“People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians.”
George Lucas before Congress, 3 March, 1988
I spent this week very happily watching the original Star Wars trilogy, as it was screened in cinemas between 1977 and 1983, in perfect BluRay-quality high definition. As a Star Wars fan with an interest in the history of film, as well as a scepticism of the merits of computer generated imagery (CGI), I greatly enjoyed this ‘despecialised‘ edition. However, this is is not something I ought to have been able to do.
The simple reason for this is that George Lucas does not want me to – which is why he has never released the theatrical versions of the trilogy since his never-ending mutilation of the work began with the ‘Special Edition’ DVD release in 1997. Like a spoiled child, Lucas does not care that a large chunk of his fans consider the tampering to be akin to sacrilege, that their eyes get tired of yet another computer-generated bantha appearing in shot, and that their blood boils at the hokey revisionism of ‘Han shot first.’ His response, enough to make you want to kick him in the face, was merely ‘I’m sorry you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it. But I want it to be the way I want it to be.’
In any other age, the smarmy git would have got his wish, and fans would have had little recourse but to gnash their teeth as they blow the dust off the VCR to watch the trilogy on tape in all its analogue, blurry, crapness – in fact this is exactly what the bastard suggested in 2004. But this is now the internet age, which has empowered ordinary people to bypass and give a massive ‘fuck you’ to record companies, newspapers, dictators, and smug directors who don’t understand how the market works. Put simply, if you don’t give people what they want legitimately, or if you make it difficult for them to get it, they’ll turn to the black and grey markets for it. Or, in the modern world, seamlessly reconstruct the original feature from various sources.
This appears to be something fellow director Ridley Scott understands. My BluRay copy of Blade Runner, one of my favourite films, has no less than five different versions – from the original theatrical cut (which isn’t very good, but I appreciated being able to see what movie-goers saw in 1982) through to the 1992 Director’s Cut and the definitive Final Cut in 2007, which corrected mistakes such as the dove at the end being released into a blue sky despite the scene taking place at night (if I remember correctly, this happened because it was the last scene to be shot – on the day of the premiere). I consider this to be by far the best version, though I understand some may disagree, as I’m sure does Scott. I imagine many fans, whichever version they preferred, bought this definitive five-disc set.
I dearly wish Lucas would follow Scott’s lead, because I would jump at the chance to buy a comprehensive BluRay box set along the lines of Blade Runner‘s definitive edition, as I’m sure many other fans would. But it is entirely his loss because, like many fans, I won’t be buying the version he wants me to see, because I hate it. And, thanks to the internet, I don’t have to.
Paul is Creative Director for Conservatives for Liberty. Follow him on Twitter: @Whiggery
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty