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13 September 2011

George Lucas doesn't give a shit about you. I'm not a Star Wars fan, but having grown up in the whole Star Wars era, and as a fan of movies in general, I think this is interesting. Has there ever been a successful film director who was less interested in storytelling?

The first thing is: I don't buy the "auteur" theory of film-making where the director is solely responsible for everything. I think movies are collaborations: they depend on the skills and abilities of many people.

George Lucas is one collaborator who worked on some good movies back in the 1970s and 1980s, and some bad ones in the 2000s.

The second thing is: I don't believe in the very recent idea that copyright as a moral right (see this book). Copyright is a restriction of the liberty to copy information created for the social good of incentivising production for the benefit of consumers.

So, I don't really buy the argument that George Lucas was the creator of Don Trumbull's fantasic miniatures and so has a moral right to obliterate them with shitty production-line CGI; that he was the creator of Marcia Griffin's tight editing and so has a moral right to insert lugubrious longueurs in the middle of action scenes; that he was the creator of James Earl Jones clipped menacing voice and so has a moral right to insert melodramatic "Nooooos" at climactic moments.

George Lucas can do all these things, but he does so legally as the copyright owner, not morally because he's the creator of everyone else's work. If Pope Julius II had decided he didn't like the Michelangelo's ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and painted it over with a nice neutral beige, he would have had a perfect legal right to do that. But it would still have been a great loss to humanity.

So legally George Lucas has a right to do whatever he wants with Star Wars. But this is not the same as him having a moral right to do whatever he wants.
posted by TheophileEscargot 13 September | 13:52
Nicely said, TheoEs.
posted by crush-onastick 13 September | 14:09
Thanks, TheophileEscargot, for articulating that so well. I agree wholeheartedly.
posted by Elsa 13 September | 14:28
Maybe when the crazy bastard dies someone else will see fit to have the original versions of the films spruced up for HD release to make some more money, then I will actually buy them. I guess for now I should look into those fan-restored DVD versions.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs 13 September | 19:28
I think this might be the best source for information on fan-made restorations, going back to 2003 or so. There are some REALLY devoted individuals out there, and I have no idea how much time and money they've spent restoring minor nuances to the various editions. This isn't even touching upon the masses of Fan Editors who have tweaked the films to make them match their own ideal versions.
posted by filthy light thief 14 September | 15:52
By contrast, Steven Spielberg says he wishes he hadn't gone back and changed E.T.
posted by BoringPostcards 15 September | 12:13
The last time I saw Star Wars was the second weekend it was out. My girlfriend liked it better than I did. I watch few movies a second time, so nothing Lucas can do will change my experience.

A more fun and complex example is A Clockwork Orange. The american edition of Anthony Burgess's novel lacks the final chapter. Stanley Kubrick did not know that and made the movie based on the american edition. Anthony Burgess went through the roof. That is all the story I know, except that Kubrick pulled the movie from british circulation, ostensibly over censorship issues and fear of violence, but sometimes I wonder if perhaps he realized that the mindfuck that is Burgess's actual final chapter is essential to close the loop.
posted by Ardiril 15 September | 12:41
5 Second Films has been doing a series of Special Editions of their hits. Mildly amusing but a bit samey. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
posted by TheophileEscargot 16 September | 04:41
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