Movie Night: Star Wars

Ah, the holy trilogy — Star Wars (or A New Hope, as the revisionist Mr. Lucas dubbed it in its first rerelease), The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. And yes, I watched them all. Partly because I hadn’t seen them in some time, but also because my oldest daughter has now reached the age I was when I first saw the trilogy’s opening installment. She’d seen the films before, but hadn’t yet reached the point where she could really understand what was going on. (No, we didn’t watch them all in one sitting, so the “Movie Night” header might be a little inaccurate, but I decided to stick with convention this time.) In retrospect, our timing seemed particularly appropriate given this weekend’s announcement of the official title for Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (a nice throwback to the prematurely-released working title for Return of the Jedi).

While I’m still awaiting the DVD edition of these pictures, I wanted to catch the old VHS versions once more before that, and I really couldn’t stomach the idea of watching them too close to the upcoming September release date. Rumor (and at this point it may be more than rumor, but I’ve yet to confirm that) has it that George Lucas is making even more changes to the pictures at this point, including replacing Clive Revill with Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor in Empire and Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christiansen as the ghostly apparition of Anakin Skywalker at the end of Jedi. There are a slew of other rumored “modifications” (and we’ll probably know more once the rest of the weekend’s announcements trickle out to the mainstream media), but at least those two are supported with alleged stills from the new versions (and yes, I know that in the Photoshop era, that means absolutely nothing, so I’m taking it with a very large grain of salt).

But you know what? I don’t really care. The fanboy purists are up in arms, screaming that their beloved childhood memories are being irrevocably desecrated. Okay, so Jabba looked ridiculously fake in his digital reinsertion. Greedo shooting first — in addition to being poorly executed — was just an old man’s sensibilities asserting themselves (no matter how much Lucas may delude himself, that is not what he intended all along). But on the whole, the “Special Editions” are more fun to watch. I’d much rather watch and enjoy a film without being distracted by the primitive effects than sit and reminisce nostalgically about how much more easily fooled we were way back when. And had they not been updated, the obviously outdated effects — which, let’s be honest, were more of a selling point than the story itself — would have cut off accessibility to future generations. Which, as I mentioned, was my objective this weekend.

Yeah, I know, from a film history standpoint, I’m speaking absolute blasphemy. But we’re not talking Citizen Kane here — it’s Star Wars. And if George wants to tweak things a bit more, I’m not going to freak out about it. Not that revision for revision’s sake is a good thing, but — as with so many other issues — we’re not talking about black-and-white extremes. There is a gray area here, and I’m willing to cut him a little slack.


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