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EDITORIAL: Will Brooker on DVD Changes

Posted By Joshua on September 29, 2004

There's a new editorial from author Will Brooker in the Jedicouncil forums. It deals with the way Lucas has been changing his vision, and the difference this makes to the feel and tone of the saga, rather than a straight review. Great writer!

Mos Eisley Spaceport, a landspeeder-drive from Luke Skywalker’s homestead on Tatooine, is the connection between Luke’s farming community and the worlds beyond - like the end of a funnel turned wide-side up to the galaxy, channelling bizarre foreign species and exotic travellers into a single neighbourhood, and specifically into the single dark interior of the Cantina. Mos Eisley is a hub, a centre – a microcosm of the galaxy, representing the diversity of the broader spheres outside Tatooine – and it also concentrates much of the essence, the charm and energy of George Lucas’ 1977 Star Wars: A New Hope into a single sequence. In the twenty-seven years since the movie was first released, it is Mos Eisley – its layout, its inhabitants, the action that takes place there – that has changed the most dramatically, and so this sequence also illustrates the key differences between Lucas’ creation of 1977 and the revised versions – the 1997 Special Edition is now altered further with this DVD release – that supposedly take us closer towards the pure vision that Lucas wanted all along, had he not been constrained by budget and technology.

“Well, you know, its fun to make films for young people,” Lucas muses casually in the DVD set’s core documentary, Empire of Dreams, explaining why he ever began drafting a Flash Gordon-style space opera during the mid-1970s. “It’s a chance to sort of make an impression on them.” Of course, Lucas made a seismic impression on the young people who saw A New Hope and its successors between 1977 and 1983 – some went into filmmaking because of it, some drew a system of religious belief from it, and millions woke up in C-3PO pyjamas, spent the day making laser noises with mini-action figures and fell asleep in the glow of an R2-D2 nightlight. That he originally meant A New Hope to be a children’s film is less obvious, especially given that the saga is frequently accused by today’s adult fans of having become progressively infantile, with return of the Jedi’s Ewoks marking the beginning of a slide that reached its nadir in Episode I’s Jar Jar Binks. The standard messageboard retort to this criticism claims nay-sayers have lost their “inner child” and the sense of innocent wonder with which they approached A New Hope: if they watched the original Star Wars movie now for the first time, as adults, these cynical “bashers” would find fault with its fairy-tale qualities.

Watching the Mos Eisley scenes now, as an adult who first experienced them in 1977 – a time before domestic videocassettes, let alone DVD – there does seem a clear difference in tone between this fourth episode in the saga and the prequel films to date, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Mos Eisley is an adult world presented for a young audience; the urban nightlife in Attack of the Clones is, by contrast, a childish version of an adult world. Coruscant’s Outlander Nightclub where Anakin and Obi-Wan track Zam Wessell is a gaudy neon den, as threatening as a set from the 1960s Batman. The young Jedi weave confidently through the crowds, hassled only by a kid who tries to sell them “death sticks”; even the local drug sounds lame, with a sensible health-warning as its street name. The Nightclub is a set-piece, one more visual spectacle in a sequence that looks like pre-production for a video game; it’s a ten year-old’s idealisation of the kind of “adult” place his big sister goes to when she’s dressed up for the evening.






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