CATEGORIES DVDs, Movies

Last weekend, at the official LucasFilms geekfest known as Star Wars Celebration, George Lucas himself announced that the complete 'Star Wars' saga will be released on Blu-ray in 2011.

For me and many others, this was both amazing and troubling news. On the one hand, purchasing a new version of 'Star Wars' on some sort of home video format has become a little like voting for president or caring about soccer -- it's something we have to do once every four years.

On the other, being a completist is an expensive and tiring pursuit. Come next year, when I will most assuredly purchase the Blu-ray set, I will have owned eight different incarnations of the original trilogy. Eight!

You might be asking, "Why in Hoth does he do this?" And it's hard not to ask that of myself. This is essentially the same movie, after all. I quite enjoyed 'Spies Like Us,' too, but it's not like I've ever felt the need to shell out for that hilarious 1985 movie more than once. How does Lucas rope me into this every time?

Let's take a look at how something like this can keep happening -- because, remember, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Last weekend, at the official LucasFilms geekfest known as Star Wars Celebration, George Lucas himself announced that the complete 'Star Wars' saga will be released on Blu-ray in 2011.

For me and many others, this was both amazing and troubling news. On the one hand, purchasing a new version of 'Star Wars' on some sort of home video format has become a little like voting for president or caring about soccer -- it's something we have to do once every four years.

On the other, being a completist is an expensive and tiring pursuit. Come next year, when I will most assuredly purchase the Blu-ray set, I will have owned eight different incarnations of the original trilogy. Eight!

You might be asking, "Why in Hoth does he do this?" And it's hard not to ask that of myself. This is essentially the same movie, after all. I quite enjoyed 'Spies Like Us,' too, but it's not like I've ever felt the need to shell out for that hilarious 1985 movie more than once. How does Lucas rope me into this every time?

Let's take a look at how something like this can keep happening -- because, remember, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

The root of my obsessive-compulsive disorder relating to 'Star Wars' can be traced to 1987. My parents had grown sick of hearing me beg for 'The Empire Strikes Back' every time we visited the video rental store.

"No," they would answer, "you've seen that too many times. It's a waste of money. We're renting 'Mannequin' instead."

Eventually, my parents had had enough of this routine and finally bought me all three 'Star Wars' movies on VHS. At last, I could watch 'Star Wars' whenever I wanted -- and I wanted to a lot!

These VHS tapes served me well until 1992. That was the year I discovered a few things: that I liked girls, that cars were fun to drive, and that movies shown in the wide-screen letterbox format seemed like a cool thing to pretend that you liked. Even though I didn't yet understand the full concept of film aspect ratios, I just had to own the letterbox versions. At first, I thought there was something wrong with the new tapes. I would think, Why are there black bars on the top and the bottom of the screen? But my attitude quickly became something to the effect of, You people with your pan-and-scan 'Star Wars' -- puh-leeze.


I bought the trilogy again in 1995. I had to do it. I mean, who could resist them? The covers for each film in the series had sweet half-face portraits of Darth Vader, a stormtrooper, and Yoda, respectively. On top of that, LucasFilm was giving us not only some sort of mumbo jumbo about being these being remastered editions but that -- and here's the real kicker -- the original trilogy was "never going to be available again."

It is to laugh. In 1997, Lucas re-released the entire 'Star Wars' trilogy in theaters, and of course, these so-called "Special Editions" were also released on VHS. I bought them immediately upon release, rationalizing that, despite owning three copies of the original trilogy already, I didn't have any with the new bells and whistles.

Interestingly, I already owned my first DVD player at the time of this fourth purchase. But for some reason, Lucas didn't release the original trilogy on DVD until 2004.

During the long wait for LucasFilm to put the movies out on DVD, I did something completely irrational: I bought a DVD, converted from Laserdisc, from a web site based out of Malaysia. Now, I was never a Laserdisc person; the idea of changing a disc twice during a movie never really appealed to me. But one advantage that Laserdisc players did have over DVD players in 2001: They allowed you to watch 'Star Wars.'


So, yes, I actually gave my credit card number to an unreliable overseas e-tailer in an effort to buy, I presumed, bootlegged versions of the movies converted from Laserdisc. What showed up at my door was quite good, all things considered. Sure, there were two times during the movies that the disc would freeze for a few seconds -- but it was 'Star Wars' on DVD. Thank you, Malaysia!

This, of course, didn't stop me from buying the Special Editions again when they became available on DVD in 2004. I knew it was borderline insane to keep giving my money to LucasFilm for something I owned many times over. It also occurred to me that it hurts the worst when, despite knowing that someone is taking advantage of you, you let them do it anyway.

"Why did you purchase 'Star Wars' again?" my friends would ask. I could only respond, "I ran into a door, please look away. I know how this looks, but George Lucas does love me. He does!"

I know I'm far from the only person who has fallen for this trap.

I talked to 'Star Wars' fan and 'New York' magazine writer Will Leitch about this problem of mine, and his response opened up a whole new can of worms. "My main thing," he said, "is that once they made the Greedo-shot-first-esque switches, I begged out." To think, breaking free of the shackles of LucasFilm! Or maybe not. "I'll probably buy these new ones anyway," Leitch said. "Well, parts IV to VI, of course."

Star Wars(He added: "Also, mention that Greedo should have shot the current Cardinals in the face as well." See, his tough-love approach toward Lucas is healthier; ditching 'Star Wars' helps you care about other important things, like baseball!)

But Rob Goeggel, an old friend of mine and fellow 'Star Wars' OCD sufferer, may have summed up the situation best. "Us folks born in the '70s got the original VHS for Christmas or birthdays," he said, "Then, once Lucas hit us with re-release upon re-release, we all had disposable income of our own to waste, and we couldn't help but waste it on 'Star Wars.'"

"I think that first re-release on VHS in the late '90s is timed curiously," he continued. "All the babies of the '70s were either beginning their careers or had some sort of job while in college. Either way, we all had money of our own. No matter how how many times I tell myself I'm not giving Lucas anymore of my money, I still find myself at Best Buy the day the new versions come out."

Will I buy 'Star Wars' on Blu-ray? Of course! Would I buy it even if it wasn't a format upgrade and it was just another DVD filled with the promised oh-so-precious deleted scenes? Sadly, yes. Put it this way: If Lucas only released audio tapes of these deleted scenes, recorded directly from a crappy Zenith television, yeah, I'd probably buy those, too. As I have learned all too well, those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.

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