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Whose 'Star Wars' is it, anyway?

The story is over when Lucas says it is

By Todd Leopold
CNN

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(CNN) -- A colleague here at work refuses to buy the DVD of "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" when it goes on sale Tuesday. He's convinced tinkering with "Star Wars" won't end until George Lucas is dead.

That's too bad. He'll miss the new shock ending, in which Luke wakes up on Tatooine and it turns out that the whole six-movie series was a dream.

No! Stop throwing things! I'm kidding! Kidding!

But Lucas could do that, couldn't he? With the ever-leaping bounds technology makes, if the master of the "Star Wars" universe decides his tale needs a new scene, or a change here or there, he could tweak "Sith" and the other movies until he's finally satisfied -- until the next time.

Lucas won't do that, of course -- not anymore, anyway. He's said the story is told and he's made the movies he wanted to make -- and he's already altered the videos of the first trilogy to his satisfaction.

Indeed, that's why some fans are worried. Lucas changed "Star Wars" to show that Greedo shot first -- not Han Solo -- and added Hayden Christensen, the Darth Vader of the most recently produced episodes, to the pantheon at the end of 1983's "Return of the Jedi." Christensen the person was 2 years old at the time.

Lucas isn't the only one. Steven Spielberg tweaked "E.T.'s" DVD to change the police officers' guns to walkie-talkies; he thought the moment too violent. And then there are the countless "special edition" DVDs that include footage that didn't make it to the big screen -- footage that may not change any major plot points, but still shows sides of characters not available to the theater-going audience.

Movies aren't the only art that may be changed by the artist -- or somebody else, without the artist's consent.

Brian Wilson, working with a co-producer, put out the Beach Boys' classic "Pet Sounds" (originally in mono) in stereo a few years ago. Dozens of Jimi Hendrix tracks, some no more than extended doodling, have been released in his name since his death.

A "new" Truman Capote novel, "Summer Crossing," came out Tuesday. It actually dates from the 1940s. Who knows if Capote would have released it, or if he would have wanted to make wholesale changes in it? For that matter, Capote's post-"In Cold Blood" opus, "Answered Prayers," was finally released -- unfinished -- in the early '90s.

And on and on.

When does it end? When the author/creator says it does, when the public is sated, or when the contract is up?

Eye on Entertainment looks at "Revenge."

Eye-opener

The DVD of "Sith" does come with a host of extras, all Lucas-approved.

There are a number of deleted scenes, introduced by Lucas and producer Rick McCallum. There are Web documentaries, trailers, promos for video games and a music video.

Lucas has a commentary track, as does McCallum, animation director Rob Coleman and Industrial Light and Magic visual effects supervisors John Knoll and Roger Guyett.

But, apparently, the movie will be the one seen in theaters last May, the film that remains the No. 1 grossing film of 2005.

Lucas really doesn't have to worry about the films anymore. There's a whole "Star Wars" empire out there now -- books, video games, action figures -- and he'll have his hands full devising storylines for all that, if he so desires.

In fact, some of those stories may not be his, anyway. One of the charms of video games is that the player becomes a character in the story, and technology being what it is, the permutations are becoming endless.

So, perhaps, "Star Wars" has become a classic sci-fi multiverse conundrum, with alternate histories and varied points of view. Maybe, in one version, Darth Vader didn't even exist. Or Luke died in a tragic hovercraft accident.

Though Han Solo really did shoot first.

"Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" comes out on DVD Tuesday.

On screen

  • The versatile Meryl Streep plays a middle-aged Jewish therapist in "Prime." Is there any role she can't do? The film, which concerns the therapist's crisis when one of her patients starts dating her son, opens Friday.
  • Nicolas Cage is "The Weather Man." He's facing an existential crisis. Michael Caine plays his father. Hope Davis plays his ex-wife. Bryant Gumbel plays himself. Greg Gumbel is not in the movie, but he handles sports. The film opens Friday.
  • "The Legend of Zorro" picks up where "The Mask of Zorro" left off. The latter came out in 1998, so there's plenty to pick up. The film, which stars Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, opens Friday.
  • "Saw II" includes more disgusting ways of torturing and killing people, in case someone is taking notes. It opens Friday.
  • On the tube

  • Showtime tries a horror anthology series just in time for Halloween, with contributions from John Carpenter and John Landis, among others. "Masters of Horror" premieres 10 p.m. Friday.
  • What would Halloween be without a "Simpsons Treehouse of Horror" episode? This year's airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on Fox.
  • For some real scares, the National Geographic Channel offers a look "Inside Hurricane Katrina," showing how the hurricane led to massive destruction and chaos. The two-hour program, which includes audiotapes of government officials, airs at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday.
  • Sound waves

  • Ryan Adams seems to put out six albums a year, like a British Invasion group in the '60s. His latest, "29" (Lost Highway), comes out Tuesday.
  • John Fogerty's situation with Fantasy Records' former owner, Saul Zaentz, was once so bad that the ex-Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman wrote a song called "Zanz Can't Danz" that continued with the line, "but he'll steal your money." "Zanz" was changed to "Vanz" because of legal tussles. Well, Fogerty's now worked out a deal with Fantasy's new proprietors, and now comes a best-of that combines his CCR material with some of his solo stuff. "The Long Road Home" (Fantasy) comes out Tuesday.
  • Blink-182's "Greatest Hits" (Geffen) comes out Tuesday.
  • Paging readers

  • Anyone who's left-handed, or ever wondered what left-handedness is all about, may want to pick up "A Left-Hand Turn Around the World" (Da Capo) by David Wolman. With your left hand, of course. The book comes out Tuesday.
  • Video center

  • "Office Space: Special Edition with Flair" comes out Tuesday. Not too much new, but creator Mike Judge does reflect on how his little movie became a popular cult comedy.
  • For anyone who's ever wanted to sit down with several pints of ice cream and watch every episode of "Sex and the City," you get half your wish: "Sex and the City: The Complete Series" -- 19 discs and a bonus disc -- comes out Tuesday.
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