.: Site News

September 29th, 2011: Lucas Refuses to work with Government Film Preservation

Here's a scandal and a half: optimists may point to the fact that the Library of Congress' Nation Film Registry, a government body Lucas helped create charged with preserving the nation's film heritage, has archived a print of Star Wars, and are in the process of archiving a print of Empire. But in fact, Lucasfilm refused to co-operate with them. Instead, they attempted to get them to accept a 1997 SE print. The NFR still lists Star Wars in it's registry, while both parties have been publically silent about the matter. Read on.

In other news, the SE Changes page has been updated, with new links, and new information on how much the films have been changed.

September 11th, 2011: 2006 DVD Conatining Original Theatrical Versions Now Out of Print

According to retailers, the 2006 DVDs of the original trilogy, which contained a second bonus disc for each film featuring the original theatrical versions, are no longer being manufactured. Amazon lists it as out-of-print, and no new shipments have been received by retailers for some time now, which has led to their rapidly dwindling numbers in stores. Chances are if you go to your big chain store like Target, Best Buy, Wal-Mart and the like, you won't be able to find them.

This means that it is no longer possible to officially purchase in any format, in any quality, the original versions of the films. The 2006 2-disc DVD sets were always marked as "Limited Edition", but now that has become true in the very real sense of the word. In short, the one thing the original versions clung to life on is now gone.

According to an employee at Barnes and Nobles, they were told by the manufacturer that it had gone out of print in April of this year--just when Blu-ray pre-orders went live. Coincidence? I think not. Lucasfilm deliberately orchestrated this in advance so that those people who are now rejecting the Blu-ray have no alternative. The Special Edition will be the only version offered.

As it happens, those 2-disc 2006 editions were the only original trilogy DVDs being sold, period; the "trilogy packs" you saw on sale contained those editions. Those trilogy packs are also now out of print. This means the 2004 Special Edition is also no longer available now--nor is any DVD version of any version of the film. In a calculated move, Lucasfilm has made it impossible to officially buy anything other than the 2011 Blu-ray. Sneaky buggers.

Of course, the DVDs thrive in second hand stores, used online retailers and e-bay. If you want any of these, better get them now! Even though the release was very heavily criticized because of the poor treatment of the originals (see here to find out why), it is very sad to see them fade away if only because of the symbolic victory of having the original versions technically available to consumers.

In other news: it appears that there was actually a few more lightsaber tweaks in Return of the Jedi than first reported. Don't hold your breath. The reason early viewers missed these was because they aren't really true fixes. If you do some 2004-to-2011 comparisons, there are some shots in which the dull cores have been brightened. However, the image contrast and colouring is the same for the shot and so is the colour of the lightsaber glows. What they did was paste a brighter core over the original 2004 image, because they used the same 2004 master to start with. Vader's saber is still a pink blob. It just is a bit brighter in the centre. Yay? I am guessing they did this half-assed because they couldn't care (why not?), didn't have the time (seven years?), or the money (Lucas is a billionaire?) to totally re-rotoscope the footage from scratch to get the correct saber colours. Lazy, careless and weak, if you ask me, but take it for what it is worth.

September 8th, 2011: George Lucas Tells Fans Wanting Original Versions "Grow Up"

The internet has been buzzing with original-version Star Wars news this week because of the latest round of Special Edition butchery. This marks the fourth update in five days so catch up if you haven't visited the site lately!

Hollywood gossip site Laineygossip.com is reporting that when an admirer politely asked Lucas at a party why he didn't release the original films that mean so much to so many people, Lucas rolled his eyes and said: "Grow up. These are my movies, not yours." Weird to be so rude when the lifestyle and success he and his family enjoy has been based on people being unusually interested in these movies. But then, he has basically said the same thing to reporters over the years anyway, which is why I'm inclined to believe the report is real, even if it's just gossip. Such a reaction is, of course, entirely hypocritical since he has complained about old classics being tampered with as recently as 2004 and this very year remarked, "I am a staunch believer that it's important that we all make an effort to preserve our cinematic heritage--before it's too late." The reporter also brings up the point that Lucas neither wrote nor directed two thirds of the original trilogy, and thus his rather silly "Mine!" attitude is suspect, to say the least.

