Monday, June 16, 2014

How history will remember the Star Wars that you used to know

George Lucas has gone on record as wanting to destroy the original trilogy.  He wants it gone.  There are precisely zero preservation efforts on the original film.  It decaying into nothingness is a part of the plan.

Once that happens all that remains will be the version he wants.  Not even the special edition, versions resulting from his non-stop tinkering that change every time it's introduced into a new format or rereleased on an old one.

He's even gone back and rewritten the scripts to match whats in said versions.  Lines that were famously improved?  They're now in what purports to be the shooting script.  His hope, again he has come out and said this, is that when this generation has come and gone and the film has gone bye-bye the only version of Star Wars that will exist, and indeed the only version that, so far as future people know, has ever existed, will be his newer better special special special changed-one-thousand-times special edition.

That hope is false hope.

In fact, what will happen if he gets his way is this:

There will be the Star Wars that people can see, the one that they can watch, the one everyone has access to.  And then there will be this other Star Wars.  Existing not so much as a thing but as an idea.  The Star Wars people learned about from their grandparents.

The Star Wars the cult of "Han shot first" tells you about.

It will be a Star Wars that exists not in physical form but as a memory.  An idea of an idea.

And that Star Wars will be awesome.  It will be better than we can imagine because we, more or less, know what Star Wars actually was.

These future generations will not.

They will be forced to imagine it, and it will be surrounded by mystery and the unknown.

All that they will know is that it was better.

They'll remember George Lucas as someone who got things right once upon a time but then couldn't stop tinkering and in the end laid low his own creation leaving only a tainted and imperfect echo of the wondrous past.

Places where we are forced to admit, "Yeah, that part of Star Wars always kind of sucked," will be places where those in the future will assume that George Lucas fucked up the original in his non-stop drive to change things and overwrite the original.

If the original really is lost to history than the original will be remembered as far better than it ever had any claim to be.

When someone says, "I don't like Star Wars," they'll be told, "That's just because you've never seen the right version.  If you'd seen the original, then you'd love it."

The fact that Lucas created Star Wars will be overshadowed by the fact that he destroyed it.  He'll be seen like a sculptor who created a masterpiece and then kept on chipping away at it until only a misshapen hunk of marble that suggests a work of art but utterly fails to do it justice remains.

He'll be remembered as someone who took wonder from the world because of his own arrogant belief that he could improve upon perfection.

Because with the originals gone, known only to the living population of the world via nostalgia, there will be no proof that the originals weren't perfect.

All of the flaws that we know so well?  There will be no proof that they existed in the original.

Without the original to point to, there will be no way to prove that the original had imperfections.

Ok, maybe people won't think that the original was perfect.  But what is true is this: if the original is lost to history as Lucas hopes then the end result will be that in the popular imagination there will be an idea that there was a better version once upon a time and now it's lost.

Without the ability to compare and say what is better about it, every individual will be able to apply their own personal meaning of "better".  The result will be that the original Star Wars trilogy will be remembered as better than it ever was and better than it ever could have been.


  1. ...huh!

    Sadly (or, perhaps, the opposite of sadly), there will probably be early cuts of Star Wars that survive long enough to be rereleased after George Lucas's death. There are a lot of dedicated restorers; if Repeat Performance can get new 35-mm prints made, Star Wars certainly can.

    (I actually stumbled over this YouTube upload of Repeat Performance - if you like noir, it's among the best I've ever seen.)

  2. I can imagine a group of monk-like hermits who devote thier lives to faithfully copying the "true" Star Wars over and over again so it can be preserved for the generations to come.

    Also - the true Star Wars was in fact perfect and any dissenters are heretics.

    1. Shades of "A Canticle for Liebowitz" ? Some poor soul labouring for years to make an illuminated copy of each frame, which borders in gold leaf? Now, there's a mental image...