}); The Road to Episode Infinity: The Many Versions of Star Wars

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Many Versions of Star Wars

An Argument Against Alterations

 “People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians.” ~George Lucas delivering a speech to the US congress in 1988 urging them to pass laws to hinder people from
 altering films in any way.

I just finished watching the "Special Editions" of Star Wars with my wife and it reminded me just how much I dislike the changes he made to the Star Wars films in 1997 and how he continues to alter these films.

There have been at least four major updates to the Star Wars Trilogy since their original release. Hundreds of little changes have been made. Dialogue, sound effects, and music cues have been fiddled with endlessly. Different takes can be seen in different versions of the film. Eventually you have to ask yourself. What is Star Wars? Which version is the real one?

Does Luke say “Blast it, Biggs, Where are you?” or “Blast it, Wedge, where are you?”
Does Threepio say “Oh, this is suicide” or “There’s nowhere to go”
Does Luke say “You were lucky to get out of there?” or “You’re lucky you don’t taste very good.”

Various versions call for various takes as if Lucas can not make up his mind. I’m not sure if I like all that tinkering, but it was alright up until the special editions in 1997, when Lucas spent 10 million dollars to “fix up” his trilogy.

A New Hope

Above = 1997 Jabba (Special Edition)
Below = 2004 Jabba (DVD Release)
In these special editions there are jarring differences, and nowhere are those differences more jarring than on Tatooine. CGI dewbacks & banthas are roaming the deserts. Mos Eisly is bigger and Jawas are falling off of Rontos. The aliens in the cantina have been replaced with new ones. Dash Rendar’s ship is present. Han talks to a horribly animated Jabba the Hutt. And, of course, there is the most debated scene in which Han shoots Greedo.

It isn’t even a question of who shot first because in the original version Han is the only one who shoots. The fact that we are suppose to believe that Greedo missed from two-meters away is ludicrous! Greedo must be the worst bounty hunter in the galaxy! Also, why was he there in the first place if Jabba was right outside!

Why is this necessary?
The question we have to ask ourselves is WHY?  Why digitally add a rock in front of R2-D2 to make it seem like he is hiding from the Sand People? A special effects crew won an Oscar for this film, is it really worth replacing all their models with new CGI ones in the Death Star run? 

Tie Fighter and hundreds of
troopers added for comedic effect


Empire Strikes back was not changed much for the special edition, which I am thankful for, but there have been a lot of annoying changes since. For example, in the DVD release they change the actor who plays “The Emperor” to match the rest of the trilogy. The Emperor is noticeably more evil & sadistic. Many fans might think this isn’t so bad, but they also change Boba Fett’s voice to match with Jango Fett’s. He went from sounding like a brutal killer to sounding like Steve Erwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Did we really just recast two characters? Was it really necessary?

Above : 2003 DVD Update with Ian McDiarmid
Below : Original throne room scene, voiced by Clive Revill. 


While I have mixed feelings about ANH & ESB getting a makeover, it is indisputable that what they did to ROTJ is unforgivable. It is a totally different movie for Force sake!

It is so obvious that this isn't a part of the original film.
The CGI is horrid
Let’s start with Jabba’s Palace. Apparently Max Reebo’s Band was a little boring. But did that really mean they had to add nine characters, replace the puppets with animations, compose a song called “Jedi Rocks” and have Boba Fett flirt with the dancers? Did Sebulba really need to be added to the Bluray version? Did the Sarlacc really need dozens of CG tentacles and a beak? Why the hell does a Sarlacc need a beak? Isn’t it suppose to take one-thousand years to digest prey?

Alright, lets move on to Endor. If you have the bluray edition of the film, you might have noticed that Ewoks blink now. Also, you might have noticed that Vader screams NOOOOOOO before throwing the Emperor down the shaft. Not only does it totally ruin the moment, but it also brings up memories of that horrible “Birth of Vader” scene in Episode III. Later when Luke takes off his helmet the actor who use to play Anakin has been altered to look more like Hayden Christianson.

After the Empire is defeated, scenes of celebration on Bespin, Tatooine, and Coruscant are shown in addition to the original celebration scenes on Endor and the musical theme "Yub Nub" has been replaced with an entirely new John Williams composition, "Victory Celebration." In the DVD release they even added Naboo to the mix and Jar Jar Binks shouting “Weesa free!” in the background.

Above: Original film with Sebastian Shaw
Below: 2003 Update with Hayden Christiansen 

Alas, adding Jar Jar to Return of the Jedi is not the worse thing Lucas has done to the film. Just before the credit’s roll when we see the force ghosts, we do not see the Anakin Skywalker that just conquered the dark side of the force- that learned from his mistakes. No, no- we see Hayden-Fucking-Christianson.

Now that Disney owns Star Wars I beg them, BEG THEM, to release versions of the film that do not make fans want to cringe. In fact, if I were JJ Abrams, I would make it a part of my contract that I get to release my own directors cut of the original trilogy. I grew up watching these films and it sucks knowing that Lucas did indeed take memories from my childhood and pretended they never happened. Yes, Lucas edited and rewrote my childhood. It’s not rape, but it does feel like he violated something.

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