Fri
Mar 16 2012 10:53am
Lucas Shot First: The Surprisingly Powerful Sense of Betrayal George Lucas Creates

We stand fixated on the man who directed Star Wars.

Why? The reasons are beyond number and impossible to mention in geek company without causing a riot: the special editions, the prequels, the re-edits. The betrayal and heartache as thousands of fanboys and girls took up the cry “Han shot first!” We’re furious. We’re mourning. We’re hoping that the next generation doesn’t think that Anakin Skywalker is cooler than Han Solo. And in the middle of it all, there’s George Lucas, telling us that everything he did made the films better. That what we really needed was Gungans, a Max Rebo band with backup singers, and Ewoks that blink.

But we all want to believe that people are reasonable deep down, so we try to understand. To figure out why George doesn’t care that his original audience is crushed by what he’s done to Star Wars, despite the fact that even Steven Spielberg recently copped to being wrong about changing E.T. in a similar fashion. (He still defended Lucas, like he always does.) But no matter how we try to parse it out, George Lucas’s motives are an utter mystery, which in turn creates a surprisingly strong feeling of betrayal.

To start, something mind-shattering:

“People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society.” —George Lucas circa 1988

Wait, what? George Lucas said that? George-just-let-me-release-it-one-more-time-so-I-can-make-C-3PO-a-french-maid Lucas? Okay, I know someone is raring to point out that calling Star Wars “art” would make a lot of art critics in the world very angry. Let’s not go there, and decide for the sake of this argument to define what Lucas created as “pop art.” I think that’s entirely fair, and pop art is certainly not without value. (If we thought it had none, we could never appreciate something so brilliant as Andy Warhol’s take on a Campbell’s Soup can.) So Star Wars is pop art, and George has been doing to it exactly what he claimed was “barbaric” over 30 years ago.

Yes, it’s his work of art, but you know what, Tchaikovsky thought that The Nutcracker Suite was vastly inferior to his Sleeping Beauty ballet and practically no one in history agrees with him. So saying that the artist has a perfectly objective vision of what they create is like saying that parents are perfectly objective when they think of their children: it’s not psychologically possible. And there’s a reason why it’s good to grow up — you can’t keep allowing your parents to shape you as a human being. You need to grow and live on your own without their interference.

So, in a manner of speaking, George Lucas has become the overbearing parent of a child star: he tells them how to dress, screens their friends in interrogation rooms, schedules their every move. He can’t let go. He’s convinced his baby could be so much better if he could just keep changing its shoes. Its haircut. Its mannerisms. And pretty soon that baby won’t be recognizable to the world anymore, but he clearly doesn’t care. He needs to keep control of it.

But having that control can lead to some pretty strange results. Take Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Now I personally enjoy that movie in many respects, but there’s no doubting what a hot mess it is. One of the key places where it goes off the rails is the villainous cult and how they sacrifice their prisoners: ripping out their hearts before lowering them into a pit of lava. Here’s what George had to say on that account recently:

“I was going through a divorce, and I was in a really bad mood.“

When asked if he intended to make such a direct metaphor, he admitted he did. Whoa. That’s one way of channeling your grief.

The fact is, George Lucas often seems to take an almost childlike mentality into his work. It did well for him in the past; the first time Star Wars was screened for some friends, this is what Steven Spielberg said:

“That movie is going to make $100 million, and I’ll tell you why — it has a marvelous innocence and naїveté in it, which is George, and people will love it.”

Now, Spielberg was completely correct in one sense. That innocence and naїveté is a large part of what makes the first Star Wars film so enchanting. But then, The Empire Strikes Back has stolen a lot of people’s hearts for portraying a much darker side to the Star Wars universe, and that innocence frequently makes George Lucas sound completely out of touch with reality as we know it. Take his latest defense for the Han-doesn’t-shoot-first scenario; according to him, Han never shot first in the cantina and it was confusion in post production that made it look as though he did. Even though there is substantial evidence elsewhere to indicate otherwise, George is insisting that we shouldn’t believe what we’ve seen for years because we’re taking it the wrong way:

“The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t.”

Oh, George. You know what, I don’t think Han is a cold-blooded killer. But he is in a very dangerous profession where he frequently interacts with some of the most disturbing criminals in the galaxy, and he’s not stupid. Greedo was going to make good on his threat, and he just couldn’t let that happen. It was self-defense — and we know that Han Solo is all for self-defense. That’s why he almost packs his bags and leaves at the end of the movie.

At the end of the day, it seems as though every change George makes is just a way of saying “I know better than a studio exec. I’ve always known better.” It’s no secret that he had trouble starting his career because the studios slammed a lot of doors in his face. The theatrical release of THX-1138 didn’t go over well, and when buddy Francis Ford Coppola told George that his problem was neglecting to emotionally involve the audience, it was reported (in the excellent film history Easy Riders, Raging Bulls) that George’s response to him and his own wife Marcia was:

“Emotionally involving the audience is easy. Anybody can do it blindfolded, get a little kitten and have some guy wring its neck. I’m gonna show you how easy it is. I’ll make a film that emotionally involves the audience.”

So he made American Graffiti.

And it helped him out quite a bit, gave him the clout he needed to make Star Wars. But Lucas never forgot how difficult the studio made it for him to do what he wanted in the film business. The Star Wars saga gave him the success he needed to do exactly what he always wanted to do — stick it to the man:

“Changes are not unusual — I mean, most movies when they release them they make changes. But somehow, when I make the slightest change, everybody thinks it’s the end of the world. That whole issue between filmmakers and the studios with the studios being able to change things without even letting the director of the movie know … I’m very much involved in that [so that’s not happening here].”

