Tuesday, January 10, 2012

“No, George, no! Bad director, bad!”

I have mixed feelings about the news that the Star Wars movies are going to be re-released in super-duper 3D. Firstly, I don’t really care about 3D. But the main problem is George Lucas’ penchant for mucking around with Star Wars.

My feeling that Lucas should leave it alone started with the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi. I know many fanboys will shudder at the thought of the original release of ROTJ – ‘Brrr, Ewoks!’ But, at the risk of ruining my own credibility, I quite liked the Ewoks.

I wasn’t too bothered about the first two Special Editions. Having never seen the movies in the cinema before, it was quite fun. Yes, the extra CGI creatures, including Jabba, in A New Hope looked clunky and obvious, but I could live with that. And it had Boba Fett breaking the fourth wall. What’s not to like? Although, there was, of course, the whole 'Han shot first' thing. That was a pretty bad call.

Not much changed on Empire either. But for the Special Ed of Jedi, Lucas went off-piste with his ‘improvements’. Firstly he messed up the great song in Jabba’s Palace by Sy Snootles by adding in an annoying jumping around creature called Yuzzum. And then he bodged the ending by cutting away from the celebrations on Endor to show a crowd on the Imperial capital planet Coruscant puling down a statue of the Emperor.

It was an awkward and idiotic way to introduce the first ever shots of Coruscant and it messed up the post-film storylines that have been laid down with Lucas’ guiding direction. In the books, starting with Heir to the Empire, it takes 8 years for the Alliance to finally ‘liberate’ Coruscant from the remnants of the Empire. Lucas just binned all that for the sake of a scene that added nothing to the film.

The next sequence of disasters happened with the prequels. The Phantom Menace is almost universally derided among true fans, and yet I think it is still the best one of the three. True, it has no main protagonist. He should have toned down Jar Jar Binks a lot. Darth Maul was pre-hyped as a massive villainous character then had about three minutes of screen-time. The plotline is essentially feeble. But it’s a ‘set up’ movie – what would you expect?

There were two disasters, though. One was the ‘explanation’ of Anakin’s potentiality in the Force as being due to microscopic force-producing organisms in his blood called ‘midichlorians’ and the corresponding random decision to accord him a ‘virgin birth’ (seriously). The other was the repeated fudging of the monarchy issue. ‘Queen Amidala’ is a teenager, who has somehow been democratically elected queen. Yes, that’s right, the constitutional monarchist system of Naboo elects teenagers to positions of unquestionable power.

It’s ridiculous and has more to do with the American audience who presumably wouldn’t countenance an equation of monarchy with freedom. The USA is a republic after all and small-r republicanism matters.

The second and third prequels just built on these shaky foundations. There was no more nonsense about midichlorians, thank goodness, and Jar Jar was pensioned off to a role in the civil service. There was the godawful ‘romance’ sequence in Episode 2, and I never really got why Anakin embraced the Dark Side in Episode 3. I was expecting some kind of agonising / internal wrestling and at least a discussion about the merits of the Dark Side before he turned, but instead he seemed to have about two minutes talking about how worried he was about his pregnant wife and then went off to massacre children.

Again there was a continuity mess-up. In Return of the Jedi, Leia tells Luke she remembers their mother. Well, I doubt it, unless she was an exceptional newborn baby with facial recognition from the moment she drew breath. Because in Ep 3 Padme dies after saying her name.

By that point, I was past caring, really. As far as I’m concerned the prequels are non-canon; part of the apocrypha of the Star Wars universe, on a par with the Star Wars Holiday Special, the Marvel comic strips, the Droids cartoon series , the Ewok movie and the appearance of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker on the Muppet Show.

But then came the release of the Special Editions onto DVD and the true evil of the prequels was revealed. For George had decided to monkey about with them again and, boy did he monkey! In the daftest and most annoying of ways!

Firstly, in the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, he revoiced Boba Fett using the New Zealand twang of the actor who played Boba’s ‘father’, Jango Fett.

The thinking, presumably, is that Boba is a clone of Jango, and therefore he would sound exactly like his Dad. But, okay, some speech characteristics are probably genetic (tone, pitch etc.), accents aren’t ‘set’ genetically. It makes no sense for Boba, orphaned at a tender age, traveller of the galaxy, to have exactly the same accent as his Dad. It was a completely unnecessary change.

And then secondly, George managed to bodge the end of Jedi AGAIN! This time he replaced the ghost of Anakin Skywalker as played by Sebastian Shaw when Luke removes Darth Vader’s helmet on board the second Death Star, with the ghost of Anakin Skywalker as a young man, i.e. Hayden Christiansen, who played Anakin in Episodes 2 & 3.

There was no need for that. Maybe the thought was that having an old man next to Yoda and Obi-Wan was confusing for (stupid) kids. But Luke has never seen his father, except when he removes Vader’s helmet. How is he supposed to recognise a guy who looks about his own age?

And if you’re going to do it, why is Anakin the only one to return as a much younger version of himself? Why not replace all of Obi-Wan’s ghost scenes with footage of Ewan McGregor? It makes as much sense.

There does come a point where you begin to wonder whether George Lucas should be allowed near his own movies any more because he is slowly killing them. At what point should his underlings step in and say ‘Sir, in good conscience, we can’t allow you to exercise your ‘creativity’ on your cadre of work any more’.

‘Step away from the CGI machine, Sir. Thank you, Sir. Now, let’s leave the editing suite, and I’ll get Susan to make us a nice cup of tea...’

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