Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Just Say No


Each Man is in His Spectre’s Power
Until the arrival of that hour,
When his humanity awake,
And cast his Spectre into the lake.

-        William Blake

Perhaps it’s fitting that William Blake and Star Wars offer up so many interesting parallels. 

After all, Blake really was the first visionary poet to create his own mythology, to offer up an idiomatic stamp on the collective unconscious. It isn’t too much to say that he set in motion what Joseph Campbell called the “Age of Creative Mythology,” where the artist is no longer working within the confines of a socially-accepted mythology, but rather creating his own. Regardless, there are certain points in Anakin Skywalker’s journey that I can only define as Blakean, and these lines from Jerusalem echo throughout the climactic scene in Return of the Jedi when the Emperor is finally cast down a reactor shaft.

Of course, no one wants to read about this sort of thing. We all know by now that a simple, one syllable word has been inserted, not once, but twice into this pivotal moment in the Blu-Ray release of the saga. As usual, childhoods have been raped, lives have been ruined, and the internet is an indignant, vengeful pit of fury and anguish. Incidentally, it would be nice to belong to a fandom that doesn’t have a collective meltdown every year, but that’s not the case here. Anyway, before I put together a post chronicling my wacky adventures at Dragoncon, I felt the entire interweb would be holding it’s breath until I chimed in on the “Nooooo” controversy. So I’m providing just what we need – the 90,587,435th online commentary on the subject.

My two cents on the changes are pretty straightforward. No surprise, I think George Lucas, as the living artist, can do anything he wants to his work. I will also agree with Peter Mayhew (aka Chewbacca) at Dragoncon that ninety percent of the changes are for the better. The only change I have a real problem with is the Greedo-shooting-first fiasco, which is by far the most grievous misstep Lucasfilm has made thus far. Everything else, from the updated space battle in Hope, to the fabulously expanded Cloud City in Empire, and even the more alien Sarlaac Pit in Jedi, works just fine. Hayden Christenson looks a little out of place as a Force ghost at the end, but it makes as much sense to put him in that scene as it does a non-burnt, eyebrow-sporting Sebastian Shaw.

As for the new changes, I love Ewoks, as most of you probably know. And they even blink, now? Perfect. I like the new Krayt dragon shriek courtesy of Obi-Wan Kenobi (and Matt Wood). In my opinion, it sounds much more akin to a sound a human would make. And as for the Dug in Jabba’s Palace … look, I totally dig the Dug. One of the cooler alien designs out of Episode One. But the deal-breaker for most was clearly the “Nooooo” uttered up by Vader when striking down the Emperor with righteous fury.

I love that original scene. LOVE it. I think it’s every bit as powerful as the “Luke, I am your father” scene in Empire. It’s not only one of the classics of cinema, it is the climax of the entire six film saga. If you’re not cheering when Palpatine takes a nosedive down that shaft after all we know about him from the prequels, time to get that midichlorian count checked. Honestly, it was perfect, just the way it was. No tweaking necessary. Yes, I think it was something of a misstep. The scene played out so well with Vader’s silent, brooding glances doled out equally between his enraged master and his pleading son.

Having said that, I can safely confirm that my childhood is safely intact. Not only that, but free from any form of molestation. Quite honestly, George Lucas was one of the few things holding my childhood together in the first place so I, unlike everyone else in my broken-family generation apparently, feel as though I still owe him. I want to take this opportunity to point this out.

I also want to call out the hundreds of online commentators who are now claiming they have an artistic license to Star Wars because they helped “fund” Lucas’ empire. This is really amazing. Sometimes you guys just out-do yourselves. This may come as a shock, but when you were watching these movies over and over again as children, you weren’t making future investments. You weren’t purchasing stock in Lucasfilm. No matter how much money you shelled out on Empire merchandise, it in no way, shape, or form gives you the right to dictate artistic policy thirty years later. 

You bought a toy back then? Okay, you got a toy. You saved your grass-cutting money to go buy a ticket to see A New Hope again? Okay, you got to see A New Hope again. Your grandparents gave you money for a Chewbacca t-shirt? Okay, you got a Chewbacca t-shirt.

