If you don't self identify as a Star Wars fan you may not have noticed that the Star Wars you can buy today is quite different from the Star Wars that you went to see in the theater as a kid.
To help generate buzz for the Star Wars prequels, and also to celebrate the original films 20th anniversary, a "special edition" of Star Wars was released in 1997. It boasted enhanced audio and film quality. It also featured the (controversial) "enhancements" of many CG elements... a pretty good summary of which can be found
makes a great point about how the special editions of Star Wars was largely an attempt to bring the trilogy of older films up to the visual standard of the newer films, when really what should have happened is the reverse. Hopefully we'll see that happen with the upcoming Episode VII (we have
to be optimistic there).
More modifications by Lucas showed up with every release of the trilogy on home media. 1997 on VHS, 2004 and 2006 on DVD, and ultimately on Bluray in 2011. I won't go over all of these changes as the video in the first link already does a fantastic job with that. What I do want to mention though, is that besides content changes, the actual quality of the films have degraded with subsequent re-releases. The original restoration took place somewhere in the mid-nineties with digital clean-up and noise reduction algorithms. Algorithms which are considered primitive today. They introduced smearing across frames and a loss of detail in some cases:
Elsewhere you can find examples of
And also, and I really have no idea how this ever ended up in an officially released Star Wars Bluray set- but the film is in dire need of color correction. It's just... pink. And it is especially so during laser blasts and light saber fights. Vader's lightsaber is supposed to be red, right?
Lucas has made statements that this is the version of Star Wars that he always envisioned, and that he has absolutely no plans or desire to release what he sees as an inferior product (the unaltered trilogy)... Yes, Disney now owns the rights to the Star Wars universe, but FOX retains the rights to the original film due to a pre-existing legal agreement. It's hard then to imagine that we'll ever get a chance to see Star Wars again as it really should be- cleaned up only so far as to recreate the original theater experience in 1977, 1980, and 1983. Right?
Enter: The Internet. Star Wars has A LOT of fans, and it just goes to show that where there is a high enough demand for something, it will come to exist. A dedicated group with some experience in the area of film collaborated to bring us the closest thing to the originals that exists: The Despecialized editions. :)
I would go in to detail but my commentary would fall short and not do justice to the meticulous work this group put in. Thankfully there is a "making of" video that explains it all:
Suffice to say, their result is amazing. What I especially love though (besides the lack of CG elements of course) is how beautiful the frame looks without distorted colors and artifacts. Please join me as I take a stroll through the first film and call out some of my favorite shots. Enjoy!
What a great way to open a film!
Sounds like there's some trouble brewing...
I love this quick shot, because it says so much about who the rebels are. This guy is past his prime, why is he on the front lines? Because he has to be. The rebels are small in numbers, and outgunned with technology. It's quick and subtle. You don't see stuff like this anywhere in the prequels.
Some awesome use of color here.
As an audience, we love Leia right away starting with this scene.
Not the best father figure out there...
It's the Gandalf archetype!
This man has terrorized the galaxy with his cheek bones.
Another cool shot with some fun color work.
OK, so we all know this scene. The scene where Han shoots Greedo under the table and we get a sense of what his character is like. A rogue who doesn't necessarily play by the rules when he's in a tight spot. Except in the so called "Special" edition of these films, Lucas went back and switched things around so that Greedo shoots first, somehow misses his point-blank range target and hits the wall (...) Han then shoots a half second later, the implication being that Han was only shooting in response (???). I think the idea was that Lucas wanted to make Han more honorable... Or... something. But that change totally destroyed the purpose of this encounter! There was a huge negative response to this from fans. In subsequent versions, Lucas apparently changed his mind and switched it so they both shoot at the same time. It's ridiculous. Anyways, it was thankfully restored to the original in this version.
Just for fun, here's a side by side comparison the 1997 and 2004 versions of this scene. If you look closely you can see where they digitally moved Ford over about 4 inches to screen left when Greedo fires:
Hey, did you ever notice that where the Jedi and Dark side are concerned, the Jedi tend to favor green or blue lightsabers, whereas the Dark side always uses red? But when we compare the Empire and the Rebels, it's switched around. Is this some sort of implied message that everyone has the potential for good and evil? Or is it just to keep us subconsciously on our toes? Or does it mean nothing at all? Leave me a comment if you have any ideas.
Awesome stop motion figures featured in primary colors!
There's so much visual interest in this shot.
Some nice complementary colors going on here.
I have a deep affection for retro-futuristic computer equipment. Mostly because of the big colorful buttons everywhere.
Such a great shot! We really get a good sense of the size and scale of the Deathstar with moments like this.
Oh hello there.
Even when I was a kid I thought it was cool how the storm troopers in this scene kept a distance from Vader and Obi Wan. Their standoff behavior adds a bit of gravity to what's happening in the foreground.
More non-boring color choices.
I called this shot out because I think the Despecialized team may have missed this one, the clouds look a little magenta to me.
The approach. So good. The way the Deathstar is leaning in gives us everything we need to know about what's happening just by looking at a still frame.
Some great retro wire frame graphics here.
This shot thankfully lacks the holographic globe that was unnecessarily added in the special editions, contributing nothing to the film.
Porkins! There was one added sequence in the special edition that I actually really liked. Here it is:
More beautiful retro graphics.
Did you know that Lucas added something like 5 minutes to the attack on the Deathstar scene in the special edition? Because more is better, right? Riiiiiight???
Heeeerre weeee goooo! By the way, the official industry term for all of that crunchy junk on the surface of the Deathstar is
Great camera angle here, and nice interior to boot.
"Stay on target..."
"Evacuate?! I think you over estimate their chances."
"Use the force Luke... Let go, Luke!"
I'm trying to get a keyboard like this for my desk at work.
I've always loved this explosion. As you have already guessed, the special addition ruins it with an unnecessary shock wave ring thingy. So glad it's gone.
So why didn't Chewbacca get a medal, some sort of futuristic racism? Just because he's an upright dog... Also have you seen the version of this scene without music?
The End. If you liked what you saw here, and you already own Star Wars on DVD, I encourage you to google for the despecialized Star Wars films.Yes, both Empire and Jedi received similar treatments. :)