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Editorials

1997-1998 - 1999 - 2000 - 2001 - 2002+



New Digital Disciple Says "Let's Wait On Star Wars DVDs"

Look, it's like this: I didn't even really want a DVD player.

But my sister had wanted one, and Mom was getting her a player for Christmas. Mom asked if I would like one too, 'cuz there wasn't too much I had mentioned as wanting anyway. Shoot, a couple of movies in VHS would have made me happy as a clam.

"Ummmm... sure, fine, yeah, whatever." I told her. But I told her I had some problems with DVD. For one thing, you can't record on the bloomin' things. I like to record stuff, for later viewing if I can't watch it then, or posterity, or whatever. Ladies (and some guys) can watch their soap operas later in the evening after returning from work. You can't record the NCAA basketball championship on DVD. Did you know that when "The Dukes Of Hazzard" first ran, thousands of high school football games were imperiled because the fans kept going home on Friday nights to watch Bo and Luke outwit Boss Hogg? It was only when VCRs came out that people could watch their football and Dukes. VCRs saved high school football in America. Be thankful.

And another thing: many people have already invested in movies on VHS. My collection isn't the most impressive, but I love it all the same. Did I really want to chuck them out in favor of the same titles on DVD?

I wasn't the biggest fan of DVD. Had never even used one before.

Christmas Eve night, I got a DVD player, and just out of curiosity hooked it up to my parents' tv. So am I a big fan of DVD now?

No. I am a huge fan!!

The first movie in the player was "The Matrix". I'd brought my widescreen VHS copy to watch while at home, so I got to compare the same picture on VHS versus on DVD. You know that menu screen on the DVD version? Mom had to pick my jaw off the floor, just the menu caused it to drop. The "extras", like the documentaries, the "White Rabbit" feature, at least two running commentaries... it was unlike anything I'd ever seen before.

And scene for scene versus traditional VHS, it just looked better, and it's going to be awful hard to go back to VHS unless I absolutely have to. A few days later I popped in "Return Of The Jedi" and my DVD-adjusted eyes cringed at the image. It was like watching Luke and Vader slash it out through a wrought-iron metal grating, one that you didn't know was there before.

This is a real shame, that we can't enjoy the Star Wars movies at home with the perfect picture clarity (that will never degrade) of DVD. The Star Wars movies, of all things, weren't on DVD from the getgo. Why? That's been the theme of many e-mails and comments that we've received over the past year or so.

Count my vote for Star Wars on DVD. But not just yet.

Really. Yes, I want the Star Wars saga on DVD as much as anyone, but I want to see the story done right, and treated with the utmost respect, and making the full use of DVD's capabilities. And right now George Lucas and the Lucasfilm team haven't had the full measure of time to do that. They are working on it, but they're also occupied with Episode 2 production. If Lucas and his people are anything, it's that they are perfectionists: they don't compete with other companies, they compete with themselves to see that the best product they can make reaches the market. So it is with the DVDs. They could just release the movies now, with chapter selects and perhaps an interview or so, but would that be sufficient for Star Wars?

I don't think so. Instead, I like to believe that Mr. Lucas and company have a DVD in mind that will blow our socks off. Imagine inserting "A New Hope" and choosing the original theatrical release, the Special Edition, a long-rumored "master edition" with even more added effects and scenes (perhaps the initial scene with Luke and Biggs), and who knows what else? But that would just be the standard movie: imagine a DVD that's also an encyclopedia of EVERYTHING that appears in that movie. Don't know what species Greedo is? Go to the main menu and search him out. Or when Episode I appears on DVD, you can look up "Sith". Heh-heh-heh... with Lucas's definition of the Sith instead of someone else's, such a feature would finally establish a real canon for the story.

And there's more that could happen with a Star Wars DVD. How many movies really utilize the alternate camera angles? For a DVD edition, Lucas could choose to do just that. He's already demonstrated what's possible with digital media, and now's a chance to push the envelope further. What if you could watch the Battle of Yavin as originally produced, then watch it again from different positions, or even one position? Or watch the Battle of Hoth with an on-screen tactical map, showing the AT-ATs positions as they close in on Echo Base? The possibilities, dear fans, are virtually limitless!

So yeah, I do want the Star Wars DVDs. But I also want the fullest experience of Star Wars that Mr. Lucas can create. We've only delved a little bit into this incredible world he's created, and now he's got the tools to plunge us headlong. To Mr. Lucas: chalk this up as someone asking you to take your time in this. And to the fans: be patient, the DVDs are coming.

In the meantime, why not put "The Empire Strikes Back" (perfect for those cold winter days) in the VCR? And be thankful for that little machine. Remember: more than anything else, it helped keep Star Wars alive and well during the dark times. If it weren't for VCRs, would we have really been as stoked for the prequels as we are now? So pop in "Empire", get a good drink, curl up with your loved one, and smile at that faithful 20-year old gadget :-)

Chris Knight
January 4th, 2001

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