Thursday, September 1, 2011

The changes of Star Wars

While I wasn't surprised that there would be changes to the new Blu-ray version of the Star Wars movies, I didn't think they'd be so egregious. Some of the early changes were things like a prop Wampa arm from The Empire Strikes Back and some overlapping with the lightsabers in Return of the Jedi. Nothing egregious in the grand scheme of things. No movie, after all, is made with 100% accuracy.

Then came the word about some added dialogue to a key scene in Return of the Jedi at the climax involving Vader. Fans absolutely hit the roof. And if you see the scene online here it's easy to see why. For one thing, it's completely unnecessary and it sounds so wrong and so fake it ruins the scene. For fans who thought Greedo shooting first was bad, this is infinitely worse. It ruins one of the best scenes in the film and isn't needed. The old saying of actions speaking louder than words is generally true and this would be Exhibit A.

Of course, there was some general hubbub back in 1997 when changes were made. Some were quite noticeable, even to casual fans. The original movie got quite a cleaning and some additional scenes were added, but they're unnecessary. Then there was the Greedo incident where some shitty CGI made it look like he shot first instead of Han. To say it didn't go very well was an understatement, and this was back when the internet was still in its infancy (remember AOL?). Empire, by far the best of the trilogy, got off the easiest, but there are some nice backshots here and there and an additional scene or two that don't hurt or help the movie. Return of the Jedi got a better ending musically (still too many goddamn Ewoks) but the added musical number at Jabba's palace is a joke and a waste.

The DVD trilogy in 2004 had even more changes. The most notable is in Return of the Jedi with Hayden Christensen at the end. For the sake of continuity, I suppose, but it irked some fans. There was also some new dialogue between the Emperor and Darth Vader in Empire. Not really necessary. They also added Temuera Morrison's (Jango Fett in the prequel) voice over the original voice. Another unnecessary choice, especially when the new dialogue doesn't sync with the action very well and the original voice was so good. I know, I know. Continuity, but off-key is still off-key.

And now this latest round of changes.

George Lucas may well have the right to do whatever he damn well pleases since they are his movies, but come on, man... let the work stand as a representation of what you could do at the time. Continuity glitches are one thing, but seriously, when you start ruining individual scenes then we have a problem. Authors rarely, if ever, do this. Many wish they could change material fifteen, twenty years, but they understand that doing so would be redundant. The work that they did is a representation of who they were at the time and what they thought, what they felt, and what their abilities. To change that work would be a travesty as an artist.

But any ranting I do pales to the dead-on assault Trey Parker and Matt Stone did in their "Free Hat" episode, which makes the same points ten years ago. It's also a hell of a lot funnier. Go to SouthParkStudios for some comedic gold and then, when it's all said and done, don't buy the fucking Blu-ray, please. Save your money for someone with a dose of artistic integrity left.