This misguided rant over at Box Office Mojo has finally pushed me over the edge. I realize this is just a commentary by some guy writing on a movie website, but it seems to be just the kind of gross misrepresentation and misunderstanding that plagues so much editorial content on the web. The point that the article attempts to make, though I do suggest reading it to glean this for yourself, is that fans who claim that Star Wars belongs to the fans and not to George Lucas are barking disapproval that is tantamount to censorship when it comes to the changes Uncle George has made in the movies we all love.

Firstly, let me say this: quoting people from their blogs in a published commentary/article on a website and making a case from those quotes that parallels fan reaction to the Original Trilogy DVDs with the creation of a new fascist empire is a bit much. Arguing blog to blog is one thing, but when you write a column for a fairly public and meant-to-be-professional site, there's a different standard at play (isn't there?). Secondly, it's important to note that anything that anyone says online is subject to be taken with a grain of salt. (Including me!) Star Wars lunatics have been raging that George Lucas raped their childhood for goodness sake, so it's not really reasonable to take the online ramblings of upset Star Wars nerds to mean that there is any implied legal ramification to their musings. In fact, if anyone was up-in-arms enough about the changes to the Original Trilogy, and if anyone really felt like Star Wars belonged to 'the fans' or 'the people' and not to its intellectual creator and copyright holder, then there'd be a lawsuit. Come on, there's a lawsuit every time someone falls out of their own car. But, even the presence of a lawsuit (claiming that Star Wars is now in the public domain?) wouldn't be enough to start crying 'censorship is the first step towards fascism!'

Look, fans are pissed that the thing they love has been tampered with. Honestly, even if you put it to a vote of the most rabid nuts, I think 90% of the restoration and enhancements of the original trilogy would not cause anyone to stir. They've made it sound BETTER, made it look BETTER, made the effects sharper and more believable. There's going to be a point at which each individual decides to jump ship on these new editions, but for the vast majority of people it's going to come with with the dramatic and conceptual changes, not the technical ones. I'm of the opinion that Lucasfilm should (and at some point will) release some sort of restored archival version of the original trilogy and that it'll be something like a retro-amusement. They have already started reproducing the classic action figure packaging (with newly sculpted figures) for collectors, and they are really building up sales with the nostalgia marketing angle, so its reasonable to think that at some point they'll release "Retro-Star Wars" in its stereo-only, cleaned up but not fancily digitized version. Then, people will complain that they have to buy the movies twice.

There's just no pleasing some people, and fans are going to get bent out of shape at something regardless. The ones who claim that Lucas no longer owns the film don't mean that in a literal way. They mean that Star Wars is something of a cultural institution, and as such it should be preserved and protected like any classic work of art or architechture or other such thing for which people have fond memories. I agree with that sentiment, even if I also agree that Lucas has the right to do whatever he bloody well pleases with his movie. Some of the changes (Hayden Christiansen at the end of ROTJ) are pretty abominable, but you know, if your entire relationship to a trilogy of movies can be destroyed by a few seconds in one of the films, then you probably had something less than a sincere love for them in the first place.

I think the changes (Solo Shoots FIRST damnit!) are sometimes changing the story in slight ways, but it doesn't make the whole thing less epic, less fun, or less of an experience I had when I was growing up. It doesn't digitally remove memories of Empire Strikes Back sheets on my bed, or of my first Star Wars toys, or of the countless times I watched the movies in the theater and on VHS, or the time I saw a bootleg VHS copy of Jedi because it was taking too long to make it to the military theaters in Germany, or... I could go on and on. The fact that Greedo shoots first or that there are Gungans dancing somewhere that they didn't used to be really doesn't change my love for the whole thing, warts and all.

So when I see someone talking about censorship and communism and evil empires and nazis and saying that fans expressing their opinion about the changes is tantamount to limitiing expression, it's a bit depressing. Fans can scream until they are blue in the face (many have) and it won't keep George from doing what he wants to do with HIS MOVIES. Plain and simple, it's not a case of censorship, but in fact NOT allowing those dissenting voices WOULD BE. That article... it's just poorly written and thought through and while it will spark debate and criticism (ahem) it's ultimately not going to convince anyone of anything one way or the other because it's not a sound argument.