The reporter writes: "The geeks eventually got their face time with Lucas and I want to stress how respectful these guys were, and that they paid a lot of money for face time with Lucas. This was not a surprise interaction; Lucas came to this event knowing he'd be expected to mingle with the peons. I don't advocate bugging celebrities in their daily lives, but this was a professional event designed to encourage these interactions. The guys were not out of bounds. They started by telling Lucas that they loved him/the movies/grew up watching them. Then they very politely asked why he wouldn't make the original versions of the movies available on DVD/Blu-Ray. They stressed that they don't mind the retroactive edits (doubtful, but they were being nice), they just wanted good digital copies of the original cuts, too. Lucas's response? An eyeroll and a huffy, "Grow up. These are my movies, not yours."

See this link for the full story.

September 8th, 2011: ILM Effects Legend Phil Tippett Bashes the Special Edition, Plus Blu Ray Boycott News

Movies.com reports: "Last night the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX held a very special screening of Jurassic Park and flew in Phil Tippett, one of the visual effects masterminds behind the film, for a Q&A, which ended up being the surprise highlight of the night." Tippett was candid and honest as usual.

Questions came regarding the new Star Wars Blu Rays, since they were on everyone's minds as of late. Tippett, you may recall, began his career as one of the original artists at ILM when it opened up shop. He provided the stop-animation for Star Wars (the 3D chess board), and performed the stop-animation for the AT-AT Imperial Walkers and the Taun-Taun's in Empire Strikes Back, and the Rancor puppeteering on Return of the Jedi, among other duties. It didn't take long before he was asked about Lucas' endless tinkering with all the pioneering visual effects work on the films, and Tippett, perhaps not surprisingly, hates the changes as much as fans.

"They're shit," he says about the Special Editions. He calls them unnecessary, citing as one example Lucas' choice to shoot Mos Eisely originally as a barren bordertown that recalled similar locales in Sergio Leone westerns. Now, he says, it's "filled with a bunch of...CGI shit."

He shares an additional anecdote with the website regarding a conversation between Lucas and Return of the Jedi director Richard Marquand that's pretty amusing ( "What we're doing now is kind of like a cross between Benji and what we did on Empire Strikes Back, " Lucas told him).

See: http://www.movies.com/movie-news/phil-tippett-star-wars/4324

There's more news than that, though. Yes, more Blu Ray stuff. Apparently, viewers are so up in arms about the films being altered this time that there are a bunch of boycott campaigns underway.

One of the more prominent ones has used this page at it's centre, featuring buttons and stickers for this site apparently. I have nothing to do with this campaign, other than "liking" it on Facebook. But this is precisely the sort of purpose I envisioned the site having: that is, an educational tool for the masses and information hub for those wondering why this whole "no original" thing is a problem. It's a good one-stop shop for an original theatrical version campaign. Anyway, they have a facebook page that you can join: http://www.facebook.com/savestarwarsboycotttheblurays

Alternatively, there's another group too: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Star-Wars-Boycott-The-Blu-Rays/269110113114406?sk=wall#!/pages/Boycott-Star-Wars-Blu-Ray/146137858743842?sk=wall

Despite the groups existing for only about five days each, they already have close to 1000 members so far.

The controversy over the original versions not being included has gone so far that even Perez Hilton has posted an article on the matter! See their report, "True Fans of Star Wars Call for Boycott of Altered Blu Ray Edition." It looks like the general population is finally starting to speak out that Lucas would just call it quits with the tinkering and give the classic originals their due. Washington Post and NPR have posted articles in the last couple days criticizing all the meddling Lucas is doing.

September 3rd, 2011: Widespread Condemnation of Blu Ray Changes and a Personal Thought

What a week it's been! As you may have heard, there was a leak of the new Blu Rays, which contain a number of new changes and all the same problems of the 2004 transfer. Read the news update from yesterday to get up to speed if you haven't.

It is unexpected how quickly this news has spread, but what's even more unexpected is the reaction--almost unanimously negative. This mostly is centred around one change: Darth Vader yelling "NOooooo!". Obi Wan's ridiculous "WOooOOO!" howl has been getting a lot of flak too. As I mentioned yesterday, reaction online was very strong, but not from people like me or those at originaltrilogy.com where you might expect such things, but from ordinary viewers who had stomached the Special Edition up until now. There are a lot of cancelled pre-orders, and tons of re-blogging about how silly all these changes are. I have seen on message boards a lot of fans who used to defend the Special Edition changes say they can no longer do so.

