“Art is never finished, only abandoned.
—-Leonardo Di Vinci
“Star Wars is like a woman who was once vibrant and beautiful but who has had an obscene amount of plastic surgery and hasn’t been allowed to age gracefully.” —-Some Guy on a Star Wars Forum
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or simply aren’t a Star Wars fan or geek of any ilk, you most likely have been hearing the complaints about the changes made to the Star Wars movies in their upcoming blu-ray release. Most of the recent controversy has centered around some added bits of dialogue given to Darth Vader during the climactic final battle between Vader, Palpatine, and Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi. In this newest version Darth Vader screams “No! Nooo!” as he picks up his Sith master and gives him the shaft. A phrase that has already garnered some fan ridicule when it was used in Revenge of the Sith and now has them outraged due to its insertion into the iconic ending of the original trilogy.
Now many Star Wars fans out there already have several complaints to bring up against Uncle George, the bearded creator. This recent tinkering with the saga seems to be the straw that infuriated the camel’s core fanbase. Many other blogs and commentaries seem to imply that they feel George Lucas hates the fans, cares nothing for the Star Wars saga, and thinks that adding to, and messing with, the movies will encourage us gullible fans to shell out a few extra bucks in order to collect a newer version of the films.
But here’s how I see it.
From what I can tell George Lucas does NOT hate the fans of his movies, or think that they are fools. On the contrary Lucas seems to take quite an interest in the fans and their activities. He has personally attended several of the Star Wars Celebration conventions and I have personally seen him speak twice. From all indications he seems actually quite congenial to, and appreciative of, his fans. One quick example that comes to mind is when Uncle George was taking questions at one of the previously mentioned Star Wars Celebrations, when one particularly stereotypical geeky fan asked a very specific and involved question about buzz droids and particle shielding on Jedi starfighters. George took a breath and was about to answer the inquiry before the other fans in the auditorium booed the awkward questioner down from the mic. I remember personally yelling something along the lines of “Ask that kind of shit at a Trek convention!” George Lucas however said nothing, and simply shrugged as if disappointed he didn’t get to answer.
What I’m getting at is that George Lucas could be so much more standoffish with his fans, he could be like the Emperor, mysterious and removed from the people. Instead he seems to make appearances quite often, has dialogues with the fans, and has even given his take on a few of the popular criticisms about his work.
That’s not to say that George Lucas hasn’t made some mistakes in his work. I am in no way simply pardoning Lucas for everything just because he takes a few minutes to chat with the fan boys. Jarjar was waaaaay overdone. Episode II is terrible. Han shooting first was stupid. He shouldn’t have directed the prequels. And Indiana Jones 4 was total shit (but actually I put most of the blame for that debacle on the other major players involved with that one, Lucas’ story could have been one of my favorite Indy movies, but the execution was atrocious!)
Now onto the idea that Lucas hates the Star Wars universe, or simply has no regard for the established universe that is Star Wars. I’ve commented on this before in my post about Lucas VS the Fan Boys. Without repeating myself too much I’ll just restate that I’ve never felt, nor have I really seen any evidence to support the idea that Lucas simply doesn’t care about what changes he makes to the Star Wars universe. On the contrary I have to say that if you’ve read any interviews with Dave Filoni, the director of the Clone Wars cartoon, or George Lucas himself, you’ll discover that there is quite a bit of thought and effort put into what new elements are added to the Star Wars universe through the cartoons, and film changes, and how those elements fit in with the existing Star Wars realm. Sure Lucas makes changes to established and iconic scenes, and tinkers with works he’s already completed but I attribute that more to the idea that Lucas is a perfectionist who regularly thinks about how he wishes this or that scene had turned out better. I don’t believe he makes changes on a whim, but instead foolishly makes these edits based on his current state of mind, and not his original inspired direction. As a writer myself I can sympathize with wanting to tweak your work to make it just right. That however has to happen before it is unleashed upon the world.
Which brings me to the last part of my rant.
“Lucas just wants to make a quick buck off the fans by making some unnecessary changes and putting the movies out on a new format.” George Lucas knows how to make a buck, there is no denying that. That son of a bitch is the grand master of merchandising and he established the style of promotion and rebranding that keeps a product fresh in the mind of the consumer. He knows how to stretch something out and get the most from fan expectations and desires. I’m convinced that the only reason we haven’t seen the live action Star Wars television series yet is because the Clone Wars was far more popular and successful than originally anticipated, so why show all your cards at once? Get the most of the Clone Wars and when that winds down, ramp up the live action show once more. Some might say it’s a dick move, but it’s just good business. Hold onto those good ideas until you need them, and keep the product going. It’s America, it’s capitalism. So all our Star Wars dreams aren’t coming true all at once, too bad.
I believe Lucas does what he does in terms of changes, additions, tinkering, etc. because deep down George Lucas is still clinging to his indie film school roots. Somewhere deep down there is still good in Lucas, he pictures himself as a hipster film geek who praises 2001: A Space Odyssey and Kurosawa movies. He wants to try to perfect his art however and is afraid to let things go until they are “done right.” The problem is of course that things are never done right, they’re just done as best as they can be. As the above quote states art is never finished, only abandoned. This of course means that George Lucas is a terrible artist in that he just can’t let go. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have made the prequels or has done too much with the Clone Wars, on the contrary, for the most part, I really enjoy these new segments of the Star Wars saga (glaring annoyances aside.) It just means that Lucas has to learn to let go. When he stepped back from the directors chair on the original movies we found that his vision could be fulfilled just as well, if not better, through a different set of eyes.
It is my theory that George Lucas is not a spiteful person, nor a solely greedy one. If any maladjustment can be assigned to him I would say he suffers from excessive vainglory. He wants his works to be the best, and remain the best. Star Wars, his inarguable pinnacle achievement and best known creation was once the apex of movie making, a groundbreaking achievement in film. He is slow to relinquish that glory and so attempts to make his art a continual work in progress, slowly adapting the state of the art practices of the present to his masterpiece of the past. Without a doubt Lucas has been a pioneer in new technologies and styles of film making, but he is unable to completely let go of his pride and the earlier works that got him there.
That is why you fail.
That is all!