Basically, George has turned around and made the studio system his justification for going back and editing anything he wants. Those heartless men in their Hollywood suits took something precious from him, denied his right to true ownership, and now he’s taking it back inch-by-CGI-saturated-inch. And the fans who are reediting the films themselves, rearranging the prequels so they make more sense, or knocking out those ridiculous “Noooo”s, well, he’s got news for them:

“On the Internet, all those same guys that are complaining I made a change are completely changing the movie. I’m saying: ‘Fine. But my movie, with my name on it, that says I did it, needs to be the way I want it.’ ”

Which is, of course, just another way of saying “they’re my toys and I’m the only person who knows how to play with them properly.”

And that’s not a nice thing to say to the people who made your little empire, who paid for every brick and microchip that line the gold-paved road to Skywalker Ranch. We want to love you, George. You created our collective childhoods. What we can’t understand is how you never seem the realize the sanctity of that. Then again, you don’t even seem to understand the how people connect with each other, much less how they bond with and over a work of art.

We know Star Wars means more to us than it does to you, the man who reportedly hated talking to actors until he directed the prequels, who wanted to replace people with effects in his youth and has nearly achieved that goal. We don’t need Boba Fett’s voice to sound like his retconned father’s — that’s not why we loved that over-armed bounty hunter. We don’t need to see Hayden Christensen’s ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi — he’s not the person who Luke held as he died. You’re taking away the moments that reverberated in us, the little bits and bobs that made a silly popcorn film so damn special. And you have the gall to act above it all when you do it.

“Well, it’s not a religious event. I hate to tell people that. It’s a movie, just a movie.”

Then why do you need to keep coming back to it? It’s not Homer or Milton or even Dante, we all know that, but couldn’t you make an effort to protect it from the ravages of time?

I suppose this line from a recent interview with Oprah should tell us all we need to know:

“Don’t listen to your peers, don’t listen to the authority figures in your life — your parents — and don’t listen to the culture. Only listen to yourself. That’s where you’re going to find the truth.”

That brand of myopia is painful to hear, because it means that a creator who we piled so much love and admiration onto was never really worthy of those sentiments. That he is, in fact, resentfully dismantling something beloved, and in the name of... truth? A truth that he can’t be bothered to share with the rest of us? Movies are supposed to be made for people who watch them, but George has obviously forgotten what business he’s in.

Some people will claim it’s still all for money, but that seems a little unlikely these days. The man has all the money he could ever wish for, and then enough left over to by a private island someplace where he’d never have to hear us whine about Jar Jar Binks ever again. But he still wants to make movies. Artistic ones now. He has the money for it on hand and all the time in the world:

“The area I’m interested in now is to go do some form-experimenting—to try and figure out different ways of telling movies. I grew up in the Godard, Fellini world and all that. To me that’s where my heart is. But I realize that’s not commercial. That’s why I can say I managed to do something that everybody wants to do—all those guys wanted to do—which was to get a pile of money so I can sort of waste it, burn through it.”

Coming from a man who’s sense of “innocence and naїveté” rivals no other, who can imagine what those films will be like. It’s doubtful that George cares if anyone goes to see them either, considering his general disdain for the audiences who attend movie theaters, particularly the ones who liked his work from the Before Time.

That feeling of betrayal lingers, and no one is going to get over it. This fight will rage for decades, and maybe then we’ll be having it with the kids who grew up on the Clone Wars cartoon, who can’t get their heads around what’s making those old timers so upset. But that’s not what rankles. What keeps us coming back to the Lucas-bashing watering hole over and over is that we believed he understood how Star Wars made us feel. That he knew he had created something singular and was grateful for our part in it, all of us, the disciples of his odd little religion. But we’ve been thrown out of the Jedi temple and directed toward the violent commercial lights of downtown Coruscant without so much as a “May the Force Be With You” to ease our suffering.

So the real question ultimately becomes: where’s my “Lucas shot first” t-shirt?

Quotes lovingly lifted from The New York Times, Time Magazine, Movieline.com, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and The Oprah Winfrey Show.


Emily Asher-Perrin still isn’t sure why people who are redeemed from the dark side of the Force need to be young’n’hot ghosts. Maybe it makes them feel better in the afterlife? You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

51 comments
RiverVox
1. RiverVox
The sad part for me is that he was a gifted filmmaker but he can't get beyond this. He has his own movie-making empire and all the money in the world, so why isn't he making NEW interesting, fun stuff? Can you imagine what the young man who made THX 1138 would do if he controlled Skywalker Ranch? Even if he no longer has the creative energy, he could support young filmmakers with their sci-fi FX dreams.
Philip Wardlow
2. PhilipWardlow
I agree totally with what you had to say Emily....I think the commentator - RiverVox hit it on the head as well and answers all the questions you put out in your article.

Meaning I personally think Lucas has a Creative Block regarding anything new that doesn't date back to the last good movies which were Return of the Jedi (which I thought road on the coattails of the other two) and the Indy Flick - The Last Crusade (last Indiana Jones - Crystal Skull was awful) Lucas can't admit it even to himself that he has this block.

I know exactly what he's thinking because you can see it in his work. He's thnking I am gonna see how much special effects I can throw at something so I can be known as the GREAT SPECIAL EFFECTS DIRECTOR I USED TO BE and pat myself on the back. (guess what James Cameron beat you with Avatar)

Lucas has basically lost his passions for writing and good moviemaking and it comes across as arrogance when he is asked to defend it. I believe he did see the same things we saw originally in his work. The original stories had innocence, majic, action, and most importantly you believed it. It was an intuitive gut belief . Not something to be learned or thought on to much. It just was. Yes we are FANBOYS and know the history unlike the NEWBIES (the Yungins) but I will bet you can sit those same kids down in 10 yrs and ask them to go from Episodes 1- 6 and put them in order of which one they like best and I bet it will be 4,5,6 hands down.

