Monday, September 5, 2011

By George, I think He's Screwing With Star Wars Again

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a die-hard movie fan. I could happily go to the cinema every single weekend. I used to think that I could only ever love another who was as movie crazy as I was. Until I fell in love with a die-hard rugby fan and had his babies. Then I realized, “you know, thank goodness I didn’t marry a movie fan, because who would take care of these children so that I could continue my movie obsession?” So it all worked out.

Anyway, my favorite film going experience in my entire 39 years of film going experiences occurred at the end of May in 1983. Yep, that’s when Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi premiered at this amazing old theater called the “Eastwood” on the East side of our town. The Eastwood Theater was the Margo Channing of movie theaters, it had it all until the scheming Eve Harrington’s of the theater world  (AKA multiplexes) came in and invalidated the one-screen movie houses. But they could not top the original - great sound, an amazing 70mm screen and a projectionist who knew how to frame a film. This was the place to see a movie in our town in the 70’s and early 80’s.

So my dear mother bought us tickets to the midnight premiere of Return of the Jedi even though it was a school night. My memories may be deceiving me a bit, but I’m almost positive it was a Thursday night at the end of the school year. I was a fifth grader. We had to stand in a line that wrapped around the parking lot, but we weren’t worried about getting in because my smart mother bought our tickets in advance. She didn’t want to crush her beyond excited children who would never forgive her if she failed us on this one. A Princess Leia and a Darth Vader stood in line ahead of us, which just added to our anticipation. It was the first time I had ever seen people wear costumes to a movie. (This was 5 years prior to my Rocky Horror Picture Show phase.) Today, the geeks come out in costumed droves for movie premieres! Not unusual at all.

After we took our seats and got through the previews, the famous 20th Century Fox logo and musical intro appeared on screen, which gave me instant chills. People were already cheering when John Williams’ musical masterpiece filled the theater with its glorious sound. Every seat was filled and every eye was glued to the enormous screen. The beauty of 1983 was that you were not ever going to be interrupted with a telephone ring tone during a movie. Sure you’d hear whispers and whiny children as much as you do now. But no flashing lights or sounds from mobile phones. It was fantastic. A true escape from the outside world. The only noise in that theater that night was cheering every time one of our beloved characters made their Return of the Jedi debut.

Darth Vader was first. He was the ultimate villain that we all loved to hate, and he got a nice round of applause. C3PO and R2D2 were second. Applause. Lando and Chewbacca were next. Applause. Leia freed Han. Applause. Luke performed a Jedi mind trick on that serpent faced Bib Fortuna. Applause. The whole gang was back together. It was like a family reunion only this one would end with the untimely yet not so tragic death of Boba Fett. Didn’t see that one coming. Jabba’s lair segment was as entertaining as a movie could get. From the annoying but comical little runt, Salacious Crumb to the ferocious head heavy monster the Rancor, George Lucas got it right. All of the characters were fun to watch. Even the dumb looking blue Babar on keyboards, a clear sign Lucas was running out of character ideas, was tolerable. Miles more tolerable than some of the creations to come in the future of the series.

The movie had great battle scenes in the beginning, middle and end. The special effects were amazing and there wasn’t one drop of CGI. Nope. Just a lot of talented people from Industrial Light & Magic. And magic they made. The great battle to destroy the almost complete new Death Star is one of the best achievements in special effects I have ever seen, and it stands the test of time in my humble opinion. Lando and that fishfaced guy (who even C3PO and his "6 million forms of communication" cannot understand) in the Millennium Falcon, with help from the great Admiral Ackbar, destroyed the new Death Star and brought the excitement to its peak. Speaking of Admiral Ackbar, I am convinced he is Tori Spelling’s biological father. Look at the photos if you don’t believe me. Candy Spelling isn’t talking, but I have a sneaking suspicion about what she was doing and who she was doing it with during the late summer of 1972.

So Darth Vader turned good, Luke and Leia turned out to be siblings, Han and Leia confessed their love, Chewbacca made some new Ewok friends, and C3PO and R2D2 remained “best friends”. All was well on the Moon Endor when the credits rolled. It was a perfect blast.

BUT, apparently George Lucas can’t stop tinkering with his toys. And because he can’t stop tinkering with his toys, he is adding more crap to the new blue ray edition of Episode VI. In the original, Darth Vader watched as the Emperor tried to destroy Luke with his lightning bolt fingers. You could see the inner struggle within Darth as he turned to look at his son dying, then back at the Emperor, then back at his son and so on until he stood up, reached for the Emperor and tossed him over the rail to his death. Vader did not need to utter a word for the audience to get the power of that scene. But Mr. Lucas doesn’t agree. He has added a couple of “No’s” for Darth Vader to howl before and after he reaches for the Emperor. Sigh. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t make sense and it’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of.

I understand, George is probably salivating over all of the advances in film technology. So I say, “Create something new George! Leave your Sci-Fi masterpiece trilogy alone!” Sure some of the fight scenes seem a little cheesy when compared to The Matrix style of fighting that populates current films. And poor Luke does look a bit sloppy with that light saber when you compare his moves with the moves of the characters in the prequels. Whereas CGI Yoda in Episode II is flyin around like a little green Jackie Chan, Luke looks like a 9 year old determined to be the kid who splits open the birthday party piƱata during his final fight with Darth Vader. But none of that should matter. It doesn’t mean George should replace Mark Hamil with Andy Serkis in front of a green screen. (Although after seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I’m sure George is tempted.)

I can accept (although with a tiny bit of grumbling), the additions of other creatures, and even the musical changes in both Jabba’s palace and during the celebration on Endor. I can accept (with a larger amount of grumbling), the replacement of old Anakin with young Anakin at the end of that same Endor celebration. However, the addition of these “No’s” makes me want to slap George over the head with my giant Rancor doll. I wish he’d just leave well enough alone. Accept that at the time, 1983, this was the best that cinema had to offer in action, adventure and special effects. It is not a 21st century movie, and it never will be. And that’s okay. Someone tried remaking Psycho once and look how well that turned out. So George, I thank you and appreciate all you have done for the world of movies. Please be satisfied with your accomplishments and please, I implore you, listen to Paul McCartney when he says, "Let. It. Be."