The InterWebs have been buzzing this week with the confirmation of those year-old rumors that Uncle George is planning theatrical re-releases of all six Star Wars films, newly converted into trendy 3D, beginning with The Phantom Menace in 2012 and proceeding with one episode per year through Return of the Jedi in 2018. Assuming, that is, that the earlier releases do well enough at the box office to warrant going through the entire series. Personally, I think it may be a mistake to start with the prequels rather than the Original Trilogy. I know George views them all as one big happy saga and would like for them to be seen in sequence, but the sad truth that he seems unable to accept is that the prequels just aren't as well-liked as the OT. They have their supporters, true, and I myself am not as hard on them as many of my friends, but I have a bad feeling that the OT is going to get shafted when the prequels fail to perform to whatever expectations the Great Flanneled One has for this event.
I could be wrong. I'm speaking from the perspective of a 41-year-old, first-generation fan who has become disillusioned with George Lucas and even, to a certain extent, with the Star Wars franchise itself. But there's a whole mess of teenagers out there -- the prime movie-going demographic -- who were small children when The Phantom Menace was first released in 1999. Perhaps they have more nostalgia and affection for the prequels than I give them credit for. And of course there's also a new batch of small children who haven't seen the films in theaters at all, whose experience with the franchise comes primarily from the Clone Wars TV series. Perhaps they are the ones George is hoping to entice.
All I know is that the reaction of old-geezer fans like myself seems to be a yawn of indifference. I haven't seen any blog or Facebook chatter that displays much enthusiasm at all for Star Wars in 3D. As Jaquandor pointed out in his entry on the subject, the idea seems only to have reanimated the cynics who are always complaining about George trying to bilk the fanboys out of yet more money. Personally, I don't believe he's doing this 3D thing just to pull in a few million more bucks. I no longer pretend to have any idea what motivates George Lucas to do anything, but my hunch is that this is more about him wanting to play with the latest technology that's got the film industry all hot-and-bothered -- the 3D conversion process -- than mere filthy lucre. And he may also be hoping that exhibiting all six films in his preferred order, combined with the gimmick of 3D, may win the prequels a bit more acceptance. Or maybe he's taking a cue from Walt Disney and figures it's time to introduce a new generation to the saga, as I've already suggested. In any event, the question that people keep asking me, personally, is, am I going to go see them?
Honestly, I don't know. I probably will see them, prequels included -- it's Star Wars on the big screen, after all -- but I'm not experiencing any big burning sense of anticipation, the way I remember feeling for earlier re-releases. Partly, that's because I'm entirely indifferent to 3D. I simply don't get the appeal of it, not even in the case of the mighty Avatar, which at least had the advantage of being designed from the start as a 3D film, rather than a decades-old flick that may not convert well to the format. Maybe that's the real source of my apathy... I don't want to see any further indignities heaped upon the Original Trilogy. Bad enough that there are now CG dinosaurs and lame sight gags all over a video-gamey Mos Eisley. If the 3D looks bad as well...
It may also be -- and I never thought I'd find myself typing these words! -- that I'm just plain tired of the Star Wars universe. I got to feeling that way about Star Trek at one point, back when it had been franchised, sequeled, spun off, merchandised, and otherwise completely drained of all its lifeblood. It was actually liberating (for me) when the franchise went dormant following the cancellation of Enterprise, and I would've been perfectly happy if it'd been left there, un-rebooted. In a strange kind of way, I was able to reclaim Star Trek -- the original Star Trek, at least -- for myself once the hacks had stopped milking it dry and the younger fanboys found other things to obsess over. Star Wars was like that once upon a time, too. From the mid-80s through the mid-90s, it was a has-been, a done deal, a fond memory for most people but a personal treasure for myself. You could wrap your arms around it then, because it wasn't so big and ubiquitous, and no one questioned your sense of taste for doing so. It'd be nice if we could get back to that point with the galaxy far, far away, as unlikely as that scenario might be.
But this is all just tedious wool-gathering. Sorry. Regardless of whether I eventually give in and go see the 3D versions in the theater, I can tell you one definite thing: I won't be buying the inevitable BluRay (or whatever other media format is king come 2018) release. Not unless Uncle George comes off his high horse and includes a decent, up-to-current-video-standards restoration of the pre-Special Edition versions of the Original Trilogy in the set. As I've repeatedly stated, I don't believe Lucas when he says they no longer exist. Of course they do, if not in his archives than in private hands somewhere. If we can still find lost footage from Metropolis after 80 years, you can't tell me that it's impossible to reconstruct at least the 1981 edit (the first to have the Episode IV designator in the opening crawl) of Star Wars, if not the more historically significant 1977 version. That was the one that changed the film industry, not the 1997 revision, and certainly not the further-screwed-with 2004 edition. Lucas is a paradox, a huge proponent of film preservation when it comes to the movies he grew up with, but he has such a flexible definition of "preservation" when it comes to his own films. I still hold out hope, however, that he'll someday experience an epiphany. Maybe his buddies Spielberg and Scorsese will talk some sense into him over a beer at the Old Filmmaker's Home. Or perhaps someone can through to his kids, after George is no longer in charge...
My thanks to our esteemed colleague