Few films fall into the timeless category in cinema, Lawrence of Arabia and The Godfather are two that do. The original Star Wars trilogy is often thrown into the mix, and while I would have agreed several years ago, it seems that this timelessness is coming to an end. With the recent release of the entire franchise on Blu-ray, George Lucas has once again decided to improve his original vision and in turn reveal the holes that have existed since the beginning.
For over three decades, Lucas has been obsessed with improving his films. From improving the sound and picture quality, to adding CGI creatures to films released decades before CGI became common place in film. It is sadly a difficult process to find the films untouched, as they are featured only as bonus content on one DVD release. And because of this, they are nowhere to be found on this new Blu-ray release.
Admittedly I am not a fan of the franchise, in fact the only entry in the series I believe to be great cinema is The Empire Strikes Back. While I may be open with my dislike for the franchise, what has become increasingly common is hearing true fans argue which film in the series is the worst. This can be partly associated with the fact nostalgia can only hide so much; however Lucas is helping this along.
His insistence on tampering with the original films is not only making them worse, but in many ways it is revealing the negatives of the original cuts. By juxtaposing a CGI creature along with a practical one, he is dating both the awful CGI and the practical effects which by themselves are entirely serviceable. In the same way, by showing the awful decision-making that he is capable of today, we see more clearly the bad decisions made with the previous films in their original versions.
While I do believe he is ruining his films, I am not in the camp that believes he does not have the right to do so. These are his films, and he can do as he pleases with them. It is unfortunate that what he wishes to do with them is ruin what was once great about them.
Lawrence of Arabia and The Godfather are both films that have been heavily worked on since their initial release, but luckily both of these films were simply restored to their original quality. It seems that Lucas has no intention of doing likewise; instead the original cuts will have to remain as the damaged prints available on DVD, tucked away into the bonus features of the box-set.
Timelessness is near impossible to achieve, Star Wars was once a franchise that came close. I doubt, however, that if the most up-to-date version of the films end with a digitally added Hayden Christensen, that they will live forever as classics.