Thursday, September 1, 2011

George Lucas Shames Us All

[PS - this was written yesterday, and there's a delicious bit of info that came out later today after this published: namely, quotes of George slagging off the 1980's boom of colorization and film alteration. The relevant quotes and info have been added at the end of this post.]
Or, if you actually ever believed Star Wars was "cool," he's certainly about to. I heard in late August that George Lucas is going to make new fx changes to the Star Wars prequels, replacing puppet-Yoda in The Phantom Menace with a CGI-Yoda. I simply didn't care.

It doesn't really matter anymore whether this newest change is because of perfectionism, OCD, or a cheap desire for more money. Those prequels were garbage, and though I've enjoyed their being mocked and critiqued, they've taken up too much time. Watching them was like surgery without anesthesia, and "thank God, it's over" sums up my attitude.

This latest news may convince you there really is no bottom with Mr. Lucas, tho. Not even the reviled Indiana Jones IV represented his low-water mark (George famously rejected Frank Darabont's script!). Why? Because GL is still making adjustments and "improvements" to the original Star Wars trilogy! It's like what if a successful filmmaker were the subject of Hoarders on A&E.

Two days ago, AICN posted an article on how Lucas intends to add new audio into the last fight in Return of the Jedi. Now, when Darth Vader finally chooses his son over the creepy Emperor, big bad Darth will shout "NOOOO!" as he picks up the old guy and tosses him down an air shaft. Fer realsies. Watch below, then read on:

"No!" is right, as in "this shouldn't happen," not that the word should be dubbed in. I have never been the biggest fan of RotJ - I favor ESB and the original Star Wars by a fair margin. This, however, was actually one of the better scenes in the whole movie - and not because the good guy didn't die, or because the bad guy got killed.

See, in those two simple head-turns, you can genuinely read some struggle going through Vader's mind - even though he has no face with which to show emotion or thought. That's very impressive acting for a body builder in a mask. How would anyone decide that additional dialogue would make the moment better? And who but a total idiot would think that including "No! Nooo!" would improve the scene?

Is George under some sort of King Arthur-style curse? Others may compare him to Dorian Gray, but I prefer to think that there's some magical device, some holy grail if you will, that could repair the co-creator of Dr. Henry Jones. Isn't that silly?

For a rare change, this isn't news that I picked up from AV Club. No, I got it from AICN first, and finished writing this entry before AVC posted their own article about it. Still, they've outdone me (typical) by including all 3 of the expected changes revealed so far (Obi-Wan makes a different noise when first appears, and Ewoks now have CGI eyes that move). Follow the link in this para to watch the rest.

Of course, anyone familiar with the later works of George Lucas shouldn't be surprised that he had to keep on meddling. I didn't even care that much whether Han Solo fires first, as I was more bothered by tons of desert footage covered by new fx of animals... I do get worked up at someone dumb enough to fix a thing that isn't broken and has already been in the public mind for nearly 20 years.

I guess the only real questions are (a) what's gonna get changed next, and (b) who's gonna "improve and update" George?

UPDATE: Oh well, AV Club schooled me once again. They heard, before I did, reports by /Film and Save Star Wars, of a speech George Lucas gave before Congress. What's special about his words is that George was arguing strongly against people being able to colorize and otherwise alter classic movies. It's worth noting that he meant "people changing other people's works," but the quotes are especially ripe in, retrospect.

Lucas' claims go beyond mere hypocrisy, they're shocking because of Lucas' vigorous statements (again, before Congress). He said it, much like every line of dialogue in the Star Wars prequels, with a blunt and "extreme" attempt at passion. It's absurdist and ironic, reading the words that George said probably 8 years before he began to work on the "Star Wars Special Editions." Read the quote below, please, and have a nice hard laugh. A nice, hard, snarky, ironic laugh:
“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. Tomorrow, 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…. Attention should be paid to the interest of those who are yet unborn, who should be able to see this generation as it saw itself, and the past generation as it saw itself.”
As far as intellectual-yet-impassioned speeches go, it sounds effective. Rather silly, really, for describing "our cultural history" as a bunch of films and tv shows, but still effective. Even there, I have to give GL credit: I've often argued that American pop culture has pretty much become the entire country's culture, and that I think this fact is sad and lame.

It might be clear that Mr. Lucas has lost his perspective. Lots of people get older and don't realize they've become different than they were when they were younger. I'm sure lots of thieves don't think they're thieves, just like a jerk can think that they're actually quite nice. Regardless, reading that speech nearly blew out my sense of cynicism.

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