Is this the straw that broke the camels back? It certainly seems to be. This has not just remained on fan message boards too, but broken into mainstream media. CNN and The New York Times have reported on the controversy, just days after it broke.

Just as the leak went viral, New York Times spoke to a Lucasfilm PR rep to confirm that the leak was real. They confirmed the controversial "NOOooo!" was indeed legit. NYT reported on how this was angering a lot of fans who preferred the original version of the scene. See: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/31/lucasfilm-confirms-change-to-blu-ray-release-of-return-of-the-jedi/?scp=1&sq=lucas+films&st=cse

The Hollywood Reporter headlined, "Star Wars Tweaked Darth Vader Scene Sparks Outcry." They posted examples of Tweets from normal fans and celebrities alike who blasted the change and all the revision Lucas was doing to the series. See: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/star-wars-tweaked-darth-vader-230427

Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof Tweeted: "I wonder if the [Lost] finale will be better appreciated if we have Vincent [the dog] shout "NOOOOOOOOO!" over the final shot." Actor Simon Peg Tweeted: "Always loved Vader's wordless self sacrifice. Another shitty, clueless, revision like Greedo and young Anakin's ghost. What a fucking shame." My favourite comes from actor-comedian Paul Sheer, who Tweets: "If George Lucas continues to change Star Wars at this rate, in the year 2028 it will just become Spaceballs."

Within a day or two of the leak, funnyordie.com made a parody video, in which Vader's Return of the Jedi scene has been re-dubbed throughout to express his thoughts constantly. See: http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/bcbb7bb253/george-lucas-adds-more-darth-vader-dialogue?playlist=featured_videos

On September 2nd, Maximum PC posted an article criticising the change. "Lucas runs the risk of ruining the Star Wars universe with each new media format," author Paul Lilly wrote. "A tweak here, an added scene there, and before long, the Star Wars series will look and sound completely different the than the ones we grew up with."  

See:http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/george_lucas_alters_star_wars_blu-ray_darth_vader_and_fans_say_no

CNN reported on how even moderate fans have now become tired of all the tinkering in an article titled "Latest Star Wars Change Enrages Fans."

See: http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/02/latest-star-wars-change-enrages-fans/

I could go on listing daily newspaper blogs and such, but I think this will suffice. The Digital Bits' Bill Hunt writes in his daily column a viewpoint that I partly share: "I'm really having a hard time getting worked up about this. We've been through this too many times now. Every time these films are released, Lucas tweaks and changes them some more. And the tweaks and changes don't really improve the films, they just make them...different. The fact is, Star Wars stopped being what I loved and remembered a very LONG time ago. The combination of the prequels, repeated digital nips and tucks to the originals, the obvious BS about the original versions 'no longer existing,' etc., etc."

And this is where I want to express a maybe more personal point of view here. It doesn't surprise me that Lucas put a few changes in the films for this release, and it doesn't surprise me that the couple bad ones outweigh any good ones tenfold. It's the same old story. But what is surprising to me is that so many people are shocked now and not 14 or 7 years ago--although better late than never. Because to me, how is Vader's "NOooo!" any dumber than Greedo shooting first, or Hayden Christensen in Return of the Jedi, or Temura Morrison as Boba Fett's voice? It sort of perplexes me that people could accept those but not accept this. To me, the films have been ruined by outrageous meddling years and years ago. But, I am glad that it appears this is the final straw for so many, so that at least now we can understand each other better; the fandom is too fractured.

I hope this gives people who criticized those who rejected the previous changes some perspective. For some of us, when Greedo shot first or Hayden Christensen appeared as a ghost, that was our Darth-Vader-saying-NOooo moment, important moments in the film for us, perfect moments that defined a character or scene, that were so heavily ruined that we could barely watch them anymore. It was frustrating and shocking that someone could not only change those moments, but ruin the reason we loved them in the first place. And even further, for others the fact that the films had even been changed in minor ways was shocking: we loved the films exactly as they were, Mos Eisley without Ronto dinosaurs and X-wings without digital composites just like Darth Vader without the "NOoo!". It's great that other people could stomach those, but why bash us for complaining that something we loved had been taken away? Why bash us for just hoping that the films could be left alone and left as they were? Well, for those that have finally had enough of the changes, this is the feeling a great many of us had in 1997, or in 2004, and I hope now you can maybe understand where we were coming from. Everyone has different levels of tolerance. We don't want to bash Lucas or complain, but how can we not when he does something like this?

