By: Chris Bucholz, Cracked.com, February 14, 2012
Last weekend the re-release of the prequel of one of the Star Wars movies came out, because apparently no one’s gotten tired of that shit yet. Rejiggered to now be in 3D — because no one’s gotten tired of that shit yet either — a number of other changes are evident in the film when compared to its original theatrical release. There’s a new Yoda now, some tweaked special effects, and, probably, an extra 28 hours of scenes set in the Galactic Senate.
This is fairly typical for the Star Wars franchise, which has a long history of “Special Editions” and “Re-releases” and something called “laser discs,” all of which feature movies that are slightly different from each other. People who always have a little bit of fudge on their faces have tracked these changes exhaustively, and as is their way, at times have even gotten quite upset about them. News that Lucas was planning changes again with this latest re-release even prompted threats of a boycott from these folks, news which delighted scientists who had created a device capable of measuring extremely small threats, and were looking for something to calibrate it with.
I’m not actually going to get too condescending here, because I am more or less a Star Wars fan myself. I’ve seen the films, I’ve played the games, I even went through a regrettable Star Wars novel phase in high school. (The phase was what was specifically regrettable, although the novels are no things of glory either.) I know all about Han shooting first, and I know the logical explanation for the Millennium Falcon making the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs (it makes so much sense when you think about it). I am, for lack of a better word, a tremendadork.
What I’m not though, is upset about the changes Lucas keeps making. Here’s why:
#4. Because They’re His Damned Movies
An obvious point, but it needs to be stated clearly: Star Wars fans don’t own the Star Wars movies. We just like them. If they get changed and we don’t like them any more, that’s perfectly cool, because we don’t have to like them any more. That’s the deal. All sorts of creative works come in multiple editions, director’s cuts, abridged versions, expanded versions. Lucas appears to be far more into this tinkering than other filmmakers, but he’s hardly unique. Take Blade Runner:
Really, if Lucas wants to fix something he thinks was mistaken in an earlier film, that’s his business. Our lives aren’t affected in any serious way if he changes it, nor does he have a contract with us to preserve The Phantom Menace as some kind of cultural monument to poor plotting. We’re just not talking about something that’s that important; it’s not the Constitution, or the Bible, or The Godfather.
I should be clear that none of this is to say that Lucas is right or wise to make these changes. Irrational or not, he knows these changes will piss off a portion of his fan base, and although pissing off his fan base hasn’t done much damage to him yet, it’s not something many other creators get away with so readily. And under no circumstances should this be taken as a blanket defense of the artistic merit of the changes, which Lucas has a very spotty track record on.
But it turns out that not all of the changes Lucas has made have been bad ones, nor is it a guarantee that any future changes he makes will be bad ones. In fact, there’s always a chance that …
#3. He Might Actually Make The Movies Better
Amongst all the hair-pulling about Greedo shooting first, or that new Jabba scene with an ambulatory beanbag chair clumsily CGI’d over a fat guy…
That Episode IV: A New Hope prefix wasn’t there in the original theatrical release. It was added a couple years after, when it became evident that Star Wars was going to be a thing. Isn’t that a nice little tweak? Makes the movie seem like part of a greater whole? “What an epic story this must be!” the audience says. “But where the hell were the first three parts? Did I … did I black out for several years again?” These troubling questions set the hook perfectly, priming them for an unforgettable cinema experience, and forcing them to confront their demons.
Let’s look at the biggest change being made in The Phantom Menace 3D, aside from the addition of the dreaded Z-axis. The original release featured a puppet Yoda which has since been replaced with the CGI version we see in the other two prequels. Now I’ve seen The Phantom Menace a few times, and can’t recall a thing about Yoda — which I’m inclined to say is a good thing. In retrospect, this was probably my favorite interpretation of Yoda, in that he didn’t do any goddamned backflip sword fighting in this film. But if you look at new Yoda side by side with old Yoda, both look fine.