Every now and then, a director decides
it’s appropriate to go back and revisit a film. Sometimes
it’s a surefire success, like when Peter Jackson released the
extended cuts of “The Lord of the Rings” movies. Other
times, however, it’s an unmitigated disaster. Unfortunately,
there is a specific group out there who feels this pain more than
any other: “Star Wars” fans.

Adam Rottenberg

Sure, many may not get out of their parents’ basements
that often and may never have kissed a girl, but George Lucas has
robbed “Star Wars” fans of something that is vital to
their survival — the original versions of their holy
scripture.

The “director’s cut” is nothing new. However,
it has taken on a life of its own since the dawn of the DVD era.
Studios are no longer intent on just delivering the film like they
used to back when VHS was king. Now, it is commonplace to return to
the cutting room floor for lost footage on even the most
insignificant releases. As enjoyable as “Euro Trip” is,
was it really necessary to offer up a more salacious cut when it
hit DVD?

“The Lord of the Rings” extended versions work
because they adheres to the vision the director always wanted, but
was not feasible in a theatrical setting. The “Alien
Quadrilogy” box set also featured alternate director’s
cuts for all the films, yet the beloved (well, the first two films
anyway) original cuts remained. But this is not always the
case.

Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” is only
available in its altered state on DVD. Even though Scott’s
“Alien” can be seen both ways, and the new cut of
“Blade Runner” offers up some interesting new ideas,
fans want to see the movie that they fell in love with.

The director often takes on a larger-than-life personality,
especially in large scale projects. But why should Ridley Scott or
George Lucas be able to take away what their audience wants to
see?

Unlike Scott, Lucas didn’t wait for home theater
technology to advance before he got his hands all over his iconic
sci-fi series. Instead, he saw the 20th anniversary as the perfect
opportunity to “fix” the flaws he found within the
movies (or maybe he viewed it as an opportunity to milk the fans).
While most of these alterations were basically harmless digital
cleanup, some of the computer graphics and reworked scenes just
seemed awkward within the context of “Star Wars.”

But the mad scientist continued to work on his monster, whether
it made him popular or not. With the DVD release finally upon us,
Lucas opted to further tweak the trilogy. Now, normally there is
cause for rejoicing when such comprehensive extras are added to a
DVD, but “Star Wars” fans should have known better. To
add insult to the injury of only offering these new versions, Lucas
claims that these are the only editions that will be available from
now on — they are his definitive vision for what the series
should be.

While it is completely within a director’s rights to
change his work, the audience should not be completely disregarded.
There is a reason people hold certain films in such high regard,
and it is a slap in their face to take those memories away. Sure
the explosions may look so much better when using the most advanced
CGI, but the spirit and soul of the original disappear.

The tragedy of this is that Lucas has already had the
opportunity to change his ways and respond to this immense
backlash. The ’97 re-issues supplanted the originals, causing
uproar among fandom. The lampooning of Lucas grew so large that an
episode of “South Park” was centered on skewering the
“Star Wars” mastermind, his buddy Steven Spielberg and
their never ending quest to “perfect” their classic
movies. Kyle sums it up best: “Why don’t they leave
these movies alone? We like them the way they were!”

“Star Wars” goes beyond most movies in its cultural
reach. It is such a seminal film in the way that it not only still
appeals to audiences of all ages, but also in that it redefined
special effects. By refining the look of films from ’77,
’80 and ’83, viewers can no longer see the technical
expertise that went into creating these timeless classics.

It’s a sad state of affairs when a man becomes so
self-centered that he wants to keep the public away from something
that should be theirs. But maybe Lucas isn’t as stupid or
stubborn as he makes himself out to be. Maybe he is just waiting
until all the disgruntled fans reluctantly purchase this version,
and then later sells them what they really want. Then again, maybe
I’m giving George Lucas a little too much credit …

 

Adam is in dire need of a life. Participate in our
intervention on his behalf by e-mailing
“mailto:arotten@umich.edu”>arotten@umich.edu.

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