But, as I mentioned, none of this would be an issue if the originals--and the previous special editions, for those now crossing over--were available in high definition. We could just shake our heads at Lucas when we thought he made a stupid decision, say "well, I wouldn't have done that," and then watched the version we liked, whether it was the original theatrical version, or the 1997 version, or the ones from 2004 and 2011. It wouldn't matter if we liked a change or not, or which version was "right", we could just agree to disagree and be happy with the version that Lucas gave us that spoke to us the most. The way every other film with multiple versions--Blade Runner, Alien, Lord of the Rings, Close Encounters, etc--has been treated.

Lucas is so narcissistic about suppressing the older and original versions of the films, as though they no longer exist, that he has brought the heat on himself. And, unfortunately, he has opened up a lot of rifts in the fan community that really should not exist in the first place. We all love Star Wars, but it has so many versions, sequels and permutations that it is inevitable that we all never agree on one single, absolute Gospel canon the way Lucas wants: there's too much radical variation. The only way things will be good is if we can each have the one we fell in love with, because we all fell in love with different variations at different years for different reasons. When you create something as big as Star Wars, you sort of have an ethical mandate to do this, to protect a cultural artifact and make sure it is seen and treated with respect. As Lucas himself said: "American works of art belong to the public; they are part of our cultural history." I hope one day Lucas can drink his own medicine so we can all just get along.

September 2nd, 2011: Blu Ray Changes Leaked and Other News

I don't normally spend this much time on a news update, but I thought this one deserved it. I will go more in-depth on the topic once the Blu Rays are officially released, but I thought everyone who was contemplating buying this should know exactly what they are getting, so they can make a more informed decision. There's an unrelated link to check out at the end too, regarding the tragedy of Star Wars and copyright law.

In the last day or two the new Star Wars Blu Rays were leaked. Although some may at first--myself included--have thought them fake, they are indeed real, and various insiders and even official Lucasfilm PR reps have confirmed them (to the NY Times ). The fact that they contain some professional-grade enhancements should back this up. So, for those wondering--yes, there are a couple of suprising content changes to the films. And yes, some of them are somewhat tasteful. The good news ends there, unfortunately.

Although I have been openly critical of this release from the start, I was actually starting to get mildly excited about the release when I learned a few problems from the last release had been corrected. See this promotional article , for example. Truth is, like all fans I want to enjoy watching the films in high definition, even if it is just the Special Edition. However, even those moderates, who may groan through some changes but stomach the Special Edition overall--which, I think, could represent most fans--have begun to facepalm themselves over some of the changes these new Blu Rays have, judging by the online reactions. Some people have even cancelled their pre-orders.

To start, let me just say this: the colouring issues and lightsaber issues have NOT, repeat, have NOT been changed from 2004, except in a couple instances. It otherwise looks exactly the same. In fact, it IS the same video master from 2004, with a couple select shot tweaks. What they did do, however was re-colour the lightsabers in one or two shots to fix issues the DVD version introduced in the first place--they have advertised this fact, but it is misleading, because those two examples were more infamous but simply examples of a trilogy-wide screw-up, which has not been corrected. The first shot they fixed is the infamous green saber in Star Wars, and the second is the dulled cores when Luke tries to slash the Emperor; there might be one more somewhere in there. That's basically it, apparently. And those two shots are the only corrections they have advertised too.

Unfortunately, in those scenes, the succeeding and preceeding shots are not fixed. In fact, all the colours are the same. They fixed those one or two shots but didn't understand the entire scene was miscoloured and that's part of the reason they looked that way. The crushed blacks are all still there, so is the blue tint and colourless engines and lazers, and so are a lot of the garbage mattes. So is Obi Wan's shorting out saber. In short, 90% of the flaws of the 2004 release are still there. That's because this isn't a new transfer. Early stills showed that the gamma was much brighter, making the image brighter and more detail apparent (this was not always good, as it milked the blacks), but that's just because of computer versus television monitor colourspace for screenshots. It looks basically the same on your TV as the films did in 2004. With the noted exceptions, all the problems in the article on the 2004 SE here are still present.

