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My Star Wars War

Susan Arendt | 3 Jul 2008 17:00
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Despite the fact that it's not much more than a fairy tale with robots and rayguns, Star Wars has had a profound and lasting impact on my life. I remember, with crystal clarity, sitting in a movie theater as a 6-year-old, watching with mouth agape as a spaceship elegantly flew into view. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, at least until the gargantuan Star Destroyer arrived, filling the screen. That was the moment that made me a lifelong fan of science fiction, space travel and the possibility of worlds beyond our own. It's not an overstatement to say that Star Wars played a major role in making me who I am today. It also eventually led me to commit a crime.

I love all three of the films in the original trilogy (yes, even Jedi), but Star Wars is particularly special to me. It's the one that kick-started my imagination and made me realize that princesses could do more than just look for Prince Charming. It taught me about friendship, and loyalty, and standing up for what you think is right, even when the odds are against you. Not that I really understood all of that at the time - I was just a kid, after all - but I can trace many of the values I currently hold dear back to that darkened movie theater. Even though it's just a movie, and a flawed one at that, Star Wars is an intrinsic part of who I am; I can no more separate myself from my feelings for it than I can unravel my strands of DNA.

When I heard that George Lucas was creating a Special Edition of Star Wars that would be closer to his original vision for the film, I thought it made sense. Star Wars was an incredibly ambitious movie when it came to visual effects, and sometimes its reach overshot the grasp of '70s-era technology. Using modern techniques to clean up some of the movie's rougher edges seemed like a great idea to me. I envisioned Lucas's reworking of Star Wars to be similar to an art restorer carefully cleaning the grime of centuries off the Mona Lisa. Unfortunately, Lucas didn't just clean the grime off the Mona Lisa: He gave her a nose ring and a pink Mohawk while he was at it.

In addition to graphically inserting extra scenery and characters, the Special Edition of Star Wars included a ridiculous scene with a slimmed down Jabba the Hutt and had Greedo shooting first in the cantina - to make Han less of a rogue, I guess. As offensive as I found both of those "improvements," what really became the focus of my rage was the ring Lucas added to the explosion of the Death Star. I don't quite understand why it bothers me so - perhaps because it's vertical instead of horizontal - but the mere sight of it angered me to the point that I vowed never, ever to allow the Special Edition of Star Wars into my home.

As time wore on and the viability of VHS passed, I patiently waited for Lucas to release the original trilogy on DVD, certain that his marketing savvy - I'll be gracious and not call it flat-out greed - would prompt him to release the untouched versions alongside the Special Edition. It seemed to me to be a win-win; every Star Wars fan would get the version he or she preferred, and Lucas would get an even bigger pile of cash to add to his money bin. Besides, the films had already appeared in other video formats, such as Laserdisc, so bringing them to DVD seemed the next logical step.

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