I remember years ago seeing an interview with George Lucas where he said that a movie is never finished, it just gets abandoned.
On Feb. 2, 2012, Den of Geek posted an article pointing out that Mr. Lucas claims that he always thought of Greedo firing first and it was just an editing mistake that changed it. A follow-up article later that same day provides some evidence that disputes this by citing Lucas' earlier published version Star Wars in it's novel form (based on a late, but not final script). But this reminder of his speculated intent does not dispute Mr. Lucas' apparent current feelings on the scene and of the revision process in general.
It is evident from the changes and updates that have accompanied the many different versions of the Star Wars films through the years that George Lucas fails to realize that we are not in love with HIS vision of what the movies would have been if he had the time, money or forethought to have done them differently. While it IS an interesting artistic and historical exercise, it is ultimately irrelevant.
What we fell in love with was the movies as they actually were. Some art is fleeting. A live performance, like a concert or a play is a moment in time...an experience between the artist and the audience, that will never be recreated from that instant. No matter how many time the performance is repeated, each individual performance has it's own unique fingerprint that can never be recreated.
Art is an amazing paradox of being a static record of a moment in time while at the same time remaining vital and fluid through the eyes of new audiences over the years. And if brings up the question...why do we consume art at all? Why do we step into the ancient past viewing Egyptian hieroglyphs, swim in Mona Lisa's penetrating stare and wrap ourselves in a Mozart composition? The smell and taste of a steaming, salty bowl of matzah ball soup transports me back to 1977 to a house filled with family, tradition and love. It brings the warm smile of a grandmother to my mind. A friend, long gone.
And why do we re-watch movies again and again and again...ones we have seen dozens times? Why do we cheer every time Andy Dufrane stands up in the driving rain, covered in filth with his arms raised being washed clean by his newly earned freedom? Why do we cringe as Jim Brown in the Dirty Dozen once again get mowed down by Nazi machine guns after dropping the grenades into the bunker? Why do we get choked up every time that Spock saves the ship from the Genesis device and points out that he is now and will always be Kirk's friend? It is because we remember how it made us feel when we were first presented with these stories.
In the case of Han Solo's confrontation with Greedo, also in 1977, we remember how much we learned about a smooth scoundrel who when in the face of death calmly and coolly held his own. He had no one to depend on...but himself. And he looked a bully in the face and said, "No." He showed that he, as a character would stand up for himself and that he would not take any crap from anyone.
It is a pivotal scene, especially for a character that would eventually learn to rely of his friends for his very existence when they would risk their very lives for his to rescue him from the clutches of the vile, gangster Jabba the Hutt. Han's initial self-reliance coupled with his self-confidence and quick action is a powerful message.
It is one of a thousand perfect and imperfect moments that we treasure. The ability to capture a perfect moment in time and return to it refreshes the soul. No matter what Lucas does, he cannot change the past. I have no problem with his constant re-edits. The re-work is fascinating. He is still a brilliant storyteller, so if he wanted to tell a particular story, but could not until now...that is fine.
But through the power of the artwork, we can magically keep our access to ourselves as we were in 1977. I have access to myself in 1984 when I watch Ferris Buehler's Day Off. I have access to myself in 1978 when I watch the Mary Poppins, a movie that gives other's access to themselves in 1963 when IT was first released. I have access to 1955 when I watch Back to the Future (wait...what? nevermind)
The point is...I want to be able to re-visit Star Wars as I first saw it...just like I can with every other film in existence! There are two types of re-issues that I can accept. One is to preserve the quality of the original. The 1995 “THX-version" VHS tapes did that. They cleaned up the sounds…clean-up up the images. Revitalized the film to capture a moment in time.
The other type...a "Director's Cut" is a also a fascinating concept. I love the Director's Cuts of Brazil, Blade Runner and Touch of Evil. But I still treasure the fact that I was able to see the originals first. And I can see them again, if I want to.
I find it tragic at how difficult Mr. Lucas is making it for me to share my experience with my children. If they only get to see the updates, they will still get a great experience…but they will not get to have the SAME experience I had as a child (or as close as possible). I get to share The Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder, Edward Scissorhands starring Johnny Depp, the Lion King, Aladdin and hundreds of other films and television shows that were such a powerful part of my childhood with my children.
As for Mr. Abrams coming film, Episode VII, the one thing he needs to remember is that we are not looking for a re-boot, but a continuation. Part of the reason that the Prequel films from 1999 to 2005 were so jarring was how much they differed from the original films both in terms of visual, themes and character interaction. While Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi all have their own essence, they are clearly tied together as one overarching piece of artwork. We can only hope that Episode VII feels no more different from Star Wars than The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi. Again...we are looking for a connection to 1977 that we did not received with the 1999 Prequels.
And if you need further proof of WHY these things need to be preserved…let’s look at exactly how the scene went down back in ’77:
GREEDO: Jabba's through with you. He has no time for smugglers who drop their shipments at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser.
HAN: Even I get boarded sometimes. Do you think I had a choice?
GREEDO: You can tell that to Jabba. He may only take your ship.
HAN: Over my dead body.
GREEDO: That's the idea. I've been looking forward to killing you for a long time.
HAN: Yes, I'll bet you have.
<With his gun in his lap, Han shoots. Greedo's lifeless head slumps noisily on the table. Han coolly stands and slowly walks out of the saloon...I mean, the cantina. He flips some coins to the bartender.>
HAN: Sorry about the mess.