A Further Lament for Star Wars

It seems almost pointless to complain about Star Wars anymore. Not because there isn’t anything to say, but because it’s already been said by so many people. Just about every site purporting to report on the nerd world has said or done something on the plight of the Star Wars universe. Some have done it so brilliantly (Red Letter Media) that they’ve managed to turn the act of criticism itself into an entertainment experience worth repeated viewings.

Beyond the now cliché nature of Star Wars criticism is the simple fact that for all of the concentrated efforts of franchise fans, for all of the well thought out opinions, petitions and grassroots movements, Star Wars continues to decline. George Lucas continues to ignore the myriad voices begging him to stop and continues stomping on his creation.

His latest offense: adding dialogue to Return of the Jedi.

In the final sequence of the film where the Emperor is killing Luke while Vader watches, Darth Vader now screams“NOOOOO!” before rushing in to save his son.

Now I will admit, this is a far less egregious change than some of Lucas’s previous “improvements.” This isn’t like having Greedo shoot first in A New Hope or replacing the original actor who played Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi with Hayden Christensen. This honestly doesn’t change Vader’s character. His actions here are still the same, it just verbalizes an emotion that was previously left unspoken and to the imagination of the viewer. It makes it less subtle.

The question that arises from this is what was wrong with it being subtle? I understand that Lucas has been a stringent devotee to the plain and obvious. One need only look at the “romance”scenes of Revenge of the Sith to see that he’s  a man who believes that emotions can’t be there without them being expressed in (painfully awkward) dialogue.

Sigh…I guess the real issue here is why he feels the need to fix something that isn’t broken. The changes made by the Special Editions were bad enough, but his persistent attitude of revision and addition just means that Star Wars fans can never even try to make themselves content with the films. Even if we can make peace with changes of the past there’s always the chance that Lucas will decide he wants something else to be different.

This is a problem compounded by the fact that Lucas refuses to release the original versions of the films. The upcoming Blu-Ray re-release will include some 40+ hours of special features, but not the unaltered version of the original trilogy. Lucas consistently describes his desire to create a “definitive” version of Star Wars. A part of the plan seems to be wiping the unedited editions from the face of the Earth.

This is impossible of course. The age of the internet means that you can’t really get rid of something. If it can be posted online and downloaded it will be. With a mere Google search I could probably find an intact, unedited version of Return of the Jedi with minimal effort. But I shouldn’t have to. Even if Lucas loathes the original work that made him so damned rich and famous, it’s still something that should be available even just for its historical value.

Perhaps it just irks me the way Lucas views Star Wars. He talks about his definitive vision of things, but really the films he had the most to do with were the prequel films and they were awful. And even those, like the original trilogy, were a collaborative effort. They were built by hundreds and thousands of people; craftsmen, artists and actors. His touch on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi is even more tenuous.  Empire was directed by Irvin Kirshner. The screenplay was a product of writers Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan. Return of the Jedi was directed by Richard Marguand and only partially written by Lucas. The only one of the original films to bear Lucas’creative mark on a totalitarian level was A New Hope.

That being the case I don’t how Lucas can consistently claim these to be his creations. He owns the rights for certain. But does the mere act of ownership really make it yours? The Sistine Chapel belongs to Catholicism, but people don’t look at the ceiling and credit the Pope.

Honestly, I’m past the point of being angry about Star Wars. What I am now is mostly sad. It’s a part of growing up I guess. The things you loved as a child grow tarnished with time, marred by experience and compromise. What’s worse about Star Wars, though is the unnecessary nature of it all. It’s like watching someone with a disease. You love them and want to help but know your efforts are futile. They grow worse and worse and when it’s over all those good memories are marred by the experience of watching them wither.

That’s a bit melodramatic, I know. The corruption of Star Wars can never really compare to the loss of a person. They’re just movies, after all. Even so, I can’t think of a metaphor that fits it better. If Star Wars were a person, George Lucas would be its disease.

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