By Kevin Rogers
Few men have earned such fierce respect and revulsion from the nerd community as George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars universe. The respect stems from his revolutionary film series. The revulsion stems from his non-stop alterations to his original trilogy and a flawed prequel series.
Critics argue that Lucas himself made the best argument against his form of post-production meddling in front of Congress in 1988. In those days, he was pushing to protect American art from alteration by the copyright holder.
Given the 25th anniversary of this historic testimony, The Nerds of Congress now presents the once-idealistic crusader’s descent to the Dark Side.
Lucas and his allies had some clear issues with this attack on original art.
“People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society.” Lucas told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Bravo and well said, Mr. Lucas.
His push to defend original art was defeated, and the tempting twinkle of restoration, additions and enhancement would soon claim his soul.
Fear leads to anger. And restoration leads to unimaginable terrors.
Despite his push before Congress, Lucas found himself making some changes to his original trilogy less than a decade after his testimony. The 20-year anniversary Special Edition made some significant changes to the original films. In addition to digital additions, soundtrack changes and new effects, Lucas added to the plot, including an interaction with Jabba the Hutt in A New Hope.
However, Lucas truly peeved fans with a key change to Han Solo’s character. Instead of Han Solo’s original bad-ass first shot at the sniveling bounty hunter Greedo, the Special Edition gave the pathetic mercenary the honors. To this day, “Han Shot First” remains a powerful rallying cry for fans.
So much for Lucas’s lament about the fact that “engineers with their computers can add color to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder.”
He didn’t even have to transfer copyright to carry out the changes that terrified him a decade ago.
Subsequent special editions added new actors in place of old ones in the 2004 DVD remaster. Ian McDiarmid’s face and voice replaced Elaine Baker’s face and Clive Revill’s voice for Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes Back. Hayden Christensen (Anakin in the prequels) replaced the original trilogy’s Sebastian Shaw at the end of Return of the Jedi. Take a look at the videos.
It’s a far cry from Lucas’s 1988 fear that “more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with “fresher faces.”
Mickey Mouse: The new copyright holder
In October 2012, Lucas sold Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Co. for a cool $4 billion. The man once known for his opposition to corporate filmmaking gave away the tattered remains of his soul to Mickey Mouse.
The plans have been set. Disney will release a new Star Wars film every year from 2015-2020. I’ve heard some fans are exuberant. Under Star Trek director J.J. Abrahams, they say the films will have new life.
But this sale represents Lucas’s final fall to shadow. Gone is the idealistic crusader before Congress.
He’s more money than man now.