Nerd Pride Friday: The People v. George Lucas

In this week’s Nerd Pride Friday segment, I wanted to highlight a documentary that was released on DVD a few weeks ago called The People v. George Lucas.

For those of you who (like me) are big Star Wars fans, you’ll probably appreciate this documentary.  Star Wars has been a solid part of the popular culture since the first movie was released in 1977.  However, as new home movie technologies come out (VHS, widescreen, DVD, Blu-ray…), the movies themselves have changed, because they’ve been re-edited by Lucas and his team to add, delete, or change some of the content.

People LOVE these films, and changing them feels to some like a bit of them is being changed along with it.  This has led to discomfort by some and outrage by others about the modification of the films they grew up loving.  The People v. George Lucas is a documentary about this very phenomenon.

Examples of some of the changes include:

    • Changing the Mos Eisley cantina scene where Han Solo met Greedo.  Han kills Greedo in the cantina, but in the original, Han shot Greedo because he was tired of the conversation and the pressure Greedo was putting on him.  In the revised version, Greedo shoots at Han first, giving Han “justification” for killing Greedo.  This slight revision changes the whole nature of Han’s character, where he was originally a “bad guy turned good guy”.  This has led to T-shirts that say “Han Shot First” as a mantra for the original films…


    • In the original Star Wars (which has now been renamed Star Wars Episode IV:  A New Hope to align itself with the other five movies in the series), we never saw Han Solo confront Jabba the Hutt – Jabba was always this character we heard about through the dialogue.  In the re-edited version, we see old footage where they do meet.  Certainly, Lucas wanted this scene in the original film, but the special effects technology didn’t exist to do it well.  I like the included scene, but there’s a weird part where Han walks behind Jabba and has to step on and walk over his tail – would Han really do this?  It’s clunky but necessary, only because of the way the scene was filmed way back when…


    • Revision releases of the films edited two actors out of the films, one of them altogether.  In a scene at the end of the film, the actor playing Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in Star Wars Episode VI:  Return of the Jedi, Sebastian Shaw, is removed and replaced with Hayden Christensen, the actor who plays Anakin in the three prequel movies; at least Shaw is still in the film in other scenes.  However, the original actor who played the hologram version of Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars Episode V:  The Empire Strikes Back, voiced by Clive Revell, was completely replaced with Ian McDiarmid, the actor who plays Palpatine in the prequels.  Some like the new continuity that the revisions provide; others feel for the actors that were completely removed from the historic film series…


    • There are even more changes in the Blu-ray releases of the original trilogy, including Darth Vader saying “No” several times as he picks up Emperor Palpatine and tosses him into the Death Star reactor core, there are computer-generated rocks in front of R2-D2 while he’s hiding in the canyon; however, they’re “magically not there” after he comes out of hiding, and Greedo shoots first – again – but this time with slightly fewer frames than the previous release.

Here is a post from Wired interviewing the writer/director of The People v. George Lucas, Alexandre O. Philippe.  There is a lot of controversy about changes to the Star Wars films – in fact, out of nearly 2,000 reviews on Amazon, the recently released Blu-ray compilation of the six films has only 2 and 1/2 stars out of 5.  Some of the reviews are scathing (over 1,000 of the reviews are 1-star), which shows the emotions surrounding this issue…

I, for one, like some changes (I like to see the previously deleted scenes which provide more to the backdrop of the Star Wars universe), and feel for those who have seen the originals changed from what they remember. 

In the end, Han shot first, and that’s the way it is!!

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I currently serve as Vice President of Decision Science at CenturyLink. I've previously served as a leader in the Advanced Risk & Compliance Analytics (ARCA) practice at PwC and as Director of Data Science & Analytics Engineering at Areté Associates. I've served the public as Chair of the Thousand Oaks, CA Planning Commission. I have been married to my wife Stephanie since 1993, and we have a wonderful daughter Monroe. Learn more about me »

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