Star Wars on Blu-ray, Lucas edits again
Word has been coming out of late that since George Lucas has decided to release Star Wars on Blu-ray that he has been tinkering with things again, adding more CG, changing scenes, altering dialogue and all sorts. It would seem he's never happy with Star Wars as it is.
However there's another side to the tinkering. He's not only creating new versions of the films we've already seen, but he and his company are no longer releasing the original versions that many of us have grown up watching and loving. These versions are going to be left on VHS and DVD and slowly erased over time.
Of course you could say that this is George Lucas' right, after all these are his films and he can change them how he pleases, and frankly I think many fans would be happy with him doing that on the first three, chronologically speaking, films in the franchise - Episodes I through III, but not so much for the original three films.
There are a number of changes for the Blu-ray release that we're starting to hear about. There's a new cry for Obi-Wan in the desert when he simulates a Krayt Dragon Call in Episode IV; Darth Vader's scream in Episode VI is now the universally hated "Noooo!" moment from the end of Episode III; Yoda in Episode I has been changed from puppet to CG; Ewoks have CG blinks in Episode VI, and Greedo shoots first even faster in Episode IV.
So far all the changes bar one we're seeing are in the three originally released episodes, and it's clear that the changes are to alter the older films to reflect the newer ones.
Okay, there is one change in Episode I so far that has been caught, but that's also a change to reflect the newer use of CG and the eradication of the old puppet Yoda, so it's still a change from the old to the new.
You can see the clips below if you'd like, the majority through Collider:
Note that this clip is not from the Blu-ray and features a growl from an alleged leaked audio track, so I'm not sure if this real or not.
Okay, I'm going to be controversial straight up. The new Yoda looks better in Episode I - Phantom Menace, not because the CG Yoda is better than the puppet Yoda, but because everything in Episode I was CG so a puppet character stands out a mile there, in the original three films everything was puppetry so it worked far better.
This is a problem that Lucas faces when tinkering with the original three films. The original three, Episode IV - A New Hope, Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi, they were all filled with practical effects and by changing one practical effect to CG it suddenly stands out against the practical, and before long you're finding that you have to update everything to CG in order to make the film look the same throughout. Pretty soon we'll see the Ewoks being totally replaced in CG, and that might be a good thing because then he could replace them with the originally intended Wookies!
Joking aside though, that's the problem that I think the first three episodes are facing, being updated to modern CG in places highlights the limitations of technology at the time, even when they've been digitally remastered, so they change more to bring it in line, and more, and more.
It's clear that George Lucas is wanting to make Episodes IV through VI to be more like I through III, and the evidence is the replacement "Nooooo!" scream. You cannot tell me that there was an overriding fan call to take that feeble scream from the third film as Darth Vader first appeared in his true form and replicate that moment, but it would seem that Lucas has taken that and added it into the original films to show that he was right, and through time to show that the scream was there all along.
This revisionism of film is something that he himself once fought against.
People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society.
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.
Attention should be paid to this question of our soul, and not simply to accounting procedures. Attention should be paid to the interest of those who are yet unborn, who should be able to see this generation as it saw itself, and the past generation as it saw itself.
Mr Lucas, you said that. That was you.
He was speaking out Ted Turner who had bought the rights to studio libraries and was beginning to release old black and white films colourised. This angered so many film makers that they went to Congress and pleaded with them to stop this destruction of the original film and save them for future generations instead of reworking them from their original form for the purposes of making more money.
Does that ring a bell?
Now you see I have no problems with making the films better. So the CG Yoda in Episode I, I understand. Making Ewoks blink, at a stretch I could get if that really made me feel that they weren't people in suits, and for the record it still doesn't, but changing the originals just because they're old and then burying the original versions, only releasing these newly edited and altered versions is exactly what Lucas and other film-makers were fighting against in Congress in 1988.
Well there is one difference, this time the film-maker is behind the changes and it's the fan base that is up in arms about it.
Save Star Wars has a great piece about the technicalities of the changes and what he was doing, and they present a superb argument, because remember George Lucas only wrote and directed Episode IV, Irvin Kershner directed Episode V with Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan writing, and Kasdan and Lucas wrote the screenplay for Episode VI with Richard Marquand directing. Don't they get a say? They didn't, and these changes, as you can see from that article, are more than cosmetic.
The big issue though is that the original films are being replaced by Lucas' versions, and that goes against the fans and what Lucas said in 1988. It's not the fact that he's changing them, it's the fact that we don't have the choice to see these originals anymore. They aren't on the Blu-ray, and I doubt we'll ever see them released again.