George Lucas: The Case For The Defense

As the Star Wars saga arrives on Blu-ray, here’s Cameron’s personal take on George Lucas’ controversial changes to the films…

With the release of one of the world’s biggest cinema franchises, Star Wars, on Blu-ray, the sci-fi saga’s fandom seems to have erupted furiously at the news that George Lucas has made further amendments to their beloved films.

Since those changes were revealed, often risible and hatefully graphic comments from ‘fans’ (and I use the term loosely, and with heavy air quotes) have popped up on forums, sites and social media. But why all the hate? I’ll come to this in a moment.

First, to qualify my own role. I have been a Star Wars fan all my life. Well, since I was about four. That’s how old I was when it first hit the big screen in the UK, and I grew up with the films accordingly. When The Phantom Menace was released back in 1999, I traveled to the States to see it (as the UK release was, incredibly, almost two months later). So, I would regard myself as a bona fide fan.

More importantly, I spend more time watching and enjoying the films than discussing them endlessly with people I don’t know online.

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George Lucas hating, of course, is not a new phenomenon. Even before the special editions in 1997, fans had started to bemoan his childlike influence on Return Of The Jedi; namely, the Ewoks. Fandom began to hold aloft the ‘darker’ episode, The Empire Strikes Back, as the real Star Wars, not the Muppety finale.

For the record, I love Return Of The Jedi, and I love the Ewoks (though not so much their films or spin-off TV series), and I also love the Muppets (but who doesn’t?).

The mid-90s saw Star Wars return in a big way, with the theatrical release of the aforementioned special editions. And this is where some began their vitriol against the bearded one, or the Maker. How dare he change ‘our’ films, they cried. In particular, the original Star Wars, with its added Jabba and Greedo-shooting-first scenes.

I won’t repeat the extremities of some of their remarks, but those who claimed their collective childhoods had been defiled should really be taking a long hard look a themselves, surely, and re-calibrating. But that argument, I thought, was dead and buried, until the further editing and remixing Lucas performed on the DVD release of the original trilogy.

By that time, Lucas had faced all manner of abuse (mainly Jar Jar Binks based) despite the fact that the prequel trilogy had performed most admirably at the box office, winning over a new generation of fans. On a personal note, I’d have to say that I think Revenge Of The Sith is an absolute peach of a movie, with an emotional resonance stronger than any of the other films (it’s a divisive movie amongst Den Of Geek writers, mind).

The most notable change on the original trilogy’s DVD release was the insertion of Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker during the finale scenes on Endor, which riled some anonymous forum posters no end. But this was not to be the end of the Maker’s tinkering, as details about this week’s Blu-ray release suggest that even more have been made (along with the fact that the “original” versions of the films are absent).

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So now fans are venting their ill-thought out and insensitive ramblings at George Lucas once more, for his decision to add a few blinking Ewoks and some slightly different noises. That’s what it boils down to. If the person who created this world wants to change fairly superficial elements of his films, then no one is fit to question this. Sure, you may not like it, but firing off illiterate abuse at a man who has proven himself as a filmmaker is the mark of a bitter teenager. It’s unseemly behaviour.

Money is often the reason why these people think Lucas makes these changes. I mean, money? Seriously? Are you aware of just how much this man is worth? Not to mention owns? Do you realise how much he’ll actually make out of this release? The profits from the Blu-ray set will be nothing to him, especially as a considerable amount of money has already been spent on producing the set.

Lucas makes these changes because he wants to. I have no issues with the changes; they are, as I say, superficial. The stories are exactly the same. If you want the original, unaltered films, then they are out there. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably got them already – and in more than one format. Do you really need a Blu-ray version of a film you’ve seen hundreds of times? Really? (The answer, in my opinion, is no.)

Nothing beats seeing the films for the first time, and no amount of high-definition remastering is going to change that. The Star Wars in your memory will never be beaten. To the unconstructive: try and rejoice in something that made your life so wonderful, rather than attacking it with cynicism.

Of course, fans have the ability to make the ultimate expression and not buy the set – how about that? You don’t have to purchase the Blu-ray. I don’t recall anyone being forced to fork out cash for it. Instead of fixating on something you’re already prejudging (which means you’ve already lost), ignore it. Move on and be positive. Just stop sitting at home lamenting your hard lot in life and berating the man, and calling him every obscenity under the Tatooine suns.

Because the creator of Star Wars is none of those things typed in forums, comment sections and wherever haters dwell online. George Lucas is a brilliant filmmaker, who breathed life into cinema and has given great joy to millions of people the world over (and continues to do so). A feat matched by no other filmmaker, living or dead.

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And I’ll be putting those shiny discs into my Blu-ray player as soon as I get my mitts on them, and will no doubt appreciate the nuances and changes as they I find them.

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