Like many, the Star Wars films are near and dear to my heart. The original trilogy utilizes archetypes like a set of Legos, clicking each part together so the end result is the epitome of adventure storytelling. The heroes, the alien worlds, the quest to destroy the Death Star—it’s mythology 101, and Joseph Campbell would be quite proud.
But George Lucas doesn’t appear to be. Since the 20th anniversary re-release of the films, Lucas has been tinkering with the cuts of the film, upgrading old special effects, fixing dialogue quirks, swapping out actors into spiffy “Special Edition” cuts. These are the versions Lucas insists we watch—so much so, that you won’t find the “original” trilogy anywhere.
As we all know, this made fans very, very mad.
With the introduction of the prequel trilogy, more changes came. Lucas felt the urge to connect his six-film saga in a more fluid manner, manipulating Episodes IV, V and VI (as they are now referred to) to reference films produced twenty years after the fact. Through modern technology, Hayden Christensen could now appear as a ghost in a movie that came out two years after he was born. Lucas was determined to make Star Wars one unified story, fandom be damned.
As we all know, this made fans very, very, very, very mad.
So it became a joke. George Lucas would never rest until everything people loved about the originals was obliterated and wiped clean. The upcoming Blu-rays make that clear. Today, my friend Mike Ryan at Moviefone did some detective work and confirmed that, yes, the versions set to debut in glorious high definition have once again been “improved” by the Force powers of Darth Lucas, including additional CG critters in Jabba’s Palace, a new Krayyt Dragon noise emitted by Obi-Wan to scare off Tuskan Raiders in A New Hope and a Darth Vader “NOOO!” callback at the tail end of Return of the Jedi. Add on a few lightsaber improvements and you’ve got a whole new set of films—primed and ready to piss off fans.
But here’s the thing: it’s not our place to get pissed off. Yes, Star Wars might be the reason that people love movies, that budding filmmakers spent countless hours making Super 8 films in their backyards, or that lads and lasses have something to talk about with their parents after so many years. But in the end, the films weren’t made for any of those people. They were made for George.
George might tell you otherwise, but in the end, they’re for George.
See, George Lucas the lanky USC student wanted to make experimental films. He loved technology, the art of filmmaking, and building stuff. It’s never been more apparent than in his 1971 film THX-1138—a movie that feels more like an impressive exercise than a compelling look at futuristic society. The reason Star Wars dabbles in archetypes so unabashedly is because it was the easiest way to make a big fun space movie, a project for Lucas to flex his special effects muscle. He wanted to dazzle us (and himself) with the latest and greatest, incomprehensible technology. He did, and it won us over.
He continues to do so, but now we’re angry.
In the wake of all the Lucas-inspired rage, vocal Star Wars fans have been equally battered by another presence: the naysayers. They call SW fans “nerds,” who care too much about a singular movie that, in the scope of film history, is just a movie. That’s not cool either—it’s fine to love something with a passion, but what most fans forget is that they’ll forever have the Star Wars that they love, because they’ll never forget it. While Lucas will continue to play in his sandbox of technical wizardry, forever toying at what he considers an incomplete set of films, fans will always have the memories of what they saw that first time. No ILM staff member can ever change that.
I once had an English teacher tell me that no art is created for an audience—that, if it is true art, it can only be for the artist him or herself. That’s a semi-truth. George Lucas is an artist who strives to make his long-lasting work into a modern marvel, no matter what time period one is watching it in. The film will never be complete. He will be forever tortured by its imperfections. That’s cool—let him. Star Wars is George Lucas’ movie and no one else’s. The flip side is that what Lucas wanted was to design something to be watched, enjoyed, embraced. For that reason, no matter what, fans will always have the Star Wars they love.
In their heads, just not on Blu-ray. Why get mad about that?