset, maybe it’ll show in lackluster sales of the new release.
Email Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.
Tags: Blu-ray, Darth Vader, George Lucas, Jeff McGinnis, Pop Goes the Culture, Star Wars