Let’s start here: George Lucas will never stop.
He’s never going to give up on tinkering with his movies. He’s never going to wake up one morning and say, “Hey, I got it pretty close the first time, let’s go back to that.” He’s probably never even going to contribute anything of great value to our culture or to the movies again.
He’s done. It’s over. These are not the droids you’re looking for.
So why is it such a surprise, such a new and fresh outrage, each time he tinkers with Star Wars?
I am a child of Star Wars.
Born in 1976. Barely old enough to remember Empire, but vivid and striking memories of Return of the Jedi. Piles of action figures, jealous of my friend’s Imperial Shuttle, but he was jealous of my Millennium Falcon. (Why did I not take better care of it, or save the box?! Who could have known?) I rode my bike to the mall, over an expressway, to buy the first volume of Timothy Zahn’s trilogy. I was there in college opening night for all the Special Editions, I camped out for The Phantom Menace, and then…
Somehow I remained a child of Star Wars, even as I hated Star Wars, even as Lucas foisted some god-awful films onto the world. I made a lot of great friends who also loved Star Wars, because we’d get together and host con parties and bitch about Lucas. I wrote about Star Wars, a lot, and a few years ago I turned all that writing into a book about me and Star Wars.
This time, I find it hard to rally the necessary amount of righteous fanboy rage over Lucas. All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again.
George Lucas doesn’t give a shit about me. He doesn’t give a shit about you.
Should he? I don’t know.
I really do believe that when a piece of pop culture becomes as stitched into the fabric of our lives as Star Wars has, it doesn’t belong to any one person anymore. It belongs to all of us. I realize that sounds silly and entitled. Maybe it is.
From that perspective, I think he does owe it to the world to leave the movies alone. But he hasn’t. So it goes.
(It is amusing to me that Spielberg has already revealed he won’t be tweaking Raiders of the Lost Ark for blu-ray, and he’ll be reverting E.T. to its 1982 version for blu-ray as well. I think Spielberg wants to be liked way more than Lucas does.)
To be fair, and I realize this sends a very small segment of geeks into an unholy rage, the man HAS released the original films on DVD. (Unfortunately, they appear to be out of print, but I could swear I still see them at Target.) They apparently look shitty. I’m not surprised.
Perhaps more importantly, you can very easily visit your favorite torrenting site and download some amazing restorations of those original films, created by dedicated fans who love the original trilogy and are more dedicated to preserving it than Lucas will EVER be. I went on a binge once a few years ago and I swear I probably have fifteen different versions of the OT as it was played in cinemas, all burned to DVD-R and resting comfortably in a sleeve in my living room.
But why are we still pissed at Lucas? Fool us once, shame on you; fool us twice, shame on us. He’s never gonna stop. He has no real understanding of what has made his greatest work so great. Frankly, he probably has never had that understanding; if he did, he lost it as early as 1983 and Jedi‘s kid-friendly, Ewok-centric finale to the original trilogy. Han Solo was supposed to die, but Dead Han Solo isn’t as toyetic as Endor Han Solo, Tattooine Han Solo, and so on.
And yet we cling deep down to some desperate hope that he loves Star Wars as much as we do. When he demonstrates yet again that he doesn’t, we take to the internet and we vent our collective spleen.
I don’t pretend to understand what makes him go back again and again to these movies and obsessively tinker with them. Does he get an artistic fulfillment from it? Does he really believe his endless tweaks make the movies better? I honestly have no idea. It’s a total mystery to me.
I do believe he’s a control freak, and he’s more interested in the technology of filmmaking than the power of storytelling. Maybe that’s all the answer we need.
I don’t understand why we don’t understand, either. We love Star Wars, and so we talk about it; when it’s shitty, we complain about it. It’s in our nature as fans. Hell, it’s probably in our nature fundamentally as human beings. Somehow, bitching about blinking Ewoks keeps the darkness at bay.
I have a five-year-old daughter and a twenty-month-old son. They like Star Wars because Daddy likes Star Wars. They’re not old enough yet to really grasp what’s fun about the movies, and even when they are old enough, they may not grasp it anyway.
I do know I have no plans to hold some precious screening for them in which I carefully unfurl the “original original trilogy” and demand their strict silence and attention. I’ll let them watch the ones with the tweaks. I may even let them watch the prequels. (That sentence alone is going to send certain friends of mine into a homicidal rage, I guarantee it.)
These movies…they don’t belong to me anymore. They’re very fond memories that I cling to out of my never-ending nostalgia trip; I’m going to buy these blu-rays someday, and I’m going to watch them once, and I’m going to put them in a cabinet, and knowing I have them will make me happy. I will always get a tingle on the back of my neck when Leia says “I love you” and Han says “I know.” It’s in my DNA.
But now, Star Wars belongs to my kids, if they want it, and probably your kids too. I’ve never bought the line of Lucas bullshit that all he ever wanted to do was make kids movies; I think that’s a lie he concocted when he put out that piece of shit Phantom Menace and suddenly everyone hated it and he needed a good excuse for why he was right and they were wrong. Because he’s never wrong, even when he’s so very wrong that everyone sees it but him. (PAGING JAR JAR BINKS)
I think the better Star Wars movies are great family entertainment; you don’t need to be a kid to enjoy them, but kids can enjoy them with their parents and their too-cool-for-school teenage siblings and probably Grandpa too, if his hearing aid has batteries. That’s really their fundamental magic, and that’s also why they feel like they belong to the world, and not to a bearded jowled sixtysomething in Marin County, CA.
Whatever the case, I think…I think I’m letting go. Maybe I’ll grab hold again someday. For now, let this latest outrage drift right on by. I’ve got Star Wars friends, I’ve got Star Wars memories, and I don’t need anything else from George Lucas. Chances are, you don’t, either.