Spielberg Makes Sure Fans Know He Is NOT George Lucas

Say what you want about Steven Speilberg, but he is fast becoming a firm and vocal voice against the re-writing of film history. So much so that he has not shied away from some very vocal jabs against old pal George Lucas who has recently come under fire once again for his incessant altering of his Star Wars franchise to the point that there is a fan campaign to boycott the upcoming Blu-ray release of these films.

At a recent screening of a new digital restoration of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK at Los Angeles’ Hero Complex, Spielberg commented on filmmakers who alter their films, thus erasing their historical context:

“Speaking for myself, I tried this once and I learned to regret it. Not because of fan outrage, but simply because I was a little disappointed in myself. I got very kind of overly sensitive to some of the criticism E.T. had gotten from parent groups when it was first released in ’82. Having to do with Elliot saying penis breath or the guns with the CIA. And also there were some rough around the edges close-ups of E.T. that I had always thought if technology ever evolves to the point where I can do some facial enhancements with E.T. I would like to. So I did an E.T. pass for the third release of the movie and it was okay for a while then I realized that what I had done was I had robbed people who loved E.T. of their memories of E.T. My only contrition that I could possibly do because I feel bad about that, the only contrition that I really performed was when E.T. came out on DVD for the first time. I told Universal, we’re going to do this or we’re not going to put E.T. on DVD. You have to put two movies in the box and one movie will be the 1982 version and the other will be the digitally enhanced version. What I’d like to ask is this. We’ll do a little poll here. I know we’re coming out with the Blu-ray of E.T. If I came out with just one E.T. on Blu-ray, the 1982 one, would anybody object to that? [Audience shouts ‘No!’] Ok, so be it.”

But friends and colleagues must be careful of just how “critical” they are of their pals. Spielberg also added:

“Let me put it this way, George does what he does because there’s only one George Lucas, and thank god for that. He’s the greatest person I’ve ever worked with as a filmmaker collaborator and he’s a conceptual genius. He puts together these amazing stories and he’s great at what he does. My feeling is that he can do anything he wants with his movies because they’re his movies and we wouldn’t have been raised with Star Wars or Indiana Jones had it not been for George.”

But luckily, Spielberg’s point has been made and it is a most welcome response to Lucas’ continued alterations and his open disdain for the people who are fighting for the very things he himself once stood before Congress and campaigned so vigorously for (see my post HERE). Let’s hope more filmmakers take the same stand Spielberg has. Which, in supporting the importance of film and its history, automatically sheds a light on just how selfish and misguided George Lucas has become. Perhaps one day, Lucas himself will come to understand and respect the wishes of those of us who care about preserving film and cultural history and remember that there was a time when he was one of us. Let’s hope that Mr. Spielberg is, in perfect Dickens fashion, the first of many ghosts to haunt Mr. Lucas.

Spielberg Makes Sure Fans Know He Is NOT George Lucas

Boo George Lucas. Again As Always.

My admiration for Mr. Lucas fizzled out many moons ago. His first three films were simply stunning. THX-1138, AMERICAN GRAFFITI and the very first STAR WARS. The man didn’t return to directing until he decided to single-handedly destroy the “franchise” he’d built in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The three STAR WARS prequels he helmed are among the worst films I’ve ever seen. Incompetently written, showcasing the largest collection of god-awful performances by some of our industry’s leading actors, and completely devoid of any heart, these films can only be loved by either very small children or geeks capable of extreme levels of blind devotion.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that my beef with Lucas has less to do with these abominations and more to do with the absolute rape he has committed to the original three films. While even at the time of its release RETURN OF THE JEDI started to reek of Mr. Lucas’ desire to make toys over films, it was still watchable and had some terrific moments. Of course much of the film and story’s darker edges were eliminated (see clip below), some in post and much as early as the script stage (goodbye Wookies, hello Ewoks). But despite the early signs of Mr. Lucas’ transition over to the “dark side,” I had never imagined at the time that the films I loved (warts and all) would one day be digitally manipulated to such a degree that they could barely be recognized as the same films. Even THX-1138 has been completely overhauled, and in so doing, thoroughly destroyed. AMERICAN GRAFFITI, luckily for us, had only one scene altered, leaving the bulk of the original movie-going experience intact. But STAR WARS and its early companion films can only be seen in their original, un-assaulted forms in crummy, non-anamorphic transfers on Standard DVD or laserdisc.

With the recent announcement that the STAR WARS films will finally be making their way to Blu-ray next year (sadly in a box set where one will be forced to buy the unwatchable prequels), Lucas has, again, denied the call of the films’ true fans and stated:

“You have to go through and do a whole restoration on it, and you have to do that digitally. It’s a very, very expensive process to do it. So when we did the transfer to digital, we only transferred really the upgraded version.”

In other words, the original versions will not be included.

And I dare say it will be a lifetime before they ever are. And, from what Lucas himself has stated in the past, there’s a good chance they never will be.

George Lucas may have started out as part of the new breed of filmmaker that emerged during the 70’s including Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, and Steven Speilberg (they were all friends and created a small but well-respected community around them), but his interests veered so far away from those ideals that he eventually became a marketing entity with no trace of filmmaker left to be found. And, sadly, those of us out here who still believe in something pure (like the Rebel Alliance itself), must suffer the consequences until someone steps in and makes things right. Perhaps after Lucas himself has left this world (and I am not urging that he do so any time soon), a lover of cinema and restoration will step up and return to the world that which was taken from us: an innocent and creative young man’s vision that touched millions and inspired almost as many.

One day, perhaps…

Here’s a scene cut from THE RETURN OF THE JEDI before its original release. It will be included as an extra on the new Blu-ray set. A set I will not be buying. It seems the scene was simply too dark. But one gets a sense of what the tone of this film could have been. Had Lucas not heard the whispers of the dark side…

Boo George Lucas. Again As Always.