I want him to do well. But it's not in him anymore. He's lost that drive to want to do put the time in and demand a good movie for himself and his fans. He's been coasting for 20yrs now and HE knows it but he won't be admitting to us anytime soon.
RiverVox
3. Lokidragon
It is a bit pretentious to tell a storyteller/director what he or she meant. This article is seriously flawed with the idea that you know better than the creator. Why do fanboy's and gals's feel the need to take over someone else's creative work...oh I know...it is because they themselves are not creative enough to come up with something themselves so they revert to a more primal human flaw...possesiveness. Get a life.
Cori Hull
4. yarnandtea
It's not the "Lucas Shot First" shirt, but I think it is apt:

HiJinks Ensue Trilogy Shirt
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
5. Lisamarie
I actually did not see Star Wars until the special editions came out (I know, weird for somebody my age). I fell in love with them immediately, at a time in my life when I really needed something like that. I also did enjoy the prequels quite a bit even though I recognize they are not quite on the same level. I'm still a little ambivalent on the Clone Wars series (I've only seen one season, can't stand Ahsoka).

But, I do think he needs to just let it go. Even after going back and watching the originals, there are some things I prefer in the special editions (mostly the visual touch ups) but some things I feel he should have left the way it is (don't get me started on replacing Clive Revill in ESB - and I am a HUGE Ian McDiarmid fan).

I do agree with above in that I am a big proponent of the authority of an author to say what a story means (I actually really dislike the tendency of EU writers to put their own spin on the overarching themes of the saga, or try and write a book/show that makes you view the movie in a totally different way or even downright subverts it). However the issue here is that he seems to be changing his mind, going back, etc - I'm not sure I buy that this is what he 'always meant'. Art reflects the creator at a certain point of time and I think it's a little dishonest to mess with that. That's like me going back and editing my old journals because they don't reflect who I am NOW.

I'll admit, I do still love George Lucas, I think he is an amazing storyteller and visual artist and came up with something really fantastic. But he needs to just leave it alone for now...
RiverVox
6. StrongDreams
I think it is hard to argue with the theory that George Lucas has no respect for his audience and does not understand why his creation appeals so strongly to its audience. There are many proofs, but the best is the most recent -- claiming that Han never shot first and that Han is not a cold-blooded killer. It simply disrespects the audience to suggest that Han never shot first, a fact that is visible to the naked eye to everyone who watches the original cut of the movei, not to mention the official novelization (which lists Lucas as the "author"), the official comic book adaptation, the official radio play adaptation, etc.

And he misunderstands his own creation when he thinks that we (the audience) like Han for being a cold-blooded. As pointed out, the fans never thought Han was a cold-blooded killer, he was clearly acting in self-defense, a fact recognized not only in-universe but in (probably) every US state -- if someone aims a gun at you, that counts as deadly force and you don't have to wait for them to pull the trigger before you are allowed to shoot back in self-defense.

Fans are not upset at Lucas for changing Star Wars. Fans are upset because he is changing it in ways that indicate that he does not understand its appeal and does not understand or respect the audience who are the foundation of his fortune.

If Lucas had said, "I changed it so that Greedo shot first because young children may not understand the nuances of self-defense and I am uncomfortable showing the original to my grandchildren...other parents can choose which version to show their children" that would be debatable, but not disrespectful. But he said "you all have misunderstood and mis-seen the scene for the last 30 years and I only fixed it so you won't be confused any more." That's the problem.
RiverVox
7. arixan
Okay, I am onboard with the basic thrust of this article. As a stage actor and director though, I must admit toan almost irresistable urge to "tinker." There is always something to fix or change or a better way to get a laugh or make a moment more powerful. With regards to ghostie Anakin being added to Jedi it is easy for me to come up with a rationalization that makes it totally work. It requires a bit of subtext, subtle subtext which has NEVER been a tool in Georgie's toolbelt, but it has to do with self image and redemption. Older Obi and Yoda are much more mature beings than young Anakin or Darth Vader ever were, so Anikin reverts to an image where he was much more "clean."
RiverVox
8. StrongDreams
And @3, FWIW

I don't read this article as saying "why George Lucas was wrong to make changes." I read it as saying, "why are so many people so passionate about the changes."
RiverVox
9. lorq
Agree with much of the above. A few random observations:

1. Have wondered on occasion whether Lucas ever performed the simple act of looking around at his fellow filmmakers and noticed that he was the only one meddling to this extent with his earlier work. His peers who have done similar meddling -- Spielberg, Coppola -- have never allowed the originals to fall out of circulation. Does it ever strike Lucas as unusual or abnormal that he's the only one trying to "block" access to the originals in this way?

2. I've also wondered, particularly since "Sith", whether the tale of Anakin's seduction by Palpatine wasn't somehow connected to Lucas's early protege/mentor relationship with Coppola. There are quite few resonances.

3. It would be helpful if more people acknowledged that much that was wrong with the prequels was already wrong with "Return of the Jedi." Structurally, "Jedi" is a bad film on every level: directing, writing, editing, acting. The tone and pacing are just systematically off, everywhere. The humor of the film is "jokey" in a Jar Jar Binks sort of way, and the emotional interactions feel forced and unomtivated. That sense of richness and wit present in the first two films has been withdrawn; it feels like the IQ points of everyone working on it have dropped precipitously, that the wind has totally gone out of the sails. Even the technical aspects are weak: photography, lighting, and production design are all conspicuously drab and murky, and the effects are *technically* virtuosic but *visually* uninspired. When people praise the prequels for recapturing the feel of the rich mise-en-scene of the originals but excoriate them for their structural weaknesses amd emotional disconnection (the Red Letter Media reviews are extremely incisive in this regard), I think that actually, given "Jedi," the prequels are quite consistent with where things already were.