Here is a bunch of caps of Empire Strikes Back showing the same crushed blacks, miscoloured lightsabers and dulled cores, using the 2011 Blu Ray. Vader's saber is pink throughout this whole scene, in shots not shown here, just like it was in 2004. Again, this is the Blu Ray, just sized down to save on space here.

The opening shot has all the same erased starfields, crushed blacks, dulled colours, colourless lazers and blue tint.

And here is Luke on the Falcon--with a green lightsaber STILL! Open the pic in a new window and see the full resolution.

As I said, they only fixed that one wide shot. The promotional article linked extolls the three quality-control phases the release went through, but it's hard to take anything there seriously when they blame these issues on film-to-video transfer (which, as someone who has worked in film, I can tell you is a total lie; besides which, the 1997 SE video has the Falcon saber blue, as did previous transfers).

The soundtrack also seems very similar. Although Matthew Wood says he re-mixed Star Wars from scratch using the raw sound effects, this is suspect. Case in point, in the cell block shoot out there was a moment where one blaster fires from one side of the screen but the sound effect was swapped to the wrong channel. This is still there. They did fix the swapped channels and missing music in the trench run though. The dialogue seems to integrate better too. So it seems they listened to some complaints, but otherwise made the same choices or used the actual same mix for at least some parts. In fact, some have reported that the music is even more drowned out than the 2004 mix in some scenes.

What did they change? There are a few minor things I'm going to skip, like shaving a couple frames off Han shooting second or correcting a digital transfer flaw (the "humdinger" glitch) from a frame in Star Wars, or fixing that blue glow in the Death Star explosion (their solution was to drain the colour, so now the explosion, which was quite vibrant originally, is totally desaturated). The biggest ones are as follows.

In Star Wars, they added rocks when R2 hides from the sand people.

Unfortunately, it looks like R2 could not have physically moved inside there, because he doesn't fit. The rocks disappear in later shots too. The effect is nice, but it's completely unnecessary, doesn't make physical sense, and is inconsistently applied. I'll let it slide, but it seems a very random choice of all the changes one could make.

One of the most bewildering ones is that they changed Obi Wan's howl to disperse the Tusken Raiders. This first appeared in The Sounds of Star Wars book earlier, but everyone thought maybe it was a test version or something. It's not. This is what it sounds like.

Yeah, that's real. Each time they change this they make it worse. How do professionals make something so amateurish sounding is beyond me. Here is the clip from the 2011 Blu Ray. Any of these clips could be taken off of Youtube, but you'll be able to find it if you search.

Empire Strikes Back is relatively unchanged from reports so far, but they digitally removed the puppeteer arm from the wampa hand--but also inserted a weird curved frame line where they painted in. Whatever.

They also went through the trouble of adding a reflection to the window of a cloud city matte. It's a bit hard to see at this size but if you open any of these pics in a new window you will get the full size.

Of course, when we cut to inside the entire window is gone. This has still not been corrected.

Return of the Jedi is where things really go wrong. First is that they redid the shot of R2 and 3P0 approaching Jabba's palace door. The new shot is actually pretty cool, but like most of the re-done shots in the SE it looks like it doesn't belong. The scale is also inconsistent with later shots, but whatever. I imagine this may have been done with the 3D release in mind. Below is the original and 2011 version.

Click for the video, as appreciating the shot depends on seeing the push-in in motion.

They also added a dug (e.g. Sebulba) to Jabba's palace. Okay, although he draws way too much attention to himself in the shot composition because he is coming down the stairs; the original was better. It looks like they actually used the dug pilot model from the speeder chase in Episode II.

Han's unfreezing has been enhanced too. It looks relatively unconvincing to my eyes, but maybe the original was too. Not a big deal I guess, it's a subtle change anyway.

An interesting choice is that they also gave the Ewoks eyes, which blink, in an attempt to make them more expressive. These only appear in a couple of shots, actually. They are relatively convincing, although the fact that they appear only in a couple shots might be considered a bit distracting. I suppose they didn't want to do it to shots where it wasn't as noticeable. You can open the pic below for the full resolution.

