Star Wars Variations

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Bootlegs. Bootlegs are the only way to see the original three Star Wars movies the way they were seen theatrically upon first release. George Lucas has gone back numerous times to these three films to tinker and meddle. His objective has always been to connect those films with his prequel trilogy and to reimagine those first three films with the computer technology of the 2000s.

There is nothing wrong with revisiting an existing work and changing it. Kenneth Anger often re-cut his films decades later. The issue is that Lucas withholds earlier versions of the first three Star Wars movies from theatrical and home video releases. Only once has he put out two different cuts of the films on home video. Lucas, unlike his pal Francis Ford Coppola, denies fans of his films a choice of which version they are watching and love.

Coppola has always made the original theatrical cuts of his films available alongside newer edits. It’s a model that makes sense. Collectors can upgrade a favorite title while simultaneously experiencing a new version of the film that they may or may not like more. Coppola respects his fans and caters to their whims well aware that he is dependent upon them to remain loyal and go see his newest pictures. Lucas represses alternate versions of his Star Wars films. He makes lame excuses as to the survival of their original negatives.

What’s crazy is that there is no danger that the original theatrical cuts of the first three Star Wars films would hurt the brand. Disney is literally milking that intellectual property dry with multiple television shows and feature films. The past of Star Wars isn’t the danger, it is the present. Yet Lucas denies his fans access. He undermines the desires of thousands simply to serve his own ego.

Film history is what is really at risk. Lucas’ oppression of earlier edits of Star Wars set a precedent that the streaming moguls have embraced. Older films are being recut and/or oppressed for fear of offending viewers and losing fans/subscribers. Audiences are being denied access to our collective global film history in the interest of big capitalist conglomerates. This is the film culture that George Lucas ushered in with his “special editions” of the Star Wars movies from 1997.