I better make do with the Xmas Edition of Star Wars for now.....
I had just turned ten when Star Wars was released in the US in May 1977, but I had to wait almost a year before I got to see it – at the ABC Torquay in April 1978, since you ask. The movie didn’t premiere in Britain until December 1977, and in those days movies took a while to make it out of London and into the sticks. I was a …
They're not connected, but I always dig out Meco Christmans in the Stars album around this time of year.
Most of it is cack, but 'what do you get a wookiee for christmas (when he already has a comb)' gets a laugh from people who've not heard it before.
The Holiday special is note-worthy in that all the other wookiees are dressed (to some extent), begging the question, 'is Chwebacca a naturist?'
I prefer the Family Guy version.
But seriously, my first set of tapes of the real thing were the letterbox versions. These lasted several years with me skipping the specials after I heard some bad things about them. After the prequels, the DVD versions don't seem so bad now so the extra tweaking must have paid off. The DVDs also come with the rather good documentry (includes the quote from Carrie Fisher - "Every time I look in the mirror I have to give George a couple of bucks").
I can live with nicer special effects but they're not essential and are completely unnecessary if we also have to put up with the storm troopers filling a desert when looking for Luke and Obi-Wan, new alien creatures bouncing around in the background shouting "Look at me" in alien speak and everything turning a bright share of magenta in the Death Star.
That's why I stick to the Despecialized Edition.
Yes, I have all three original films in Despecialized Editions. A colleague also tells me there are Fan Edits without JarJar or even those silly Ewoks. I am waiting to see those! I also heard there is a Original Three all in one film version out there. Maybe I'll spend some vacation time searching for these gems...
There's two and a half issues I think
One is the refusal to maintain the original editions. The other is that some of the changes are just outright bad and often technically poor. The half issue is the latest blu-rays have some very strange colour grading/tint at times.
Cleaning up/enhancing special effects I have no issue with at all. Darth Vader shouting Noooo is just ridiculous. Adding Jabba is pointless and poorly implemented.
Replacing Lapti-nek with "Jedi Rocks" is awful, however I rather prefer the "victory celebration" music to Yub Nub. In '97 that's all they did, cool, but in more recent versions they kept adding ridiculous things on other planets and got rid of Sebastian Shaw and replaced him with a creepy young Anakin.
And stupid scenes such as someone falling off when they are speeding into mos eisley. Or the frog thing eating on the pan out of Jabbas palace. Idiotic music scenes in Jedi (complete with cgi closeups to hide the unfinished work in the background). Daft party at the end of Jedi (because the planetary governors went "the emperor is dead, better give up control now")
Stupid additions that have no reason to be there.
Lucas was so busy fighting the studios for money when the original filming and cutting was done that people who knew what they were doing like Irvin Kershner (director of Empire Strikes Back) and the screenplay writers could make a good breakfast out of that hash sling. He was haggling with the money man so he was not around to interfere.
You can start seeing his real artistic merit in Return of The Jedi - no new ideas, rehash of IV in a forest instead of a desert, special effects for sake of special effects, lame plot and cutsiness all around.
When the prequels came along he was already swimming in money generated by the franchise over the years - like Uncle Scroodge McDuck swims in his vault. So he ended up having complete artistic control. That is where we see the real Lucas and just how appallingly bad he is.
So stop giving him the credit he does not deserve. He is a fantastic businessman and a studio CEO. Director or god forbid full artistic control - you might as well put Jar Jar Binks in charge.
"He is a fantastic businessman and a studio CEO. Director or god forbid full artistic control - you might as well put Jar Jar Binks in charge."
Utterly this. He's actually really quite bad at many things.
Episode 4, he was so constrained by the studio that he couldn't control everything. Good movie. Episode 5, again, he didn't have full freedom. Good movie. Episode 6, he starts being able to dictate the terms. Ewoks.
1, 2 and 3 really just sum up the fact that Star Wars would not be the films we fondly remember had it not been for Harrison Ford re-writing half his only dialogue (why do you think Han is so great?), people other than Lucas handling the direction, script writing being basically removed from him completely, brilliant actors and support cast developing characters like Yoda, and more mature minds telling him not to be so bloody stupid before he ascended to Godhood. The man thinks Jar Jar Binks is entertainment, and he believes that the Phantom Menace is how you make a political thriller.
His cack-handed approach to the Special Editions included some frankly bad ideas that completely alter some characters (Han shot first), but worse still many of the CGI additions actually get in the way. Sure, some work - Bespin in particular goes from looking like an Apple-themed set of corridors to actually looking like a city in the clouds - but Mos Eisley becomes a jarring mess of CGI stuff strolling around in the way of the action and actually makes it harder to tell what is going on. And the whole empire-wide celebration thing at the end of Jedi makes no sense.
