We interrupt your 'Star Wars' blu-ray celebrations for a grumpy little rant.
It's a complaint you've heard fairly often, especially if you've recently seen a documentary called 'The People Vs. George Lucas,' and that complaint is this: I do not LIKE the "special edition" versions of 'Star Wars' (1977), 'Empire Strikes Back' (1980), and 'Return of the Jedi' (1983). Yes, they're the "same" as the original theatrical cuts for the most part -- but they're also coated with new digital junk and pointless little distractions.
Originally created for a money-grab re-release, the "special editions" are anything but. It makes sense that Lucas Inc. would release "new-fangled" 'Star Wars' gimmicks for financial reasons, and that's fine. But why in the freaking universe have these revisionist versions become the "real" versions? Mr. Lucas says that because the fancy technology he wanted in the late '70s and early '80s didn't exist at the time, he's now completely justified in tossing the theatrical cuts into the garbage bin.
Here are a few reasons I'm annoyed about this move:
1. The original versions of the original trilogy won praise, admiration, and tons of awards for their visual splendor -- a nice chunk of which have been slathered over by stupid CGI gimmickry. Hell of a way to celebrate your art designers, production designers, and hundreds of special effects artists.
2. Between 1977 and 1997 (the year the "Special Editions" showed up), I watched and adored the original 'Star Wars' at least 15 times. Like most hardcore fans, I know 'Star Wars' virtually by heart -- and that's what makes all the "new" stuff such an inescapable annoyance: I spot every change, every sound, every stupid addition as a reminder than I'm NOT watching the movie I love; I'm watching a version that was tweaked to get more asses in the seats for that damn theatrical re-release.
3. Han shot first. It's become a nerdly mantra, but it also speaks to a much larger issue: once a film belongs to the global culture, you can't just go changing stuff just because you're powerful / bored / wealthy yet still oddly greedy.
4. It's the principle of the thing. If someone other than the "owner" of the franchise tried to pull this move, you (as a movie nut) would be incensed. Just because Lucas decided to do it, that doesn't make it right.
5. Enough is enough. It's almost farcical how predictably Uncle George likes to dip into our wallets, and although I'm a devout blu-ray supporter, I simply refuse to pay big money for a product that's only "kinda" the one I want. I'd like the original version of the three films I grew up madly in love with, and NOT the versions that make a farce of the three films I grew up with.
Is "farce" too harsh a word? Scan back up and give a good look at the picture I've included. That's one of the "essential" moments from the re-release of 'Return of the Jedi.'
Of course all my complaints are moot and duly invalid if the upcoming blu-ray set offers the original theatrical versions alongside the cartoon editions. And that's what makes me angriest: not that the "special editions" exist; but that the original cuts are being treated like unwanted garbage. Guess what, George? I want them.