Did James Gunn Just Make ‘George Lucas’ a Verb?

George Lucas‘s name will forever be synonymous with Star Wars, but in some circles, it’s also synonymous with seemingly endless changing and tinkering that many people believe isn’t really necessary. 

That’s why, when Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn recently invoked Lucas’ name in that context, everybody knew what Gunn meant. And so rages the eternal debate: Was Lucas “right” to make all these changes, and will we ever see the originals? 

James Gunn
James Gunn | Christopher Polk/Getty Images

How did George Lucas become known for tinkering? 

For many filmmakers, once their movie is finished and released to the public, they wash their hands of it. If there are mistakes in it, or something that didn’t turn out quite as they hoped, then those oversights are preserved forever for posterity.

At best, any improvements get applied to the next movie, not to the old one. That ethos has not applied to George Lucas after the 1990s. 

When Lucas was gearing up to make the prequel trilogy in the late 1990s, he was also commemorating the 20th anniversary of the original Star Wars. To test the effects technology that would be used for the prequels, he decided to make several changes to the original trilogy, adding scenes or enhancing existing ones with new digital tools.

The new versions were dubbed the Special Editions. To many fans’ frustration, they became the only editions.  

For many fans, this was the beginning of the decline of Lucas, as fans raged over changes that they thought altered the story, the most infamous of which was the scene where Han Solo kills Greedo on Tatooine. In the old version, Han killed a taunting Greedo, but in the Special Edition, Greedo fired first. “Han shot first” became a rallying cry among fans as Lucas continued to make changes that confounded viewers.

How did James Gunn verbalize George Lucas? 

What made the changes so frustrating for fans was that Lucas couldn’t seem to stop making them. He even altered his non-Star Wars movies, THX-1138 and American Graffiti, with digital enhancements, although those were more subtle than the Star Wars changes.

What frustrated fans all the more was that alterations continued to appear with every new reissue, with the infamous “Maclunkey” applied to the Greedo scene of the  Disney+ streaming versions.

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn interacts with fans on social media often, and during a recent Twitter exchange, he talked about an exchange he cut from Guardians of the Galaxy between Star-Lord and Drax. Gunn said, “I so wanna George Lucas it back in, I can’t tell you.” 

Lucas’ name has become so associated with post-production changes that it was very clear what Gunn meant.

One fan on Reddit remarked “I love how George Lucas is just a verb that everyone understands now.”

Will we ever see the Original Trilogy as originally created? 

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Whether George Lucas’ name is a noun, verb, adverb, adjective or interjection, the associations it has will stick with it for better or worse. And so the eternal question comes up: Will we ever see the Star Wars movies as they were originally released in 1977, 1980 and 1983?

The short answer is, probably not while Lucas is still living. Although Lucas no longer controls Star Wars, having sold it to Disney for $4  billion in 2012, Disney would probably not want to ruffle George Lucas’ feathers by releasing the versions he does not prefer.

Disney already alienated Lucas by not using his proposed story for the sequel trilogy, and Disney is not anxious to stir up any bad blood, no matter how much fans beg. 

If fans want the unaltered Star Wars, they have to dig up hard-to-find pre-1997 releases that are usually of mediocre visual quality compared to what viewers are accustomed to today, or they have to turn to fan-made “restorations,” some of which make changes of their own.