Movie Commentary: Star Wars

Now that I’m contributing to this site, I thought this would be a good time to talk about something that’s on my mind quite often. Actually it’s literally something that I’ve been “into” since I was 7-years old. The only problem is, that if I start talking about it, I’m liable to start rambling like an idiot and not make a lick of sense. But I still feel inclined to share my thoughts and feelings, so I’ll try to use restraint and limit myself in my ramblings.

The subject I’d like to discuss today is Star Wars. I know, I know. What could I possibly contribute to the discussion of Star Wars that could possibly be a valuable contribution to the discussion? Well, maybe a little history is in order—

I first saw Star Wars in the theaters as a child in 1977. It was truly a childhood altering (and probably geek generating) experience. From then on, the movies, toys and magazines defined most of my childhood. I stopped counting at 30 viewings of the original Star Wars movie when it came out on videodisk back in the early 80’s. I owned all of the Marvel Star Wars comic books. Suffice it to say, I loved Star Wars.

The original Star Wars (now commonly refered to as Episode IV: A New Hope) was and still is my favorite of them all. I agree with many out there, that The Empire Strikes Back is probably the best of all the movies, but it’s the original Star Wars that truly impacted me, and as I’ve heard, the world of moviemaking in general.

Then in 1997 came the Special Editions. I thought that was exciting! All of the movies back in the theaters with enhanced special effects! The idea was a fun one that seemed like a good idea—a chance for poor George Lucas to fix some of the mistakes or omissions that had been nagging him for so long. Great! But the only problem is (turning on restraint) with all of the added special effects, there were also alterations which to the general public might have seemed like no big deal, but to someone like me who has watched these movies so much that they’re engrained in my consciousness, they’re like looking at a beloved painting, like the Mona Lisa, and discovering that someone decided that she would look better with her teeth showing when she smiled, and went ahead and changed it. And it’s not even the fact that they went ahead and made the change that’s the problem, but they’ve gone and destroyed all versions of her with lips closed because it’s thought of as “incorrect.”

One example I have of this is the change where he made Greedo shoot at Han Solo (Harrison Ford) first in the Cantina. Come on! That’s part of what was great about Han! He was a scoundrel—a pirate! You don’t think that if he thought that Greedo was getting ready to shoot him that he wouldn’t shoot first? Of course he would.

One more example of a change that annoys me is when R2-D2 is spat out of the swamp by whatever the thing was that was trying to eat him. In the original version, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) cleans the slime off of R2 and says, “You’re lucky you don’t taste very good!” —a witty, light hearted remark that I rather liked. In the Special Edition that line of dialogue was changed to, “You were lucky to get out of there.” Taking out a chuckle generating line and making it quite forgettable.

I could go on and on, but this really isn’t the place for it. The sad thing is that there is no plan as of now (that I’ve heard of) to release the original versions of the Original Trilogy on DVD, so it appears that those versions that are so firmly etched onto my memory, are going to have to just stay there for a little while.

When the buildup to the Prequels started, I loved the new interest that resulted. Again there were new toys being made and there were a lot of promotional items being given away in restaurants and stuff like that everywhere. I must admit, the collector in me went a little crazy with this.

When Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace hit the theaters, I was psyched! I went to the midnight show and watched it two more times the following day. To this day I don’t hate it as much as most people seem to, probably because of all of the hype that made that a generally exciting time. I didn’t even mind Jar Jar Binks so much, because I think that the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi were more annoying than him.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones didn’t stay on my good side for long, though. The first time watching it was enjoyable, but the parts where Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is supposed to be wooing Padme (Natalie Portman) made me cringe when I first saw it, and really annoy me now. I also thought the special effects weren’t as good as should be expected.

Regarding Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, many people thought that this movie “saved” the prequels and provided a much needed link to the Original Trilogy. In my opinion, though, it has virtually ruined the saga for me.

You see, my problem is that I have young children that I would love to share what I so deeply loved as a child with them, but I’m very cautious about what they watch. Lucas has made it clear that these movies are supposed to be made for children, so why did he make this movie so intense that it garnered a PG-13 rating? I really think that if there had been a little more subtlety shown, much of the carnage could have just been hinted at and it could have been much better.

But more than that, there’s a matter of principle that I have a problem with. The redemption of Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi worked, in part, because we didn’t really witness the wicked things that he had done. The only real witness of his actions came from a comment from old Ben Kenobi, saying that he “helped the Emperor hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights.” But in this movie we actually see him carrying out the act of hunting down and killing innocent Jedi. And by innocent, I’m including the killing of children (which thankfully is not shown). After watching this, I find myself not wanting Darth Vader to be redeemed at the end of Return of the Jedi! I don’t believe that the single act of killing the Emperor could have possibly paid for what he did to all of those undeserving people.

Sometimes I find myself wishing that the Prequels had never been made. Other times I just ignore my the problems I have an watch them for the nostalgia for the things that I loved as a kid. I’m sure if enough time goes by and I revisit the prequels, I won’t be bothered as much by things as I am and maybe I’m just being too sensitive—I don’t know. What do you think?

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