The recent discovery of a fan-edited version of "Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace" was a perfect example of the new heights that fandom has scaled. More importantly, it was vigorous proof that George Lucas' epic space opera had finally become a bi-generational passion.
20 minutes shorter, "The Phantom Edit" reduces the vilified CG character Jar Jar Binks to an incidental role, while Anakin Skywalker's kid dialogue ("Yippee!") has been excised. Fans acclaimed it as an altogether tighter, darker realisation, while the enterprising (and anonymous) editor claimed its existence on behalf of 'The George Lucas Generation'.
Of course, few film franchises can claim as rapaciously enthusiastic a fan base as "Star Wars". However, the very existence of "The Phantom Edit" indicates that the (highly vocal) disappointment of original fans towards Lucas' current vision can now be expressed in a far more direct (if legally baiting) fashion. Who could have envisioned technically proficient fans challenging, indeed, eliminating the final cut with common home computers?
So, faced with the prospect of a franchise no longer aimed at their child selves, it seems 'The George Lucas Generation' can implement their own ideal of "Star Wars", while Lucas' target audience of 10-year olds can frenziedly lap up future returns to that galaxy far, far away...
And what of Lucas? While he claimed that such activity was the preserve of the Internet, and Lucasfilm (pre-legal chest-beating) claimed that fans were just having fun with "Star Wars", perhaps the ramifications are far larger: the loss of the director's ultimate control of his vision? It may be a loss that Lucas and co. never even considered and one that fandom might all too readily embrace.
More great "Star Wars" stuff.
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