I said Jedi was where things go wrong, but so far those changes are okay right? Maybe not preferrable, but digestible? Sure, okay. But get ready for this one. Remember how in 2005, in Revenge of the Sith when Darth Vader had a really important scene where his character was supposed to be cemented for the following three films. Where he finds out he accidentally killed his wife, and now he turned to the dark side for nothing, transformed into a mechanical monster. But instead of it being dramatic, Vader yelled out "NOOooooooo!" and it was completely hilarious in an unintended way and completely ruined the emotional climax of the film. Remember how much flak that got, and it became a whole internet meme with entire websites and mockumentaries about how embarassingly dumb it was?

Well, Lucas put it into Return of the Jedi. When Vader has to decide to kill the Emperor, instead of the tension-driving silence, where we can enter Vader's head and immediately understand the life-changing decision he is contemplating as he watches his son die...now he cries out, "No! NOOoo!" as he picks up the Emperor. It's really prominent in the mix too. I'm not even going to point out how badly it integrates and matches the footage. Just watch. If that goes down, search it on Youtube, but here is the audio clip  if all else fails.

Now, how is this possible? Could it be real? Of course. This is coming from the guy who put a creepy Hayden to the end of Jedi after all, ruining the emotional crescendo of the whole saga, and a guy who put that very same "NOOoooo" into Episode III in the first place . So there it is. One of the most powerful moments in Return of the Jedi totally ruined. If the Hayden scene didn't, surely this counts as a line cross. In fact, only 72 hours after leaking there is already a parody of this change online, from Funnyordie.com, which added more dubs and is actually pretty funny, especially at the end. See: http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/bcbb7bb253/george-lucas-adds-more-darth-vader-dialogue?playlist=featured_videos

What is most bewildering is that they would go to the trouble of adding an invisible, unnoticeable reflection to a Bespin window while ignoring most of the problems the 2004 transfer introduced in the first place, while adding all these miniscule trivial details. Correct one bad lightsaber shot, but not another, leave the crushed blacks alone but put a dug in Jabbas palace, add CG eyes to Ewoks but leave in all the wires and crew reflections, remix the sound but do something as silly as making Obi Wan sound like Matthew Wood yelling in a parking lot (which, according to Sounds of Star Wars, is what it is). It's a bit of a Frankenstein, unfortunately. It always was, but it is now more than ever. Just as a lot of people pined for the 1997 SE when the 2004 version came out, Lucasfilm did the unimaginable feat of making people wish they had the 2004 SE with its less intrusive changes.

So, just to remind, this is what you will be getting this September. The same colouring problems of 2004, the same bad tints and crushed blacks and weird colour casts. And the same badly done lightsabers in 99% of the movie. You will also be getting totally unnecessary changes like R2D2 in the rocks and a reflection on Cloud City that never needed changing. You get a bizarre, amateurish and out-of-place Obi Wan howl, and Vader yelling "NOooo!" in a pivotal dramatic moment which deflates any dramatic integrity the scene had up to that point. And you still have Han shooting second, creepy Hayden and Jar Jar Binks in Jedi, Temura Morrison and no "Bring my shuttle" in Empire, plus all the other stuff you wish wasn't there from the previous releases--in more detail than ever before!

If the original versions were restored and available in high-def, none of this would be a real problem, just a bizarre experiment by an aging billionaire who wanted to spend his retirement revisiting films he directed and produced in his youth. But part of what makes that situation an alternate reality, instead of the sad fact that this is the only Star Wars currently existing, is the fact that so many people sigh and buy this anyway. Remember, eventually all those OT deleted scenes on here--the real reason you want the set--will be on Youtube. And, you can rent the set; I may do so, to check out some of the supplemental material. You can also, if you really have to, just wait a couple months and buy the thing when it's marked down in price--you will be double-dipped, that you can count on.

In unrelated--but maybe not that unrelated--news, there is a link I thought people might want to check out, passed on to me by Peter Lopez via clubjade.net. It's a piece which talks about Star Wars and copyright--the reason we can't watch the original versions. It's about the unfortunate fact that something as culturally important as one of the biggest films ever made is suppressed by its copyright owner and how because of this copyright doesn't actually work the way it was supposed to because it keeps being extended and controlled by immortal corporations.

"George Lucas was completely within his rights to make those movies into the sterile, toy-marketing vehicles they were. He owned Darth Vader and could tell the origin story as he wished-- and that's the only version you'll ever get to see.

