There's a common misconception that I hate the Star Wars movies. There's some truth to it, but "hate" is too strong of a word. It's more like I'm annoyed by Star Wars, and even then, it's hard to tell where my annoyance with the films themselves ends, and where my irritation with the series' legions of fans begins. Either way, I had no desire to buy, rent or watch the eagerly anticipated box set of the original Star Wars trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi). But after being reminded one too many times how "important" these films are, and what a monumental release this box set was, I decided to check it out and weigh in.
Like millions of other people, I loved the original Star Wars movies when they first came out. Of course, I was 8, 11 and 14 back then, and at that point had never seen a film by Akira Kurosawa, had never read any Joseph Campbell, and still thought dining at Burger King was going out to eat. In other words, I was a dumb kid who was impressed with cool, state-of-the-art special effects and characters that I was too illiterate to know were one-dimensional archetypes taken from ancient mythology, literature and film and given a new coat of paint that made them seem original. Now that I'm older and hopefully a bit wiser, and have actually seen films that are great, the Star Wars trilogy doesn't seem as magical.
The recently released box set includes Episodes 4, 5 and 6, with beautifully remastered picture and sound. Even if you saw the films in theaters when they first came out, you've never seen them look or sound better than they do right now. Of course, these are not the original films as they were released theatrically. No, these are the special-edition versions with new scenes and a buttload of redone special effects that have some purists up in arms. Honestly, the retooled effects don't bother me that much. What bothers me, and what is most telling about Lucas as a filmmaker, is that with all the technical wizardry at his disposal, he can't make his insipid writing any better. The dialogue in Star Wars is still corny, and the acting, for the most part, is still bad.
The best part of the box set is the fourth bonus disc, which includes several documentary featurettes and the two-and-a-half-hour documentary Empire of Dreams, which chronicles the history of Lucas' original trilogy. Empire of Dreams is a bit too long and serves as an ego-stroking, full-swallow blowjob for Lucas in which the descriptor "genius" is thrown about too much. But at the same time it is informative and entertaining, especially the old audition footage that includes Kurt Russell reading for Han Solo.
Fans of popcorn entertainment will have fun with the Star Wars box set. Fans of film, however, would be better advised to spend their money on the recent box sets from Martin Scorsese or John Cassavetes if they want to see real genius at work.