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Talking pictures: Lucas should not tinker with 'Star Wars'

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OK, George Lucas, you've officially gone too far. And I, for one, am not going to stand for it anymore.

For those who may not know — though, if you don't, you must be living in a galaxy far, far away — Lucas and Fox have released new DVD versions of the original "Star Wars" trilogy.

It's the first DVD release for the films, and, needless to say, they're selling like hotcakes. And the cleaned-up picture and sound make them an attractive package for both longtime, and newer, Star Warriors.

But what's giving me such heartburn about the whole thing is that Lucas still can't leave well enough alone. Once again he's made changes.

Most significantly, he's added actor Ian McDiarmid to a scene in "The Empire Strikes Back" (he's seen in his role as the evil Emperor Palpatine, who has a holographic conversation with Darth Vader). And now Hayden Christensen can be seen in spectral form at the conclusion of "Return of the Jedi."

To some these might seem like negligible changes, but to me they're simply the latest in a series of cinematic slaps to longtime "Star Wars" fans like myself.

The worst of all of these occurred in the re-released version of the first "Star Wars" film, now known as "A New Hope." A scene in which Han Solo (Harrison Ford) shoots a green-skinned alien bounty hunter named Greedo has been altered so that it now appears that the bad guy shot at him first. This change pretty much ruins the entire arc of Solo's character, who evolves through the films from self-involved rogue to genuine hero.

There are those who believe that Lucas is within his rights to make these changes. That it's his "artistic right" to do so. To them, I say hooey.

First off, while the characters and concepts may be Lucas' property, there were others involved. The late author Leigh Brackett actually wrote the story on which "The Empire Strikes Back" is based. And the scripts for both "Empire" and "Return of the Jedi" were co-written by Lawrence Kasdan.

Also, Lucas didn't direct either of those two films. "Empire" was directed by Irvin Kershner and "Jedi" by Richard Marquand. So, in essence, Lucas is tinkering with other people's work, which leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

In fact, I don't understand why there hasn't been a bigger stink about this — something akin to negative reaction that followed Ted Turner when he began "colorizing" classic movies.

The fallout from all of this is that I won't be spending a dime to buy or even rent these versions of the "Star Wars" movies.

Sorry, George, you can find another sap.

In the meantime, I'll be waiting for you to come to your senses.

When you release the "Star Wars" films that I remember and love — with all their flaws and occasionally clunky moments and now-somewhat-outdated special effects — then you can have my money.

FORSOOTH, A SITH. I want to correct a misconception some readers seem to have. I am looking forward to Lucas's upcoming "Star Wars" prequel "The Revenge of the Sith," due in theaters next May.

I really do hope that film can end the prequels on a high note. All of his talk about "Sith" being darker in tone certainly sounds encouraging. (Not to give anything away, but we already know from the other films that this one can't end on a happy note.)

Besides, my expectations have now been lowered so far that "Sith" can't possibly disappoint.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com