But, imagine for a moment, if copyright still worked as first intended.

In 2011 the whole of the original Star Wars trilogy--all of its artwork, its characters, its music-- would have left copyright protection and been available to aspiring directors and writers to build upon and make their own versions of. There would be a treasure trove of new Star Wars stories for fans to enjoy. But as long as the current copyright laws remain as they are, no living person will ever get to tell a Darth Vader story, or a Harry Potter Story, or a Hobbit Story or any other story that matters to them, that the author or, when after their death, their company, disagrees with."

See: http://blog.cgpgrey.com/copyright-forever-less-one-day/

June 5, 2011: Steven Spielberg Vows Never to Digitally Alter Old Films, Says Lucas Can't "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie"

Quint from AICN recently had an interview with Steven Spielberg where the subject of Blu Ray releases was raised. In relation, Spielberg says he will no longer alter old films, and expresses regret for having digitally spruced up E.T., following Lucas' Star Wars Special Editions. "I always tell people to go back to the '82 version," he says. "At this point right now I think letting movies exist in the era, with all the flaws and all of the flourishes, is a wonderful way to mark time and mark history." When the subject of George Lucas is brought up, Spielberg agrees with Quint that it is a bit of a shame that people can't watch the version of Star Wars they grew up with. "And I think the other good thing," he continues, on the subject of including original versions, "is that they understand when they see a movie and they suddenly see something that obviously could have been done much better today and could have been corrected in the DVD/Blu-Ray transfer, they really appreciate seeing the strings attached." He states:  "George goes his own way and I respect him for it, but my new philosophy on this is to let sleeping dogs lie."

See the full link here. http://www.aintitcool.com/node/49897

The excerpt:

"Quint: Is there a Jaws Blu-Ray in the works?

Steven Spielberg: Yes, there is. Yes, there is. Ive already seen some of it. I dont have a date yet, but theres a Blu-Ray absolutely in the works.

Quint: I cant wait, man. I love that the last DVD release actually had the original mono soundtrack on it as well. I wasnt a fan of the remixed 5.1 sound the splashing sounded canned

Steven Spielberg: Oh, I know. I totally understand that. (In the future) theres going to be no more digital enhancements or digital additions to anything based on any film I direct. Im not going to do any corrections digitally to even wires that show.

If 1941 comes on Blu-Ray Im not going to go back and take the wires out because the Blu-Ray will bring the wires out that are guiding the airplane down Hollywood Blvd. At this point right now I think letting movies exist in the era, with all the flaws and all of the flourishes, is a wonderful way to mark time and mark history.

Quint: Im in total agreement with you. I wish you could talk George (Lucas) into doing the same thing!

Steven Spielberg: Well, I cant!

Quint: (laughs) Yeah, I dont think anybody can!

Steven Spielberg: George goes his own way and I respect him for it, but my new philosophy on this is to let sleeping dogs lie.

Quint: Thats great news for film lovers.

Steven Spielberg: When people ask me which E.T. they should look at, I always tell them to look at the original 1982 E.T. If you notice, when we did put out E.T. we put out two E.T.s. We put out the digitally enhanced version with the additional scenes and for no extra money, in the same package, we put out the original 82 version. I always tell people to go back to the 82 version.

Quint: Having the option is the big deal for me. Using the Star Wars example, I dont think thered be an outcry if we could watch a nice transfer of the original versions. Wed be like, George can do what he wants and Ill watch it but you know maybe the fans would like the option of watching the movie they fell in love with, too.

Steven Spielberg: Yeah. And I think the other good thing is that they understand when they see a movie and they suddenly see something that obviously could have been done much better today and could have been corrected in the DVD/Blu-Ray transfer, they really appreciate seeing the strings attached.

If somebody put out George Pals War of the Worlds and took the strings off the machines Id be very upset. When that machine crashes in downtown Hollywood, and you see the strings going from taut to slack, thats the thing that allows me to both understand this movie is scaring the hell out of me and at the same time this movie is a creation of the human race.

That little taut-to-slack moment of those wires on that wingtip makes the original George Pal War of the Worlds work for me. It embraces my fears and it also alleviates them in the same breath."

