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Thursday, September 1, 2011

RIP Yoda


Yoda is dead. At least, he soon will be. The wonderful Puppet Yoda of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi is about to be written over by graphics. All hail technology. Boo, I say. Boo. Puppet Yoda is awesome. CGI Yoda blows. This is only one of the changes being presented for the Blu-Ray versions.
The moment I heard the original Star Wars trilogy was being released on Blu-Ray, I knew George Lucas would be making some alterations. How could he not? Isn’t he the one who took “Han Solo the Scoundrel” and turned him into the guy who shoots second? Isn’t he the one who added a CGI Jabba the Hutt to squish around Han and repeat dialogue we’d already heard come out of Greedo’s mouth? Isn’t he the one who replaced Darth Vader’s actual ghost with Haden Chirstensen? Wasn’t the Ewok music (so annoying to a particular friend of mine and therefore of great value to me) changed by him? The list goes on and on. The man clearly cannot leave well enough alone.
There is no doubt that Star Wars IV, V, and VI were better than “well enough.” Hadn’t they made more money than the GDP’s of many countries? Haven’t they been released to great acclaim in every video format since 1980? The trilogy has sold an estimated four thousand trillion copies world-wide.* Yet in spite of their success, George is obsessed with tweaking. We already like them, buddy! In fact, anyone who liked them from the start liked them more before Lucas started screwing things up.
It really makes you wonder if Lucas isn’t a pod person. Maybe the George of the 70s and early 80s was the real George, but since then he’s been replaced with a doppleganger of some kind. Certainly there’s been a switch thrown in his brain at the very least. This is a man who thought Jar Jar was the height of hilarity, after all. I can imagine him sitting at home, watching “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and laughing his ass off whenever they play that “boing” noise they use to tell us someone got hit in the crotch.
Even if you accept the common premise that George has become a believer in his own godhood and will hear no dissent regarding one of his Holy Writs (assuming anyone in earshot is brave enough to make a peep, anyway), does it then automatically follow that he can’t come up with a few good ideas? Who came up with the first trilogy? There were all sorts of good ideas in that thing. Did none of them originate with Lucas? I hear that the classic Han Solo “I know” response to Leia’s “I love you” was Harrison Ford’s suggestion (and he has to push for that one, according to scuttlebutt). George just wanted him to say “I love you, too.” Maybe the polite reply when someone professes their love, but it has no “cool value” at all and belongs in a rom-com rather than a space opera. Maybe everything that made the Trilogy beloved by millions came from someone else.
If so, George is just a figurehead for the combined genius of nameless legions. Unfortunately, we’re still stuck with him. Obviously, I don’t have to support his legacy with my dollars. Certainly I won’t be shelling out the bucks for the Blu-Ray version. I did pick up the DVD release, but only because they were packaged with the “original” versions. Other than watching the new ones to see the changes (and disliking them all), I haven’t touched them since. Star Wars Lego gets a few shekels a year (for my son, honest, they’re not for me) but other than that, nothing.
The problem is that he won’t go away and because he owns Star Wars he is free to do whatever he wants with it. Granted, he can’t come into my house, confiscate the versions I like and replace them with the new (yet, thank goodness), but that doesn’t mean the process of attrition won’t win out in the end. Every year more copies of the good movies is lost. Lucas is likely to still be alive when Blu-Ray gets supplanted by bubble chips or whatever’s next, and he’ll change the trilogy yet again. Maybe we’ll get 3D. I’m surprised he isn’t trying to do that now, actually. Maybe he’ll back-write Jar Jar’s kids into A New Hope, since CGI can wreck anything. Or we might hear Yoda talk about the size of his midichlorians in Empire Strikes Back. (“Judge me by my size, do you? There is no try, only midichlorians.”) In Return of the Jedi he’s already adding an unnecessary “NOOOO!” yell from Darth Vader when he chucks the lightning-wielding Emperor down that convenient pit. Next time around we’ll probably get Haden Christensen’s face showing up when Vader takes off his helmet. Or the Emperor will reveal that he nailed Shmi years ago and is actually Vader’s dad. (“Darth... I am your father. By the way, your mom was smokin’ hot.”)
There is an almost sick joy in waiting to see what Lucas will do next. It’s what happens when you fall to the Dark Side I guess.

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