End of story. Game over. Transaction complete.

As a creator myself, I have never suffered a moment’s delusion that I somehow own the Star Wars franchise. I sleep so much more soundly because it is so firm and fast in the bewildering mazes of my brain where that ownership lies. Sorry, the public is free to love or hate whatever they want, but the artist is absolutely and equally at liberty to create and recreate and recreate again in any and all ways they see fit.

That’s why interpretation is so important. That is something that the audience can do, and do well. I defer to none other than Jimmy Mac of the Forcecast for as an example.

Despite initial reservations, Jimmy delivered a great critical interpretation of why the change was made on last week’s show. He cited the return of the “Noooo” as emblematic of the return of Anakin Skywalker himself. If we follow that the last vestige of Anakin pretty much burned itself out during the (also derided) “Noooo” in Sith, it makes perfect sense for him to say the same thing again as he rises from the ashes. It echoes his scream over his dead wife, thus creating a nice poetic symmetry between the two trilogies. After all, his children were his last living link to Padme, and we all know what a fan of mirroring and parallels Lucas is.

As I myself wrote, if Star Wars is going to be myth, it’s also going to be poetry. This makes sense, and is exactly the kind of criticism Lucas has called for again and again (and rarely gotten). For the record, it is much better than the “Noooo” in Sith and, lest we forget, no one’s even seen it yet in context.

I am going to try really, really hard not to do a tailspin down the neverending chasm of fan arguments, because that’s not what this blog is really about. And the whole thing just goes around in really boring circles. I believe George Lucas owns Star Wars. Others believe they do because they bought a collector’s cup at Burger King thirty years ago. Whatever.

But no matter what the fanbase thinks of the changes, at least the argument that Lucas is now in this solely for the money can be laid to rest. Clearly, money is not the issue. Quite honestly, he can be applauded for continuing to care about his work, for at least having enough interest to tweak this, to try and improve that. He’s not just churning out product as-is for a quick buck. If the “green catcher’s mitt with eyes” (again Jimmy Mac) Yoda doesn’t work in Episode One, he’s going to take the time and money to craft a better, CGI one. And I personally can’t wait.

In my opinion, all the technological upgrades in the Special (and Specialer) Editions were great improvements. It’s always exciting to get new Star Wars, to see these watched and re-watched films with a slightly newer lens. As for the more controversial changes, Lucas sticks to his artistic guns, if nothing else. Far from trying to suck more money out of the older fans, if anything, he’s scoring less. The new additions always risk alienating my generation, as Lucas has to know. His movies are the way he wants his movies to be, even in the face of perpetual scorn and ridicule from his “fans.”

And while I’m already navigating the slippery slope of Star Wars fandom against my better judgment, am I the only one who thinks my generation of fans has treated George Lucas like crap? Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous to worry much about the feelings of a billionaire, but sometimes this fandom is just embarrassing. Over the past decade, I’ve heard everything about Lucas criticized, from his writing to his directing, from his work to his motivations, from his appearance to his family. Apparently Katie Lucas has had to block people on Twitter who insist on continuously, and personally, attacking her father.

There is actually a theory circulating that the addition of Vader’s “Nooo” on blu-ray is Lucas intentionally flicking his nose at fandom. Part of me really hopes that’s true. From the things I’ve read online for the past dozen years or so, if these people were my “fans” I frankly would have told them to get a life and screw off a long time ago. The thoughtless venom spewed has been utterly ridiculous. And often downright shameful.

Personally, I’ve toyed with the idea of developing the most Special Edition ever, one in which Greedo not simply shoots first and misses, but actually sets off a thermonuclear warhead at the table. It reduces the cantina to ashes, blows the whole of Mos Eisley apart, and a dust cloud erupts on the planetary surface of Tatooine, clearly visible from space. Then Han shoots Greedo last, calmly dusts himself off, and nonchalantly walks away.

