Films are the children of their directors. Just as parents unarguably have the right to crush and manipulate their offspring so that they might one day live up to their parent’s expectations, directors should possess the right to edit their films to perfection decades after their release. If you are against depriving directors of this right, then by the same logic you are against a parent’s decision to make to make their ugly kids wear braces so that their smile won’t ruin the Christmas card for years to come.
The first time I saw “The Graduate” on a brisk January evening in 1968 I thought to myself, “It would really tickle my tank if they changed absolutely everything about this movie.” And the exact same thought crossed my mind when the digitally re-envisioned version of the “Star Wars” trilogy was released in 1997.
Was it cool to see computer generated lizard monsters trampling their way through deserts? Yes. Was it wonderful to experience the excitement reverberating through my veins when Greedo shot first? Absolutely. But aside from a few very shiny, very spiffy, new scenes peppered across the desolate landscape that was George Lucas’ space opera, I found that I absolutely loathed the films.
Then, in 1999, “The Phantom Menace” came to theaters. Needless to say I was reluctant to see the film as the previous trilogy had generally consisted of dull, CGI deprived dribble. I had absolutely no intention of ever seeing “Menace” until I lost a bet to an old med school comrade over a Notre Dame game. With a grimace on my face and apathy coagulating in my heart, I sat down in the theater. Two and a half hours later my life was changed forever.
“Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” possessed absolutely everything the previous three movies lacked. While “A New Hope” was bogged down with way too many characters and, even worse, actors, “The Phantom Menace” was bursting with meticulously engineered computer generated spectacles. Where “The Empire Strikes Back” tested my patience to no end with plot twists and surprises, “Menace” tugged at my heart strings with the story of a girl-shaped boy and his ugly mom struggling against each day to be less terrible. Where “Return of the Jedi” had the bland, monotonous Boba Fett, “The Phantom Menace” introduced moviegoers to the Dickensian charisma of Jar Jar Binks.
Leaving the theater that night I thought to myself not only, “boy am I glad I lost that bet with my old med school comrade over a Notre Dame game,” but, “boy do I wish they could make the original trilogy more like that!” This thought meandered through my mind occasionally over the years, pirouetting through my dreamscapes like a love that could never be.
Then the complete Star Wars Saga was transferred to Blu-ray. When I first heard the news I was ecstatic to be able to watch “The Phantom Menace” on my 19” HD television with my roommates stolen $400 Dr Dre Beats headphones. My enthusiasm was put aside, however, when I learned that I would not be able to purchase only “The Phantom Menace” as it was packaged with those dreadful original films I had begrudgingly sat through all those years ago in 1997. I considered buying the package anyway and keeping the original trilogy of films around to watch ironically when drinking Four Lokos with the hipster crowd, but the ends simply did not justify the means.
Then a little birdy by the name of “DarthJ@rJ@r69” on my favorite “Menace” forum told me something of interest: the original films would be altered for their Blu-ray release.
My heart raced with joy and my soul sang on high. The time had finally arrived, the dream I once believed to be far-fetched was to be made a reality! Those dreadful slops of cinematic mediocrity were finally getting the old “Menace” bump and it couldn’t have come sooner.
How am I supposed to sit through “A New Hope” when 30 minutes into the film Obi-Wan Kenobi makes a ridiculous monster noise to scare away the sand people from Luke Skywalker’s unconscious body? Am I really supposed to believe that desert-hardened sand people would run from a noise that possessed absolutely no silliness whatsoever? Get real people. Luckily, this bane in the plot of the original “Star Wars” film is being fixed. Hallelujah!
What about “Return of the Jedi?” Am I really supposed to believe Ewoks don’t blink? This intergalactic blight has also been fixed for the upcoming collection.
And finally, in the climactic final battle of “Return of the Jedi” Darth Vader at last returns to the good team after a moment of silent contemplation while watching his son writhe in agony. Really? If I wanted silent contemplation I would be watching “The Hours.” Luckily, George Lucas has at last incorporated a mighty protest on Vader’s as he bellows “No!”
It’s small steps like these that remind my why George Lucas is such a visionary. If he continues down this path of enlightenment in the years to come then maybe, just maybe, one day I will be willing to sit down with my kids and show them the original “Star Wars” trilogy without wanting to blow my brains out with Gatling gun. And if my children don’t like “The Phantom Menace” then I will make them like it because as their creator it is might right to change anything and everything about them as I see fit.