Perhaps the most controversial of George Lucas‘ many controversial maneuvers in regards to the Star Wars franchise is his constant re-tooling of the first three Star Wars movie. So far as Lucas is concerned, each new platform or anniversary for the trilogy’s release is a new opportunity to change something in them a little more. Offending Star Wars fans, film preservationists, and people who think the new edits and effects add nothing substantive to the movies, there’s been a constant discussion about whether or not Lucas should restore the original versions of the films, but now one of those voices is coming from the inside. One of the cast members of Star Wars Episode VII is questioning the sense of constantly re-editing the films, not in a full-throated People Vs. George Lucas kind of way, but its another scratching nag in the volume of criticism against Lucas.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, new skipper of the Millennium Falcon Oscar Isaac said of the special editions, “To go back and kind of tweak it with new stuff, it doesn’t make it more interesting for me as a watcher.” I think a lot of fans, myself included, would agree with that statement. Does the Jabba the Hutt scene in A New Hope adds anything? Does seeing a full-bodied Wampa in The Empire Strikes Back or an all-out musical sequence in Return of the Jedi? And that’s just from the 1997 Special Editions.
True, Lucas began the tinkering years earlier, albeit in a subtle way, renaming Star Wars as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in 1981. But then, Lucas went nuts. In 2004 with the DVD release of the original trilogy he replaced Sebastian Shaw as Anakin Skywalker’s Force ghost in the final scene with Hayden Christensen. Then, in the 2011 Blu-Ray release, he gave Darth Vader a pathetic “Noooooooo” as he tossed The Emperor down the reactor shaft in order to save Luke. Why? What does this add to the story? What does it accomplish aside from a “look what we can do” kind of showiness?
Isaac’s argument notes that original versions of the films should be seen as “products of their time,” examples of what film technology was capable of in the late 70s and early 80s. The original Star Wars was an impressive feat of model-making, puppetry, costume design and make-up effects, and it was all the more impressive because the first class of Industrial Light & Magic were all rookies in the film business, owing to the fact that by 1977 most of the major studios had shuttered their visual effects departments. When Lucas tinkers with their work, he is, in a real way, disrespecting it.
That’s another reason why preservationists would like to see the original versions restored and released. Many filmmakers have learned the lesson of the Star Wars re-releases, like Steven Spielberg who released two versions of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, or Peter Jackson, who releases two versions of every Middle Earth movie. Why couldn’t Lucas? Why was it so important that he mold the first three Star Wars movies to whatever his version of perfection was for that decade? I guess we’ll never know the answer.
The flip side is that these are Lucas’ movies and he can do whatever he wants to them, even though Irving Kirshner and Richard Marquand directed Empire and Return respectively. Isaac points this out saying, “As an artist, like, he made the ****, so why can’t he do whatever the heck he wants with it?” Technically true, but we all know that Star Wars fans have an advanced sense of ownership of the franchise, and many of them have been petitioning (badgering) Lucas for years to see the original versions, and despite a half-hearted attempt to do just that with a release of the laserdisc, non-anamorphic version of the films on DVD several years ago, they still want it.
The sale of Lucasfilm to Disney made fans hopeful that one day we might see the original versions of the film, but so far nothing’s been announced so we, and Isaac, are left waiting.
Star Wars Episode VII is in theaters everywhere December 18, 2015
Source: Screen Rant