George Lucas meddles. Fans respond.
When the Star Wars Saga was announced on Blu-Ray, nothing could have made me more ecstatic. Coupled with the announcement came a trailer made for the purpose of showing off the HD quality of the newly formatted picture, some awesome, never-before-seen (yeah, right) behind-the-scenes footage, and some deleted scenes from the original trilogy. What that astounding trailer failed to mention was that Lucasfilms (and in my opinion, particularly George Lucas) had made some less than flattering edits to the original films in addition to the already controversial added-in scenes and edits that have appeared in the re-releases of these iconic films the last few decades.
One such edit, featured in Return of the Jedi, makes a mockery of one of the most pivotal points in the Star Wars universe. When Darth Vader faces his climactic decision whether or not to save his son or endure watching his torture, audiences originally saw him weigh the consequences in utter silence, a deep, convincingly appropriate decision for a character like Vader. Several decades later (and after Vader’s eerily similar, poorly received cry of, “Noo!” in Revenge of the Sith) George Lucas decided it would be best for Vader, after a moment’s consideration, to shout, “Noo, nooooo,” before grabbing and throwing the Emperor down a nearby shaft. Considering the reaction Lucas garnered the first time, I have always wondered why he would choose to stick something like that in such an acclaimed film and the only reason that comes to find is for him to assert his creative ownership over the series and remind fans that he is the father of his sci-fi baby.
At what point do Lucas’ creative rights infringe on the love fans have put forth for so many years? Lucas has never even offered the previous versions of the films for retail as he claims that his films are a work in progress, constantly open to refinement. Other filmmakers have always approached such impasses by making acclaimed “director’s cuts,” or (in the case of Lord of the Rings) extended editions alongside the theatrical releases of their films, but Lucas offers no such relief from some of the most pitiful edits in cinematic history.
Even the Halo: Master Chief Collection, which features total redesigns of the first two Halo video games, has a neat little add-on where a player can press a button on the controller and instantly fall back into the 2001 and 2004 graphics of the original games. While the Collection is an exception in the aspect among other remastered editions of video games on the market, it carries some newer features that gamers may not enjoy and also gives the option to turn them off. A little visual enhancement never hurt anyone, but even video game designers recognize that audiences might just want what they have always had.
There are some high points for the edits Lucas has made to his series over the years. Looking at older VHS copies, some of the space sequences and scenes in Cloud City have been greatly fleshed out and built upon visually since Lucas has had access to impressive CGI technology. But what hurts most about Lucas’ edits is that, at least to most fans, they just do not make sense.
Fans have long argued that, “Han shot first,” and that Lucas’ rejection of such a notion diminishes the dynamic character develop of Han Solo and that Lucas’ edit to the scene detracts from Han’s roguish quality. An added-in song and dance number features CGI aliens singing in their dialect in Jabba’s Palace and looks ridiculously shoddy next to the practical effects aliens surrounding the scene and the CGI aliens themselves. I cannot understand how Lucas, who knew his own creation and fan-base so well, can look at the additions he makes and honestly think that they added something substantive to the film.
Luckily, the other disgruntled fans and I don’t have to worry about Lucas’ meddling with his cultural phenomena any more. Disney, after buying the rights to the legendary series for $4 billion dollars a few years ago, has chosen to ignore his suggestions for further films and has very aptly placed visionary sci-fi director J.J. Abrams at the helm of their continuation.
I am not totally sure where distribution rights for the original and prequel trilogies lie (I think they are still held by 20th Century Fox), but I think Lucas is done tampering with his toys for good. Instead, maybe Disney can find a way to undo some of the atrocities Lucas has created in his own universe. I really hope that while sitting through the Star Wars marathon before the release of The Force Awakens I do not have to encounter Vader and his forced cries against humanity in Return of the Jedi.
Featured Image Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox