Ryan Cameron

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Anteing up for Star Wars yet againÖ

George Lucas who probably took a page from the Disney handbook on how to sell and resell the same products year after year has become an absolute master at making quality product, retiring it from the market, then re-introducing it in new ways that make you ďneedĒ to buy it all over again. In this case, the culprit is the original Star Wars trilogy making its DVD debut.

In addition to the original 15th anniversary collection on VHS that purchased for me by my parents during the height of my Star Trek fandom, I also purchased the VHS editions of the last set of the trilogy in their original format (i.e. before George Lucas got out his digital toys to ďenhanceĒ his movies) and the special editions released with the 1997 special editions. And if thatís not bad enough, when I got into laserdiscs, I felt I needed a set of the movies in the laserdisc format as well. But not just a single set in laserdisc format, I bought of both the original versions and the really nice box set of the special editions. So did I really need to buy the new DVD versions, no, but itís justified in my mind because they are on DVD now. Like a junkie in need of a fix, I bought the movies yet again!

I know Iím being fleeced for more money in exchange for pretty much the same product Iíve bought many times over already, but Iím a willing participant. I did make sure to shop around for the best price for the set because I didnít want to part with any more money than I had to just to get it. Most of the online sources in the United States had it in the low $40 range, but I had a feeling Iíd be able to find it under $40 on the day of release in actual stores, and sure enough, Wal-Mart had it for $38. I still think it was a bit pricey considering the last round of VHS releases, the price point was $30 (I know because the VHS copies I bought then are still in their shrinkwrap with the price sticker still attached.) But I suppose the $41 I paid (with the sales tax added) still relatively cheap compared to the laserdiscs I bought years ago, which were roughly $50 a piece for the original versions and a little more than $100 for the box set of the special editions. So maybe around $40 is a fair price. Sure, in exchange, Iím getting the movies on a new format, a bonus disc with a nearly double-feature length behind the scenes documentary, and commentary tracks that were never available on previous editions Iíve bought. But Iím also getting movies that Iíve seen enough times that I really donít want to watch them again, and Iím also getting George Lucas doing even further monkeying with the movies making these versions yet again different from the 1997 special editions.

Iím not even going to get into the debate about whether Lucasí decision to only include his re-invisioned version of the trilogy as opposed to included the original theatrical versions because I think both sides have a valid point. The purists want the original films as they were released and I do think they need to be preserved for the historical value they have, but I have those versions on laserdisc and on a couple of VHS sets, so Iíve got that one covered. I also think Lucas, as the director, has the right to present his movies in the way he wants to. Heís stated that all of his changes are things he originally wanted but technology or budget limitations prevented him from including originally. So if he wants to ďperfectĒ the movies in his mind, it is his right.

But the argument only boils down the fact these are just movies. Itís not like the characters are real people. The story told is a fictional tale. If Lucas wants to do a little revisionist history, itís not like its rewriting factual history. His characters never truly existed. I can understand the audienceís perception of ownership over the characters because the movies have become such influential films that have become a modern mythology, but George Lucas owns the rights to those characters and their tale. And as Carrie Fisher also related in one tale on the behind the scenes documentary, Lucas also owns the rights to the likenesses of the actors in the roles of the characters they portrayed, which she jokes that she owes George a little bit of money every time she looks in the mirror.

For me, the simple fact is I donít feel as attached to these characters as I do the ones in Star Trek, so all the hoopla surrounding the revisionist work Lucas has done is rather moot with me. In the case of the Star Trek characters, in addition to the six films with the original cast and four films with the Next Generation cast, Iíve got hundreds of additional hours of filmed stories involving those characters where they have been fleshed out in far greater detail than any of the Star Wars characters have ever been fleshed out on film.

In fact, there were far fewer complaints about Star Trek: The Motion Picture being given the revisionist treatment for its debut on DVD than the Star Wars films. I donít know anyone off hand that didnít welcome the new version of the first Star Trek movie. Granted the original version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a shitty picture in serious need of some additional editing, but thatís beside the point. It made bucket loads of money and paved the way for more movies and additional incarnations to come. And I suppose it could be said Iíve been fleeced even worse in the Star Trek universe because I own all those movies on VHS in both pan and scan and later released widescreen versions, pan and scan and widescreen laserdiscs, and the originally released film only DVD versions and the newly released special edition DVDs, (and thatís still not including the television series box sets), but like I said before, Iím more attached to those characters.

What can I say, Iím just a fan and perpetual re-releases do get me to spend more money on the same stuff I already have because of little teases of something I donít already have. Lord knows, Universal has gotten me several times with ABBA releases, but for me it all boils down to the fact that Iíd much rather buy a new version of something I own that I know I like and have a sense of nostalgia for than take a chance on something new that I probably wonít like very much anyway. So, taking a wild guess here, I'm sure this DVD set of the Star Wars trilogy I just bought won't be the last time I buy it. Hopefully I can resist until the replacement format for DVD becomes available, but as the Borg in Star Trek say so eloquently, "Resistance is futile."

Ryan Cameron