Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Loving Star Wars; Hating George Lucas

Since Star Wars is a big thing at the moment on DIRKWORLD (the Death Star of blogs!) and I've made some posts about it, I want to tee off on the culture of Lucas-bashing that's been in vogue since about 1997 with the release of the Special Editions of the Original Trilogy (OT). Yeah, some of the "fixes" were a little hinkey - Greedo shooting first, the redundant Jabba scene (which repeats info and dialouge from the Greedo scene) - but as anyone familiar with the genesis of "Ep. 4 - A New Hope" knows (be sure to watch the "Empire of Dream" documentary on the extras disc), it's a miracle that they got the thing finished BADLY, much less in the epoch-making form it did. George Lucas has said, "Movies aren't finished; they're abandoned.", and as the technology caught up to his original ambitions, he was able to buff up the films to his satisfaction.

A lot of people griped then and now that the OT is available on DVD, they're recycling their whines in articles like A fan's agony over George Lucas' digitally altered 'Star Wars' trilogy. Generally, their complaints are about how their warm and fuzzy childhood memories of the OT have been destroyed by Lucas' unwillingness to leave things alone and because he won't yield to their will, he's an evil greedy man who only coincidentally created their favorite movie ever. Waaaaaaaah!!!! Sheesh. Grip, get one they should. (As Yoda would say.) Should Lucas be hectored into doing the fans will? Heck, no! If they don't like what he's doing, they shouldn't buy the damn DVDs and collectively STFU!

Memory is a tricky thing. How well does the reality of the past match up with the rose-tinted, idealized version of the past you may have stored between your ears? The restoration job on these DVDs - I'm talking the removal of dirt and scratches, not the additions and revisions - is stunning and it's like watching a whole new movie for the first time. Was the sky of Tattooine that blue in 1977? Was there that much detail in the snow on Hoth in 1980? Is it really a loss of innocence now that they've FINALLY fixed the gawdawful matte lines on the Rancor Beast in "Jedi", something that they didn't do in '97, though they'd recomposited the snowspeeders in "Empire" so that you couldn't see thru them? (Something that was done to mitigate black matte lines back in the bad old days of optical printing.)

Forgotten in the whimpering of the put-upon dweebs is that these changes are only relevant to them and those of THIS GENERATION. The children of the future aren't going to know the difference and wonder WTF grandpa is yammering about when he babbles, "Han shoots first. Han shoots first! Beefcake. BEEFCAKE!!!" A child born today will sit down in front of a 110" OLED wall-screen and watch the sexology (wasn't that a Prince album?) in hi-def from front to back and only be troubled by the fact that Ep. IV's effects were so much worse than Ep. III's and why Yoda went from being a lousy puppet in Ep. I to a kickass CGI effect in Eps. II & III, only to get all puppety-looking in Eps. V & VI. All the things that people complain about today - like the replacement of the Emperor in "Empire" to redubbing Boba Fett's voice with Temura Morrison's, thus connecting Jango Fett with his cloned son - will go unnoticed when leaving things untouched would raise more questions. "Daddy? Why does the Emperor look and sound different?"

I don't recall people complaining that Spielberg was ruining their memories when he erased the guns from "E.T." when it had it's 20th Anniversary and that was a far more egregious revision IMNSHO. Revising the past to match modern political correctness and mores would lead to erasing the World Trade Center from any movie it appeared into and the outright burning of "Gone With The Wind" for it's portrayal of slavery in the sense that it existed and the white folks didn't self-crucify themselves to assuage their guilt. Bleah.

If movies are never completed in Lucas' mind, is he really changing anything or is he just on an endless post-production schedule? If we choose to purchase copies of his work in progress, why is he the bad guy?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just call me Anonymous (Linus). Maybe one of these days I'll get a Blogger account; mebbe not.

I'm glad you've opened this venue for your writing. This is a terrific post. For my part, I agree that people are getting a little over the top on the whole DVD issue - just a movie, folks.

OTOH, I am not in general a fan of recasting the past. The Twin Towers were snipped out of a few movies that went into release just post 9/11, and that was almost a kindness. When I first saw them flaunted on the small screen again in some late-night 80's picture, the simple sight left me flummoxed. I don't remember the movie (it was bad), but I remember thinking how glad I was that no well-meaning drudge somewhere had thought to start scouring them out of broadcast flicks.

Greedo shooting first is a problem for me. It lessens one of the great grapples. Do you remember seeing it, back in 1977? Han as the reluctant and unsuitable hero was an unusual and fairly deep vision. He's Casablanca's Rick reset along the galactic trade routes, but here we see him as the scoundrel (sorta), and it's traditional that we usually do not. Usually we come in when Rick has lost his rough edges and settled down some. Harrison Ford now, as opposed to Harrison Ford then.

When you saw Star Wars for the second time - and one did, for so many reasons - that cantina moment was one of the first things you checked. Yes, dammit, the green guy was mowed down at the table over drinks, whammo, iced without warning. And Han turned out to be the good guy! What a world. What a future! What a Western. It was a grace note, but it was a good one. It should not have been changed.

Lucas in middle age is milk. I don't mind if he fixes the FX - some were pretty rough, the movies were so far ahead of themselves. I'm less happy with post-facto additions, but I understand the need to keep the story flowing. But something like this ... it's just wrong, and it makes people angry, I think, because it's the sort of middle-aged middle-road thinking that has made the last two Star Wars outings so lame, so sad, and so bitterly uninspired. I mean, does it matter if the next one comes out sooner, or later, or ever? It will suck. Who cares? Lucas dropped the ball a long time back. It's a sad end to one of the greatest cinema visions of our time, and for the ones who loved the vision best it's a kind of betrayal. We deserved better than this.

I don't hold with colorizing, either. There's an argument to be made for the updated Metropolis with the Moroder score, but you know something? Basically, there isn't. If it's included as a special feature on a Special Edition DVD, well and good. If it's marketed as Metropolis, that's just wrong.

And IIRC there was an outcry when Spielberg took the guns out of E.T. Again, the moment was one people remembered. The dread was striking.

For what it's worth, Star Wars did need some attention. I saw it somewhere along the way before the first revision, and man ... breathtaking in its time, but pretty chunky pap with some years on it. It was never really a great movie, just one that woke up a napping public.