Having said all this, I will forever be grateful to George Lucas for "Star Wars." (As it happens, I'm one of those who feel the first film is the best. "Darker" and "more polished" do not automatically mean better, and while "Empire" is without question a wonderful, brilliant, and beautiful film -- a great adventure story in every way -- "Star Wars" has magic.) It is truly unfortunate that Lucas has developed the vexed relation to his own work that he has, but I'll just watch that "theatrical release" disk that accompanied the Special Edition a few years back until a better re-issue comes along , if ever. That first film taught me something about just how wonderful movies -- and visual experience in general -- could be.
john mullen
10. johntheirishmongol
Having seen Ep 4 in the theater when it opened, and gone thru all the changes, I don't get quite so insane about the changes and updates as many seem to. Maybe because I remember that the true vision of Lucas was 9 movies, not one and the only reason A New Hope was first was because that is what he could get financed. I also don't get too hassled about the whole 'who shot first' thing. There are lots of things worth ranting about in this world, but this is certainly not one of them.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
11. tnh
StrongDreams, I have to agree. I lost my remaining faith in Lucas at the end of Attack of the Clones. Young Boba Fett has just seen his father killed. The armored troops pick him up and carry him along with them. This generates a huge piece of unexploded narrative ammo: when the troopers take off their helmets, every one of them is going to have his father's face. I was waiting to see how Lucas handled that ... And then he didn't.

At that point, I decided that the guy had gotten lucky early on, and in terms of storytelling had no idea what he was doing.
RiverVox
12. Chuckles
Geroge, you doofus, it's not that we want Han to be a cold blooded killer, it's the very fact that he fits in better with your entire "There is good in him, I feel it!" theme!

Look at it like this: Han WAS a cold-blooded killer. He was a criminal and all he really cared about was money when we first meet him.

He is RIGHT AT THE DAMN LINE to walking the darkside. Maybe he even crossed over. Yeah, he shoots Greedo in cold-blood. Thats how we know he's scum right from the start.

The the point is, Han has a change of heart. He sees where he is headed, and then he sees the good he could do and turns back from the brink of darkness and returns to the light side.

Which is the WHOLE DAMN POINT of your movies, George.

You make the millions of dollars George. You understand movies and stories better than us, right? So you tell us:

Which is the better, more interesting, character?

One who we know right off the bat is perfect goody goody with no flaws to his character AT ALL whom we know will ALWAYS do the right thing (even though Han leaves them all in the lurch when the Deathstar is coming)?

Or a guy with character flaws that make him so much more human to the audience?
RiverVox
13. Lsana
@9,

I think your point 1 is spot on and the reason we're all so mad a Lucas. Yeah, the prequels were lousy, and I think very few of the changes in the original movies made them better, but we'd forgive that if he'd just let us have the movies we grew up with. Instead, by refusing to release the theatrical releases, he's essentially insulting those of us who liked them in the first place. And so yes, we're mad and more than a little betrayed.

I remember that there was an author once upon a time who, when asked if he was upset about Hollywood ruining his books, responed, "My books aren't ruined. They're right over there on the shelf." Only for fans of the original Star Wars, they aren't on the shelf anymore: at best, we may have an old collection of VHS tapes that aren't yet too worn out to play on the increasing unreliable VCR. The trilogy as it was really is ruined.
Fake Name
14. ThePendragon
Get over yourself people. The special edition edits and prequels are fine.
Ian Tregillis
15. ITregillis
Wow, fantastic post, Emily. I'm bookmarking this.

I seem to recall reading how Lucas's assertion that he consciously used Joseph Campbell's work as the model for Luke's journey in the original film was itself a retcon. The piece I read (or think I read) indicated, and tried to demonstrate with interviews from the time, that he only started raising the Campbell connection after it was pointed out to him by somebody else. Did I hallucinate this?

@11: I had a similar "loss of remaining faith" moment in the previous film. After the disappointing Phantom Menace, I argued that the prequels could still find their groove because, logically, there had to be a scene somewhere in the subsequent 2 films where Yoda would need to fight for his life. And that was so juicy and full of potential it couldn't help but be wonderful.

But when it arrived it was... well, it wasn't how I'd always pictured Yoda throwing down. Yoda shouldn't have to act like a superninja action hero. He's YODA. He's the ur-zen master. Subtle can be awesome, too. And, for my money, that scene needed subtlety, not the Tasmanian Devil. That was the moment when I realized that Lucas's vision didn't have room for the things I found enjoyable.

So that's when I bailed.
James Kopsian
16. FesterBestertester
I think most of you people feel so strong about these movies because you were children when you first saw them. They are your Golden Movies. I was 16 when Star Wars came out. I was aware that it was being made and was looking forward to it because there were very few Science Fiction movies at that time. I saw it once at the theater. I liked it and was blown away by the SFX but as a reader of science fiction I didn't think it was that big a deal. Literary SF had moved past this stuff long ago. It amazes me that people get so worked up about this.
j p
17. sps49
Collaborative works of art are never the result of one person's work. There is usually a main person, but they do not work alone.

Star Wars did not spring forth from George Lucas's forehead. Actors, crew, effects and post-production are major pieces. And unless you are self-financing, even a holy exalted director is an employee, and delivers his to the entity that paid him.

And as stupid and disappointing as the suits can be, unleavened "creativity" has little success with the audience. What most comedians laugh at can be inane to other people. Authors, songwriters and filmmakers who feel every spoken or written word, every scene or transition they produce should be untouchable, usually suffer from quality, not quantity, when they gain enough power to successfully oppose changes. Why? Because creators are rarely objective enough to judge their own work.

I would encourage George Lucas to use his stacks of money and resources to go make whatever the fuck kind of movie he wants, on his own, without any studio interference. If he averts the Axl Rose syndrome and releases it before twenty years pass, I might pay money to go see it.
Ian Tregillis
18. ITregillis
@17: I don't know if this fits what you're describing, but I got the impression that Lucas tried to do more or less that very thing with "Red Tails." *shrug*
RiverVox
19. Andrew S. Balfour
@10 That Lucas was planning nine movies the whole time is a myth encouraged by Lucas. Star Wars was originally expected to be a standalone movie. "It was always supposed to be X" is sort of Lucas' catchphrase, and it's never, ever true.

