question of the day: How much can George Lucas alter ‘Star Wars’ before it’s no longer ‘Star Wars’?

Star Wars blu-ray

The complete Star Wars saga releases on blu-ray on both sides of the Atlantic in a couple of weeks [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.]. According to Badass Digest, review copies have been extremely limited, but that hasn’t stopped rumors from leaking out from those who have gotten their hands on advanced copies.

The rumors are what you’d expect: George Lucas has been futzing around with Star Wars again. Two audio changes are upsetting fans: Darth Vader apparently now yells “Noooo!” as the Emperor is killing Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi, and the noise that Ben Kenobi makes to scare off the Sandpeople in Star Wars is radically different. It seems the Ewoks have been given, via CGI, the ability to blink, and puppet Yoda in The Phantom Menace is now CGI (as he was in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith). runs down the known changes, and Dave Itzkoff at The New York Times got a confirmation from Lucasfilm on the alteration that fans seems to agree is the most egregious: Vader’s No.
Fans all over the Net are upset, as surveys, but I think there’s a larger issue at work beyond the actual alterations:

How much can George Lucas alter Star Wars before it’s no longer Star Wars?

Matt Patches at gets at one thing that I think is pointless to debate in “We Can’t Get Mad at George Lucas for Changing Star Wars”:

[I]t’s not our place to get pissed off. Yes, Star Wars might be the reason that people love movies, that budding filmmakers spent countless hours making Super 8 films in their backyards, or that lads and lasses have something to talk about with their parents after so many years. But in the end, the films weren’t made for any of those people. They were made for George.

George might tell you otherwise, but in the end, they’re for George.

I think we can agree that Star Wars is George Lucas’s property to do whatever he wants with. No one is suggesting that he doesn’t have the right — legally, at least — to alter the films as much as he wants. But there must come a point at which Star Wars no longer feels like something the fans want to embrace. There may come a point at which Star Wars is no longer for anyone but Lucas. And since Lucas refuses to release the unaltered originals in newer formats, there may well one day come a moment at which the only Star Wars that’s available is one that fans will reject.

Have we reached that point? Will we reach that point? Or is there no point at which Star Wars ceases to be Star Wars if George Lucas insists it is Star Wars?

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