Thursday, May 04, 2006

BRIC-A-BRAC: Your Journey Towards the Dark Side Will Be Complete

Princess Leia: But Alderaan is peaceful! We have no weapons, you can't possibly...
Governor Tarkin: Would you prefer another target, a military target? Then name the system! I grow tired of asking this so it'll be the last time: Where is the rebel base?
Princess Leia: ...Dantooine. They're on Dantooine.
Governor Tarkin: There. See, Lord Vader, she can be reasonable. Continue with the operation; you may fire when ready.
Princess Leia: WHAT?
Governor Tarkin: You're far too trusting. Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration - but don't worry; we'll deal with your rebel friends soon enough.

When George Lucas finally authorized the release of his original Star Wars trilogy on DVD back in 2004, he did it with the understanding that we would have to accept his many changes to the movies since their original release. Remember the films you saw in a movie theater? Well, those memories had better be good, because you'll never get them again. Now and forever more, Sy Snootles would sing "Jedi Rocks" instead of "Lapti Nek". Luke Skywalker would see the ghostly image of Hayden Christensen at the Ewok celebration. Han Solo would kill Greedo in response to a laser bolt fired just over his head.

Why did I believe this to be true? Why did I assume George Lucas would be so cruel as to deny me a return visit to my childhood memories? Because he said so. In the September 24, 2004 issue of Entertainment Weekly, he said exactly that:

I've been lucky enough to be able to go back and say ''No, I'm going to finish this the way it was meant to be finished.'' When Star Wars came out, I said it didn't turn out the way I wanted -- it's 25 percent of what I wanted it to be. It was very painful for me. So the choice came down to, do I please myself and [finally] make the movie that I wanted, or do I allow the audience to see the half-finished version that they fell in love with?

If you really look at it, there's hardly any changes at all. The thing that really caused the trouble on Star Wars is the whole question of whether Han Solo or Greedo shoots first. The way it got cobbled together at the time, it came off that [Han] fired first. He didn't fire first.
So I sighed heavily. I sucked it up, agreed to take what I could get, dusted off a Virgin Megastore coupon, and took home my own copy of the Original Star Wars Trilogy, Super Deluxe Mega-Updated Special Effects Blowout Edition. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it was crisp and clear and 80% of the movies were unmolested, so it would do.

Today, I saw read an article that linked me to this:

This September: Original Unaltered Trilogy on DVD

As if to underline the point, the image on the front page was cleverly subtitled, "See Han Solo shoot first."

I suppose in some respect, this should be considered a victory. For all his rhetoric -- that they were his films, and he could do whatever he damn well pleased with them, and if he wanted Darth Vader to be the Girl in the Thunderbird from American Graffiti then that was his right, and what the hell do the fans know anyway, so they're not getting the original films, nuh uh, never ever ever -- for all that, Lucas caved. He's putting them out in all their pre-VIC-20 glory. Does he need the money? Did he see the light? Was this his craven plan all along? Who cares? We win. We get the movies we love, he gets his bonus Wampa footage, and everybody goes home happy. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Take the cannoli.

But it's impossible to overlook the utter comtemptuousness of the gesture. Whether it was his plan or not, George Lucas built up a tremendous amount of goodwill with Star Wars. The movie was all-consumingly entertaining, so staggeringly popular, Lucas could really do whatever he liked. And he did. He made the other two Star Wars movies, and most of us were willing to forgive the Ewoks. He got the Indiana Jones movies going. He oversaw some treacle like Willow. And he set up Industrial Light & Magic and let them do their thing. And then he just sat back and coasted on a sea of adoration. Like Barry Sanders walking away from the gridiron, George Lucas took his laurels and rested.

And then he took all that capital and spent it like a madman. He started authorizing more merchandise. Star Tours was great. Droids, the cartoon series...not as great. And books. Oh, I read those first books. Those damn Timothy Zahn books, and then the few that came next. I read them until I awoke to the fact that my life was far to precious to me to waste on the Solo twins.

And then came Jar-Jar. Yes, the cheapening of the Star Wars brand began in earnest with the release of The Phantom Menace. Now, of course, we all recognize that movie for the weird mess that it is. But you have to remember, back in 1999, how much we all wanted to like it. I proclaimed myself pleased with the film, except that the doubts kept nagging at me, like a delicious steak dinner that I started to realize was actually Spam. Of course, the spin machine said Attack of the Clones was better, but my guy told me otherwise. By this time last year, I was just ready for the whole thing to be over. The disappointment was too much. The original films had been good, I told myself. They must have been. That Lucas didn't want us to see them anymore only proved the point.

I guess what I'm saying is, I don't trust George Lucas anymore. ("Dantooine is far too remote...") Maybe he really does want to connect with the original fan base. Maybe he's able to see his original work in a new light. But I doubt it. My cynical side has the upper hand. I'm glad I'll be able to get the undoctored movies, but I'm annoyed at the gauntlet I had to run to get them.

So, this is it. I'll buy this damn set, alright. I'll get my original movies. And then I'm done. Star Wars is over. I'll watch it with the kids, and we might have Lego Star Wars for the PS6, and maybe I'll even have the ol' Millennium Falcon up on the bookshelf. But that's it. No expanded universe, no trading card games, no C3PO's cereal. None. Finito.


A long time ago, there was this notion that there were to be 9 movies. Supposedly, once I, II, and III were in the can, attention would turn to VII, VIII, and IX. And oh, what a grand epic it would be. But eventually, someone would come along and claim that this was never true, and that it was only supposed to be two trilogies in the first place, and any talk of a third trilogy was sheer poppycock.

And who was the unassailable source for this? Why, it was none other than George "Mr. Revisionist History" Lucas himself. Here he is in that same Entertainment Weekly article.

EW: You're pretty definitive about not making the once-rumored third Star Wars trilogy -- episodes VII, VIII, and IX.
GL: I'm not going to do it. I'm too old. I've got other movies I want to do. And I don't want anybody else to do it, so I've locked it up so nobody can ever do it. There may be TV offshoots from people, but the saga itself, the story of the Skywalker family, is over.
So there you have it. All done.

Mm hmm. Yup.



Officer Cass: Our scout ships have reached Dantooine. They found the remains of a Rebel base, but they estimate that it has been deserted for some time. They are now conducting an extensive search of the surrounding systems.
Governor Tarkin: She lied. She lied to us.
Darth Vader: I told you she would never consciously betray the Rebellion.
Governor Tarkin: Terminate her. Immediately.


Anonymous said...

I just sat through the final installment of the second trilogy - which is two + hours of my life I'll never get back. Man, that sucked. Feels sacriligous to say that a Star Wars movie sucked, but it did.
But I had to do it. I had to see how it all came together. I had loved the first trilogy so much... I thought maybe this one would be ok.
It still sucked.