Lucas’ War on ‘Star Wars’

The scene is instantly recognizable to any “Star Wars” fan, even a casual one.

“You will die!” utters the Emperor, and he proceeds to zap lightning at a plucky young Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker, as Darth Vader stands awkwardly at the edge of the camera and does nothing. However, as Luke continues to writhe in agony (his melodramatic screams barely audible over the crackling sound effect of the 1970s CG lightning), we see a change come over the helmeted Vader. He begins to look back and forth, and the viewer can tell that a change is coming. It’s instinctive; we can feel that Vader is going to abandon the “Dark Side” and come to his son’s aid.

“No,” Vader says to himself, and suddenly, something is very wrong. The viewer grows anxious. “I don’t remember Vader saying that.” The viewer mutters. “Did he always say that?” Suddenly, the Sith Lord grabs the Emperor, and, throwing the evil Emperor over the side of the metal boardwalk, yells, “NOOOOO!” It is the cheesiest thing the viewer has ever seen, and some of the worst voice acting ever displayed in a feature film. This is the Blu-Ray version of the final battle scene of George Lucas’ “Return of the Jedi”, Star Wars Episode VI, and the conclusion to his masterpiece.

Watching it should make any self-respecting fan want to beat their head against the wall, in hopes of inducing retrograde amnesia.

Earlier this month, George Lucas made the entire series of “Star Wars” (that’s six feature films) available on Blu-Ray, with a host of special features. This incredible collection costs an insanely low $79.99; unfortunately, the low price is the only endearing aspect of the collection.

As we’ve known for a good while now, George Lucas hates his fans. Loathes them, in fact. The evidence has been stacking up for years: Jar-Jar Binks in “The Phantom Menace,” the absurd plot-points of the “Clone Wars,” Hayden Christiansen’s terrible acting in the entire prequel trilogy, and, of course, the infamous “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull,” which made this writer personally want to gargle raw mercury in order to induce brain damage. Along with those god-awful strides in cinema, Lucas has also taken it upon himself to “improve” his past works time and time again, causing fans worldwide to consider hari-kari a reasonable response.

This time, he’s gone too far.

With the release of “Star Wars” on DVD, Lucas took it upon himself to make a few, minor CGI changes here and there. We groaned, but we accepted it as a form of artistic exploration. It was the future, after all. But with the new Blu-Ray release, Lucas has made genuine alterations to the films that completely interrupt the viewer’s enjoyment of the film, and, in some ways, alter the plot entirely.

Take, for example, the first time Obi-Wan Kenobi shows up in “A New Hope.” (That’s Episode IV, the first “Star Wars” ever made.) In the original scene, Obi-Wan shows up in a hood and waves his arms and makes a few spooky yells before saving Luke from some sand people. For the Blu-Ray release, Lucas felt like the original spooky yells weren’t silly enough, so he changed them into a high-pitched echo that sounds suspiciously like distorted spider monkey calls. And that’s just the beginning; aside from the Obi-Wan Kenobi edit, and the now-infamous Darth Vader “NOOOOO!,” Lucas has also added a CGI Yoda into “The Phantom Menace,” given Darth Maul a death-scream of his own, made the Ewoks blink (which is very unsettling to watch, take my word for it), and on top of it all, made it so that Han Solo shoots Greedo first in that famous bar scene on Tatooine.

And if all of that isn’t enough to make you furious with fanboy (or girl) rage, then how about this news: Lucas is going to be re-releasing all of the movies in theaters, one per year … in 3-D. And he’s going to show them in story-chronological order, meaning that “The Phantom Menace” (in 3-D) will be shown first, and “Return of the Jedi” (in 3-D) will be shown last.

I think I speak for everyone on planet Earth when I ask: What the hell, George? Why do you hate us? We’re exasperated, exhausted, and you just keep exacerbating the situation, all to make a quick buck. Honestly, if it was really all about money, I’d like to be able to send the $20 cost of my movie ticket straight to Lucas himself, in the hopes that I’ll never be forced to see my childhood butchered in three dimensions.

Ryan Cady is a second-year               psychology major. He can be reached at rcady@uci.edu.