So, the complete Star Wars "saga" (actually, maybe I shouldn't put that in quotes, because I'll admit that the six movies do actually comprise what I would consider a saga, it just seems pretentious when applied to Star Wars for some reason) is getting released on Blu-Ray next week. As is his wont, dear George has been tinkering again for this new version. Details have started to leak about some of the changes that will be on the Blu-Ray set, and of course it has set the fandom abuzz.
The biggest controversy easily belongs to the edit that adds a line of dialog to the scene in Return of the Jedi where Darth Vader throws the emperor into the deep shaft in the middle of the emperor's chambers (seriously, what the heck was that thing there for anyway, if not for throwin' in people). On the Blu-Ray version Vader will shout the now ubiquitous to Star Wars "Noooo!"
People are in a tizzy about this. For the record, I think it is a stupid addition. But my nerd rage hasn't really been stoked or anything. The best comment about this whole situation I have seen so far is that clearly Lucas was never completely satisfied with the finished products when the Star Wars films were released to the public. Because he managed to maintain so much creative control over the works, and because of the clout he has gained due to their success, now that technology allows it, he is going in and trying to fix what he perceives as errors, to tweak where something isn't quite like he had imagined it in the first place. In George Lucas' mind every tweaked version of Star Wars that comes out is one step closer to the "true" vision he initially held for Star Wars. Which, you know, is fine for George Lucas. The problem is that most of the rest of the world wishes he would just leave it alone and move on to something new. He doesn't seem to understand, nor care, apparently, that each time he changes the story, he is changing something that millions, if not billions, of people love and hold dear to their hearts. Despite all of the critical backlash these tweaks and changes have received (and will likely continue to receive), he just doesn't get why we don't get what he's doing. Because he thinks he's making it better.
To that end, I wish the fandom would just accept that for now, Lucas is neither going to a) stop releasing a new version of Star Wars every time a new format comes out, nor b) stop making changes every time he releases a new version. This cycle will continue for the rest of his life. The only recourse is to hold on to the version that each one of us personally prefers and keep it safe. That, and maybe hope that once George has moved on from this plane of existence, someone in his estate is smart enough to realize the goldmine available by rereleasing the original theatrical versions of the movies on whatever the current format might be.
There's not a whole lot of point in griping about it though, because it is what it is.
Over at Tor, Ryan Britt put up an interesting article this week about why he thinks we all get so truly mad about these changes. What it boils down to is that the original trilogy was the story of Luke, Han, and Leia, but with his tweaks, Lucas has been doing his best to push across the agenda that the original trilogy, not just the prequels, were actually all about Anakin/Vader. He is trying to change the actual heart of the story--to a center that most people just don't find that appealing.
For the most part, I am going with Britt on this one. He does a good job of boiling down where the rage really comes from. However, while I agree that Anakin was never really a very likable character, I don't think that makes his story, or its implications, less compelling. It is a story worth telling, I think. However, for my part, I don't understand why Lucas isn't content to let Anakin's actions in the prequels serve as motivation for the events of the original trilogy while letting the story remain about our original heroes. Certainly Vader's redemption is a part of that story, but it is just ancillary. Lucas doesn't seem to understand that it is possible for threads to tie both trilogies together without making them be completely about the same person. That's the bit that gets under my skin, as mild as my annoyance might be. It's just poor storytelling.
But then again, that's kind of the whole point, isn't it? Lucas just isn't that good of a storyteller. He is great with the big ideas, but he definitely needs help when it comes to hashing out the details. Credit where credit is due, we would not have any Star Wars to love were it not for him. But in the end, he didn't make it awesome on his own. I think maybe he's deluded himself into forgetting that. But look at the wide wonderful expanded universe we have to play in now. Lucas and his army of lawyers may have had to sign off on the ideas or events behind all of it--but it is in the hands of others, of true storytellers that we get to some of the really fantastic and amazing tales in this universe.
So Lucas can keep on trying to dwell in the past and make something perfect that will never be so. Meanwhile, I am going to enjoy exploring all of the other stories being told in that universe, the ones being told by people who understand what telling a story really means.