Thursday, September 1, 2011

an open letter to George Lucas

Dear Mr. Lucas,

First of all, let me say, thank you for Star Wars. I can't even begin to catalog the number of hours I have spent -- as a child, teenager, and now adult -- with Star Wars. Watching the movies. Driving from Walmart to Toys"R"Us to Target to comic shops and beyond with my brothers looking for hard-to-find Star Wars action figures. Camping out at the movie theater and missing school -- when I was in danging of failing more than one class -- for tickets to see Episode I at the first moment possible. Missing even more school and work to see Episode I and Episode III (I was serving a mission for my church and unable to see movies when Episode II came out). Updating my Facebook status at least hourly -- perhaps to the chagrin of many of my Facebook friends -- with a Star Wars quote on May 4, the unofficial International Star Wars Day. Talking Star Wars, reading Star Wars, engaging in lightsaber battles with my brothers and cousins, finding new ways to arrange our family collection of Star Wars action figures. As they say, the list goes on and on.

Suffice it to say, I am a Star Wars fan. I know I'm not the biggest Star Wars, but apart from my brothers and my buddy Chip, I'm the biggest Star Wars fan I know.

As a teenager, and as a young adult, I came across people who had never seen a single Star Wars movie. I found this so hard to understand. For me, having not seen Star Wars as a kid was tantamount to having missed out on childhood altogether, that's how important Star Wars was for me growing up.

In 1997, you released the Special Edition versions of the original three Star Wars films, and I couldn't have been more excited. As I was either unborn or much too young to have seen them in a theatrical setting, I was now finally able to. I enjoyed and welcomed the changes you made (with the exception of replacing the Sy Snootles scene with the tacky CGI "Jedi Rocks" number). However, I'd like to make one thing clear: had these changes come about or not, I would still love these films. (Incidentally, my favorite of the series, The Empire Strikes Back -- possibly my favorite movie ever -- was the least changed by the Special Edition makeovers.)

As a filmmaker, how fortunate you were to have the resources, technology, and fan base to go back and effectuate these changes to make these films closer to the films you imagined.

When you released the original Star Wars Trilogy on DVD in 2004 another significant change was made at the end of Return of the Jedi. The final scene of the movie shows the ghostly figures of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Anakin Skywalker during the Rebel Alliance's celebration of their defeat over the evil Galatic Empire. The DVD release shows not Sebastian Shaw, the original actor who played Darth Vader sans mask, or Anakin Skywalker, but the prequel version of Anakin Skywalker, played by Hayden Christiansen. Justifiably, this change upset many fans, myself included. Eventually though, I grew into this change because it made Return of the Jedi work on an additional level, it gave needed poignancy to the prequel trilogy, and it occurred during less consequential, post-climactic part of the movie.

Like most Star Wars fans, I have eagerly been awaiting the release of all six Star Wars films on Blu-ray. And now we're two weeks away. But today I read a disturbing piece of news that has made me rethink my willingness to shell out another $100 in addition to the hundreds (thousands factoring in opportunity cost?) I've already spent on Star Wars-centric pursuits. Today I learned that the new Star Wars Blu-ray release will include even more changes.

The most grotesque of which, as you know, occurs during the end of the throne room scene of Return of the Jedi -- the true climax of the movie, of the entire series even. As the evil Emperor Palpatine tortures Darth Vader's son Luke Skywalker with the intent to kill him, Vader looks on at his suffering son, then at the Emperor, then to back his son. It's at this point where you decided to add some extra audio. In the new Blu-ray version, at this point Vader mutters, "No," and then yelling, "NOOOOOOOOO!" he hoists the evil Emperor Palpatine over his head and throws him down the nearest reactor shaft, thus rescuing his son Luke from imminent death. It's one of my favorite scenes of any movie, not just Star Wars, and Mr. Lucas, you've effectively ruined it.

With the creation of Star Wars, unquestionably you became one of greatest filmmakers of all time. And not only have you created a universe in which so many people have found enjoyment and pleasure, but you have created stories that have inspired hope and meaning in so many people. Most importantly you've created a medium through which friendships and family bonds have been made and strengthened. And yet, you risk cheapening all that with these willy-nilly changes to these films that have meant so much to so many.

On September 16, you won't see me in any line waiting to purchase a copy of Star Wars on Blu-ray.

Myke Olsen


  1. That can't be real... It just... can't.

  2. Funny how in the 80s he was giving speeches before congress about how- here, I'll just copy and paste some of it:

    "These current defacements are just the beginning. Today, 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. Tommorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with "fresher faces," or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor's lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new "original" negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires.
    In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be "replaced" by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.
    There is nothing to stop American films, records, books, and paintings from being sold to a foreign entity or egotistical gangsters and having them change our cultural heritage to suit their personal taste."

    Haha, he just called himself an egotistical gangster.

  3. Plus, look at this atrocity!

  4. Jeremy, if it's not it could be the cruelest ever perpetrated by man.

    Trev, as an "egotistical gangster" George Lucas must have been his own inspiration for Jabba the Hutt.

  5. Thought you might find this interesting.

  6. I really don't care what he does with the movies as long as he releases them with the subtitle "Director's Cut" or "Extended Edition." That way he can get his jollys messing with Star Wars while ignoring the fact that he hasn't produced a single decent film since Indiana Jones.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us should be able to enjoy the original trilogy the way we remember it, allowing for digital restoration and cleaning up some of the lines from superimposing. Let's just hope he doesn't start messing with Indiana Jones.

    On a side note, I watched Episode 1 for the first time the other day with my 5 year old daughter. She is totally in love with A New Hope and I wanted to expose her to some more Star Wars that would be age appropriate. (There's a discussion to have, by the way. What age do you introduce your children to Star Wars?) She was enjoying the movie until JarJar Binks showed up. He had been on screen for approximately 30 seconds when she turned to me and said, "Papa, I really hate that guy so much." That's my girl!

    Here's a good video explaining what really happened to Lucas.