The Cry Heard ‘Round the World

I think it’s safe to say that the rumors circulating around the internet the last few days are sadly true: George Lucas has again mucked with perfection. The new Blu-ray edition of the Star Wars Trilogy set to be released on September 16 will have a couple new additions to the beloved series, and this time one of them is audio.

In an attempt to further sync Episodes 4, 5, and 6 with the blasphemies known as Episodes 1, 2, and 3, Darth Vader can now be heard yelling “NOOOOOOOO” as he stops the Emperor from killing Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi. You’ll remember the same Vader cry at the end of Revenge of the Sith when his transformation to evil is complete. At least that’s the point of all this hoopla. To integrate a trilogy everyone loves with a trilogy we would all love to forget.

My anger towards this move by Lucas has little to do with money. He and everyone else can try to take my money, but at the end of the day the choice is up to me as to whether I fork it over. It’s really a non-issue at this point. My confusion instead lies with why this man feels the need to mess with a masterpiece. At the time of its release, Star Wars was on the cutting edge of technology, translating the available visual effects resources into a world beyond imagination. It’s proven to be a game-changer of a movie, a source of inspiration for all. So why all the changes?

Obviously a lot has changed in movies in the past thirty years. Special effects are more brilliant and gorgeously rendered then ever. So maybe I can understand why Lucas, devoid of these advancements the first time around, would want to use them to create a “bigger, better” Star Wars experience, perhaps closer to the picture he had/has in his head. Maybe the idea of Star Wars was so ahead of it’s time in the late 70s, early 80s that Lucas did what he could and was merely waiting for the technology to catch up. The problem is, when the technology has matched Lucas’ vision and he makes his changes, he’s met with criticism every time.

The last additions to the Star Wars Trilogy included among other things a digitally rendered Jabba the Hutt, a prolonged music segment at Jabba’s palace, Hayden Christensen replacing Sebastian Shaw as Anakin, and digitally rendered celebrations around the galaxy when the Empire is defeated at the end of Return of the Jedi (I will admit, I didn’t mind that addition so much). What results is a patchwork quilt of new and old technology that takes away the endearing aspects of Star Wars. I remember the outcry following these changes, and it sounds a bit familiar this time around, only more bitter than before.

By adding a battle cry to Return of the Jedi, Lucas is changing the emotion, the tension, and the flow of the original scene. I can understand the want of symmetry between films. In the “new” scene, Vader recalls his own destruction at the hands of the Emperor, and refuses to see his son endure the same future. So with a resounding “NOOOOOOOO” we are taken back to Episode 3 and a light goes off and everything gets tied up in a nice bow. But what about viewers seeing Return of the Jedi in 1983? With no Episode 3 to recall, how did they understand what was happening? Believe me, it’s not a far leap. The original silence on the part of Vader as his son is slowly being killed takes the viewer inside the character to the battle waging in his head. I don’t need a verbal indication that Vader is now battling his own demon as well as Luke’s. The slow panning of the camera into Vader’s face as he looks from Luke to the Emperor and then finally moves in for the kill is enough for me. The scene is still full of tension, and quite frankly, is a lot less lame.

Maybe the verdict is still out on these most recent changes. After all, the only clip available isn’t even from the Blu-ray. Maybe this ranting has been for naught. No one would be happier then me. But for future reference, coming from a historical/preservationist mindset that at times is resistant to change, sometimes it’s best to just let a masterpiece rest in peace.