The People vs. George Lucas – This 2010 documentary presents different sides in the debate over whether Lucas ruined his legacy, and whether he had the right to do so. Not surprisingly, most of the focus is on the edits to the original trilogy and the lower quality of the prequels. In addition to the usual fan ranting, there were arguments over whether a creator has the right to alter his work. Obviously he does prior to release, but what about after that? There were mentions of how recent technology has shown that some very famous paintings were altered somewhat over time. One example that I’m surprised never came up was J.R.R. Tolkien’s editing of The Hobbit, first published in 1937, to bring it more into line with The Lord of the Rings. If Greedo getting in a shot before being killed by Han Solo was, as is often suspected, meant to soften Han’s character, the changes to The Hobbit did much the same. They not only made Gollum meaner, but also removed any claim Bilbo Baggins really had to the Ring, hence demonstrating the item’s powers of corruption. In a way, I think it’s kind of lazy to change already existing work rather than making sure your new work is in line with the old. On the other hand, I’m sure there are many things that creators wish they could go back and change, and it’s not like these changes are never for the better. The argument against Lucas wasn’t just that he changed things, however, but that he essentially tried to rewrite history by not releasing the original theatrical versions to new video formats. Regarding Han and Greedo, the Wikipedia page on the topic (and can I say how much I love that Wikipedia, so often known for deleting articles because some bigwig thinks they aren’t noteworthy enough, has an entire page on Han shooting first?) quotes Lucas as saying Greedo was always supposed to have shot first, although there’s no indication of this in the script. Lucas claimed that people who insisted Han shot first (and, indeed, was the ONLY one who shot) want the character to be a cold-blooded killer. Never mind that Greedo was holding a gun and threatening to kill Han, so it was really self-defense whether or not Greedo actually fired his weapon. If it were Star Trek I guess Han could have set his blaster to Stun, but I don’t know whether that’s possible in the Star Wars universe.
As for the prequels, I’ve frequently seen the point made that people who saw the original trilogy as kids just aren’t going to have the same experience seeing new films in the series as adults, which is probably accurate but also difficult to test. Apparently Jar Jar Binks was popular enough with the kids, although I haven’t seen any actual statistics on this point. Besides, Episodes II and III downplayed his role and made him largely responsible for the Emperor’s power grab, the latter more or less indicating that the fans were RIGHT to hate him.
The documentary obviously also mentions midichlorians, which I don’t care for not only because a biological component to a spiritual concept doesn’t really work, but also because it essentially means you can only be a Jedi if you have the genetic predisposition to be one. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how hard you practice, because if you don’t have the midichlorians you don’t get to access the Force. It makes it much more of an elitist thing. Still, even if you hated the prequels, they couldn’t retroactively destroy your childhood. And overall, the film didn’t even seem to be about Lucas or Star Wars as much as it was about the peculiar world of fandom, where the most devoted fans are also often the worst critics. Sure, they might claim that they just hold the work to a higher standard because they thought it was so great in the past, but I’m sure we’ve also all noticed how incredibly mean hardcore fans can be. I forget the quote, but someone in the film said something about how Star Wars fans these days feel they have to hate Star Wars, which is sort of a paradox. I’m certainly not one to put down anyone for feeling passionately about works of fiction, but you also have to remember that said works don’t exist solely for you.