The 1977 version of Star Wars grossed $307.2 million at the domestic box office and scored 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. However, as fans of the galaxy far, far away know all to well, that original theatrical cut isn’t the only edition of the movie that exists.
Going back to 1981 (when George Lucas added the A New Hope subtitle to the text crawl), the creator of the iconic sci-fi franchise has constantly been going back and making alterations to certain scenes, allegedly so the trilogy plays more in line with his original vision. He celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first film by releasing the “special editions” in 1997, and in every home media release since (2004 DVDs, 2011 Blu-rays) more changes have been incorporated.
What makes fans of Star Wars really upset isn’t that Greedo shoots first or Darth Vader now says “NO!” before saving Luke from the Emperor. That’s part of it, sure, but the fact that Lucas has basically eliminated the theatrical versions from existence is seen by many as the greater sin. Those cuts were available as bonus features during a limited edition 2006 DVD release of the trilogy, but they were ripped from the laser discs, non-anthromorphic, and clearly could have been of higher quality.
But fans aren’t the only ones who wish Lucas had just let it be. Actor Oscar Isaac, who has an unspecified role in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII, said in an interview with The Huffington Post that he wishes the changes were never made.
Read his quote:
“To go back and kind of tweak it with new stuff, it doesn’t make it more interesting for me as a watcher.”
Directors cuts or alternate takes happen in Hollywood all the time, as multiple versions of films like Blade Runner exist. In some cases, they’re even viewed by audiences as superior product. Case in point: I Am Legend, which infamously had its ending changed prior to its theatrical debut and greatly altered the narrative and the meaning of the title – something that was reinforced once the original conclusion became public.
While “special” editions certainly have their place, many would agree with Isaac that the Star Wars changes don’t tend to add anything to what was already seen by thousands as a life-changing experience. Many of the alterations were a result of Lucas tinkering with new technology (such as the reinstated Jabba the Hutt scene in the first film) that became more of a distraction than meeting Lucas’ intention of making the movies “more interesting.”
Isaac said that the main reason he disliked the altered editions is because the originals are “products of their time” and he enjoyed marveling at what Lucas was able to accomplish using the filmmaking techniques that were available to him during that time period.
Star Wars is seen by several as ground zero for the modern age of visual effects and was praised by critics for how it revolutionized the art by blending old school tricks like miniatures and matte paintings to create a fully-fledged universe that felt real and lived-in. Not only do some feel that the updated digital effects take away some of that charm, they also believe that they are a disservice to the Industrial Light & Magic team that put those original, Oscar-winning shots together.
Of course, this has been a major point of contention for Star Wars fans ever since that first special edition came out. While there would no doubt be rejoicing should the theatrical cuts ever make their way to Blu-ray, the other side of this coin is that as Lucas’ creation, he’s earned the right to do whatever he wants with the film.
That was something Isaac addressed during his interview:
“As an artist, like, he made the ****, so why can’t he do whatever the heck he wants with it?”
It should be noted that The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were made by other directors (Irving Kirshner and Richard Marquand respectively), so it can be argued that Lucas is toying with someone else’s vision for what the films should be. That said, Lucas was an executive producer on the final two installments in the original trilogy and he helped draft the story, so he did play a major role in the creative process – despite not calling the shots from the director’s chair.
From a certain point of view, Lucas’ actions make sense, as anyone who works in an artistic field wishes they could go back and change things from time to time.
However, his obsession with erasing the original versions entirely is puzzling. Why couldn’t Lucas approve of something similar to the 20th anniversary DVD release of E.T., where both the edits and a decent copy of the original film are available for people to compare? That would be an ideal way for everyone to have their cake and eat it too. Given fans’ passion for the trilogy, it would certainly be a hit.
What do you think, Screen Rant readers? Do you agree with Oscar Isaac?
Star Wars: Episode VII will be in theaters December 18, 2015.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.