February 2, 1997
They Changed My Childhood
They changed my childhood.
I donít know why, or how, but it turns out, with enough money, this can be accomplished.
The "they" in question is director/producer/writer/legend George Lucas. And for whatever reason, he decided not to leave well enough alone. Sure, "Star Wars" was the third highest-grossing movie of all time. But wouldnít be a little bit better with just a tweak to the special effects here and there? And boy, some of the character bits come off a little bit nasty these days. How about we digitally modify our hero so he appears more heroic, and less of a scoundrel?
George, you had me with the special effects. You lost me when you neutered Han Solo.
I have nothing against upgrading the already spectacular special effects for a "Special Edition." That part of the film was wonderful. The new scenes are a sight to behold (although I was surprised to see in the intervening 20 years that Mos Eisley spaceport had been overrun by mutant, midget kangaroos), mostly serving to enhance the story. The music is crystal clear, booming out from THX-quality speakers in a way weíve always dreamed of hearing it. The hundreds of people who joined me for a late Friday night screening certainly had a great time (as did I, it should be noted). We cheered, we yelled, we laughed, we went absolutely bonkers for a movie in which we knew every line, every wink, every crescendo, every twist.
And still Ö
There was this one guy who sticks in my mind. He was walking back and forth in front of Mannís Chinese Theater, like a pious preacher at frat house toga party. He held a simple, crudely lettered sign, reading "They Ruin Star Wars." This sign, of course, had absolutely no effect on the legions of Storm Troopers marching back and forth in front of the theater, no bearing on the battling Boba Fetts, no stirring in the Force for the dueling Darth Vaders whoíd come to celebrate their own particular brand of religion.
But then there was this one scene that got me thinking. Han Solo is a scoundrel. He says so himself. So in the original version of "Star Wars," when during the famed Cantina scene, he blasts Greedo (a nasty alien bounty hunter whoís come to either kill or bribe Han), nobody much cares. Han outsmarts Greedo, casually firing a hip shot from underneath a table, and we all go away happy (except, of course, for poor Greedo, who dies, and should have known better.)
George Lucas needed this changed. Why he needed it changed, Iím not
sure. Itís a great movie moment, coming at the end of the audienceís introduction
to Han, and perfectly setting up his character. Now, in the Special Edition,
itís Greedo who fires first. This is just dumb. First, Greedo misses by
a good three feet, from nearly point blank range. Yeah, right. Second,
it totally changes the meaning of the scene, if you now think Han was firing
in self-defense, instead of just doing what comes naturally to him as a
rouge smuggler. Am I the only one who sees something wrong with using technology
to update the character actions in this classic film to conform to politically
correct ideas about who should fire first? Now, itís Greedo, the obvious
bad guy, who has to go for his gun. Gah. Let Han be Han. By the end of
the film, we know he's the good guy, and has grown to the point where he
probably wouldn't do the same thing again. Then again, maybe he would!
That's why we love him!
Folks, if you think Iím making way too much of this, youíre probably right. Just donít be surprised to see this scene at the end of the next "Casablanca" reissue:
"Youíre getting on that plane, Elsa Ö
(INSERT NEW DIGITAL SPECIAL EFFECT HERE) Ö
and Iím coming with you!"
(She takes his hand, they embrace, then walk up into the plane, which flies off into a golden sunset. Fade out.)