"His voice betrayed a craving for terrible things." -- Don DeLillo

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May 23, 2006

The Star Wars Redemption
I didn't want to write this piece. Sometimes you just need to let the anger go. I tried my best (okay, not really), but when you're pushed to your breaking point, it's out of your hands. And with the latest jaw-dropping, audience-raping, condescending, money-grubbing piece of fucking bullshit to come out of the George Lucas Empire, I've had enough.

If you haven't heard yet, I'll spare you my obscenity-filled rant on the matter at hand. Just go to the archive of recent posts on The Digital Bits, start with the "Early Update - 5/18/06 - 12:01 AM PDT" post and then read their follow-up on 5/19/06. Basically, about a month ago, Lucas finally caved to demand and announced a DVD release of the original, original versions of the Classic Trilogy (hereafter referred to simply as the Trilogy). There was much rejoicing, but it was a short-lived victory for the fans. Last week, word seeped out that this DVD release will be in non-anamorphic widescreen and basically will just be a port of the 1993 laserdisc masters, a far cry from the anamorphic, digitally-restored versions of the films everyone expected. Of course, the fans 180'ed immediately and are now cursing the Lucas name. Lucas's sadistic thrill from continually bilking his loyal fanbase, squeezing every cent he can, is beyond disturbing and, despite his enormous wealth, his greed is truly limitless. How long do we get, two years, four years, before Lucas announces another home release of the Trilogy with a sparkling transfer made with some "newly-found" source elements? How could Lucas rape his devoted audience so egregiously, the same audience that's made him a billionaire many times over? Is he that oblivious to the wishes of his fanbase? We'll never get answers to these questions.

So, sufficiently worked up yet again on the avarice and hubris of Lucas, it's time for me to unveil my ultimate plan to restore the Star Wars saga to its former glory. I've been thinking about this for a few years now and it can't miss. Unfortunately, we do need a working time machine.

The best thing that could have ever happened to the Star Wars saga is if George Lucas had died 15 years ago. There, I said it. Take Lucas out of the picture at the right moment and the trajectory of the whole series is changed considerably. Here's what would happen.

First, the Special Editions of the Trilogy. Given the tragedy of Lucas's death and the approach of the 20th anniversary of A New Hope, these will still be released to theaters as a George Lucas Memorial Edition. Cleaned up special effects and mattes, but first and foremost, the most significant non-change: Han shoots first. Already one major Lucas mistake corrected. We can also hope that the original ending of Jedi is left intact, cutesy, catchy Ewok song and all, instead of the bland revisionist montage complete with unmemorable Williams-on-autopilot score. If anything, show the scenes of the other planets, but leave the damn Ewok song alone. I have a lot more tolerance for the Ewoks than most Star Wars fans, though, so I'll leave this one open to debate.

Most importantly, as the Millennium approaches and DVD takes off, the decision is made to release the Trilogy in one all-encompassing DVD collection. Documentaries, deleted scenes, the Lucas archive is cleaned out to craft this tribute to their fallen leader. And, oh yes, both the SE's and the original versions are included. Every self-respecting science-fiction fan would buy it eagerly and it would have the nice side benefit of being an early, significant boost to the fledgling DVD format, a nice coda for a man who once championed so much new technology. At this point, we haven't even touched the Prequels yet and we've already rescued the integrity of the Trilogy and restored it to its rightful place in everyone's DVD collection. Just imagine the hundreds (if not thousands) of man hours saved when there's no longer any need for online petitions, embittered forum posts, and pleading editorials bemoaning the fate of the original versions on DVD.

Inevitably, a grieving fanbase will begin clamoring for the Prequels to be made in Lucas's memory. This is where my plan really takes off. With only faint work on the Prequels done before Lucas's death, there are no real scripts, no real direction, just smatterings of story littered in the Trilogy and an accepted plot structure already adopted into Star Wars lore. What do you do? Imagine a conference of prominent science-fiction writers/directors called together to discuss how the Prequels can be made "as a tribute to George's original vision." Start dialing Joss Whedon, Bryan Singer, Alex Proyas, The Wachowski Brothers, Kevin Smith, Terry Gilliam, Sam Raimi, David Fincher, Chris Cunningham, Timothy Zahn, Kevin Anderson, Ridney Scott, Steven Spielberg, Darren Aronofsky, et al (among many others I'm sure I'm forgetting). I'm sure some of these people detest the popcorn pulp of the Star Wars movies, but I don't think you'd have any problem assembling an eager and excited murderer's row of talent. They hammer out a basic outline and aesthetic for the three Prequels and then divvy them up (to keep too many cooks from the kitchen) into teams to work on screenplays and specifics. Imagine a Prequel directed by Whedon and written by Whedon and Smith. Or one directed by Gilliam with a screenplay by him and Zahn. Hell, create your own fantasy Star Wars matchup, the possibilities are endless. Without Lucas behind the reins, there are no midichlorians, no Jar-Jar, no Jake Lloyd "Yippee!", no stilted, laughable dialogue, no clunky direction, no wooden acting, no above-all-else emphasis on CGI, just the Star Wars saga carried out with a phalanx of filmmaking talent behind it. You can't possibly tell me you'd prefer Lucas's version of the films to whatever this hypothetical supergroup could produce. Of course, ILM would still handle all the special effects and would have all the money in the world, so no worries there. There's nothing we can do to prevent the ubiquitous, nothing-is-sacred merchandising and marketing of the series, but, hey, no solution is perfect. At worst, the films are a disjointed mess, albeit a phenomenal commercial success that LucasFilm can easily disavow as not being Lucas's "true vision." I can't imagine them possibly being any worse than what Lucas shoveled out to us (and this is coming from someone who enjoyed Clones and Revenge). At best, we communally create a new science-fiction opus to bring us into the 21st century and win over grizzled Old Schoolers and young Star Wars fans alike. And isn't that what George really wanted before his boundless ego and overwhelming hubris took over? "For of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"