I decided impulsively to throw in a VHS I recently picked up of the 1992 still yet-to-be-fucked-with edition of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, or as it was known for pretty much the entire pre-Prequel era, “Star Wars.” For all intents and purposes, this was the same grainy, shitty, quintessentially late-1970s masterpiece that spawned the biggest franchise in history. I hadn’t seen it in a while, and watching the opening scenes on the Death Star and Tattooine, something hit me. One of the most under-appreciated reasons for the Star Wars mass appeal and popularity was due to its graininess and ostensible punk-as-fucktitude. There’s a reason why the Dolby CGI Remastered Digitally Enhanced Roided-out re-release and Prequels drew the ire of so many; the billions that George Lucas made were almost inconsequential.
What happened to Star Wars as it got dragged across the digital revolution by its profiteers was tantamount to what happens to your favorite garage band when a bunch of morons start picking up on that one radio-friendly song they thought to write, they get signed to a major label, and they suddenly have a massive recording budget, someone well-known producing them, quirky Hollywood semi-stars dancing around in their videos, replace their drummer with Josh Freese, and for some reason, have a goddamn stylist and A&R man visiting college stations to make sure the kids are displaying their promotional flats at the Homecoming jam. I don’t need to explain why George Lucas ruining the scene where Greedo confronts Han Solo and Han shoots the dude dead without even batting an eyelash is so hotly contested. It’s no different then coked-out industry bigwigs deciding to remix all of ZZ Top’s early records with that godawful hexagon-drum sound that wasn’t even good enough for Jem & the Holograms. It’s disrespectful to the spirit in which the art was made. Star Wars was a great story that, despite the Hollywood backing it had at the time, looks positively dated now, and that’s wonderful. There’s a reason that the glossed-up garage band you liked (sorta) can’t make it more than two songs without the crowd yelling for anything from their first album- the one they wrote when they were broke. It was just HUMAN. I mean, two of the main characters in the original trilogy couldn’t even TALK and were more nuanced and interesting (that scene where they nearly leave R2 behind with the Jawas? Goddamn. And the way Chewie frantically searches for a way out of the garbage chute?) than pretty much anyone that Lucas has shoehorned into that franchise since.
But then I guess money’s pretty cool, right?