He didn't come up with Vader = Anakin until he was actually making Empire. He didn't decide Leia was Luke's sister until Jedi was in production. He didn't always mean for Greedo to shoot first, he didn't always intend for ghost-Anakin at the end of Jedi to be a young man, and he sure as shit didn't always plan on having Jar Jar shot "Weesa freeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" at the end of Jedi.

Lucas learned a long time ago that he could mythologise the creation of Star Wars; and, by extension, himself; and no one would really question it. The world has changed, the internet allows and encourages us to question everything, and Lucas still expects us to take him at his word when he says the furry CG lounge singers and ham-fisted "NOOOOOOOOO!!" were always part of the plan.
Ethan Glasser-Camp
20. glasserc
I find this ongoing issue fascinating. To me the fundamental question is who "owns" a piece of creative work -- the creator or the person who falls in love with it. No doubt most people agree with #3, that the creator "knows best", but "Star Wars" went nova and became sufficiently ingrained into our pop culture. We the fans are invested in it. Who says we don't have rights to it? Why not? Nobody asserts that we don't really know the "true intent" to Hansel and Gretel.

Art is a discussion between creator and audience. A creator may know better what he intends to convey, but the spectator knows better by far what "works" for him or her. Han shooting first works better for us. "Why wasn't I consulted" aside, this kind of change discards our involvement, invalidates our fanboyship. It *is* a (n extremely mild form of) betrayal, simply put.
RiverVox
21. RobinM
Yes, I agree the original trilogy are Golden Movies to me I was between 6-11 when I saw them. I like the originals best and would like to have those on dvd. I get the urge to tinker with your work to make just a little better I DO NOT have to like it. This opinion doesn't make me stupid or whiney. My biggest problem with the "updates" to Star Wars is that it changes the story . I don't care if he wants to add fireworks or change the music but don't change the story.
j p
22. sps49
Andrew S. Balfour @19-

Lucas said a lot of things to Starlog, Time, and other magazines in 1977 and later. HE was the source of the nine movies notion, then he backed off bit by bit. Just because he says something now doesn't mean he didn't say something different in the past. As the Greedo dispute shows, the man- who I still respect- is a bold faced liar.

Or delusional.
Allana Schneidmuller
23. blutnocheinmal
Lucas can do whatever he wants, he's the creator.
But the biggest issue I think, of fans who prefer the original trilogy, is Lucas tries to force his new-directors-special-final-editions on people, without offering the original cuts as well.
There was one release of 2-disc dvds that included both versions, but they're out of print and selling on amazon for $35-55 a pop.

Most movies are available in myraid editions. Look at Blade Runner, for example. All I want is original theatrical Blu-rays. It would be nice if they were prettied up too, but not if it includes all the subsequent changes and additions.

I could care less what goes on in the extended universe that George created. I was young when I saw Episode I, but I realized the magic was gone while watching episode II. God, what a terrible movie. If only there were an option to turn the dialogue off. John Williams has still got his mojo, at least.
RiverVox
24. AlBrown
All right, I'll go against the grain here. It is Lucas' sandbox, and he can do anything he wants in it. And if you don't like it, you can stop watching or buying. From the 'dollar votes' that the man gets, I suspect that the folks that think he is mucking things up are a minority, a very vocal minorty, but a minority nonetheless. I don't like everything he does, but rare is the writer or director who pleases me with every one of their efforts.
Anyone who has ever created a picture or written a story knows the compulsion to keep changing it. Don't remember who said it, but works of art are never finished, only released by their creators. I find it a peculiar thing in SF fandom to find people who feel they have a greater ownership in characters or stories than the creators have, yet it is not they whose sweat and creativity went into making it. I empathize with Lucas and his desire to use the newest technology to polish those little things he always saw as flaws. And for God's sake, if the man says it was always his intent to have Greedo shoot first, it takes a lot of gall for people to say that he is some sort of liar or cheat because that is not the way they interpreted it--who are you to question his thoughts? What motivation does the man have to lie about that?
Rob't Heinlein once said that once you have written a story, resist the temptation to tweak or tinker with it. But then at the end of his career, he went back, and stitched together the stories in anthologies with additional materials, and wrote novels where the characters dropped by and interacted with folks from his other books, and even other works of fiction. Look at John Scalzi, who went back and tinkered with Piper's Little Fuzzy. Jules Verne brought back Nemo to interact with characters in other books. If I had a dime for every sequel, reboot and director's cut I see these days, I'd have a truck full of them.
So, I say, be thankful for what Lucas has done, enjoy the parts of his epic that you enjoy, and leave the parts you don't enjoy to others. And if you want purity, fire up your old VHS machine, slip in a tape, and watch things in their original form.
James Goetsch
25. Jedikalos
Star Wars has brought me so much enjoyment and happy moments (first when I was a kid, and then with my kids) that I would be hard put to thank Mr. Lucas enough for it. I do not begrudge him at all for doing with his creations what he wants to, and I find it both hilarious and satisfying that a crazy film maker who what was essentially a man who wanted to do films exactly like he wanted to got to do just that. If I tell you I enjoyed the prequels and find them excellent for what they are most folks would no doubt accuse me of lacking all geek judgment, but seriously, he modelled them after the old Flash Gordon serials, and if you take them with the right attitude they just seem to me to be FUN. Take them or leave them (no one is making you take them!), but for goodness sake all the sheer vitriol is depressing. I think I must not be cool enough to hate on Lucas or something like that (if I tell you how much my children loved Jar Jar, and so I did too, will you hate me as well? Or make some snarky comment? Go ahead. The enjoyment and good memories are still there). Thank you Mr. Lucas for all the fun times (especially the ones with my children).
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
26. Lisamarie
@24, don't forget how Tokien TOTALLY retconned the Hobbit ;)