March 4, 2011: Star Wars Special Edition Screening with Lucas for DGA History Event

On Saturday, February 19th, 2011, the Directors Guild of America held a panel with George Lucas and Christopher Nolan about important film milestones. This was followed by a screening of the 2004 version of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. Apparently the irony of showing a CG version of a 1970s film celebrating important milestones in history escaped everyone. See this article on the event, for example. Iron Man director Jon Favreau was there, according to his Twitter account. Most disturbingly is this Twitter from Jeff Goldsmith, editor of Creative Screenwriting Magazine: " Overheard @ SW Party: Guy asked Lucas what version is being shown- original? Lucas: There is no original. (Was gone b4 1st 70s rerelease)." Apparently Lucas is not exaggerating when he says the original versions don't exist to him.

FYI: There is a new piece in the resources section about Watching Star Wars on Film.

Janurary 3rd, 2011: Empire 35mm Preserved in Library of Congress, Screened in Texas

The 30th anniversary of Empire Strikes Back was an eventful one. Aside from the extremely sad passing of the brilliant Irvin Kershner in November, that month was marked by another auspicious event: a screening of a 35mm print of the original film in Austin, Texas. Of course, this is prohibited by Lucasfilm, but, like the Star Wars technicolor print screened earlier this year, the owner of a private print decided to put on a free midnight screening to let audiences glimpse the historic original as it was meant to be seen. This was reported by AICN's C. Robert Cargill (a.k.a Massawyrm), who first reported it via his twitter account (see: here), and later talked about it on a podcast for Slashfilm (see: here, about 1 minute in). It is good to know that these rebel screenings continue to pop up from time to time.

In perhaps more important news, however, a 35mm print of 1980's Empire Strikes Back was inducted into the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress (see news article here, for example). Each year, twenty-five films are selected for inclusion in this archive, based on being artistically and culturally significant to the heritage of the United States. Star Wars was included in 1989 when the archive first opened. The ironic part is that, even though a print is preserved there, it cannot be seen--normally, the point of archiving a print at Library of Congress is so that, in future generations, if all remaining copies of a film are lost or destroyed, the Congress archive will be a final back-up protected by law and safely stored. In the case of the two Star Wars films preserved there, however, they are "backups" to "originals" that themselves do not exist in negative form and cannot be seen in contemporary quality. The silver lining, however, is that when the films become public domain in six decades, these might possibly be the last surviving copies of them unless Lucasfilm gets its act together very soon.

Heads up: A new editorial has been added featuring Lucas' speech before Congress on the matter of film preservation in 1988. Full transcript coming to resources sometime soon.

September 21, 2010: ILM Tribute Distorted

I debated whether to post this since on the surface it may seem relatively trivial. However, it illustrates the insidious real-world consequences of the suppression of the original versions of the Star Wars films. CNET recently paid a 35th anniversary tribute to Industrial Light and Magic, and of course it begins with Star Wars. However, to illustrate the history-making work of ILM on that film they use...a Special Edition screenshot! The original shot, while compositionally similar, does not look the same as the one they used, nor does it illustrate the state of technology and craftsmanship in 1977, which was the point of the article. Now, this may seem sort of minor, but I think it's important because of that, that these little details are being outright forgotten. People simply aren't aware that the film used to be different--and that is the most unfortunate consequence of the Special Edition of all.

August 23, 2010: Article on The Guardian

UK's pre-eminent The Guardian has a very nice attack on George Lucas for not releasing the original versions on Blu Ray. It's unexpected and refreshing to finally see respected professional journalists calling him out on this. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2010/aug/19/star-wars-blu-ray-lucas

August 6, 2010: Greetings From Save Star Wars

Hello there! On July 29th, after musing on the Senator Theatre's screening of a Technicolor print of Star Wars, I decided to start this website. As a longstanding member of originaltrilogy.com, I became frustrated that there wasn't a comprehensive website online for this subject matter. Originaltrilogy.com is nice, but it is simply a petition and a forum, which made finding the right information pretty difficult, and I thought there needed to be something more pro-active to the cause of getting the original Star Wars films preserved. I had already written on the subject for other websites, and had some pretty detailed knowledge of the issue, so it wouldn't be too hard to pull together something. A week later, this is the result.

As you can probably see, the site is still heavily under construction. Take a look at what is here and check back every so often for updates and new material.