Last week I was engaged in every geek’s favourite pastime – arguing online about Star Wars.
A review of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D had fired up emotions between two equally passionate factions, so I stepped in with the following: “I think I’m probably representative of a lot of people who loved the originals, was disappointed with Episode I, but is still interested to see what the pod race and big battle with Darth Maul look like in 3D. Although I know it’s going to leave me disappointed, and filled with hate over the stupid cutesy rubbish (again), and even though I completely trust the reviewer’s opinion – my inner fanboy means I have to see it for myself.”
Of course, this wasn’t exactly what I said – it was online so slightly fruitier language was employed – but it’s how I have felt since the 3D rerelease was announced.
But now I’ve changed my mind. And this is why: IT’S NEVER GOING TO END.
George Lucas gave an interview this week where he, once again, defended his decision to tinker over and over and over again. The neckbearded monster said: “Changes are not unusual — I mean, most movies when they release them they make changes. But somehow, when I make the slightest change, everybody thinks it’s the end of the world.”
No, George. You don’t make “slight” changes, you insert whole new scenes, change dialogue in existing scenes and in some cases even replace the actors. And you don’t just do it once, you make some changes, and then rerelease, then make some more changes, and then rerelease again. Other directors don’t do that. There’s a good reason that cinemas aren’t showing Raging Bull in Colour: 3D starring a CGI Will Smith – it’s because Martin Scorsese isn’t a greedy cash-vampire who merrily pisses on the memories of millions of people. Other directors respect their source material.
Lucas then moved onto the controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo. For those with short memories, in the original Stars Wars (A New Hope, or Episode IV), Han Solo – when confronted by bounty hunter Greedo – pulls his blaster and kills him. Done. Han Solo is a bad ass, point proved. But then, in 1997 George Lucas decided that he had to make it clear to children that Han had no choice, so using CGI he made Greedo shoot first. Cue an understandable outcry among fans.
Lucas: “In Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo 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.”
Again – no! People don’t want Han to be a cold-blooded killer, he just is. And guess what George? You wanted it too; only it was 35 years ago before money was more important than art and story. This isn’t just adding something visually, it’s messing with the character. Han Solo is an antihero – he’s supposed to be cold. People didn’t shoot at Tony Soprano first. He killed people who wanted to kill him.
Furthermore, Greedo shooting first simply doesn’t make sense. The bounty-hunter is supposed to be highly-experienced and feared by criminals across the galaxy, yet he misses Han from a metre away? There’s suspending disbelief and then there’s taking the piss. The only way Han walks out of that situation alive is if he blows Greedo away before Greedo gets the chance to do the same thing to him.
And still, Lucas goes on: “It’s the same thing with Yoda. We tried to do Yoda in CGI in Episode I, but we just couldn’t get it done in time. We couldn’t get the technology to work, so we had to use the puppet, but the puppet really wasn’t as good as the CGI. So when we did the reissue, we had to put the CGI back in, which was what it was meant to be.”
People hated the CGI characters added to the trilogy back in 1997. They hated the CGI spaceships. The overwhelming consensus was that the puppets and models used originally looked better and more realistic because they were actually there. But did Lucas listen? Of course not! He ignored everyone’s opinions and steamed ahead, packing his subsequent films with as much computer-generated bullshit as he could afford, and occasionally going back to the first three films to chuck in some more pixels and spoil them some more.
The argument that it’s his work doesn’t hold water either. Once the films were released, they stopped being his sole property. Hell, he didn’t even direct The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi. Just because he was behind the original, doesn’t mean all subsequent changes are correct. We wouldn’t be happy to let an immortal zombie Van Gogh “improve” The Starry Night until it was a magic eye picture of a dog flying a helicopter, and neither should we allow Lucas to do the equivalent to Star Wars.
Right now, the trilogy is the cinematic equivalent of Trigger’s broom in Only Fools and Horses and for that reason, Lucas isn’t getting any more of my money.
This column first appeared in the KM series of newspapers.