Monday, January 30, 2017

The People vs George Lucas


The spirit of The People vs George Lucas boils down to the ownership of the art in all its meanings. 

Ironically a speech to that effect was given to the American Congress by George Lucas himself gave to posterity and cultural history the ownership of finished art. The full speech is available at savestarwars.com and posted here is what I’ve found interesting because today the words are broken and conflicted, as highlighted by red and blue:

"— I am not here today as a writer-director, or as a producer, or as the chairman of a corporation. I've come as a citizen of what I believe to be a great society that is in need of a moral anchor to help define and protect its intellectual and cultural heritage. It is not being protected.
The destruction of our film heritage, which is the focus of concern today, is only the tip of the iceberg. American law does not protect our painters, sculptors, recording artists, authors, or filmmakers from having their lifework distorted, and their reputation ruined. If something is not done now to clearly state the moral rights of artists, current and future technologies will alter, mutilate, and destroy for future generations the subtle human truths and highest human feeling that talented individuals within our society have created.
A copyright is held in trust by its owner until it ultimately reverts to public domain. American works of art belong to the American public; they are part of our cultural history.
People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society. The preservation of our cultural heritage may not seem to be as politically sensitive an issue as "when life begins" or "when it should be appropriately terminated," but it is important because it goes to the heart of what sets mankind apart. Creative expression is at the core of our humanness. Art is a distinctly human endeavor. We must have respect for it if we are to have any respect for the human race.

George Lucas giveth, George Lucas taketh away.  The speech on the question, what if the artist wants to change his art?

He will always be writer-director, producer, the chairman of a corporation, and the artist who created and owned (sold to Disney in 2012 for $4 B) Star Wars. Cultural heritage will just have to wait by the wayside. Lucas will get his way.

The films in question are the rereleased 1997 special edition of Star Wars which The People vs George Lucas implied as the beginning of the slide into the dark side.  Far from the ads that said the original movies was only cleaned and restored; it was in fact changed. The spirit of the speech is thus broken.

The Han and Greedo scene in the rerelease was one of the controversial changes.  1997 version had Greedo shoot first, and miss, after having Han Solo dead rights for an entire conversation.  Hard core fans lament that it was Han who shot first and this gave him a confident deadly air that no one should mess around with. Certainly waiting for the bounty hunter who already has clean aim at you to fire first did not make sense.

Dirk Libbey does not deny the right of the artist in his article for CinemaBlend with said:

It’s not the fact that the Special Editions mess with the cultural history of generations of movie fans that is the problem. Few, if any, people actually have a problem with the fact that other editions of the films exist, it’s the fact the originals versions aren't available that is the problem. It’s not like Blade Runner hasn’t been re-cut a million times, but the newest Blu-ray still has the original version. There have been numerous rumors over the years, some very recently, that the original editions may hit Blu-ray one day, but thus far they’ve never proved to be more than rumors.

I am reminded of Anakin Skywalker who did not accept death and loss and that in turn gave Palpatine an opening.  While not denying Lucas’ right to tinker with his own work, if reports of disappeared theatrical versions is true, why live as if the original versions never existed? It won Oscars. It made history. Am I to forget as if brainwashed by a Jedi mind trick?  Almost at the end of the documentary a picture of Wired magazine cover with the Star Wars founder halved with Darth Vader’s head answered the question.

The People vs George Lucas also mentioned Jar Jar Binks and the prequels. Trivial issues compared to disappearing theatrical versions but it did take much of the documentary's time.  While it also sounds like a question of ownership, demanding fans acting like they do have a say in how a movie should be made, Lucas wins this one. 

George Lucas can create what he pleases but not erase them.  Fans can have a say by not buying the product but a boycott may never be in the offing if my feelings of The Force Awakens is anything to go by. 

Daily Ridley’s smile notwithstanding, I was thinking rip-off watching The Force Awakens: droid with secret plans, desert planet, bigger Death Star (Starkiller Base) – and c’mon a canal run??? But I cannot deny the hair in my neck standing with joy when Rey caught that lightsaber. I really am brainwashed by a Jedi mind trick in that sense.

But in all seriousness, Luke Skywalker’s back, Carrie Fisher is dead.  Rip-off and canned stories aside I don’t think any fan can back off now even if they wanted to.

Francis Ford Copolla, a lifelong Lucas friend, is Luke Skywalker to Lucas’ Vader.  Luke as you recall in Return of the Jedi defended Vader, refusing all suggestions by his mentors to kill him.

Coppolla said:

“I think Star Wars, it’s a pity, because George Lucas was a very experimental crazy guy and he got lost in this big production and never got out of it.  I still hope that he made so much money out of it that he will just make some little movies. He promises me that he will.”