Film buffs still bicker over whether it was a good idea for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to add CGI enhancements to their classic films. Based on logic, it was inevitable that Lucas and Spielberg would tinker with their earlier, iconic films based on when they were made. It must have been the worst kind of frustration to make a classic special effects movie in the 1970s and have to endure them being scrutinized in the 21st century age of CGI.
Considering Spielberg and Lucas have been close associates for decades, you can see why Spielberg followed in Lucas's footsteps in altering at least one film during the 2000s. To date, that film was "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" where CGI enhancements and digital erasure of guns instigated an uproar from fans. But as with the brouhaha over Lucas's digital changes to the original "Star Wars" trilogy, it seemed Spielberg wasn't about to listen to reason.
Last year, though, Spielberg finally saw the light on how digital enhancements destroy the original intent and purposes of his films. In an interview with Ain't It Cool News about the then impending "Jaws" Blu-ray restoration and release, Spielberg said digital enhancements in his films would never happen again. He also recommended that all newcomers and fans of "E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial" watch the original 1982 film and ignore the 2002 version with the digital alterations.
Of course, doing that might be equivalent to ignoring the recent wretched restoration of a 19th century Spanish fresco of Jesus. There's only so much you can do to scratch massive mistakes in art from the record. Then again, what Spielberg says might set a high mark for calming the temptation of filmmakers altering what's already been done.
Other special effects films made long ago or right before the age of CGI are still out there and potentially awaiting digital enhancements. For instance, it's a wonder we haven't seen Disney go in and add digital enhancements to their old 1950s-1970s live action special effects movies that are still impressive, yet showing strings. This doesn't mean that Disney perhaps hasn't already gone in and touched up their classic live action films for Blu-ray release without telling us.
The same could perhaps be said of other special effects movies of the 1980s that just missed the CGI era by a few years. I even suggested recently that Spielberg might be tempted to alter his early CGI classic "Jurassic Park" for the sake of keeping it in line with CGI advancements. That suggestion could have extended to James Cameron who's one of those directors with a few movies made during the early footbridge to CGI.
Spielberg's new philosophy, however, is one that lets special effects movies of yore stand as a form of charm rather than a hindrance toward suspension of disbelief. The true model to that is 1939's "The Wizard of Oz", which will now have its obvious strings show even more with a new touch-up in 3D of all things. This hasn't stopped complaints about it still falling under the category of tinkering.
Whether Spielberg's philosophy will extend to George Lucas is another matter. The only way to excise all record of his "Stars Wars" special editions would have to be a public burning of all those prints, plus a solemn promise to leave the prequels alone in 20 years.