Anyway, @25, I do like your sentiment. Although I am not a fan of everything Lucas does (and I do feel he has some false memory syndrome and could leave well enough alone) - ultimately, at heart, I am a Star Wars fan and have enjoyed all six movies, for different reasons. And I do have fond memories of my little sister thinking Jar Jar was the greatest, haha.
RiverVox
27. The Literary Omnivore
I find this fascinating, because I did not grow up on Star Wars at all—I was born in the nineties and being raised by a French ex-pat mother does not mean exposure to American culture! I came to it as a disinterested older teen, watching it as back of my science fictional education. And yet even I feel this sense of betrayal, that the promises made with the original trilogy were not kept. And the way Lucas constantly tinkers with not only the films but the narrative behind them—such as claiming he had all the movies planned out when he clearly didn't—both fascinates and repulses me, because it feels like he's given into some base artistic impulse that artists of any kind should avoid. He hasn't come to terms with the fact that no work of art is ever finished, only released into the void.

Fantastic and thought-provoking article.
alastair chadwin
28. a-j
It seems to me that there are two totally separate issues here. The first is not that Lucas keeps tinkering with the original films, he has that inalienable right, it is that he is refusing to allow the release of the originals. Again, it's his toy, he can do so but I share the irritation and upset that fans have about it and if I were a big fan I would as furious as any.

The second issue is that of ownership. This is the hard one. No matter how much you love a creative work, no matter how important it is to you, no matter that this work has become a special part of your childhood, you still don't own it. You have nothing to do with it at all. You are a passive recipient. You have no rights. Look at this way, you have a friend who was your best friend as a child, this friend was vitally important to you. You met this friend the other day. The friend is wearing a jacket you dislike. Do you have the right to demand, to order, your friend to wear a jacket of your choosing? Of course not.

Finally, I have to comment that to tell Lucas that you know better what his intentions were/are and to insult him when he disagrees, is simply not acceptable. It is arrogant. Worse than that, it is vulgar.
Emily Asher-Perrin
29. EmilyAP
Hey everyone! Thanks to all who are enjoying the article! I'm going to address a few points that people are making in the comments:

1. As to it being Lucas' creation that he can do anything with: I never disputed that. In fact, that's not what this piece is about at all. It's about precisely why the fans of Star Wars direct so much hate at him. That's what I'm endeavoring to explore. This is not about the ownership of what you create, it about the changing values of a creator - as pointed out in the piece, it's very difficult to pinpoint Lucas' opinion or creative process because he has changed what he said so often (hence the argument over whether or not he actually intended 9 movies). The quotes offered in the piece illustrate exactly that, particularly the first one, which I think is the crux of the whole argument. Lucas didn't believe this was okay to do in his youth. He has clearly changed his mind, and is now angry that no one agrees with his new point of view.

2. I'm in agreement with many that the true problem is lack of access to the original work. If he simply released the originals in the Blu-Ray and DVD sets, I'm sure most people would shut up. Hell, why not include the original Special Edition from '97, so fans could watch the evolution! (Frankly, a lot of the changes made in the first special edition were sensible and a lot of fun to watch.)

3. This isn't about prequel bashing either! I enjoyed them quite a bit myself in certain places. But it is a big point of contention for Star Wars fans, and it's easy to understand why. Frankly, the storytelling is an utter mess, and the visuals really don't make up for it. The fight over who's right is unnecessary here. Those who liked the prequels should keep liking them. Those who didn't shouldn't be told to "get over it." Everyone's opinion is valid in that regard.

4. As to the point in @26 about Tolkien's retcon of The Hobbit, I have to make the case that the situation wasn't really that similar. To start, the reason LOTR got written in the first place is because Tolkien wanted to write The Simarillion, but was told by his publisher that his fans wanted a sequel "with hobbits". So you could argue that the retcon actually happened for the sake of the fans, in order to make LOTR make sense in a storytelling capacity. None of the changes to the original Star Wars trilogy make the movies make more sense in regard to the prequels, not even the altered scene between Vader and the Emperor in Empire. In addition, you can find the original text of the un-retconned Hobbit online. It's there for anyone who wants to find it and easy to access. The same cannot be said for the original Star Wars trilogy.

5. As to the "vote with your money" argument... this reasoning is used on everything from this to women buying comic books to how to protest bad working conditions in Wal Mart. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to make the difference people are expecting. People bought the Star Wars Blu-Ray, and many did it because they thought that if they continued to support Lucas with their money, he might come around to giving the fans what they have asked for. Many fans have argued that if we don't go to see the prequels in the theater in 3D, he won't released the original trilogy in the same format. And more importantly, voting with your money doesn't hurt Lucas. He has all the money he needs, and has made it abundantly clear that he doesn't care if the fans disagree with him. Witholding your dollars isn't teaching him anything.
RiverVox
30. Ellynne
Star Wars is sort of an American fairy tale. Legally, George Lucas owns all the copyrights. But, most of us know it as a story that was always there.

There are probably thousands of different versions of Cinderella. Some are incredibly dark, some are bouyant and light, some take the story in whole, new directions.

But, most people are OK with that, because no one goes around pulling all the traditional versions of Cinderella and tries to get rid of them. Linguists can explain that the glass slipper thing was all due to a translation error from the French, but no one breaks into Disney and tries to change the shoes on the original movie stock.

