As a child, I was fortunate to have all three movies from the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS. I watched them countless times to the point every scene was ingrained in my memory. Binging these movies was a staple of my childhood. The versions that I watched on these VHS tapes were also the same ones that millions of fans also watched when George Lucas originally released these movies in theaters.
In the mid-90s however, Lucas began rereleasing his original trilogy with small changes. Most of these changes were updated special effects but a couple were entirely new scenes or altered scenes that fans had qualms with. Despite the majority of the movies remaining untouched, the Star Wars fandom, including myself, was outraged. The fandom felt like Lucas’ decisions were unnecessary changes to already perfect movies and these changes actually hurt the movies.
I refused to buy these specialized editions on Blu-Ray or watch them on Disney+. They were not the versions of the movies that I grew up watching and fell in love with. So, my only options to watch the original versions was on a tv set that could play VHS tapes, limiting my chances to watch these movies over the years. Looking back, I realize that I was missing out on watching these beloved movies because my fandom made me feel like I had ownership over these movies and the specialized editions were not really Star Wars.
The original Star Wars trilogy came from the mind of George Lucas and not the fans. Yes, the support and love from the fans made Star Wars into the cultural juggernaut it is still today, but it would not exist in the first place without the imagination of Lucas. So, if Lucas wants to make changes that he believes fulfills his vision for his films, it is his right as an artist to do so.
After finally realizing Star Wars belongs to Lucas and not to me, I decided to finally give the specialized editions a chance. After sitting through them in their entirety, I realized that the additions barely change the movies. Most of the changes are just updated effects that make the movies a little glossier. Some of the changes are made to maintain continuity with the prequel trilogy. Considering these little changes make up most of the new additions to the specialized editions, it barely felt different than when I watched these movies as a kid. The characters, action sequences and alien planets I loved visiting were mostly left untouched. I was still filled with joy as I was transported to a galaxy far, far away the same way I did when I was five years old.
Despite my growing tolerance for the changes in the specialized editions, there are still some that are hard for me to forgive. Lucas should not have made Greedo shoot at Han first in his new version. In the original version, Han shooting Greedo first demonstrated his criminal behavior that made him such a unique protagonist. The addition of Jabba the Hutt to A New Hope and a musical number to The Return of the Jedi are easily the worst scenes in the original trilogy. Yet, these changes will be out of my control for the foreseeable future, so I should tolerate the few questionable creative decisions that Lucas makes in order to enjoy his many great ones.
Cinephiles beg Hollywood to let filmmakers create movies entirely in their vision. DC fans campaigned for years to get Warner Bros. to release a version of Justice League from the creative mind of director Zack Snyder. Film fans love the independent film studio A24 for letting moviemakers do whatever they want with their movies regardless of how weird and inaccessible they can be.
Even if these filmmakers’ visions are flawed, it is still an artist’s voice coming through instead of the wishes of a committee. Usually, that committee is made up of executives trying to make a movie that pleases everybody, but sometimes, that committee is made up of fans telling a creator how to handle their favorite franchise. So despite the grievances that many have with the specialized editions, they should at least appreciate that Lucas was finally able to make the movies that he wanted to and recognize that these movies are still great.