I saw this earlier today: “I’m a diehard ‘Han shot first fan’.”
I couldn’t care less. Go away.
Last night, the news broke that LucasFilm Ltd. intended to re-release (rererelease?) the entire Star Wars series to theaters in 3D in 2012. There’s no further details beyond that, except that the first film to be released again will be The Phantom Menace. The announcement has the usual complaints and accusations coming, from: “George Lucas is raping my childhood!” to “How can they make it better?! Leave it alone!” which evolves into: “Han shot first!” I just don’t care.
Re-Releases aren’t intended to be better. The usual argument of any remake, reboot, or extra special edition looks to the quality of the film, which isn’t really the right thing to look at. In the case of a complete remake of a film, it’s a different interpretation of the same story, generally within a new context or with the new technology that’s available. In the instance of George Lucas’s updates to the film (or the other notable re-releases of Blade Runner, Abyss, Lord of the Rings and so forth) goes towards updating scenes based on new technology, or adding in deleted or altered scenes, generally to better fit with the filmmaker’s vision of what he wants the film to be.
This brings me to my point about Han Solo shooting first. I first saw the films with the special edition, but that one shot didn’t really leave any lasting impact on exactly which one shot first. The point is, Han kills Greedo. Lucas’s rationalization for the switch was that he wanted Han to be a more likable character by making him less of a ‘bad guy’, which has always struck me as odd: Han still fries the Rodian, kills several Sand Troopers in the spaceport (and later Death Star), to save himself and his friends. Making the switch, then, really doesn’t make any significant difference in what people thought of Han. He’s the lovable rogue, shooting first or whatever, and the only way to really make a major impact would be to turn Han into a vegetarian and someone concerned with the Falcon’s fuel mileage. The same goes for some of the other changes that were made: the run into Mos Eisley, the introduction of the digital Dewbacks, Jabba the Hutt and so forth: there’s nothing that really changes the film beyond its aesthetics. Similarly, I don’t believe that adding the third dimension into the mix is going to significantly change anything in the film, beyond the visual appeal.
The real question will be: will it look good? Star Wars was filmed in a certain style, and there are points where the new CGI sections look somewhat out of place, and the conversion over to 3D is a complicated, expensive process, and I’m not holding my breath that it will be as good as Avatar’s 3D, which was filmed natively. Still, it seems that the studio isn’t rushing into this conversion, but will be working on it over the next couple of years (if they haven’t started already).
Star Wars is a commercial empire: look at the recent diagram of where most of the money has come from for the franchise, and that’s from merchandising, which strikes me as a smart move: it creates an incredible brand that people continually go to for all sorts of different things, from playing with the toys as a kid, to wearing a shirt or reading one of the books. It acts as a self-replicating advertising machine, and looking back, there’s been a continual release of Star Wars works since the first movies were released. The prequels in 1997 set the stage for the prequel films, which in turn have been continued with The Clone Wars, bringing in a whole new generation to the franchise, who will be right at the proper age to enjoy the films in the theaters again in a couple of years. In all likelihood, we’ll see a whole new marketing campaign to go along with this. I wouldn’t be surprised if the live-action television series would follow in the mid 2010s, potentially with a new series of films following that. The long and short of it is, Star Wars isn’t going anywhere, and with the attention span of the average consumer nowadays, it’s no surprise that the franchise has kicked into overdrive. The franchise is now going into its 3rd decade, competing with films such as Avatar, which James Cameron has said is hoped to become a franchise on par with the likes of Star Wars and Star Trek. Economically, Star Wars has a major upper hand, but if given a choice, would the current rising generation go for Star Wars, or Avatar? I know which, and it isn’t Star Wars.
3D is the next logical step in this move, given that studios can make a couple of extra dollars per ticket, but also because I’ve thought that Star Wars would be a fun thing to watch in 3D, going back to the visuals over storyline. (And if you don’t believe me, go watch the prequels again) 3D films capitalizes on new technology, and will make the franchise grow even more: people will still going to go out and see them in droves, no matter the sputtering of the fanboys who can’t see that the films aren’t designed for broad introspection: they’re blockbusters on a military scale, and the studio executives who have kept Star Wars a house-hold name for over thirty years, and multiple generations are doing their job well.
This isn’t to say that everything that has been released with the Star Wars logo has been high quality: far from it. The prequel trilogy was lack-luster at best, with The Clone Wars series matching that for the most part. The books and comics have likewise been of mixed quality, but quality has never been a huge concern: it doesn’t have to be. (It should be, but that’s another argument altogether) The franchise has raked in billions (yes, with a B) based on the material that’s been released, under the current formula, because of the efforts that have been made when it comes to branding and its awareness, not to mention its large fanbase. It really has no equal when it comes to popular culture influence: the book that I’m currently reading, The City and The City by China Mieville, just had a main character drop the ‘Force is not with me’ line a couple of pages ago, and any time that I’ve been out in armor, I’ve found that even if a person hasn’t seen the films, they know exactly what I’m from.
To the people who say: “George Lucas is raping my childhood!”, I say: George Lucas is not raping your childhood. Your childhood was back in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and shouldn’t be defined by a single film series. Childhood is a series of rose-colored memories that include things such as Star Wars, and the impressions that you had of any film will change with time as you learn and actually grow up. The original films was something that I watched countless times after school, and over the years since, as I’ve graduated from high school, college and graduate school, has drastically changed as my outlook on life and the world has changed along with everything else. Attempting to hold onto the past through reliving it seems like a sad proposition. I certainly wouldn’t return to my childhood, as much as I treasure most memories. When all fails, there’s certainly nothing that compels someone to go and alter their impressions of the films, and you *don’t* have to turn over that $10-$15 for a movie ticket, buy the next book, action figure or whatever.
With that in mind, a lot of the arguments that people have made against the prequels, rereleases and upcoming rerereleases are essentially meaningless, simply because this franchise doesn’t really need, or really care about what the fans really are looking for in the series: they’ve put together a good product, and it’s something that people are willing to dump a lot of money into. While they’ve done so, they’ve found ways that the films and books have given them meaning, direction and inspiration in life, which is fantastic. But that meaning and understanding that people find isn’t what drives the bottom line: it’s their wallets. Does it matter if Han shot first? Not really, in the greater context, and even then, it doesn’t impact the story in any significant way. So long as people are continually arguing and talking about it, LFL is happy.
Am I going to see the re-release in a couple of years? Probably. I distinctly remember coming out of Avatar thinking: Star Wars would look pretty damn cool in this format, and I think that the visuals will be worth it, especially on the big screen. Star Wars has always been about flash over substance, and watching the films again in theaters is easily worth my time and money for that thrill. Plus, it’ll more than likely mean some prime trooping opportunities for the 501st.
So, don’t tell me that Han shot first. I really don’t care; it’s irrelevant, annoying and honestly doesn’t have that much of an impact on the film’s story. There’s going to be more Star Wars throughout the rest of our lives.
* Required listening for this rant should be MC Chris’s ‘Han Solo’.