And keep in mind this is coming from someone who hates that change, too. But if it had ruined Star Wars for me, I would have simply found another hobby. I wouldn’t have wasted fourteen years doing everything in my power to insult and ridicule my childhood hero, whining and complaining about the saga I’m allegedly still a fan of, much less make the fandom itself over into an angry, divisive, reactionary, mean-spirited, and, at times, miserable place to be.


It’s probably a waste of my time and yours, but one last thing about fandoms’ reaction to the blu-ray release that’s really annoying me.

For months now, “fans” have been running amuck on the Amazon forums and talkbacks regarding the blu-rays. If they were furious about not getting the original trilogy in the non-special edition (even though it just came out on DVD a few years ago), they’re positively livid about the newer changes. And they’re making it their life mission to let everyone know it.

Again, it’s not that they’re simply refusing to buy the set. They can buy it or not. Really, who cares? But the attitude behind that refusal is really too much to stomach. A few cursory scans reveal a fandom deliriously drunk on its own bravado, with people cancelling their orders and then strutting about, high-fiving each other, clapping each other on the back, and engaging in other displays of online adolescent machismo.

From the way these fanboys are acting for no other reason than they’ve opted out of a deluxe blu-ray set, you’d think they’d just toppled the Third Reich. In their hyperactive minds, they’re being badass nonconformists. They’re sticking it to the Man. They’re giving the finger to the System. To paraphrase one proud talkbacker: “I’m not drinking the Lucasfilm kool-aid this time! Yeah!!!”

Dude, seriously?

Guys, let’s get some things very, very clear.

You’re not making a statement.

You’re not rebels, mavericks, dissidents, or heroes.

You’re not winning a desperate battle to preserve film history.

You’re just a bunch of freakin’ nerds who aren’t going to buy a blu-ray!

Again, besides Amazon, who gives a damn?

I didn’t purchase X-Men: First Class at Target the other day. It doesn’t make me a badass, freethinking rebel striking a blow against Marvel Studios, nor does it make the people who did pick it up mindless Stan Lee slaves. So get a grip.

If you don’t want the Star Wars blu-rays, don’t buy them. I certainly don’t care. Just drop all this ridiculous, self-congratulatory posing and posturing. Even if George Lucas hand-delivered the originals to some people on pristine blu-rays tomorrow, we all know they’d just be complaining about something else ten minutes later. Because that’s what they do.

The irony is that these people really are that attached to the originals. They can’t live with change; they can’t adapt. Letting go is impossible. Then they respond with fear and anger and hatred. For some reason, the story does sound oddly familiar …

P.S. Check out A Certain Point of View. It’s an awesome blog, and updated way more frequently than this one. May the midichlorians be with you.


  1. Despite sabotaging the reviews and "mass cancellations," the Blu-Ray set remains #1 at Amazon.

    "No matter how much money you shelled out on Empire merchandise, it in no way, shape, or form gives you the right to dictate artistic policy thirty years later."

    This! Art isn't like going to Burger King where you get to have it your way. They should be thankful Lucasfilm allows so much of fan culture to flourish without interference and that George Lucas isn't Anne Rice.

    "And while I’m already navigating the slippery slope of Star Wars fandom against my better judgment, am I the only one who thinks my generation of fans has treated George Lucas like crap? "

    No. It's not everyone. After all, people lined up at 3 a.m. to see the guy at Celebration V and packed every overflow room, and it wasn't to boo him. But while my experience with other fandoms is pretty limited, I can't think of any others where a such a vocal part of it is so utterly hostile to its creator. It ranges from a soft hostility full of second-guessing on every little decision to pure, naked hatred. I'll never forget the "fan" who got a tattoo of Lucas getting decapitated. Seriously? This is what people get from a saga where good triumphs over evil? Where love wins in the end? I've mentioned before the issue is Lucas got to reign over his Mt. Olympus longer than just about any other creator. Gene Roddenberry died when Star Trek was 25. J.K. Rowling has been queen of her magical world for less than 15 years. Meanwhile nerd faves like Peter Jackson or Christopher Nolan have yet to really tick off their followers nor have they been around long enough to become icons that need to be smashed.

