MPAA ON TRIAL: “REVENGE OF THE SITH”

First off, I must apologize to our loyal readers. Fan or not, you have to be sick of hearing about Star Wars by now. I don’t care who you are; you have to be sick of it. I know I am, yet, I am about to embark on a rant of my own. While I can’t speak for anyone else here, I pinky-promise you that this will be the last time I mention it (meaning Star Wars). Ever.

Here is another thing that may upset some of you: I am one of the few real Star Wars fans out there. What? I am. Want to know how “real” I am? Well, prior to about a month ago, I never saw a Special Edition Star Wars film. I didn’t rush to the theater in 1997, nor did I pick them up on video. I also didn’t rush to buy the DVD set because, well, Hayden Christensen wasn’t in Return of the Jedi. Greedo didn’t shoot first. Boba Fett wasn’t in “A New Hope” and neither was Jabba for that matter.

I was upset to learn that the original trilogy wouldn’t be released on DVD. The fat man in flannel claims that he will never release them on DVD.

“That’s a little immature, to call someone names.”

Sorry, but he hurt my feelings and I have nothing but resentment left for him.

It doesn’t seem like too many other Star Wars fans feel this way; countless people have purchased the DVD set without hesitation. How can you people do this to yourselves? You aren’t buying the films you grew up loving – look on the back of the DVD cases. They don’t say “1977,” “1980,” or “1983.” They say “2004” proudly. Even the synopsis on the back of “A New Hope” describes The Emperor, a character that wasn’t even in that movie, or even known about at that point. Lucas is just rubbing it in our faces: the movies you loved in your childhood are now gone, forever changed like a victim after a rape.

“But on DVD, they look so good. I just had to have them…”

For the purpose of making this article as complete as possible, I decided it was about time I should visit one of the victims of this terrible crime. I had to watch “A New Hope” on DVD to see if it still remained PG and if a certain scene still remained intact. So I borrowed the DVD from a friend – there was no way I was putting this in my Netflix Que.

And I watched it. How can you people do this to yourselves? Sure, the untouched scenes look great on this format but how many computer-generated creatures did George Lucas have to throw in the movie and how does it make the film better? And why do the lightsabers look worse now than they did before? Wasn’t the goal to improve the films? The fact that the undamaged scenes look so good is what makes this viewing experience so depressing. But the scene I am about to bring up, still remained unchanged and the rating of “A New Hope” was still PG.

In the dialect of Yoda, the great Jedi master and Pokemon-style street fighter, “matters not my opinion of this film.” What does matter is how “Episode III” was rated. Early in production, Lucas spouted off talk of how this last episode would indeed be the darkest Star Wars movie ever. We should hope so sir; because nothing you have done with the other prequels have shown us any kind of Dark Side, with the exception of the lame Sand People slaughter in “Attack of the Clones” of course.

Before we move on, think back to 1977, when the original “Star Wars” film came out. Back then, things were a lot different with the MPAA and the way they rated films. The PG-13 rating did not exist in those times, but it did exist when the film was re-released in 1997 and once again, “A New Hope” was rated PG for “sci-fi violence and brief mild language.” What violence does this film include? One scene in particular: Obi-Wan slashes off Dr. Evazan’s (or was it Pomba Baba’s?) arm. Said limb then falls on the floor with a nice trail of blood smearing from it. Blood. All of you that thought lightsabers cauterize wounds; you just got served. By this theory, Darth Maul’s innards would have sprayed all over the floor when Obi-Wan cut him in half. But I digress.

Just how dark would this film be though? Our flannel-wearing friend promised that Anakin wouldn’t be shown as Vader until the last few moments of the film.

The runtime was then leaked. Two hours and twenty minutes of Star Wars goodness (or badness, whichever you prefer). Then, the MPAA released their verdict: “Revenge of the Sith” was rated PG-13 for “sci-fi violence and some intense images.” Repeat, “sci-fi violence and some intense images.”

