Oh god. It’s starting again. No sooner had the “he raped my childhood” died down and almost disappeared than big dork daddy George Lucas has announced a Sept. 2011 release of his “complete” Star Wars films in full blown high definition Blu-ray (key word here being “his”). The teaser trailer come-on suggests fans get ready - and pre-order the Hell out of - the 90 buck behemoth, including the use of the best quality sound and image possible and over 30 hours of additional content. As the bum’s rush to be first to declare your geekdom has the social networks clamoring overtime, the rumor mill is once again rife with unsubstantiated dialogue and discussions. Sigh.
In particular, the age old issues of “which versions” will be offered (immortal classics from the ‘70s and ‘80s vs. tweaked trash from the last time Papa Lucas got a CG bug up his butt), the inclusion of “new footage” (supposed inserted in Parts IV through VI to tie them to the prequels better), and the endless tirades over the what fans ‘deserve’ vs. what the owner of said art wants for his legacy are getting the same old stunted song and dance. Granted, such vocal appreciation has to be respected, considering that few films, let alone a series of said entertainments, can garner such a fiery response. But the time has come to consider a truce, of sorts, over the whole Star Wars situation and be done with it once and for all.
Nothing said in these next few paragraphs, or over the next few months, will change the minds of those already anticipating a HD trip to Mos Isley. They have backed everything that Lucas has done, have little or no problem with prickly cinematic concepts like Jar-Jar Binks and the leaden Hayden Christensen. They’ve supported substandard Star Wars product (i.e. - the recent Clone Wars cartoon) and await every potential Luke/Leia/Anakin/Padme pronouncement with a dedicated derived out of endless hours in home video obsession. You could tell them that Lucas plans of changing Harrison Ford to Justin Bieber and, after the initial shock, they’d still find a way to celebrate the decision.
On the other hand, nothing will convince the detractors that Lucas can do what he wants and forge whatever final filmic word he wants. If Orson Welles were still around, one could easily argue that he’d be retrofitting his films with whatever the current technology can provide. He would definitely be doing it to his later, low budget experiments and, if possible, he’d tackle his ‘real’ version of The Magnificent Ambersons once and for all. So there is no real issue with a filmmaker finding the best way to explain and/or exhibit his vision. It’s all a matter of personal, not public perception. There was a time when the entire “gifted to the world” argument held some sway, but that was before global digital distribution and the distinct problem of seeing cinematic tools match talent.
So here we are again - Star Wars blah…blah…blah. Frankly, a Blu-ray release is a no brainer for anyone invested in the franchise. Lucas will make sure the movies look damn good and his painstaking approach to the F/X (including those inherent in the sound design) will simply blow the format’s Codex-lossless socks off. He will dig through the seemingly endless treasure trove of bonus material, tease and tempt viewers with incomplete subplots and deleted ideas, and more or less turn the entire package into a solid celebration of what he and his team at ILM do best. It can’t change the bad scripting or awkward acting, but he can certainly make the eye candy as appealing as possible.
It’s interesting - in her current one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fischer discusses the surreality of living her life in service of Star Wars and its legion of devotees. In between discussions about who owns her likeness, the “revealing” nature of a recent maquette, and the burden of that “goddamn brass bra”, she makes it very clear that Lucas made (and marginalized) her entire career - perhaps even her life. That’s the pull of these films. Similarly, he’s done the same for hundreds of movie fans who might not normally embrace the elements of serious speculative science fiction (which Star Wars clearly is not). At its heart, Lucas has crafted a post-modern fairy tale, a complicated homage to the movies that moved him and the stories that set up everything we know about heroes and villains. The reason the response is so overblown is that, for many, Han and Chewie are like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, classic characters traversing a recognizable (if alien) folklore universe.
As stated before, however, none of this will quell the nerd Hellfire. Those who want to believe that Lucas is out for another cash grab have truth behind their otherwise critical analysis and some website will always be “in the know” when it comes to what’s being added/altered with each of the six films (even if their insights are nothing more than meaningless gossip mongering). Anticipation will run high, fanatics will tweet and Facebook about their pre-order penchants, others will dismiss and divide the conversation, and in the end, the set will probably become the highest/fastest/best selling Blu-ray release of all time. Criterion can spend years bringing essential films to the format - necessary works imperative to the artform. Lucas cries Wars and everybody’s flat screen suddenly perks up.
So get ready - it’s going to be a bumpy Harry Knowles nothingness eight months of conundrums and conjecture. The dialogue will dip and dive and more than one blog will bolster their hits by name-checking the Blu-ray release in their headlines (point already taken). Even you may be asked to weigh in, some media conglomerate thinking that an online poll or Comic-Con DIY will provide some rationale (and ratings). It doesn’t change the fact that, more than three decades ago, a trip to a galaxy far, far away redefined what it means to be a film fan forever. Let Lucas has his new digital toys. It won’t matter much in the end - except to those already in a lather.
// Notes from the Road
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