How Lucas fixed (then ruined) the end of Star Wars
So with the recent re-re-re-release of Star Wars, this time in crisp, beautiful and unnecessary blu-ray, it got me thinking about what I love about Star Wars. Of course, as with any true Star Wars fan, this soon led to what I hate about George Lucas.
There is a collective belief that Star Wars was as close to perfection as it ever could be when it was originally released, complete with cheap puppets and fake looking explosions. Since then, Lucas has gone back and changed many of the monumental moments in Star Wars, usually claiming that he is bringing the movies “more in line with his original vision” but the most cynical among fans see it as “bringing Star Wars more in line with his marketing campaign.”
For example, one of the most controversial changes was in episode IV, in which the confrontation between Greedo and Han Solo in the Mos Eisley Cantina ends with Han Solo murdering Greedo. When Lucas re-released Star Wars later, Greedo shot first, making Han seem as if he was only defending himself. However, Greedo misses his shot at point blank range, and the fact that Han’s head digitally jerks out of the way of the shot angers many fans (because it looks like the bad kind of cheap and fake). “Han shot first” has expanded from just a phrase expressing anger to an internet meme complete with cool shirts.
Although there are several unnecessary changes that bother me, one of the most annoying is the one change Lucas did that made Star Wars better but was later pushed too far. I am talking about the end of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
In the original 1983 ending, the Ewoks dance about and sing their terrible, terrible song. It was called “Yub Nub” and any child that watched it instantly loved it and it became a part of their nostolgia for Star Wars. Any adult that watched it probably cringed and pretended that it didn’t happen. I know when I first witnessed it, that’s how I reacted.
Apparently, so did George Lucas, because in 1997 when he re-released Return he replaced the childish Yub Nub song with something much more adult and uplifting by John Williams. (sidebar: John Williams is awesome and I hope he was not responsible for the Yub Nub song). This ending featured all the same scenes as the original, but with added celebrations on Coruscant, Naboo, Bespin, and Tatooine. This was, by far, the best ending to Star Wars. It was neat, it was uplifting, and it flowed much better into the ending credits. (Even though if you look at the Expanded Universe, the Empire doesn’t automatically fall after the Battle of Endor, but that’s another argument for another time).
However, Lucas did not stop there. In 2004, with the almost guaranteed success of Revenge of the Sith, Lucas released the original trilogy on DVD with yet another new ending. As always, he added more CGI aliens, but what was most offensive here was that the image of ghost Anakin, which waved to Luke in the previous two releases at the end of the movie and represented that Vader had been healed of the dark side and rejoined the light, was replaced by a bashful looking Hayden Christensen.
I can only assume he look bashful because HE KNEW HE SHOULD NOT BE AT THE END OF THE MOVIE! I did not like Christensen in the new trilogy, I found his acting terrible, and when I am watching them I often breathe a sigh of relief that he is gone at the end of Revenge. However, it seems George Lucas is intent on cramming as much Hayden Christensen into Star Wars as humanly possible.
Not to mention, the original ghost Anakin in Return (Sebastian Shaw) is totally cut out of his role. If I were Shaw, I would be pissed at Lucas. The ghost Anakin played by Christensen is also on the new blu-ray release, which (so I’ve heard) has so many CGI aliens added that some scenes, Luke, Leia, and Han are actually blocked from view by Jar Jar Binks frolicking in the foreground.
At any rate, Star Wars fans will remain resilient in the face of Lucas’ changes, and they will take it with good humour. A recent youtube video of the 2011 blu-ray release pokes fun at the whole debate, and might I say, is the perfect pick-me-up if you are depressed by Lucas meddling with his creation.