At the center of the controversy is the addition of audio to the scene at the end of 'Return of the Jedi,' when Darth Vader throws Emperor Palpatine down a shaft; in the original, Vader was silent, but now he cries out "No!" foreshadowing the end of 'Revenge of the Sith.' There's other changes, too, that are bothering fans, such as CGI versions of Yoda and the Ewoks (their eyes now blink) as well as audio changes for Obi-Wan Kenobi's Krayt Dragon howl when he rescues Luke Skywalker from a Tusken Raider attack.
One of the major beefs has to do with the fact that the original versions of the first three 'Star Wars' have not been released since the days of VHS -- the first DVD versions already had been altered by Lucas, who added scenes and spiffed up some of the special effects. (Most notoriously, he added in Jar Jar Binks and Hayden Christensen prequel references; clearly merchandising efforts for the new films). You would think that -- like other directors who have tinkered with their work with director's cuts -- Lucas would at least include the originals along with his new cuts on DVD? Not so.
Now the folks over at SaveStarWars.com have reprinted a speech given by Lucas before Congress, on March 3, 1988, to argue for the preservation of films and to condemn those who would change films without the creator's permission (this was at a time when the studios were colorizing black and white films to increase catalog sales).
Here's some of what Lucas said:
The destruction of our film heritage, which is the focus of concern today, is only the tip of the iceberg. American law does not protect our painters, sculptors, recording artists, authors, or filmmakers from having their lifework distorted, and their reputation ruined. If something is not done now to clearly state the moral rights of artists, current and future technologies will alter, mutilate, and destroy for future generations the subtle human truths and highest human feeling that talented individuals within our society have created.Of course, Lucas was lashing out at corporate entities, not directors such as himself who want to change their original vision (or product) to make it better (or re-merchandise it).
In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be "replaced" by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.
The upshot of all this? Over at Deadline, a headline reads "Hardcore Fans Call for Boycott of George Lucas' Altered 'Star Wars Saga' on Blu-ray" and at SlashFilm, reader comments are running wild both pro and con, with some saying Lucas has no right to change a film that belongs to posterity, others saying that as the "author," he can alter the text to reflect new ideas and technologies.
Where do you stand?