So George Lucas finally bit the bullet and decided to release the original STAR WARs trilogy on DVD. That's fantastic, no? I mean, finally, after years of waiting, we can finally have digital, pristine, unfading copies of the original three movies that captured our hearts over twenty years ago. Everything is peachy and birds are singing and the world just became a better place, right?
You see, we're not getting the original STAR WARS trilogy on DVD, despite what Lucasfilm and their gang of cronies would have you believe. Nope, we're getting the laaaame "Special Editions", the versions released in 1997 that supposedly captured George Lucas's "original vision" for the trilogy. Unfortunately, Lucas's "original vision" is a lot suckier than we would have ever expected, and it left the vast majority of STAR WARS fans screaming for the versions they grew up with to come back.
Now, don't get me wrong: there are a few positives to come out of the Special Editions. Some technical glitches have been fixed, some antiquated effects were polished, and the print looks more crisp and vibrant. There's also a scene with Luke Skywalker and Biggs Darklighter from the first of the trilogy, A NEW HOPE, that had been completely cut out from the original print and restored in the Special Edition. It's important that we know who the hell Biggs is, because otherwise the death of random Rebel pilot #7 getting emotional theme music just leaves you scratching your head. Of course, they still left out the scene from earlier in the movie, before Biggs goes off to join the Rebels, that better illustrates them as old pals, but it was probably a boring scene anyway. But the fact of the matter is that for every tiny little detail used to improve the trilogy, there was a glaring change that took away from the original films' majesty.
What I've decided to do here is look at some of those big ones: the alterations made to the STAR WARS trilogy in the Special Editions that make the films far inferior to their original versions. Here are the top ten examples, in order of appearance, that illustrate my point.
THE "NEW AND IMPROVED" MOS EISLEY.
One of the first noticeable differences in the two versions of the trilogy is the enhancements made to the spaceport town of Mos Eisley on Tattooine. As we approach the town, there are all kinds of shiny new things to catch our eyes. There are ASP droids, not originally in the trilogy. There are little flying droids. There are dozens more Stormtroopers lining the streets. There are new beasts and more interaction with the ones that were there before. There's Dash Rendar's ship, The Outrider, from "Shadows of the Empire". And the end result of all this new stuff? It's too much shit. It's distracting, it's corny, and it shows how much of a whore Lucas is for selling his own merchandise. It's like "Well, we've got these Shadows of the Empire and Expanded Universe toys on the shelf, but little kids don't read the books, so let's make sure to put 'em in the movie to sell more toys!" Whatever. It's ridiculous. A little enhancement goes a long way, and too much enhancement isn't a tough goal to reach.
GREEDO SHOOTS FIRST.
Okay, you're George Lucas. You've created the most popular trilogy of movies in history. Part of the reason for that popularity is the cool characters. In particular, you've got the rugged and heroic space pirate Han Solo. Now, let's say you have a scene between said character and a Bounty Hunter who aims to kill him. Would you say that it makes the spiffy pirate guy seem
cooler if, say, he outsmarted the creepy Bounty Hunter and blew his head off first, or rather if the Bounty Hunter shot first, missed, and then the pirate fires back in self-defense. Yeah, I thought so. In the original edition, Han Solo shoots first. It rules. It got cheers from crowds. So Lucas "fixes" this by having him be a trembling coward who only fires as a last resort. My theater actually booed the scene. Lucas says that the new version better represents his "vision of the scene". If that's the case, then I'm wondering if Lucas also originally indicated for Darth Vader to have a puppy. Would have been about the same for dismantling the coolness of a character.
JABBA THE HUTT IN A NEW HOPE.
One of the things I was looking forward to the most when the announcement of the Special Editions was originally made was the fact that the scene with Jabba the Hutt in Mos Eisley that had been cut from the original print was to be restored. This scene could only improve things, said I. Unfortunately, I was quite underwhelmed. For starters, Jabba the Hutt just doesn't look right. He's not nearly as fat and disgusting as he is in RETURN OF THE JEDI. He's quite a sprightly slug here, moving about like a star athlete. I guess you could make some argument that he's supposed to be younger here, but he looks the same in the THE PHANTOM MENACE, and that's supposed to be a forty year difference as opposed to the three years between A NEW HOPE and JEDI. There's also the fact that they add so much slapstick to the scene. Where Han Solo stepped on a cable in the original footage (which featured a fat Irish guy playing the part of Jabba,) they now show him stepping on Jabba's tail, which causes him to bug his eyes out like a cartoonish frog. Sure, there was a funny moment or two in the scene (Jabba asking why Han fried poor Greedo and Han reusing the "sometimes I get boarded" line) but overall it served no purpose other than to give the CG animators something to put on their resumes.
BOBA FETT MUGS FOR THE CAMERA.
