Friday, January 20, 2012

Dear George, Re: Star Wars (a.k.a. Too long; didn't read)

The head of George Lucas recently emerged from the snug, warm confines of a checkered red and black lumberjack shirt to announce that was retiring from commercial film making. Based on the fact that the majority of the best Star Wars films weren’t even directed by him anyway (God bless you, Irvin Kershner), I personally feel that this is no great loss. However, as part of this same interview, he defended his need to constantly tinker with the films that made him famous.

“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.” 

“Why would I make any more”, Lucas says, “when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”. 

Rumours that filmed footage of this interview was taken away by George so he could re-release it in twelve years tweaked to have him sixteen feet tall, wearing a nicer shirt and entirely computer generated are apparently untrue.

So, going by the logic that I was on the Lucasfilm Christmas card list (currently framed on my landing wall, FoldsFive fact fans)for ONE WHOLE YEAR , I like to imagine that Mr. Lucas frequently reads my blog. Although I doubt he does. I know of at least one person with the surname Lucas that reads this blog, but he's not called George. And even if he met a potential blog visitor called George it wouldn't be quite the same.

But, in my imaginary universe in which my blog is in the slightest bit important, here's an open letter to George Lucas.

Dear Mr Lucas.

In many ways I have nothing but respect for you. You fought tooth and nail to get your original vision released in 1977 despite ridiculous opposition from the Hollywood studio system and a plethora of your peers telling you it would never work (discussed at great length in the absolutely excellent read "Easy Riders Raging Bulls" by Peter Biskind), and you ended up (against all odds) releasing the one film that got me interested in the whole world of Cinema. As the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” filled the screen accompanied by the beautiful orchestra stab and then music of John Williams, the six year old me was utterly enraptured and it began a romance with the art of filmmaking that blossoms and thrives to this day. 

As a six year old child who had never seen anything other than Disney cartoons at the cinema before, I imagine I sat there open mouthed until the Death Star was blown up, everybody got a lovely medal (except Wedge and Chewie for some reason. Bloody diabolical.), C3PO and R2D2 got a lovely shiny polish and the end credits rolled. I'd ask Dad (who was the one who took me) if thats what I did, but he can't remember. He's genetically incapable of watching a film at the cinema without falling asleep midway, and doesn't remember watching anything in its entirety at the pictures since Ben-Hur.

George (and I really hope you don't mind me calling you George), you got me excited about cinema. Despite the fact it could be argued that Star Wars Episode IV was a perfectly self-contained film (they didn’t put the IV in the title in its original cinema release) as soon as I heard about a sequel, I was excited again. This from a boy who barely knew where the cinema was, let alone be expected to care about films that hadn’t even been released yet. 

And The Empire Strikes Back? That was even better, George. It’s way up there with Aliens on the very small list of sequels that are better than the original – (Although I still feel unfair rating Aliens over Alien when they’re very different films. Alien is a haunted house film in space – Aliens is a Vietnam war film.... in space). 

The 9 year old me struggled to comprehend how it couldn’t have a happy ending. The good guys are supposed to win at the end of a film, right? Han is lost, maybe for good, and Luke found that he couldn’t get away with not buying a Fathers day card next year – all miserable downbeat stuff. But the 9 year old was also wise enough to know the story wouldn’t finish there. 

And then onto Return of the Jedi – Arguably the worst movie of the original trilogy, but still a damn fine film. A satisfactory ending, one of the best space battles ever put to film, Chewbacca making tarzan noises whilst swinging through the forest of Endor and Stormtrooper helmets being used as drums by Muppets.. What more could you ever want from a film? There. Story all done. Empire completely destroyed and the good guys win.

But the beauty was that the tiny spark of the love of cinema I got from Star Wars Episode IV: A new hope has changed my life, and I've seen some truly beautiful and life changing pieces of work since. And Terminator: Salvation as well, but I can't blame you for that. I've wept openly at It's a Wonderful life, Schindlers List, Silent Running and the first ten minutes of Up, and have sat open mouthed at the sheer majestic cinematography at King Kong (the original, mind), Citizen Kane, Mississippi Burning, the list goes on.

And you are of course, absolutely correct in your assumption. The Star Wars films, all six of them, are completely yours. And yours to do with as you will.

But every single change you make to the original trilogy, which I'd argue (even though, as you've previously gathered, may be slightly rose-tinted through what Star Wars means to me) is as close to cinematic perfection as you'll damn get, it spoils it for me. Diminishes it.

George, as a child I never got upset about the scene in the cantina where Han shot Greedo in cold blood. Even as a naive 6 year old, I understood that that was the nature of Han Solo. He was a villain, a scoundrel, a pirate. And admit it, even when you amended the footage to get Greedo to shoot first, you never got it to look quite right, did you? It was about as authentic and realistic as my pixelmashes that I constantly bang on about.

I also never thought that Mos Eisley seemed a bit empty either, but you still felt the need in later visitations to make it as crowded as you possibly could. And the less said about that new Jabba footage in episode IV the better. I did however appreciate the fact that you didn't remove the bit where the Stormtrooper bangs his head in the Death Star - in fact you did the unexpected thing of adding a sound effect to said footage. Brilliant.


Don't get me wrong - I like some of your changes. You made Bespin look like a real place, your guys did some expert work on removing all the matte lines around some of the weaker pieces of model work and I even like the fact that Ewoks blink now. I'm slightly annoyed that it removes my over-used phrase of "Cold dead unblinking Ewok eyes, like a shark" but I can live with that. The Sarlaac pit ended up looking a bit like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, but I have to grudgingly admit that it still looks good.

But please stop fiddling now. I know you're bringing Phantom Menace out in 3D just to grab some more desperate dollars from peoples pockets, but please.. I implore you.. try something new. If you're not going to direct or produce any more, why not give some of your billions to decent up and coming filmmakers who have the same passion and vision for a project that the younger (and skinnier and skinter version of you) had back in 1977?

But please leave Steven Spielberg alone when he makes the next Indiana Jones film. Your influence and scripting on Crystal Skull was, quite frankly, a right bag of wank.

Yours sincerely,
A Fan


  1. Threadjack: Welcome to the reddit frontpage:

  2. So it has. With my credits stripped out of it, though.. grrr. You would have thought after six years everybody on the internet would have seen that by now :)

  3. It's these young people. They've been toddlers six years ago. Great blog btw.hershex


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