Lucas is pretty good for a big picture kind of guy (though most of the features of his work are actually very derivative), but he should be kept in a galaxy far, far away from any of the details.
He wasn't just cosntrained with what he made. Those constraints were so sever that they actually SHAPED what he made.
The Death Star in ANH is ONLY there at all because Fox wouldn't let him make the 3-4 hour epic he wanted (the Death Star in Jedi was the original and only one, until Fox told him to make the movie shorter and he needed a proper ending for the truncated movie).
Obi Wan's iconic act of self sacrifice only happened because Lucas wasn't going to be able to show Luke's training, and without that Obi Wan just stood around for the final 3rd of the truncated story. Answer: Kill him off, create huge emotional beat. But not what Lucas originally wanted or intended.
And of course, as a further consequence of that.... Yoda.
Even Chewie only exists at all because without the final act there were no wookies. Lucas loved the idea of wookies so much that he then created Chewie just to get one into the movie (you can remove Chewie from the story entirely without changing anything. The "prisoner transfer" sequence would be different of course, but could still work and actually could make far more sense than it does as it stands - a fun sequence for sure, but the "plan" doesn't actually bear close scrutiny).
So we also need to blame those same constraints for Ewoks since having established wookies as technologically adpet flight engineers, Lucas couldn't then have them running around in trees worshipping the shiny metal body of 3PO.
So take a few letters away, shuffle them around and WOOKIE >>> EWOK.
Thanks Fox. But not for the last part.
Ouch! What a nightmare vision. Mind you the most nightmarish thing about it is that you are right. I love the original trilogy but like you I am aware of the fact that it was Lucas' dependence on others when he made the orginal three that had a great influence on the result.
More than anything it was people saying "No george, that's stupid" in the originals that made them so great.
the first Star Wars as written was tight as an orphan's belt. The pacing was nearly perfect, at least partly in thanks to editors who told Lucas where he could stick his opinions. Nobody can do that now; he's too powerful. Nobody says no to him.
Without fail, practically every scene that was added to the remasters killed the pacing stone dead. Lucas has no idea about pacing, which is obvious from watching the prequels, which are a complete mess of meandering, go-nowhere scenes and pointless spectacle.
But that's George for you. He thought people liked Star Wars for the spectacle of its special effects, which brought him to blows with Irvin Kershner, who reckoned that telling a strong story about well-rounded characters was the key to success. Given that Kershner is the mind that brought us Empire and Lucas the one that brought us the CGI-laden farce that was the prequels, I think it's clear who was right.
.................I cannot for one moment disagree with you. My lady and I are Star Wars fans from way back when. Indeed we watched the first of the originals in the West End in 1977 when it was first released and the experience for us was amazing. When the first of the prequels was released we almost ran to our local "picture palace". We left after half an hour - we were that pissed with what Lucas had done. To this day "Jar-Jar" is a swearword in our house that no expression from our upbringing in the east end of London could possibly match (quite apart from the many other sins that Lucas committed in that unspeakable trilogy).*
*I will be very open here and say that I regard the prequel trilogy as self-indulgent garbage produced by someone whose fortuitous success** with the original films had promoted him beyond his level of competence.
**Given that there were many others involved in the original series whose contribution was enormous - something that Lucas' ego has never allowed him to acknowledge properly.
Totally. He's a *terrible* director. Doesn't understand pacing, editing, dialog, or even lighting. He had an idea about making The Magnificent Seven in Spaaaaaace and he's such a brilliant bullishit artist he convinced a studio to let him make it. Said studio then hired proper directors to make the sequels, which even fans agree were better. Lucas's main contribution to 20th century cinema is merchandising. Wow, thanks George.
I'm sorry but I will never forgive George Lucas for changing the ending of Return of the Jedi, I don't want to see all these worlds celebrating I want to see the ewoks celebrating and the original darth vader, other than that I didn't mind the additions.
I have the limited edition DVD tin with the original theatrical version so all is well with the force.
I don't like the music change in Jabba's palace in Return of the Jedi. Changed, and a CGI alien performer added.
I don't think I can point to a single CGI addition in that trilogy that enhanced the movies. Did they fix that scene where Obi-Wan's lightsaber looked like a stick when fighting Vader?
There were a couple - if you rewatch the originals you can see a few scenes that jar a little, like the Falcon leaving Mos Eisley, which is nothing more than a light blob moving in a very odd way in the original. I have a little sympathy here, it's clear what the original intention was but the technology wasn't up to the job at the time.
