Editorial: It’s Time to Make Peace with STAR WARS

     February 10, 2012

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Why do people still get outraged about Star Wars?  What’s the point?  People get upset at the Blu-rays.  They get upset when George Lucas opens his mouth.  They get upset when the prequels are even acknowledged.  They lose their freaking minds if you say “Greedo Shot First”.  We’ve been having these discussions since 1997 when the special editions arrived.  Now whenever the opportunity arises, we keep dredging up old controversies.  It’s time to let them go.

star-wars-fans-stormtrooper-marchIf you saw Star Wars when it first came out in theaters, then you formed a bond with the saga for over twenty years.  For twenty years, a movie that may have changed your life was something you couldn’t stop thinking about.  You even blocked out the stupid parts of Return of the Jedi like Luke and Leia being siblings.  Everything was awesome and anyone who came to the movies before 1997 would agree.  The effects never felt dated.  The adventure always felt fresh.  People loved Boba Fett because he had a jetpack.  It was a magical time.

When 1997 rolled around, there was excitement for the special editions.  The movies were being brought back to the screen with a fresh coat of paint and some deleted scenes.  They wouldn’t be exactly same movies, but maybe they would be even better!  Lucas would realize his true vision and we would bask in its glory.  He had never let us down.  Every viewing of the original trilogy confirmed his genius and only the harshest cynics questioned the development of the movies and how the screenplays were a collaborative process.

star-wars-han-shot-first-shirtAnd then something went horribly wrong on January 31, 1997.  Perfection had been messed with.  Scenes that had been left on the cutting room floor should have been left there.  The CGI Jabba the Hutt looked awful, and maybe the digital technology wasn’t as far along as we had hoped.  But the greatest point of contention: Han Solo didn’t shoot Greedo first.  Lucas had changed Solo’s character and the content of the scene by making Greedo the worst shot in the galaxy and draining Han Solo of his swagger and machismo.  And thus came the first sin.

In a recent interview, Lucas took his usual swipe at the loyal fans who had the audacity to question his decision, and then explained:

“Well, it’s not a religious event. I hate to tell people that. It’s a movie, just a movie. The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down.”

star-wars-special-edition-han-solo-jabba-the-huttAnd now we were in a flashback.  For Lucas, the problem was, as always, a technological limitation.  The character we got in 1977 and the following twenty years, was an accident, and we were wrong to like how Han Solo handled the situation.  George Lucas, the hero turned villain, once again being insulting and idiotic.  We’ve had this discussion before.  What did you expect him to say?

The next two movies received their alterations, people choked them down, remembered they owned well-loved editions where Han still shot first, and a small minority wondered: had Lucas lost his touch?  Most banished that dark thought at the promise of the prequels.  We were getting new Star Wars.  After more than twenty years of waiting, we were getting new Star Wars.  Surely, they would be instant classics.

star-wars-jar-jar-thumbs-upOn May 19, 1999, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace arrived in theaters.  A collective euphoria swept over the die-hard fans.  There were those who walked out after the first viewing, and saw with shock and horror the perversion of their beloved franchise.  Over twenty years of anticipation greeted with a film that could only appeal to children and those in the throws of denial.  But euphoria doesn’t last and eventually, through a cloud of nostalgia and hope, we saw The Phantom Menace for the failure it was.

I will not recite those failings nor do I need to.  They have been discussed to death.  Every single point has been dissected.  Consensuses have been formed.  There are dissenters but there always are.  The verdict was turned in years ago, but the release of the 3D version has caused us to pick at not a scab, but a scar.  It’s done.  If you haven’t come to peace with your disappointment after 13 years, then find better things to care about.

Why does every perceived slight cause an uproar?  When Lucas released the Blu-rays last year, he said we would never get the original versions of the original trilogy in HD.  They weren’t his true vision and he didn’t see the point in giving them the HD treatment.  So what?  Until the arrival of HD formats, how many people thought that A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi needed to be in high-definition?  If so, you’ve fallen into the same trap as Lucas.  You believe that spiffy visuals are what counts, not the content of the story.  Blu-rays are nice and shiny and fun to have.  They’re not essential and you’re not owed them.

star-wars-darth-vader-noooIt always seems to come back to the question of ownership.  For the fans of the original versions of the original movies, they were ours.  We bought the endless stream of merchandise.  We went to the conventions.  We made our girlfriends dress up in metal bikinis even though that action makes us Jabba the Hutt.  What had Lucas done since directing Return of the Jedi?  He gave them to us.  How could he repossess them?

If you believe that the latest version of Star Wars or the prequels define the movies you fell in love with, then you’ll never let these old battles die.  You’ve stopped finding new things to love about the movies and new ways to think about them.  You’re in a grudge match you’ll never win.  You’ll always get pissy over “Han Shot First”.  You’ll whine about the prequels.  You’ll stomp your feet about not getting what you wanted, and forget what you already have.

Stop hating George Lucas.  Stop gnashing your teeth over the 3D re-releases.  Stop reciting the same old complaints that people have been spouting since 1997.  Being angry isn’t a reason to care about something.  Remember what you were for instead of pointlessly revisiting what you were against.

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