I’d like to think that some creature (or something) getting their arm chopped off by a lightsaber, only to splatter on the floor and stream blood, is a pretty intense image. How come “A New Hope” didn’t get that rating in the nineties?

Compared to every other Star Wars film, the first three-fourths of “Revenge of the Sith” has nothing new that would be reason to rate it PG-13. For the most part, droids take most of the damage. They get hacked up to bits by Jedi and their light sabers, blasted with lasers and crushed by mechanical devices. They suffer everything that the Storm Troopers did in the first trilogy and then some. “A New Hope” had countless storm troopers getting shot and killed, and “Jedi” even has little Ewoks getting blasted. Not only was I constantly hoping for George Lucas to throw in a “set piece” or a “matte-painting” (as opposed to some horrific CG and blue screen worlds), I also wondered when some PG-13 action was coming my way.

Then something happened. In a matter of 4 minutes, Anakin made one of the lamest transformations imaginable toward the Dark Side, and Jedi everywhere were slaughtered. Anakin even decided to kill himself some younglings – but Lucas doesn’t show him doing the dastardly deed. Not even one of those “intense images” the MPAA was talking about.

I started to wonder, “Was the Star Wars audience bamboozled?” I think it is safe to say that Lucas knows a good majority of Star Wars fans (real Star Wars fans) hate the childish and overly romantic prequels prior to this one. Was this rating a ruse? I imagined a phone call he could have made to the MPAA:

MPAA: Hello?

GEORGE LUCAS: Hey, this is Lucas. Get a verdict on my new amazingly digital masterpiece, yet?

MPAA: Not yet, but so far, I think me and the boys are going with a PG.

GL: That can’t be. NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

MPAA: Calm down, flannel man. And by the way, that whole “Nooo” scene that Vader does, you should think about cutting that.

GL: That is why you don’t have Academy Award nominations like I do; you don’t know what you’re talking about. That scene makes my movie, stupid.

MPAA: Not makes, breaks… nevertheless. So, what did you want?

GL: Make it PG-13 and I’ll make it worth your while. I’ll send your kid an authentic lightsaber.

MPAA: Hmmm… if you make it a lightsaber from the old trilogy, not from this one, you have yourself a deal.

Before that conversation finished out in my head, an event unfolded on the screen before me that would finally justify this teenage rating. Anakin gets his legs chopped off by Obi-Wan, and his little limb-less body rolls slowly toward a stream of lava. Seconds later, he engulfs in flames. Everyone in the world has been waiting for this day since the release of “Episode II” – the day when Anakin’s broken body was to fully ignite in flames. Lucas shows us a close up of his screaming face, as flames surround the rest of his head. This was the “intense image” we were waiting for. It was the only scene in the film to justify the rating. And it’s a shame that we had to wait so long to see it.

Perhaps, one day not too far from now, Lucas will need another flannel shirt or something. “Hey, I need some money.” Maybe he will finally decide to release the old Star Wars trilogy, as it was, untouched for us few real fans that haven’t purchased this molested set yet. Probably not though, since there are only about 6 or 7 of us left.

So that’s it friends. I will not mention Star Wars in rant form ever again. I am Star Wars’d out. As soon as this article is finished, I am going to grab the VHS trilogy (in non-Special Edition form) that my Grandparents got for me back in the early 90s, off the shelf and pack it away in the same box that holds my Charles Bronson video collection. Next to “Death Wish” and “10 to Midnight,” my Star Wars trilogy will rest for eternity.

For the most part, the MPAA offers a great service to the community by rating films in appropriation to age. Every once in a while, however, things go terribly awry. For example, a certain film containing the mere suggestion of certain sexual acts may get the dreaded NC-17, while another film may actually show us the sex acts in question and squeak by with an R rating. Michael Ferraro takes a look at some of these more questionable calls by the MPAA in an attempt to try and understand their madness.




Posted on June 13, 2005 in Features by

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