For the rest, every time a comedy alien punches another my hackles raise.
Just dropped by to recommend the Star Wars Revisited fan edit:
Go for the Purist edition - which is as close to the original release as you will find. Han shoots first, the Death Star explodes without the extra ring-of-fire, etc, etc.
I can understand an artist wanting to improve their work, make it more like the vision they had but couldn't deliver at the time, but that's not the same work of art the audience fell in love with.
I suppose we should just love both, but they are not the same, will always have an inequality about them. It begs us to judge one as better than the other, which we should not have to do, can put us at odds with the artist, damages our relationship with either the original work or the artist.
I think the problem with Lucas is that he went beyond subtly improving the work and actually changed things.
And don't get me started on bonus tracks added to the end of concept albums.
I do think we need to get over this issue with the changes. But Lucas himself lost any credibility as an artist when he started messing around with his old works.
Yes, in the Hollywood studio system, some are never happy that their artistic vision was not properly realized because of those meddling fools in production accounts. So there is room for a special edition or a directors cut. But just one, and if you go to town with additions you may just spoil it, George.
For me Blade Runner is one of my all time faves, despite the incredibly annoying continuity gaps, but I can just about cope with those (and clearly so can it's director).
I'd just like to have the option of being able to see the original theatrical cuts on a good clean transfer to blu-ray (or whatever next generation disc/format comes out).
However, I'm happy to concede that these are Lucas's films (though in a real sense they're now Disney's) and that he is/was free to tinker to make improvements or changes. Whether those changes are good or bad is subjective - for my money, the spaceship battles look better in the SEs, but the rest in the main was unnecessary with a few exceptions. One thing I never understood was the change in ROTJ for Sy Snootles and the band, but then not fixing the not-very-good special effects of the Rancor sequence - I thought, and still think, the Rancor is crying out for a rework.
If the author has made his peace with the special editions; good for him. But Star Wars picked up more than a fistful of Oscars and it's worth remembering why. One was for special visual effects. John Dykstra's ILM invented motion control, which led to those great space battle effects. Many of these shots were replaced by CGI in the special editions. Another Oscar was awarded for the film's intense, fast-paced editing, which was cutting-edge back then. The padding of scenes with extra shots diminishes this in the SE. John Williams's score is muddied in the SE. Many of John Mollo's Oscar -winning creature designs are replaced entirely with CGI in the SE. I could go on.
Love the SEs all you like, but not letting us remember the originals for the achievements they were is inexcusable revisionism. There's no official widescreen version of the unaltered originals that doesn't suffer from a dodgy colour palette, motion smear and aliasing. The amount of work fans have had to do, to try to create such version, is incredible. And it shouldn't have ben necessary.
When an artist creates something, a book, a piece of music or a film, at that moment, the artist's vision stops being the definition of what that thing is. How the work is received and perceived becomes part of its definition. The originals deserve to be preserved.
P.S. I own the SEs (Christmas present). I do watch 'em. I love the extras. Shame about the colours and the contrast levels. And the SE-y bits.
In modern internet terms, it's like if you write an Amazon review and receive dozens of upvotes, then change the review completely, but keep the upvotes.
The comment about editing is spot on. the original really has a better flow. Anybody who hasn't seen the original cuts in 20 years, watch the original version again--it's surprisingly much better than you remember, because what you remember is watching the special editions. (Oh right, you'd have to torrent illegaly to even see it, wouldn't you. :P So never mind.)
Good selection of the changes the editions flip flopped through over the ages. There are way more than anyone thought...
And here's 5 hours of Darth Vader Yule Log. Naturally.
You're not alone. I was something of a punk at the time and scowled ferociously at such populist nonsense. I have however seen one or two of the more recent things as it would have been churlish to let my wife go on her own. I didn't enjoy them. One of them contained Jar Jar Binks. The things you do for love.
I saw it a couple of weeks ago. You've missed nothing, apart from some Peter Cushing / Alec Guiness nostalgia. Zap zap noises in space, quasi-religious powers through blood lines. Bollocks like that.
I watched (under some duress) Episode 1 after that. It was awful, just awful.
Reviews are praising the new one. Hopefully it's a better film.
"My brother's other half not only hasn't seen any of the SW movies, she adamantly refuses to watch them"
I assume your brother does like Star Wars (otherwise its a bit of a pointless post), and here I am with a woman who loves Star Wars, while I don't. The Joke God in the sky does like his petty torments. Still, I love her dearly, and her lovely big bottom, so I will endure this new film bravely.
