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The Release of Star Wars: The Original Trilogy on DVD

Lucas Film
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Overall Average Rating: 1 out of 4

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The Plot in a Nutshell:

Sorry, but this isn't a review of the new DVD set from Lucas. I won't be doing any review of the new set, because I won't be buying. This isn't a review, but rather an explanation as to why I'm not buying. It's not a plea for you to boycott, or an attempt to tell you what to do - each person must follow their own conscience on such things.

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Relatively Spoiler Free Thoughts:
The reason I'm skipping this set of DVD's is simple - I'm not going to feed the monster. Lucas is a man completely out of control at this point (and if some of the things I'm hearing about the final film pan out, God helps us), and it's clear there's no one around him with the courage to tell him he's wrong. I can't tell him he's wrong (last time he called, we argued over Jar-Jar, and he hasn't spoken to me since), but I can let him know my disapproval of his childish, immature, and downright stupid handling of the original trilogy by keeping my money right where it is.

Like many fans, I'm very bothered by the changes to these films. There are two core reasons for my disdain:

1 - Once a film is released, it is owned by those that paid for it with their ticket price. We bought the original film, in it's original format, from Lucas, and it is no longer only 'his'. I loved that film for what it was, when it was released - I want to be able to own that film, unchanged. Lucas may have the legal right to screw with that, but he lost the emotional right several billion dollars ago.

2 - Films are part of history. The look of the film, the actions of the characters, the theme and plot, all reflect the thoughts and feelings of society at the time the film is released. When Turner started colorizing old films for the sake of color, Lucas understood this and rallied against it. Unfortunately, like all good hypocrites, he can't see that this applies to him as well as others.

I'm all for director's cuts. I like to see what they might have envisioned, but couldn't do because of external constraints. But that is not what is happening here. George is systematically destroying your chance of ever seeing the original film again, slowly killing off his original baby for the new and improved.

The argument for the changes goes something like this "I'm improving the film." When it becomes painfully obvious that the changes rarely do that, the follow up argument quickly raises its ugly head "It's my movie and I'll do whatever the hell I want." Once you reach that stage, it's pretty clear the person never had a leg to stand on in the first place.

If the changes were purely cosmetic, more people would buy into the 'improving the film' theory. Of course, Lucas didn't buy it with the whole silly colorizing thing, but there are enough people out there that would say "sure, throw in a few more ships zipping around, what can it hurt?" But these changes, the ones that truly rub me the wrong way, are far more than simply the film version of Botox. These changes alter the motivations of the characters, and the intentions of key scenes.

Let's look at the two worst - the demise of Greedo, and the final scene of the Three Jedi (any resemblance to Larry, Moe and Curly being a complete coincidence).

The Demise of Greedo. In our beloved original, Han knows exactly where the conversation with Greedo is leading, and he doesn't like it. He finishes the slimy bounty hunter off before he ever has a chance to kill Han. The Cantina is a ruthless place, filled with ruthless people, and we realize that Han is a man not to be messed with.

In the first alteration, a poorly edited first shot from Greedo is thrown in. Obviously, George has decided in his old age that Han needs to be less ruthless and more puppy dogs and warm apple pie. This simple change alters the character of Han drastically. If you can't see that, anything I tell you won't help.

And now, in the latest version, they shoot at the same time. At this point, the only thing the scene proves is that George is unable to make up his mind, and actually thinks that compromise makes for great art.

But what of the new change to the big finale? In one of our final scenes of Return of the Jedi, we see Ob-Wan Kenobi as played by Alec Guinness, Yoda as played by a puppet, and Anakin Skywalker as played by Sebastian Shaw, all in ghostly, force fed form, smiling over the festivities. This scene was intended to send a simple and straight forward message - although Anakin had strayed, his last final heroic act of self sacrifice redeemed him. This simple scene was all that was required to impart this important message.

In our new release, Shaw has been digitally replaced with Hayden Christiansen, the young version of Anakin Skywalker. What in God's name is Lucas thinking? Or is it that he simply isn't? In what fantasy world does this make sense? Perhaps he's trying to set up whatever explanation he has for why Obi-Wan and Yoda disappeared when they died and Qui-Gonn did not, but if that's the case, the answer smells lame already.

While the original scene told us that Anakin was redeemed, this scene now tells us that not only was he redeemed, but the cosmic forces once again went out of their way to screw the good guy, stiffing Obi-wan with an old man's appearance and giving Vader back his youthful one. Even the Force screws you in the end.

There are several other changes as well, and even one that George reversed - he added in the girlie scream when Luke falls, but has removed it again in the DVD release, adding more weight to the waffle theory.  In a recent interview, he said he pays no attention to what the fans say about the films or the changes.  Yea, right.

Lucas needs to move on, learn how to let go, and actually be creative, instead of obsessing and reassessing his past work. Grow up, George - nothing is ever perfect, and adults are usually smart enough to know that reworking something over and over sucks all the creative and spontaneous beauty out of it, leaving a technically perfect but lifeless creation.

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Rating - Skip It
All of this, and my general unease with Lucas' attitude, are why I'm not buying these films. Buying them simply sends the message that it's okay, that I'm more than happy with the product. I'm not, and if I don't have these DVD's in my house on September 21st, I won't suddenly die. In fact, by taking the money I would have spent and buying a few more Toys For Tots with it, I'm going to be feeling pretty good.

Of course, I might rent them...

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Spoiler Laden Thoughts
Nothing more to spoil here - George did that for me.

2015 Update: It's just a little over two weeks until the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Disney now owns the rights to all things Star Wars. We've been told we'll actually get the OT in all it's original glory on blu-ray, but I'm not going to hold my breath. If it does happen, I'll be first in line to buy them.

It's also interesting that with the film coming out, George has been back on the interview circuit, once again explaining his reasoning, which rings as hollow to me now as it did then. He hasn't changed his mind in the intervening 12 years, and neither have I.

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Text by Michael Crawford.

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