I loved the original Trilogy and stopped watching when Lucas continued the franchise. I knew George back in the day, in SF, and was impressed that the shy, experimental film lover Lucas had redefined himself and the movie business through his adept synthesis of the Hero stories of World mythology (Via Joseph Campbell) and a ground breaking approach to merchandizing.
I had a vague idea that the Trilogy had spawned generations of hand made fan films (we see tantalizing clips in the film) from home movies with toddler Hans Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Lea, to professional animations, with everything in between. Some fans, disillusioned with religion, posited Star Wars as a new religion, or at least a spiritual revival.
I knew that my generation of geek-fans felt betrayed by the later editions, most notably the Prequels and the heinous capture motion animation “Attack of the Clones.” Vaudeville inspired (Jar-Jar Binks (beloved by young Star War Fans) is roasted world wide and inspired Binks snuff films.
I didn’t know that generations of geeks and Fan-boys considered Lucas a traitor for re-releasing altered “Special Edition” of original series and, to the best of his ability. making earlier editions unavailable.
“George Lucas raped my childhood” is their battle cry, though Phillipe manages to get some of the hardest core fans to agree that they might have contributed to the “abuse” by collecting every single piece of merchandise available.
Interviews with fan filmmakers, journalists, Sci-fi authors Neil Gaiman and David Brin, Special Effects maestro Ray Harryhausen and Lucas himself illustrate the debate.
In a famous interview Lucas told American Cinematographer about his Special Editions, “There will only be one. And it won’t be what I would call the “rough cut”, it’ll be the “final cut”. The other one will be some sort of interesting artifact that people will look at and say, “There was an earlier draft of this… what ends up being important in my mind is what the DVD version is going to look like, because that’s what everybody is going to remember. The other versions will disappear. Even the 35 million tapes of Star Wars out there won’t last more than 30 or 40 years. A hundred years from now, the only version of the movie that anyone will remember will be the DVD version [of the Special Edition]… I think it’s the director’s prerogative, not the studio’s to go back and reinvent a movie.” He claims the original negatives no longer exist.
Fans responded with websites, petitions, Star War parodies, projects which garnered buzz like “The Phantom Edit” (a fan edit of the movie “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace”) and Casey Pugh’s remarkable “Star War: Uncut” a project which unites fans around the world, each contributing one scene to their version of “Star Wars: The New Hope.” (To see scenes of the epic unfinished fan film to be released on the net goes to www.starwarsuncut.com.)
Between those two positions hangs Philippe’s amusing study of pop culture.
The most ironic moment is a bite from young George Lucas’s campaign against Ted Turners colorization of films in the 80’s. “There is nothing to stop American films, records, books, and paintings from being sold to a foreign entity or egotistical gangsters and having them change our cultural heritage to suit their personal taste.” Wow! Opens Friday, May 13 NUART