Reconsidering “Star Wars”: Classic Trilogy Edition (Part 1)

As stated on Monday, my wife and I decided to rewatch all 6 Star Wars movies as a lead-up to tonight’s screening of Episode VII: The Force Awakens. As you can see, my opinion of the prequels grew with this newest viewing. Then it was time to watch the original trilogy.

Let’s be honest, folks: if you’re a Star Wars fan, the original trilogy occupies a sweet space of love and nostalgia in your heart. Fans of my generation remember seeing the movies, if not during the original release, at least on home video or TV. We played with the action figures and vehicles, or re-enacted the stories with our other toys. (I had more than one G.I.Joe that was encased in blue Play-dough “carbonite.”) The classic trilogy was always this perfect thing–both “of its time” and timeless.

This is part of the reason why the prequels engendered such strong feelings, both positive and negative. It was like renovating and expanding the house you grew up in as a child. Sometimes, different is good, but it can also be strange and uncomfortable.

If you’re one of these types of fans–fans who perhaps deny the existence of the prequels because they change the story too much–it may be good for you to take another look at the classic films. To pull off the visor of nostalgia and see them with your…own…eyes. What you’ll find is that they actually still hold up pretty well–even if you start to notice the imperfections.

So, to begin, we must again deal with the elephants in the room, which have to do with George Lucas’s revisions to the films:

First–as in, when Han shot. Easily the biggest complaint about every edition of “A New Hope” (ugh, I just can’t–look, I’m just going to call the first film Star Wars, okay?) is that Lucas decided to change the scene between Han and Greedo in the Mos Eisley cantina so that Greedo shoots first and Han shoots in self-defense. Look, I don’t care why George Lucas decided to change it: no amount of digital manipulation changes the cold facts. As you watch the scene, it is undeniable that Han is fully prepared to murder Greedo in cold blood–he pulls his gun from its holster and prepares to fire. Even though (in the updated editions) Greedo gets a shot off first, it does not negate this fact.

han meme

Change the special effects if you want, George, but Han fully intended to shoot first. Always has, always will. End of story.

Second–the rest of Lucas’s revisions. I have argued many times that the ONLY way to watch the original trilogy is the mid-1990’s VHS editions that were digitally remastered but otherwise unaltered. I still own a functioning VCR primarily for this purpose. However, since we watched the prequels on Blu-ray, I decided to go ahead and check out the Blu-ray versions of the original trilogy. And folks, they are pretty, no question about that. But they are also very different in terms of visuals. Some of the changes are subtle, like the skeletons of dead creatures half-buried in the Tatooine dunes. Others are in-your-face and noisy, like the abundance of animal life in the exterior Mos Eisley sequences.

But I’m going to admit something that I’ve never admitted before, and may never admit again: I actually like a lot of the changes. I didn’t think I would. But I do. 

Would I remove some of the updates? Yes, definitely. For example:

  • Most of the creatures on Tatooine. The lizard-mounts that the stormtroopers ride are cool, but a lot of that stuff just makes the Mos Eisley sequences too busy. It doesn’t seem as much like a desolate Outer Rim planet if there is so much activity there.
  • The whole scene with Jabba and Han on Tatooine, because it completely undercuts the impact of Jabba in Return of the Jedi. It was a good idea to cut it in the first place, and it should have stayed a funny little bit of trivia.
  • The extra musical numbers in Jabba’s palace, in Jedi. Pointless padding.
  • I miss hearing “Yub Nub” at the end of Jedi, and the song will always hold a special place in my heart.

That said, some of the changes/additions are fantastic, because they add a richness to the experience and provide visual and aural continuity with the prequels.

  • The space battles are more intense. It feels more like a war and less like random skirmishes.
  • I actually like the places where they replace the blank walls in the background with windows revealing the outside world. This is particularly cool in locations like Cloud City.
  • There are some great subtle changes as well–like changing Boba Fett’s voice to match Jango’s voice (since he’s a clone of his “father”).

And I’ll go ahead and say it: the “NOOO” at the end of Jedi, when Vader chucks the Emperor over the railing, actually works for me. (The first one, anyway. They could have stuck with just the one.)

So there you have it: Han intended to murder Greedo in cold blood (no matter how it’s been modified), and the updates in later editions of the classic trilogy are not all bad. (I’ll still watch my VHS copies, though–but purely for nostalgia reasons.)

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can move on to stray observations and bullet-points… However, this post is already over-long, so let’s save those for tomorrow.

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One last note: If you are not one of the happy few who have tickets for tonight’s showings of The Force Awakens, you may be concerned about hearing spoilers before you get to see the film.

Well, I’ll give you my person guarantee that, here at the 4thDaveBlog, there will be no spoilers or detailed comments about Star Wars: Episode VII until Monday, December 28th, when I’ll post a response/review about the film. That’s ten whole days. If you haven’t seen it by then, well, I’m sorry. Of course, if you want to message me directly on Facebook or Twitter, I’ll be happy to geek out about it with you before then.

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Your Turn: Do you have strong feelings about the Special Edition changes to the original Star Wars trilogy?  

Good… Good, I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Type your comments. Strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!  

…Um, what? Sorry, not sure what that was.  Anyway, please feel free to comment below. Thanks!

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