Matt Smith's End of the Spectrum

Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.

How many times can you reinvent the Wookiee?

First published on The Punch on 8th March, 2011.

I feel like I’ve been in a long-term abusive relationship with George Lucas.

I was too young to experience his creation, Star Wars, in all its glory. Born in 1980, my mother tells me she was pregnant with me when she went and saw The Empire Strikes Back in the cinemas. I like to think that it infused me with an appreciation of what the real Star Wars experience was like. Unfortunately, I’ll probably never know.

Each time the films have been released, they’ve been altered ‘for the better’ in an endless amount of ways. Scenes have been rewritten, added, and edited. Dialogue has been altered. Special effects beefed up. Characters and actors replaced. Han shot first. Then Greedo shot first. Then they shot at the same time. No two releases of Star Wars have been the same.

Short of having Chewbacca stand on a street corner and offer you a ‘furry special’, George Lucas has done everything possible to make money out of his creation. It’s been merchandised to Tattooine and back and released in every conceivable format.

Star Wars fans all over the world are bracing themselves to be beaten up all over again – September this year will see the release of the entire saga on blu-ray, and starting next February they’ll be released at yearly intervals in a new 3D format, starting with The Phantom Menace.

It’s a shame, because these movies are part of a collective heritage. In some ways they should no longer belong to George Lucas, but to his fans around the world. I don’t ever want to see a ‘special edition’ of Jurassic Park with the dinosaurs replaced with new CG animation. I never want to sit through an ‘ultimate edition’ of Bridge Over the River Kwai, which has new digitally enhanced explosions. We’ve all gotten caught up in ‘director’s cuts’ and ‘special editions’, but in some ways we’re losing what originally made these films great.

Except… how much of this actually matters? It’s still all just window dressing on what are, for the most part, a great set of films. Sure, the prequels might leave a lot to be desired, but part of me yearns for the chance to see the Millennium Falcon glide over my head in 3D, or a cool lightsaber duel coming at me from every angle. My good friend and fellow Punch writer Dan Hanks pointed out that he’s looking forward to taking his son to see ‘the decent Star Wars films’ once they hit the cinema in 3D. Lucas is smart, he’s giving himself an entirely new generation to hook.

George Lucas now has the opportunity to digitally alter the film, yet again, and milk his ever eager audience out of even more money, this time at a higher premium ticket price. All without ever coming up with a new idea. Why make a new movie when you can endlessly tweak the old material?

But I know that with this self indulgent viewing will come more changes. I know that if the entire world of fandom stood up and said no, the line must be drawn here, this time but no further… that we might make a difference. But that won’t happen. George Lucas knows just where and how hard to punch so that the bruises don’t show.

And we, the fans, are just foolish enough to keep going back to him for more…


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This entry was posted on March 16, 2011 by in entertainment, movies and tagged , , , , , , .
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