Sunday, October 9, 2011

10-08-11: A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Far Away


In 1997, the classic trilogy was reissued in theatres as a Special Edition with added footage and updated visual effects. The reissue was a huge success financially but left much to be desired artistically.

In 2011, the Special Edition trilogy was released on Blu-ray with more changes that were again met with much disdain from some fans.

STAR WARS (1977) D: George Lucas. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher.
(1977) ***** / (1997) ****1/2 / (2011) ****1/2

The first Special Edition included some cosmetic changes, updated visual effects and some new scenes.

In the 2.0, an attempt was made to clean up as many visible matte lines as possible. There are still some present.

Now in high definition, the added scenes, especially those with new visual effects, look outdated. The CGI almost looks video game level when comparing the work to something like "Avatar". This is most prevalent in the added Tatooine sequences.

There were some added tweaks to the film that really didn't bother much. Such as Ben's new cry to startle the Tusken Raiders.

However, the two things that bothered me in the original Special Edition still bother me to this day. The Jabba scene and the Han shoots first scene.

The Jabba scene also suffers from the CGI being in HD. The main problem with this scene is it stalls the movie, it really serves no purpose to the plot other than to introduce Jabba when he was properly revealed in "Jedi". He doesn't come off as the vile gangster he is in the final film. The introduction of Boba Feet is showy and more importantly this takes away from the reveal when Luke and Ben first see the Falcon, which is when the audience first sees it.

Han shoots first. Wow, what can I say. I hated it then and I hate it now. You can't take a character defining moment that is etched into the memories of millions and say "No he didn't, Greedo shot first." The exchange is still poorly edited and this is the one scene in the Special Edition that I wish never existed.

The original film is still an exciting classic that holds up after a million viewings. However, the Special Edition takes away a bit of that luster hence the lower rating.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) D: Irvin Kershner. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher.
(1980) ***** / (1997) ***** / (2011) *****

The first Special Edition included some cosmetic changes, updated visual effects and some new scenes.

Not a whole lot was tinkered with in the Special Edition of the best Star Wars film. There were some cosmetic changes to Cloud City, this time showing a more expansive city instead of closed walls as seen in the original.

The main added scene is still a head-scratcher as it serves no real purpose except to show an audience what they didn't see but Lucas clearly didn't think they were smart enough to figure out themselves. An added expository scene was added to show how Vader got from Cloud City to his Star Destroyer. On the Star Destroyer, the docking scene is clearly lifted from "Jedi." It really doesn't need to be there.

Despite that one scene, the Special Editions are just as good as the original version. After seeing it again, it's mind-boggling to think that this came from the same mind that wrote the prequels.

RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) D: Richard Marquand. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher.
(1983) ****1/2 / (1997) ****1/2 / (2011) ****1/2

The first Special Edition included some cosmetic changes, updated visual effects and some new scenes.

There were a number of changes made to this film so technically this would be version 3.0.

Of the three Special Editions, the CGI, for the most part, for the added elements and scenes actually look good.

The key additions were the beak for the Sarlaac, the "Jedi Rocks" segment, the new more expansive ending and music, the appearance of Hayden Christensen as Anakin and for this version the infamous double "No!" and blinking ewoks.

Of all those changes, the only scene that really bothered me was the whole "Jedi Rocks" sequence in Jabba's palace. I cringed when I first saw it and it really annoys me when I watch it. The CGI for whatever the screaming fuzzball is adequate at best. When seeing Sy Snootles the puppet and then her CGI counterpart you can see how the ball was seriously dropped.

The blinking Ewoks were cool except it's not consistent. For some reason only Wicket has the ability to blink.

Of note, the Rancor scene was color corrected and looks better than ever.

While I enjoyed the "Celebrate the Love" ending, I felt the new one was more expansive and reflective. After all, 20 years of Empire oppression has come to a close, it should be a galaxy wide event. The Hayden appearance I can buy as a plot point, when returning from the Dark Side a Jedi returns to as he was before turning. The "No" didn't even bother me.

Overall, I felt the original film was fun but lacked some in originality. The Special Editions really had no impact on my final critique of the film.

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