Blogs > Liberty and Power > Rights versus Integrity

Sep 8, 2004 9:33 am

Rights versus Integrity

Both the NYT and IMDB report that George Lucas' seminal sci-fi film THX 1138 is going to be rereleased to theaters on Friday, and"will be released on DVD on Sept. 14 in a digitally buffed and polished ‘director's cut.’ The new version, five minutes longer than the original release, includes several computer-generated enhancements (like a far more elaborate factory where THX works)." I'm all in favor of"director's cut" rereleases, especially when external pressures forced cuts or changes in a film that the director didn't want. But the digital technology that allows for revisions of the film has led to pernicious results. Most egregious is Lucas’ revisions of his original Star Wars: in addition to the gratuitous added FX, he altered the scene where Han shoots Greedo to “sanitize” the character. Another example is Spielberg’s PC removal of guns from ET. This rewriting of history is straight out of Orwell, but doesn’t even have the grace to be motivated by world conquest – it’s the destruction of their own art works for extra cash. I’ll concede, at least arguendo, that they have the right to change their films, but this destruction is an aesthetic wrong, and betrays a lack of integrity on the part of the filmmaker.

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Jonathan Dresner - 9/9/2004

I don't know THX1138, so I really can't say.

And I'll grant you Star Wars, for that matter. I never thought Solo's actions were as morally ambiguous as all that: when faced with a situation in which someone wants to, and is clearly prepared to, kill you, 'fair fight' just doesn't apply. And the rest of the changes were just tinkering, playing with the new technology and the storyline. I don't see any great virtue in that.

Aeon J. Skoble - 9/9/2004

Say I give you that one -- what's Lucas' excuse in Star Wars, or in THX 1138?

Jonathan Dresner - 9/9/2004

There's a long tradition of works being revised to meet contemporary standards. Back in the days before intellectual property laws, in particular, this was not at all uncommon. Updating, sometimes in spectacularizing fashion, sometimes in the above-noted Bowdler tradition, is common to cultural properties.

The example of the Nancy Drew books, in particular, comes to mind.

In the case of Lucas and Spielberg, though there is a legitimate problem of age-appropriateness. I'm an advocate of waiting until children are emotionally and mentally ready before exposing them to something like ET (one rough measure that I think works remarkably well is that the viewer should not be significantly younger than the protagonist), but there are lots and lots and lots of people who do not think terribly clearly about these things. By removing the guns from ET he is arguably making it less scary, not to market it to children, but to protect those children who are already being inappropriately exposed to it.