Mr. Lucas, I know the films are yours, but they're stories are a part of us. If you want to burn Cinderella at the stake or feed Jack to the Giant, fine, just don't tell us those are the only versions that will be available - and don't tell us we never understood, that Cinderella getting killed or Jack being eaten was the point of the story all along.
RiverVox
31. Gerry M. Allen
One of the effects of instant, low-cost communication is that small-minority opinions can seem to be large-majority. The Star Wars "controversy" seems to be such. Disclosure -- I came to the first showings of the original in my late twenties. Went back seven times in the first month. Welcomed the VHS, DVD and Blu-ray versions as on-going revisions to the story.
It is instructive, I think, to compare the number of complaints to the number of sales. It appears a tiny group of commentators are inflating the outrage over these minor changes.
Mordicai Knode
32. mordicai
I really think it boils down to his own embarassment & self-loathing. He made movies that brilliant tapped into basic myth structure, by overtly pastiching some WWII & samurai films with an overt homage to Joe Campbell. Which is GREAT! The original trilogy tapps into a fundamentally human zeistgeist...& then has aliens & spaceships & wizards with laser swords. AWESOME. I think Lucas doesn't agree; I think he sees that he overtly referenced these things & feels like it means he CHEATED. Which isn't true, but I think he has a shame, some anxiety, & he copes with it by...well, looking at the toys. When the action figures got big, I think he found his "out." I think he decided his movies were "kid's movies," & then used that as a way of avoiding coming to terms with his (undeserved) guilt. He just embraced the idea of them as junk culture. &...well, it shows.

But he's wrong.
Emily Asher-Perrin
33. EmilyAP
@32 ...wow, I think that you are exactly right. It would explain his insistence that Star Wars is for children even while he's constantly going back to change it; he still wants to make it "good." And he thought the way to do that was to fill the prequels full of convoluted political intrigue to make the story hefty, then chip away at the original trilogy so it fit. What he keeps forgetting is that writing has never been his strong suit, so the mythology just gets smeared. Nice one. :)
Mordicai Knode
34. mordicai
I just...I mean, in my mind, LITERALLY the only other option is that he's just trolling us. Like, when he dies, at the reading of his will we'll discover that HE IS 4CHAN.
RiverVox
35. bongo3
32. 33...

your circling the truth... hes a geek baby boomer.. arrogant, and "correct"... and as a youth.."a technicrat who thought he was "smarter" than the rest.... and he was smart... more smart than what today is used for the emotional artist game..

he did make a "kids" film... a film for the simple minded that "needed" narrative myths to cling too... he went out and "stole" from the best, not only the best "scifi serials/war films" for the action/emotion but to "Cambells myths" for the extra kick of "identifiation with the main character..LUKE.. and the son father conflict.... etc. etc..

the fact that a generation got sucked into his "kiddy flick" and oidolize it, and not lets say THX1130 is why he "does quietly" want to make them all "suffer".... thus the burger king 3d chapter 1 yoda burgers...which of course "He'D never eat"..

anyhow-- our fault we got suckered in.. and now his bad that he must continue to suffer the chlidren..
Michael Burke
37. Ludon
Dear George Lucas,

I have to commend you for being brave. Were you a painter, like me, I'd say that you were following the sound advice given in art schools everywhere - "You have to be willing to destroy your little darlings." Like a painter painting over the best hand he's ever painted - because it was just not quite right for that painting - you've been going back and reworking your movies to adjust things that don't feel right to you. A painter works alone. A Director works with a team but he, or she, is the person responsible for guiding the work to its success or failure. Either way, the artist has to be willing to take that risk.

As much as I commend you, as a fan I feel I should remind you of that other great bit of art school advice - "An artist has to learn when to call a work finished. When it is time to move on to the next piece." I'm not making the call, just sending the reminder. You are the artist and it is your call.

Signed
A fan who thanks you for the fun summer that Star Wars gave me back in the 70s.
simon
38. simonk1905
What I reeally don't get is that in the late eighties we forgave lucas for all the terrible things that happened to Star Wars after Jedi was released.

We all forgave Caravan of Courage (The Ewok Movie to those not in the U.K.) and the Battle for Planet Endor. We all forgave Droids and the Ewok Cartoon. None of these things bother us now. We have new targets to aim at.

How anyone ever expected the prequels to be anything other than a complete mess is beyond me now however at the time I drank all the hype.

In ten years from now I will still be watching the original theatrical release of episodes IV, V and VI and I will probably still watch the special editions occasionally and I will forgive George all that has happened since because my nostalgia will outweigh anything he can possible do to those three films which are indeed works of art. (anyone who tells you differently is a fine art snob)

The three prequels will probably be forgotten to me in the mists of time as everyone else seems to have forgotten those mid eighties mistakes I mentioned earlier. Lets face it old George has had three enourmous hits and then a string of mildly bad failures.
John Pigott
39. AbEnd
Wouldn't Gaiman simply say "George Lucas is not your bitch"?
Paul Richardson
40. Rivyn
The REALLY sad part is that Goerge Lucas is credited as the mastermind genius behind Star Wars, but in actual fact his scripts were so horrible that they had to be almost completely rewritten by professionals so they would make sense, and practically all the things we love about the original movies were added or changed by those script writers and production crew against Lucas's reluctance.
Edward Greaves
41. temporus
George Lucas is all about the Nostalgia. All his best works are about Nostalgia. Think about it, even Star Wars is really a nostalgia piece aimed to please the kid in himself that remembered Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers serials of his youth. Heck it even begins with *A Long Time Ago...* It's nostalgia wearing the trappings of Science Fiction. I think his problem today is he's having constant nostalgia about his most famous work, and can't let go. I think that's what got in his way with the prequels, and it's what gets him into trouble with all his "revisions" of the orginal films in trying to re-align them to the modern works.
RiverVox
42. Jason Mehmel
Great article, Emily!

The prevailing realization I've had, since Special Edition first came on the scene, is that George is not who we thought he was. We thought George Lucas was the mastermind of a modern mythology, who created a universe that felt lived-in, and old, and real, despite having absolutely no science involved whatsoever.