At the end of the Jabba scene, an ominous bounty hunter dressed in colorful armor appears and looks directly at the audience. He's Boba Fett, the guy who captured Solo in the second movie. When THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was first released, Fett was an afterthought; a mere peripheral character who was later scripted to die like a little bitch at the hands of a blind man. But the character took on a life of its own when he garnered a cult following. As a result, Lucas decided to cowtow to these rabid fans by inserting him in a gratuitous cameo here (and later went so far as to give the guy a back story in the prequels.) Now don't get me wrong -- I'm a bit of a Fett fan myself, but it doesn't stop me from realizing that the guy's mystique was the majority of his charm. In other words, we didn't want a backstory, and we sure didn't need him acting like some drunk guy who's trying to get his face on the local news.
RING AROUND THE EXPLODING PLANETS.
Digital enhancements can be a plus, but they can also make you roll your eyes. Take, for instance, the destruction of Princess Leia's home planet of Alderaan in A NEW HOPE. I was perfectly content with the old-fashioned explosion from the original trilogy, but Lucas said "that ain't good enough". In the Special Editions, he enhanced this explosion with a shock wave ring blasting away from the planet. You probably said to yourself, "Where have I seen that before?" I'll tell you where.: STAR TREK VI, when the Klingon moon Praxis gets blown up. The day that Lucas starts lifting ideas from Star Trek movies is the day he first starts showing signs of being creatively bankrupt. Lucas wasn't content just to use the effect on Alderaan, either. Both Death Stars being blown up were given the same effect.
WINDOWS IN BESPIN.
As we move on to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, we see the film least altered of the trilogy. The reason behind this is simply because it's the superior film of the trilogy to begin with. There were a few minor alterations, though, one being the "new and improved" Cloud City on Bespin. Particularly, the addition of windows within the city to allow for more views of the colorful backdrop. Now, I'm not totally against the idea of adding these windows, but if you're going to do it, at least try and maintain a modicum of continuity. The windows have a "now you see it, now you don't" thing going on, where they appear and then disappear within seconds.
LUKE SCREAMS AS HE FALLS.
Like I said, EMPIRE has fewer changes made to it, but this one's a doooozy. You see, there's this huge scene at the film's climax where Darth Vader reveals to Luke Skywalker his true identity. Luke, knowing that his father has been consumed by evil, refuses to join him. In fact, he'd rather take his chances leaping into the unknown than join his father. Or, at least, that's how it was in the original trilogy. In the Special Edition, Luke slips. At least that's what the distressed scream he lets out as he falls would have you believe. Either way, it kills the momentum of the scene as dead as Alec Guinness.
THE NEW MAX REBO BAND SONG.
The song performed at Jabba's Palace by Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band in the original STAR WARS editions, entitled "Lapti Nek", is utterly cheesy. And frankly, that's the way us STAR WARS fans like it. We love the Muppety™ special effects and the goofy song with the chorus that sounds like it's going "Aaaaabe Vigoda!" over and over again. We like the three-piece band consisting of the funny elephant guy on synthesizer, the lumpy guy with the flute, and the long-lipped singer chick with exposed alien boobies. We don't need no Computer-generated dancing and screaming hairy thing joining in on vocals. We don't need no 27-piece orchestra backing them up. We don't need no new song called "Jedi Rocks". We don't need no steeenking Vaudeville numbers in our STAR WARS movies, thankyouverymuch.
THE SARLACC HAS A BEAK.
Am I grasping at straws here? Perhaps. I mean, the addition of a mouth to the creature that dwells in the Great Pit of Carkoon doesn't seem like a big deal in the long run, but it was one of the things I really had to shake my head at when I first saw it. Part of what made the Sarlacc monster so menacing was the fact that you couldn't really tell what was in that pit. There were tentacles to pull you in, but it was just this huge mysterious gaping hole that had no visible end. The idea of being slowly digested by the Sarlacc's digestive juices, as described by C-3PO, is much more chilling than being snapped in half by a beak. Again, it may seem like a nitpick, but it's a perfect example of adding things where they just weren't necessary. And because I didn't have anywhere else to put it, I'd also like to use this spot to mention how fucking retarded it was to change Han Solo's cool line "It's all right. Trust me. Don't move" into the ridiculous "It's all right. I can see a lot better." The smart-assed Han Solo is toned down even at the point where our hero's fate seems to be sealed.
NEW EWOK SONG.
As much as STAR WARS fans bich about the Ewoks, we realize that they are indeed unavoidable. And over the years, we've come to enjoy our little victory celebration song at the end of the trilogy. Sing it with me: Yub-yub, ee-cha, yub-yub. So what they hell do they do in the Special Editions, but replace the song with some stupid Yanni-sounding new age thing that, if at all possible, sucks worse than the original Ewok song ever dreamed of sucking. I think what cheeses me off the most is that they took the time and effort to delete the Ewok song, why not just delete the Ewoks altogether? If you're gonna change things, at least change the things that need to be changed.
So with all of this said, I'll go ahead and address the main point here: George Lucas can release all the DVD versions of his "Special (and by Special, I mean "special" in the way you describe child that drools a lot and bangs its head on doors voluntarily) Edition" he wants, and he won't get a dime from me for 'em. There are tons of people excited about this release announcement, but I ain't one of them. I'll stick with my VHS copies of the original trilogies. I think I have enough copies of them to get me through a few decades.