Han Shot First (And Other Weighty Theological Matters)

I would like to write something about the passing of our beloved Madiba or the awesome headlines Pope Francis is making. However, I have limited time and feel unequal to both tasks. So instead, I offer some reflections on the Tragedy of the Remastered Star Wars. My point is neither terribly original nor terribly profound.

I assume you know Star Wars. I’m not exactly talking about one of my more obscure interests like Richard of St. Victor. This is pretty much the most influential American movie of all time, and arguably one of the best of all time. In fact, it is so good and so influential that we often forget that it is in every way a B sci-fi flick from the 70s with a low budget, special effects that are comical by today’s standards, second-rate acting, and awkward dialogue. I say all this with the greatest love and respect, of course. But it is very much a product of its time and its genre. It has a fairly simplistic plot, enhanced by new age philosophy (meaning no disrespect to my Jedi Realist friends, the Greeks probably thought Plato was new agey). And while adhering to the genre of low-budget sci-fi in the 70s with all the limitations it imposed, it also managed to transcend that genre and become the secondary mythology of many of our lives (or primary mythology, if you’re a Jedi Realist). By being the best example of its type that it could be, it became an American and global classic (and screw you, Annie Hall!). I certainly believe that Christianity offers more than Star Wars (the Force as the Holy Spirit only goes so far), but I definitely think that for me, it served as sort of preparatio evangeli (and for those people for whom it is a perfectly adequate religious end in itself, more power to them).

So the great tragedy of the whole thing is that, with the advance of technology, George Lucas realized that he now had the opportunity to make Star Wars into what he had always wanted it to be. Everyone who has ever produced a work of art, or even a sermon or a term paper, has had to confront the tragedy that our capabilities never quite do justice to our vision. Something is lost when I take my brilliant but formless ideas, and put them down on a concrete piece of paper (well, a concrete computer screen). In order for my actual work to be anything at all, it can’t be everything. I am limited by time, language, convention, logic, and fatigue just as much as George Lucas was limited by a low budget and 70s technology. And how many times have I wished I could revisit a sermon I’ve preached after I’d had a few days to iron out the kinks! Now George Lucas, because he’s George Lucas, did have the opportunity to “remaster” his masterpieces in the 90s, and then edit them again to make them more consistent with those heretical and blasphemous prequels (actually, I don’t hate the prequels as much as I used to, but that’s a story for another post). He could finally make the reality conform more closely to his vision. Instead of a 70s B movie, he could make it into an enduring masterpiece! So he did.

And we all hated every change he made.

The tragedy of Star Wars isn’t that Lucas couldn’t realize his vision in the 70s and 80s. The tragedy is that he couldn’t just let it be what it was, which we all loved. He had to go back and mess with it, making it into a B 70s film with occasional 90s patches sown on. I believe our Lord said something about sewing a new cloth onto an old garment. And all this to supposedly improve something that was already universally loved, and was an important part of many people’s lives.

The tragedy is that Lucas couldn’t be content with anything less than his vision. But George, we, your adoring fans who still mostly want to grow up to be Jedis–minus that celibacy wrinkle you threw in in the second prequel, but I digress–we love you for what you did, not for what you wanted to do.

So everyone else who isn’t George Lucas, bear this in mind next time your work, your art, or yourself can’t quite realize the brilliance of your vision. God loves what you will become, but God also loves what you are as you struggle to become it. And God blesses our second rate sermons that were the best we could pull together on a Saturday night after a week from hell, and all sorts of other imperfect and barely adequate endeavors. “My grace is sufficient,” a far greater saint than any of us was once told, “for in weakness, my power is made perfect.”

And fortunately, if you buy the DVDs, you can watch either the original or the remastered version. And you’d damn well better watch the original because HAN SHOT FIRST!!!!!!


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