George Lucas in love (with rewriting Star Wars)

Over the past few weeks, the Internet has been a-buzz over the latest round of changes George Lucas is making to his Star Wars saga, particularly the original trilogy. Most of the changes are further updates to the special effects, continuing a trend Lucas began with the “special edition” re-releases of the first three films.

And then, there is the “Noooooooooooooooo!”

Y’know, this thing right here, from Return of the Jedi:

Why do people hate this addition? Based on what I’ve read, mostly because it’s so damned cheesy — which it is. The anguished “Noooooooooooo!” is one of the worst dialog cliches in writing. Granted, it fits the general tone of the Star Wars films, which (sorry, fanboys) are inherently kind of cheesy, but that’s the kind of line that cannot be taken seriously by audiences anymore…much like the most famous line of the trilogy, “No…I am your father!”

Interestingly, the complaint I’ve seen from a number of writerly types, such as comedian/actor/writer Simon Pegg, who offered this Twitterific analysis:

Always loved Vader’s wordless self sacrifice. Another shitty, clueless, revision like Greedo and young Anakin’s ghost. What a fucking shame.

Pegg gets it. He understands that a scene can have great emotional power without dialog — and is sometimes more powerful for the lack of it. Adding the “Nooooooo!” in this case, because the line is so hackneyed, is totally counter-productive; any remotely savvy viewer is going to hear that and laugh his ass off (or, like me, roll his eyes).

I would like to say that George Lucas is not a true writer because of this…and his use of the same “Nooooooo!” at the end of Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin rises as Vader and learns that Padme has died…and the fact that he cannot simply walk away from his creation and stop tinkering with it (an important trait for any artist to possess, in my opinion)…but I have seen evidence that he grasps the more subtle aspects of telling a story.

That evidence is contained within the first hugely controversial change Lucas made to his movies: having Han Solo shoot Greedo in self-defense instead of just gunning him down.

“Han shot first!” purists cry, but I understand exactly why Lucas altered that moment in the original Star Wars: it was a gentle but significant tweaking of Han Solo’s character based on some old-school writing theory about the good guys being very good and the bad guys being very bad.

There really weren’t any gray-area characters in Star Wars; everyone was a hero or a villain, period, and they behaved in clearly heroic or villainous ways. Han Solo was definitely a more roguish type of hero with some flexible morals, but he was still a good guy, and Lucas decided upon reflection that yeah, Greedo might be sitting there with a gun pointed at him, but shooting him without real provocation diminished Han Solo’s heroism.

Shoot first, and very deliberately? Han Solo comes across as cold-blooded. Shoot in response to someone shooting at him? Justifiable self-defense. It’s a fine line, and Lucas understood, with the benefit of hindsight, that he’d crossed it when he decided that Han would shoot first.

That all said, I think Lucas is poised to start doing serious damage to his movies if he doesn’t leave them the hell alone from now on. Sprucing up the special effects is one thing, but if he keeps fiddling with the story, he’ll eventually wear away at the rough edges that exist in even the most polished of artistic creations and render the Star Wars Trilogy bland, sterile, and worst of all, no fun anymore.

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