There’s an old adage that tells us ‘art is manipulation.’ If one were to accept the inverse of this statement and recognize manipulation as art, then George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, would be worth more money than Monet. There is no single film franchise in history that has generated more revenue than Lucas’ empire (no pun intended) of videos, prequels, games, toys and mass-market tie-ins. So a few months ago when this artist-turned-capitalist announced the release of the original Star Wars Trilogy on DVD, it was easy to let pessimism run amok.
With his 1997 Special Edition release of the Trilogy, resplendent with new digital ‘enhancements,’ George Lucas proved that his version of history is fluid, a malleable entity existing outside of context or circumstance. And while it’s fair for filmmakers to modify their work to reflect subsequent improvements in technology, Lucas began replacing, not simply adding to his content. Fans still vociferously express their belief that the original theatrical releases should be made publicly available to preserve the original Trilogy’s historic value, however dated the special effects may seem.
Lucas, however, seems set on establishing his (re-) vision as the only one in existence, and so the DVD set features the 1997 Special Editions with additional changes. What’s certain is that the series have never looked as pristine or sounded as clear as they do on these discs. The sheer visual and aural overloads produce a staggering experience not unlike childish joy.
Yes, the Star Wars DVDs represent compromised history. Yes, by purchasing these discs consumers are effectively condoning George Lucas’ suppressive actions. But the DVDs are much more than the only thing consumers can get; they’re also the best we can get. In the end, Lucas’ message is clear; he wants audiences to see his vision of the first three Star Wars films in the best way possible. Whether we take it or leave it is up to us.
The Star Wars Trilogy is now available on DVD.