Star Wars makes its long anticipated release on Blu Ray this week. And has now become the tradition with the launch of Star Wars on a new format, George Lucas has tinkered with the film by adding a slew of new visual and audio effects to the original trilogy. And once again, they are almost all universally terrible causing fans of the series to be up in arms.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that the changes are frequently handled in a surprisingly sloppy fashion. For a film series that began in the Seventies and employed the use of puppets, models and some clever camera work, to throw in a bunch of badly designed computer effects is jarring and ruins the suspension of disbelief. For Industrial Light & Magic, who have a track record of creating some of the most stunning effects in films such their work in Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Carribean, the quality of the effects are head-scratchingly poor in the new Star Wars revisions. They seem rushed and out of place. What in the world is going on here? Just look at these CGI Ewok eyes that got added in the Blu Ray edition, this unnatural-looking panning shot complete with crappy CGI door and the comically out of place new audio that has been added to the scene in which Obi Wan chases away the Sand People. Who seriously thought adding ‘AWWOOOOOOOO…*dubstep music*‘ was something that would improve these films?
By far the most derided change to the Blu Ray release has been the addition of the ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO’ audio sample from Revenge of the Sith to the scene in which Darth Vader turns on the emperor. What was once a well constructed emotional climax to the film (and entire series for that matter) where a silent Darth Vader finally acts on whats left of his humanity has now been ‘enhanced’ with the most frequently cited example of Lucas getting it wrong with the new trilogy. Behold:
The second reason fans get upset over this stuff is that there is simply no alternative that is made available. While George Lucas shows poor taste in making these incredibly strange and tacky bolt-ons to his original trilogy, there is never an option given to fans of the unmolested versions of the original trilogy to purchase a copy of Star Wars that doesn’t have Hayden Christensen pasted in it or Greedo shooting first. The definitive Bladerunner Blu Ray release from a couple of years back includes all five different versions of the film that have been released. Lucas seems to be engaging in a battle with fans by trying to re-write history and actively blocking access to the original cut of the films. And he is winning. There does exist a limited run of DVDs released in 2006 of the untouched original trilogy but it seems to be released out of spite – it wasn’t digitally restored for DVD and it’s in pan and scan 4:3 ratio, not widescreen.
I can’t think of a stranger relationship in cinema than what George Lucas has with his audience. In a day and age of social media, there seems to be an improbably large disconnect between Lucas in his ivory tower and the fans of his work. Does he know that people hate these changes? Does he care? Is he trolling people on purpose? You can’t help but wonder.
Have a good weekend everyone.