If it is indeed true that George Lucas has dubbed in Darth Vader saying “NO!” as he commits regicide, there are two things to note about this, apart from the obvious. (The obvious point is that this is a terrible idea, but this is George Lucas – him mutilating one of his Star Wars films is not, in itself, surprising news any longer.) Update: It’s confirmed.
1. Lucas’s revisions, bad as they have been for the movies creatively, have probably increased their popularity. This has been going on since those “special edition” reissues, and reissues of movies rarely become big news. By wrecking the Han Solo scene, Lucas made the original Star Wars into an object of controversy. Instead of a reissue of that fun movie you saw in the ’70s or ’80s, it was a major debate that went beyond the fan base of even the most popular movies. Every time Lucas changes the movies, or refuses to release the originals, that becomes news. He’d never get this kind of coverage for a straightforward re-release of the original. Now, I’m not saying he’s an evil genius who is doing all this for publicity. He might be, but I’m sure he really believes that he can improve movies with the perfection of modern technology and the wisdom of age. However, I think the effect has been to give Star Wars a surer place in pop culture than Carter-era movies normally have. In a 1996 episode of NewsRadio, Dave could be considered a geek because he knew who Boba Fett was. Only a year later, everyone would be talking about the original Star Wars trilogy, and what had become of it, with a passion and fury normally reserved for new movies.
2. If the re-dub is a callback to Revenge of the Sith, it’s a reminder that we’re going to be eventually seeing a split between two types of Star Wars fan, if this hasn’t happened already. Understandably, many fans consider the original trilogy to be the only “real” Star Wars movies. But it’s been long enough since The Phantom Menace that there are new fans who were raised on the second trilogy, and consider the whole thing to be of a piece. I wonder if those fans would be more welcoming of the attempts to connect the two trilogies together. Maybe not.