Why I (Probably) Won’t See “Phantom Menace 3D”

Seriously, George Lucas. Give it a rest.

Enough is enough. In the 35 years since Star Wars first premiered—when it was still called Star Wars and not Episode IV–A New Hope, by the way—we, the beleaguered fandom, have become completely exhausted by the countless iterations, rejiggering, digital “enhancements,” and rereleases (and re-rereleases) of the films. We’ve bought the scores of VHS tapes, Laserdiscs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays. (Our media libraries exemplify the evolution of home theater technology.) We’ve attended the re-releases of Episodes IV–VI and gone to the midnight screenings of the prequels. And just five months after the series was finally available on Blu-Ray—the last version, many of us falsely had hoped—Episode I–The Phantom Menace 3-D hits theaters. And depending how well it does (i.e., how much money it makes) will determine when or if the next five will be released.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lucas states that other than 3D conversion, no additional changes have been made for Phantom 3D. The one big caveat is a CGI Yoda (which was included in the Blu-Ray version). According to Lucas, the original plan was to do a CGI Yoda; however, due to technology and time limitations a puppet was used instead.

I could get in to a long and nerdtastic conversation about puppet Yoda as an original trilogy throwback, or Han or Greedo shooting first, or even the inclusion of Vader’s infamous “No. NOOOOOOOO!” (Not to mention Hayden Christensen’s ghost Anakin appearing at the end of Jedi.) But these changes to the movies really aren’t the point. What is frustrating to most fans—including myself—is not knowing the endpoint.

When does it stop? When can we finally expect to have definitive versions of the films? If Lucas was disappointed with the original films, as he said in a 2004 Associated Press interview, he should work on a version that he feels proud of—even if it takes five or 10 years—and then release it once and for all. Why keep tinkering with them, like an old jalopy in a garage, and releasing a current version every few years? We can only imagine what the inevitable 3D versions on Blu-Ray or another yet-to-be-identified media will entail.

Lucas also needs to recognize, and not belittle, the impact the unaltered films had on people. Also in the 2004 AP interview: “… because to me, [the theatrical version] doesn’t really exist anymore … I’m sorry you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it.” That’s a big sorry for the approximately 200 million people who saw Star Wars (aka Episode I) in the theater.

A part of me hopes the release of Phantom 3D under-performs in the coming weeks. Perhaps this is because of my deep apathy for the weak film. (Releasing Phantom first would be like starting with Godfather III 3D.) But mostly it is because a weak box office may be a deterrent for future versions. After all, it’s been 35 years. Let’s pray the 50th anniversary will only bring a commemorative reissue—lacking a new Jar Jar in the cantina scene.