As most of you are no doubt well aware, George Lucas is continuing his war on the past. Yes, just in time for a new Blu-ray release of the original Star Wars trilogy, it has been announced that Lucas has further "improved" the original movies, tweaking them to include such fantastic newness as...ugh, I can't do this anymore. This is just depressing. I've given up hope that Lucas will ever stop fucking with his shit. I say all this, incidentally, as one who never succumbed to Star Wars fanboyism. Sure, I find the original trilogy entertaining, but I've never taken it to the next level with these movies. Hell, I doubt I've seen any of them more than three or four times. Horror's always been more my speed. But I digress.
I may be somewhat simplistic here, but I believe that movies have two functions: as pieces of art and historic artifacts—time capsules of, not only the particular periods in which they were made, but also of the obsessions and artistic desires of their creators during those specific eras. When artists continually rework previous works, the function of these films becomes rather nebulous; no longer time capsules, they now exist in an ever-changing continuous present, subject to the whims of their creators' current tastes. A piece of history is lost.
As I said before, my complaint here isn't specifically directed at Lucas, it's more general. Honestly, my first big disappointment—artists-tweaking-previous-work-wise—came when the Coen brothers reworked Blood Simple for the DVD release back in 2001. Granted, they didn't change much; they mostly tightened the editing, cutting the film by three minutes. But with this new version of the film, the Coens were editing the movie with the knowledge and experience they accumulated by 2001, not as they would have when fresh-faced director young'uns in the early eighties. (Incidentally, seeing as Blood Simple stands as one of the greatest debuts in film history, an attempt to tweak the film so as to make it even better seems a bit greedy, in my opinion.) But that's denying, not only the original film, but also the artistic growth process. One of the greatest joys of plowing through a filmmaker's oeuvre, is watching the evolution of the artist. If directors continually change previous films to fit their current techniques, the movies no longer offer insights into the growth of the artists.
All that being said, I can understand the desire to go back and "correct" past mistakes. Considering what personal expressions movies are for the folks who create them, they tend to act as yearbook photos: snapshots of who the artists were at particular times in their lives. But as much as we may want to airbrush old yearbook photos—remove the soulpatch and the "Hootie & the Blowfish" t-shirt—those pics are who we were. And that's just too bad. Our past selves will always embarrass us. That's how it's supposed to work. But we do evolve over time. I'm sure we all have shit in our history we'd like to lie about, to alter. To deny the past, however; to try to fix it all is a fool's errand. So I say, keep the past as it is, warts and all, no matter how embarrassing it may be.
Granted, I say all this as someone who's never had a movie made. Honestly, if any of the screenplays I wrote in my early twenties saw the light of day, I would puke with embarrassment upon seeing them. (I guess it's a good thing I've never sold any screenplays; but, just in case you're wondering, my writing partner and I do have some new screenplays that I swear are like totally not puke-inducing, and about which I'm sure we'll never change our opinions.) Still, I do write this blog. Yes, it's a bit more disposable a medium than film, but it's still somewhere in the realm of creative expression. I'm sure my opinions on some of the films I've reviewed here have changed, but I would never go back and tweak those old reviews to accommodate my current tastes. Whatever I wrote is what I wrote...for that particular time. Why? Because my reaction to each of those movies was true to my feelings at the time. To change that is to deny the past.
In closing, I leave you with one of the closing lines in George Lucas' testimony to Congress in 1988, arguing against the film-crime of copyright holders colorizing and otherwise altering older films: "Attention should be paid to the interest of those who are yet unborn, who should be able to see this generation as it saw itself, and the past generation as it saw itself."