  2. I heard fanfare that rivaled the theme to Gone With the Wind! Thanks Paul and lazypadawan. What a great way to start the day!

  3. LP, I have very little doubt the blu-ray set is going to be a massive seller. Probably one of the best of all time. Along those lines, I know it isn't everyone. It's a very vocal minority. But wow are they vocal. From my limited Dr Who experience, the showrunners of the new series didn't catch as much flak as Lucas, but it got pretty close at times. I really like Peter Jackson, but what I don't like is how when he brings out his regular blu-ray set of LOTR, and then a few months later launches the big collectors edition blu-ray, he's a hero. If Lucas had done that, he would've been hung.

    Tav, welcome aboard. Thanks much. I'm really glad it started your day well. :-)

  4. "His movies are the way he wants his movies to be, even in the face of perpetual scorn and ridicule from his “fans.” "

    I waited to read *your* account of Blu-Ray. And it's great! Yay, I can't wait to watch the Blu-Ray by myself!!

    And I've always felt I owe George Lucas. No money can be better than what he gave to me.

    *goes to check out A Certain Point of View blog*

  5. Glad you enjoyed it, as always sandspirit.

    I'm currently two movies into the Blu-Ray. I'm really liking the changes thus far. Episodes I and II are amazing, just visually stunning. And quite frankly, the tweaks are adding a certain something extra to the experience. It's like new SW, and I for one am enjoying the game of finding the more subtle updates.

    If you've read "A Certain Point of View," I know you're not disappointed.


  6. First time I post here (and sorry for any grammar or spelling errors, English is not my mother tongue)...
    This is an interesting blog. I really like it! :-)
    Now about the hate of several fans about the changes... I have stumbled upon an interesting article:

    So, let's just say: Some people love the OOT, only want the OOT of Star Wars and have only one life mission: Get the OOT released on BluRay. I'm fine with that, and I can see why saying "get over it" does not work. (Heck, I had a similar experience, so I can even relate!)
    On the other hand, my impression is that they exaggerate as you say: "I wouldn’t have wasted fourteen years doing everything in my power to insult and ridicule my childhood hero, whining and complaining about the saga I’m allegedly still a fan of, much less make the fandom itself over into an angry, divisive, reactionary, mean-spirited, and, at times, miserable place to be."
    Well, these guys love Star Wars in their own way. I think they definitely go too far, and I personally also would rather tell them to "get a life" or to "rethink their lives", but if they want to stay in this love/hate relationship... Well, I won't stop them. I accept their take on Star Wars, as long as they don't insult me on mine.

  7. Glad you are enjoying my semi-coherent ramblings, Stefan.

    When all's said and done, I would like the OOT on the Blu Ray, too. I think most people would. And that's fine.

    As they say on Geek Out Loud, criticizing SW is fine. Hating on it is not. A fine line perhaps, but if you have more energy for hating on something than loving it, it's hard to consider you a fan. Not to mention take seriously your demands, which is something I have a hard time with.

    It would be great for fandom in general if we could all accept each other's take on the Wars, and not insult back and forth as a result of differences.

    Sadly, it hasn't been that way for a long, long time. As great a thing as the internet is, it's also as double-edged as the Force itself. Fandom did seem to harken back to a more civilized age back before the net.

    My problem is the things I take umbrage about no one cares, and vice versa. Oh well.


  8. Honestly, the only change that Lucas made that really, truly bothers me is Greedo shooting. Not "Greedo shoots first" but "Greedo shoots at all" because he didn't fire at all originally regardless of what Lucas says (I even watched my old VHS tape to confirm this) and nobody could possibly miss from such a short range. I could buy Han shooting first, and an involuntary reaction causing Greedo's finger to pull the trigger as he dies, but that's about it.

    Anyway, as I said, this is the only change that really bothers me and makes me wish I could get the original theatrical releases on DVD. Even the "noooo" doesn't both me, and as you say, most changes are actually improvements, which isn't surprising since Lucas didn't have the time or money to do everything the way he wanted to the first time around, especially for A New Hope.