I'm fine with all the special edition changes except Han not shooting first, as it messes up his narrative development. His was the redemption story - a rogue and a smuggler, you're supposed to think that this is a dangerous man that Luke and Obi Wan are having to trust here. The kind to shoot first, who's only out for himself and the money he can make to pay off the debts he owes to gangsters.
That's where he comes from, so when he shows up at the end to help save the day, after apparently taking his money and leaving, it's meant to be a surprise. If he wasn't a bit of a bad guy to begin with then it's no surprise when he shows up to play the good guy at the end.
.... with original theatrical versions on DVD for the win.
Decided to get my son into Star Wars last year so showed him the originals rather than the specials. Hadn't watched that version for a while and it reminded me of just how good the visuals were for 1977, and how well they have aged compared to some of the CGI in Phantom Menace.
Tickets booked for the cinema on Saturday morning for The Force Awakens. Can't wait :)
The issue with the special editions is they didn't know when to stop:
1. Digital restoration - OK
2. Tweaking the ropier effects (e.g. removing visible wires, fixing mismatched contrast levels, matting issues) - OK
3. Fixing some janky edits and establishing shots by replacing them or inserting some additional short sections (e.g. extra shots of wampa in snow cave) - OK
4. Replacing some poor model and composite shots with CG (e.g. X-wing attacks) - OK
5. Using alternate takes or dialog in places - OK
6. Adding a light touch of CG to certain scenes - OK
7. Adding gratuitous animals, bots, ships and other noise to fill corners of every scene - HMMM
8. Adding gratuitous exploding planet rings not once, not twice but three times - HMMM
9. Totally replacing the music and CG in Jabba's palace and at the end for Ewok celebration - HMMM
10. CG Jabba the Hutt - NO
11. Greedo shoots first - NO
I expect most people's line would be around 7 or 8. But they turned it all the way up to 11.
I'm not a rabid fan, but...up to 7, yup. 8, well, take it or leave it.
Didn't mind the added galactic celebs, but the original music I preferred. The idea of Han and jabba meeting Jabba was okay, but the CG Jabba looked like a slug who'd just had salt poured on him. Nope, didn't buy that, if they couldn't make him look as he did in Return, they shouldn't have bothered
11. No, No, No, No, No!!!
Fine, Lucas has the opportunity to tinker with his films. But the question isn't if what he's done is *right*, it's rather whether what he's done is *good*. The answer, with a couple of very minor exceptions, is "absolutely not". Not because of some purist vision holding the originals up as unalloyed masterpieces, because they weren't, but because almost everything he has added has detracted from what's happening on the screen, or was so bad that it was left on the editing room floor in the first place for a reason. Less is often more in cinema, and that's certainly true here.
On the whole I don't mind the special editions - I thought I was a hardcore fan, but after taking all the effort to try the de-specialised editions, I found I did not actually care. The film stock cleanup in particular is outstanding.
If we take it as read that the more childish elements (the diplodocus like scene in Mos Eisley) shouldn't have been included, most of my objections are based on changing characters beyond what they should be (Han, Jabba). I thought the changes to Bespin were unrealistic for what Lando describes as a city 'too small' to attract mining guild attention, but on looking closer the city was just as large in the original - only lacking in exterior shots. I wonder on a similar vein, just how large Mos Eisley really should be..
Can't say I'm happy with replacing Jabba and Yoda puppeteering with CGI - wasn't needed in many cases. Likewise, when Vader dies his ghost should most definitely be David Prowse - Vader has to be at least thirty odd, not a teenager, when he dies.
The original death star and planet explosions were awful; I'm glad they were changed in the Special Edition. Biggs, however, should have been there from the start. It adds local context to the film, and it's not necessary to have his Tattoine leaving scene (not seen that, yet). Luke had already spoken about his desire to leave Tattooine, and that all his friends are doing so, so it isn't a shock to see him.
Oh yes, the polar monster in Empire should have been left as-is. It loses tension in the special edition.
Personally I hate the singing at the end of Jedi, but I suppose that's just my opinion that it's naff..
I'd also like to point that some of the context of the SE release's changes is being forgotten: these were released to the cinemas just before the first movie in the new trilogy. CGI Yoda and Jabba make a lot more sense in that context as the alternative would be a very jarring change.
These movies were always aimed at kids first and foremost. Nostalgic adults were never the target market, despite their staggeringly selfish sense of entitlement that suggests otherwise.
Kids in the late '90s were used to CGI effects. In these prequels, Yoda leaps about the screen during fight scenes in a way no puppeteer could possibly replicate. Having him appear as a glorified Muppet in what is supposed to be a sequel to those films just wouldn't look right.
