Thursday, September 08, 2011
Culture Shock 09.08.11: George Lucas isn't finished ruining 'Star Wars' yet
I'm going to side with Leo, because he was an eccentric genius, while E.M. Forster wrote novels that eventually became tedious Merchant Ivory films, if you'll forgive the redundancy.
But I'm not here to talk about Merchant Ivory films. I'm here to talk about films people still watch.
Next week, the three "Star Wars" movies that matter, as well as the three that don't, make their Blu-ray debut. They are why I mention da Vinci, although not because I think George Lucas is a genius — sadly, that day has passed — but because as far as Lucas is concerned, his original "Star Wars" trilogy has never been finished, only abandoned.
Abandoned and, unfortunately, revisited. Again and again.
Lucas has been making changes to the trilogy since at least the early '80s. For example, the subtitle "Episode IV: A New Hope" isn't on the original 1977 "Star Wars" print. But the first major changes that everyone noticed — the ones that really started to alter the films for the worse — came with 1997's theatrical release of the "Special Editions."
That's when Lucas revised the Holy Trilogy to change key scenes, add pointless footage and generally clutter one scene after another with needless CGI, all for no reason other than no one could stop him.
So, now Greedo shoots first, Han steps on Jabba the Hutt's tail and anonymous droids and giant lizards wander into the frame seemingly at random.
Next came the trilogy's long-awaited DVD release in 2004, and Lucas wasn't done yet. Among other, more minor tweaks, he replaced the ghostly Anakin Skywalker played by Sebastian Shaw at the end of "Return of the Jedi" with the prequel Anakin portrayed by Hayden Christensen. (I guess it could have been worse. Lucas could have replaced Shaw with Jake Lloyd.) Now it's seven years later, the original trilogy is set for yet another re-release, and Lucas is back to his old tricks.
The latest changes, leaked to the Internet last week, are almost trivial at this point, but they still leave me shaking my head. Now, Darth Vader screams an anguished "Nooooooo!!!" before grabbing the Emperor and throwing him to his death. I get that this "no" is supposed to echo the equally absurd "Nooooooo!!!" that Vader screams at the end of "Revenge of the Sith," but there's more to storytelling that just having one scene refer back to another. If that's all you've got, you've got lazy storytelling.
Congratulations, George. You've robbed what was once one of the screen's greatest villains of his last shred of dignity. To paraphrase Vader from back when he was still cool, "Your failure is now complete."
I've come to think Lucas does all this deliberately to irritate the legion of fans who made him the insanely wealthy film and special-effects mogul he is today. Maybe he really wanted to keep making small, personal movies like "American Graffiti." But the snowballing success of the "Star Wars" films, not to mention the "Indiana Jones" series, put him on a different path. Maybe, deep down in his soul, he resents that.
So, he takes his revenge with "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," the "Star Wars" prequels and his repeated defacements of the original trilogy.
It's that, or else he really has just flat-out forgotten how to make a good movie.