Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Today was a great day for geeks

If you're a geek (and if you're reading this, you probably are), then today might as well have been a national holiday for you. The Star Wars trilogy came out on DVD on Tuesday, and judging from the population at Best Buy this afternoon, it brought all the hermits out of their caves. Best Buy was doing a brisk business with the DVDs, and they threw in a special edition of Star Wars Insider with every sale. They had the ultimate geek table set up near the home theater section: the SW trilogy set, the Indiana Jones trilogy, the first season of Star Trek, The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, and a few SW soundtracks just for kicks. I watched part of Star Wars on one HD TV, and when I got bored with that I caught a few minutes of The Empire Strikes Back on another HD set. Finally, they had the new Star Wars: Battlefront game going on yet another HD screen. I bought the DVDs, of course, but passed on the video game for now. FOR NOW. My first impressions of the DVDs will follow in a moment.

If Star Wars didn't work you into enough of a lather, the final volume of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, The System of the World, appeared on store shelves today. I had to pass on that as well for the time being, as I was already carrying the aforementioned DVDs and ten pounds of cat food. But Stephenson's latest will be mine soon enough. I'm still reading Dan Brown's Digital Fortress, which isn't half as good as The Da Vinci Code, which annoyed me far more than Angels & Demons. In other words, I'm only still reading it because I hate to give up on a book, no matter how bad, and because I refuse to put it down to get started on SoW. Actually, part of me wants to wait a while on SoW, since once it's over, it's over. It's not like the Harry Potter series, where we know there are at least two more books coming. While Stephenson will undoubtedly write more books, he's done with this trilogy, and once I read this last book, I can never experience it again for the first time. I'm sure this attitude won't last beyond the end of this month, though, as my curiosity to see just how this story ends will win out over my sadness at its ending.

So far, I've watched a few scenes from each movie in the trilogy, plus the Episode III preview on the bonus disc. I'm extremely impressed with what I've seen. The picture and sound are AMAZING. I'll have to watch with my headphones on, because even with my computer speakers I was blown away. I found myself saying the lines along with the actors, with perfect timing. I haven't watched these films in almost ten years, and I still know exactly when Darth Vader's next line comes. As for the changes George Lucas has made once again to these (the Special Editions) films, I have to say that I honestly don't care enough. I wish he'd never had the idea that Greedo should shoot first, and I liked the original music at the end of Return of the Jedi just fine. On the DVD, Greedo and Han shoot at about the same time, and while Greedo still misses by a mile (at point-blank range?!) it looks much more like the original film now. Otherwise, I never really had a problem with the Special Editions, so I'm happy with what he's given us here. God help me, I even like the new final shot from RotJ, where Sebastian Shaw's middle-aged Anakin Skywalker has been replaced with Hayden Christiansen as a late-twenties man with a curly mullet. If the entire SW saga is about Darth Vader, then putting the new Anakin at the end makes sense. At least Shaw is still on screen when Luke removes Vader's helmet just before he dies.

I'm not one of those people who screams about Lucas "raping my childhood" or other such nonsense. I'm sure that many of the so-called "purists" who said they'd never buy the DVDs unless they were the original films were out today, buying themselves a set anyway. These are movies, nothing more. I have a strong affection for them, as the SW universe was a huge part of my life while I was growing up, but I've realized that they're just entertainment. There's more to life than Star Wars. There's The Lord of the Rings.

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