Yes, to us it'd be fine, but that's because we're old enough to remember, and understand, the context. But the target audience of those prequels didn't grow up with motion controlled models -- something that, frankly few special effects teams ever got right. (By far the best was Derek Meddings, of Thunderbirds fame.)
Lucas kept tinkering with these movies precisely because CGI technology itself is still a moving target. Only in recent years has the technology's rising curve begun to level out. We're pretty much at the point where anything you can imagine can be filmed now.
And Lucas was a pioneer of technology in cinema, pushing the THX certification system to ensure cinemas could produce audio decently. (RoTJ was the first of the Star Wars films to use it.) He also created LucasArts, ILM, Pixar (in its original form), and was clearly much more interested in the techniques of moviemaking than in storytelling itself. Lucas' most successful franchises are basically pastiches of 1940s Republic serials.
If Lucas was the movie industry's Bill Gates, then Spielberg was its Steve Jobs.
Correct order to watch the films is 4,5,6. Fuck the prequels.They were poorly envisioned, poorly executed, horribly acted, and generally boring to watch.
Oh, and sorry, but best stop motion award goes to Ray Harryhausen. :)
Yes, kids of the 90's and beyond were used to CGI. However, that doesn't mean that older filming techniques don't have merit and aren't enjoyable to watch. My kids, born in the 2000's, LOVE the original Star Wars movies, can't stand the prequels, and thoroughly enjoy watching older sci-fi/fantasy films that use the techniques of their day. Remember, folks, effects don't make a movie. Good writing and acting always win in the end. This is something Lucas didn't realize when he made the prequels. They were effects exhibitions with some sort of plot thrown in just because.
What Lucas has done to the originals is something that I don't think has been done ever to that degree on any other film. Restoration is fantastic. Color correction is fantastic. Special directors cuts are fine (as long as the originals are available) Leave the rest alone.
Imagine if someone went back and started screwing about with Clint Eastwood Spaghetti westerns? They were made on a very low budget, but are incredible films. But you know, we had to make it better because we wanted more at the time. We should add more towns people and horses (digital of course). And make the towns bigger. And his horse should be different. And add dialog. And and.
Or perhaps we should go back and 'fix' 2001? Those antiquated AT&T video phones aren't how it is today so we should put high res images there instead. And the space station, well, we could make that look cooler.
Forbidden Planet. That animated monster is weak. We should replace it with a CGI version and give it better lines.And the set pieces are dated. Let's put modern designs in there and real plants.
Star Trek. you know, big toggle switches don't look futuristic enough .lets digitize the whole thing. And re-shoot all the exterior scenes too. And we have smart phones, not flip communicators. Let's swap those out too.
Me, I'll stick to my laser disc copies and hope that TFA is as good as everyone is saying.
May The Force be With You!
"...they belong to George Lucas. "
Tsk. You were doing
so almost well until there. Fuck no they don't. Not once he released them - from then on, they belong to the collective memory of everyone who ever saw them as originals, and if Lucas later decides to fuck them sideways that's his choice, but hell if I have to bend over and let him do the same to my childhood memories. As far as I'm concerned, only three Star Wars movies exist, and they're called the "despecialized edition".
But here’s the thing: no matter what I think, these are not my movies, they belong to George Lucas.
Audiences aren't slaves to artists. There's no justification for subordinating reception to the whims of creators, particularly changes across multiple editions, and particularly in the case of film, which - as the article points out - is very much a group effort.
The opinion of every audience is just as justified as the director's. Some will be more nuanced, more sophisticated, more critically alert; but none are inherently privileged.
What's the big deal? The first three are old films, suitable for pre-teens. The subsequent ones were an embarrassment that should be forgotten and it sounds like the latest one is great - if you're a pre-teen to mid-teen.
As for the hordes of post-teens. I don't get it. Even a most basic education should require a suspension of disbelief that would give you a nose bleed! And the schmaltzy plot lines and cynical merchandising...
At the end of the day, it's a story - just about!
There's surprisingly few things I didn't like in the Special Editions. I love the extra graphics -- that scene of the Jawa Sandcrawler against a spectacular sunset -- and the extra scenes do add to the universe (even meeting Jabba in Star Wars).
I certainly can't tolerate a couple: Han shot first because he was *that good* -- a central part of his character; Haydn Christensen looks dumb enough in the movies he was paid for, why on Earth would we want to see him again?!
But what really baffles me is the bits they *didn't* fix:
Why is Luke's lightsaber white on the Falcon in Star Wars? Everyone knows it should be blue.
And why does most of the battle with the Emperor in Jedi look like it's been pulled off a VHS tape?
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