It turns out is that George (back then) was a guy with some neat ideas, and enough resources to make a movie or two. But everything around those ideas, the weight of grime and reality that seemed to lend truth to the mythology, was the work of actors, screenwriters, concept artists, and special effects artists, who actually came up with the images and moments that burned into our minds and lasted decades.

The true genius of the Original Trilogy is the list of people in the credits after 'George Lucas.'

If Lucas had remained as that, as the guy who came up with ideas and got good people to implement them, then we probably wouldn't be having this conversation.
Theresa DeLucci
43. theresa_delucci
This was a great read, Emily. Really making me want to address the creative flap going on right now with Bioware and the much-maligned endings to their game Mass Effect 3. Who gets a say in the creative development of a consumer product? Things can be retconned so many ways post-release nowadays. But should they?

In the case of Lucas, it seems like a textbook example of what writers learn from pros: you have to know when to stop revising and let the work stand on its own or you'll never work on anything new. No story is perfect. Get over it.
RiverVox
44. eilidhdawn
I was 5 when ep 4 came out in 1977 it was the first movie i ever saw and it was AWESOME. It subsequently shaped a large part of my movie and television viewing preferances. I am a fan.
But I think you have some misconceptions about Star Wars although you all love it and it has a huge fan base Mr Lucas did not make these films for the audience. He made them because he had a vision and a story he wanted to tell. He wanted to make it as best as he possibly could while staying in various constraints of time, money and technology. But he did not make them for the audience. I think like any artist he hoped they would be well received and liked.
Obviously they were.

He said in recent interviews that ep 4 was not up to his vision but was the best that could be done at that time. Later technology was developed that could make it closer to his vision and so he did

The prequel movies were the only movies made for a fan base albeit a very small one his kids, especially his son.

An artists vision evolves over time as they have new experiences and are exposed to new and different thoughts. Mr. Lucas is one of the few who has both the control and money to correct what he sees as flaws in his vision. So being a self stated control freak he does. He does not do it for your approval but his vision. He is always going to make movies the way he wants to and is in a position to do so.

As for not making anything new anyone see a little picture called Red Tails or Star Wars the Clone Wars
Eric Hughes
45. CireNaes
And this is why I stick with the extended universe material. It's a very good write up, Emily.

When I watched and read all the behind the scenes material then I came to the conclusion that George is a really good visionary (production designer). He can visualize a world, but he is atrocious at building a great plot within that world (script writer) or making the plot come alive (director). What a good portion of the prequel creation process had was a limited budget and a production schedule with stressful financial consequences.

It's my opinion that this forced George to trust other people with the visuals in his mind. It also forced him to stop his incessant "improvements" (which he says he was really depressed about).

Georgey boy was never happy with IV, V, and VI. He thought they were terrible. So he has been on a quest to remake them like he wanted to in the beginning. Episodes I, II, and III are almost all George. No one giving push back. No one telling him that he smothered the actors (and approved the casting of a few duds as well), muddied up the storyline, and strangled his creative team. When you look at Episode III it was much better than the first two, but still sorely lacking. I believe that Spielberg was involved in a few elements of that movie. Someone with the clout to push back against George's New Empire! But not someone who loved StarWars. This is why fans are incensed. George is a control freak who is now insanely rich and no one can stop him. He lives in a ranch surrounded by starving artists who enjoy being paid what they're worth so they will do whatever George tells them to do or they can go create art someplace else.

It seems to me that Spielberg lives in this bubble fantasy too (as did Steve Jobs in a lot of ways). George intentionally avoids social situations where people don't love him by holing up in his compound. He is an isolationist. I've always been curious if he has an OCD diagnosis.

Now the expanded universe novels and games. Most of those have been quite good. And I still love having Force FX lightsaber duels with my son. For that, George has my thanks.
RiverVox
46. Johnny Three Fingers
Personally, I'd throw the Star Wars flicks in the garbage and joyishly watch The Sapranos over and over and over again.
Margot Virzana
47. LuvURphleb
To everyone in disagreement with this article:

First i love this article because it rings so true. Yes i believe that george can do what he wants to his stuff. Sure. What grates on my ear nubs is not his changes to his stuff. Its his changes to things he did not create but takes as his because its under the star wars umbrella.
Timothy zahn saved the dying star wars medium by his trilogy in the early 90's. He created kashyyyk, coruscant, the twins and so much more. Lucas named the capitol: Imperial center. In the prequels he calls it coruscant.
I love original star wars and the beginning books in star wars. The expanded universe was well done. I enjoy the games and all.
My whole point which i got a little side tracked on is that lucas invited others into his sandbox when he let them start publishing books and all. Years go by and they wonderfully keep the books and games in order. Everything relates. Than the prequels come out and we find that lucas has changed alll the rules.
It be like GRRM never killing any main characters until the fifth book where suddenly out of nowhere they all die at once.
Sure its his universe but he cant just change the constants of the fantastical galaxy without angering loyal fans.
He made have started the concept but than he shared it and now he can no longer justifiably say STAR WARS belongs singularly to him anymore. The sandbox is a heck of alot bigger.
Levi Stribling
48. lpstribling
I heard he stole the whole thing originally from some schoolmates; is that in any way accurate?
RiverVox
49. David Clary
George Lucas says he wants to do art films, now that he's become so immensely wealthy?

Joss Whedon made one commercial success and has already pumped out F'ing Shakespeare, dude.

Malcolm Reynolds is everything Han Solo *could* have been.
RiverVox
51. Wile E. Peyote
Hey, I just love Star Wars, period. And, I could SWEAR I remember back to just seeing IV for the first time, and then, reading somewhere that George had it set up as a 12 movie universe, and I kept thinking how in the hell can he get those movies done before he dies....

Just my 2 cents...
RiverVox
52. Charles Leary
George Lucas' Star Wars I-VI is the greatest film of all time.

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