Throughout my life, I haven’t made it any secret that I’m a fan of Star Wars. I’ve even written about it on the blog once in a while.
However, for various reasons, I didn’t write about what I got for my birthday last month- the Star Wars complete saga Blu-Ray set. Between getting it and now, I’ve watched the movies and the bonus features. The bonus features are great to finally have (although it would have been nice to have some of them cleaned up a bit) and the movies look incredible. Others have written about changes made to the movies, and while I don’t begrudge George Lucas the opportunity to change his movies, most of these changes are just unnecessary. Darth Vader’s new NOOOOOO at the end of Jedi is more bizarre than offensive. But the change that affects me the most is the blinking Ewoks. That’s just creepy.
By my count, this is the sixth ‘complete set’ of Star Wars I’ve gotten (or made) over the past twenty five years (four versions on VHS, and two on DVD), and I would bet that none of those versions are the same.
I’ve done the whole watch the saga over a few days thing before and can’t say I’ve noticed anything new this latest go-around. It’s still an enjoyable watch, especially seeing how the Prequel Trilogy improves with each installment and how the scope of the Original Trilogy grows each movie. Before getting the set, I read J.W. Rinzler’s Making of Star Wars and Making of Empire Strikes Back, which provided excellent background to the movies. It’s clear after reading them (and reviewing the different drafts of each movie) that while George had some ideas and themes he wanted to explore, at no point did he have the whole saga (whether it was a six-, nine- or 12-movie saga) planned out beforehand.
Unfortunately, the amount of background information for the Prequel Trilogy isn’t as abundant. For Episodes II and III, George wrote the movies as the art department developed characters and places. However, I recently found (or rediscovered) something that gives an idea about George’s original plan for The Phantom Menace. The Episode I Insider’s Guide CD that came out back in ’99 (which I still have somewhere) had bits from the original script sprinkled throughout. Michael Kaminski, who wrote the Secret History of Star Wars did a great job of compiling all the script information.
The original story for The Phantom Menace was much better than what we got (and I say this as someone who enjoyed TPM). The movie isn’t as childish; Jar Jar isn’t a bumbling fool, Anakin is more mature and there’s more depth to the interactions between the characters (for instance, there’s actual racial tension between the Naboo and the Gungans). The only drawbacks I can think of is that Qui-Gon doesn’t enter the story until the last third of the movie (Obi Wan is on his own) and Palpatine’s maneuvers to become Chancellor aren’t shown. But overall, the story just feels better. Give it a read sometime.
Who knows, maybe one day, George will have the technology to go back and make that movie (or any other draft he wants). But I’m betting that won’t happen until seven or eight editions of the Star Wars Complete Saga from now.