Changes in Star Wars re-releases
Changes in Star Wars re-releases vary from minor differences in color timing, audio mixing, and take choices to major insertions of new visual effects, additions of characters and dialogue, scene expansions, and replacement of original cast members with newer ones. Though changes were also made to the prequel trilogy, the original trilogy saw the most alteration. Dissatisfied with the original theatrical cuts of the original Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, creator George Lucas altered the films in an attempt to achieve the ideal versions that he could not initially due to limitations of time, budget, and technology.
The first significant changes were made in 1997 with the release of a Special Edition remaster in commemoration of the franchise's twentieth anniversary. These changes were intended to modernize the films and create consistency with the forthcoming prequel trilogy. Additional significant changes were made when the original trilogy was released on DVD in 2004, and such changes tried to further create consistency with the prequel trilogy after the release of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones and in anticipation of Revenge of the Sith. Further changes were made to the films for their Blu-ray release in 2011.
Many changes met criticism and outrage from fans and critics, and many believed that Lucas degraded the original films with the additions. Most controversial is the decision to have Greedo shoot before Han Solo does, which sparked wide usage of the phrase "Han shot first". Other controversial changes include replacing the "Lapti Nek" performance by a puppet Sy Snootles with a longer "Jedi Rocks" performance by a CGI Snootles, having Darth Vader yell "No!" as he kills the Emperor, and replacing Sebastian Shaw as the Force ghost of Anakin Skywalker with Hayden Christensen, who was cast to play Anakin in the prequel films. It was also felt that subsequent changes stripped the Star Wars film of the qualities for which it won Academy Awards. Despite the negative response to many significant changes, critics also felt that many smaller changes were improvements, innocuous, or understandable.
- 1 Background
- 2 Significant changes
- 2.1 Title change to Star Wars
- 2.2 Han shot first
- 2.3 Biggs Darklighter on Yavin IV
- 2.4 Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett in Star Wars
- 2.5 Max Rebo Band
- 2.6 Expansion of Oola's death scene
- 2.7 Addition of Darth Vader's "No!" in Return of the Jedi
- 2.8 Victory celebration in Return of the Jedi
- 2.9 Consistency between original and prequel trilogies
- 3 Response
- 4 References
- 5 External links
The 1977 release of Star Wars was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the United States Library of Congress in 1989. In 2014, the National Film Registry still did not have a copy of the 1977 film; George Lucas refused to submit a copy, stating that he no longer authorized the release of the theatrical version. Lucasfilm offered the altered 1997 Special Edition release, but the Registry refused it as the first published version must be accepted. The Library of Congress, however, received a 35mm print of the film, without the A New Hope subtitle and subsequent alterations, in 1978 as part of the film's copyright deposit.
Star Wars release history
- 1977: Star Wars was theatrically released.
- 1980: The Empire Strikes Back was theatrically released. A 70mm print of the film differed from the more widely distributed 35mm print in takes of dialogue, visual and sound effects, shot choices, and transitions between shots. None of these changes appeared in later releases, with exception of one dialogue change.
- 1983: Return of the Jedi was theatrically released.
- 1985: Star Wars, now subtitled A New Hope, was re-released on VHS and in 1989 released on LaserDisc with an improved audio mix. The LaserDisc release, and the CED videodisc also released, sped the film up by three percent to fit the film onto a single disc. Some releases additionally had minor aspect ratio changes.
- 1993: The original trilogy was released on LaserDisc as "The Definitive Collection". With exception of a THX audio mix, scratch and dirt removal, and color balance changes, it matched the original theatrical releases.
- 1995: The original trilogy was offered on VHS in a "last chance to own the original" campaign before the films were taken off the market in January 1996 and an altered re-release released in 1997.
- 1997: The Special Edition of the original trilogy was released theatrically and to home media for the twentieth anniversary of Star Wars. This release featured the first significant changes, intended to modernize the films and create consistency with the forthcoming prequel trilogy. The original negatives were also digitally restored.
- 1999: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was theatrically released.
- 2002: Episode II – Attack of the Clones was theatrically released.
- 2004: The original trilogy was released on DVD. Further significant alterations were made.
- 2005: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith was theatrically released.
- 2006: Another version of 2004 DVD edition was released. An unaltered version of the trilogy was included on bonus discs; it was same as the 1993 LaserDisc release and was of inferior quality to the restored version.
- 2011: The original and prequel films were released for Blu-ray. Alterations were made to all films.
- 2015: The original and prequel films were released digitally to streaming services. It is identical to the Blu-ray release, except for changes to the opening logos and fanfares.
Title change to Star Wars
The first film was released in 1977 under the title Star Wars. The subtitles Episode IV and A New Hope were retroactively added to the opening crawl in a subsequent release. Accounts differ as to when this change occurred. Some, including Lucasfilm, date the addition to a theatrical re-release on April 10, 1981, while others place it much earlier at the re-release in July 1978. This change was made to bring the original film in line with the titling of its sequel The Empire Strikes Back, which was released in 1980 with the subtitle Episode V.
Han shot first
George Lucas in 2015
In the Star Wars film, Han Solo is cornered in the Mos Eisley Cantina by the bounty hunter Greedo, and the confrontation ends with Han shooting under the table and killing Greedo. The circumstances of the shot varies between versions of the film. In the original 1977 theatrical release of the film, Han shoots Greedo, and Greedo does not shoot at all. The 1997 Special Edition release of the film alters the scene so that Greedo shoots first and misses, and the scene is altered again in the 2004 DVD release of the film so that Han and Greedo shoot simultaneously.
Lucas stated that he always intended for Greedo to have shot first. He felt that the idea of Han shooting first depicts him as "a cold-blooded killer". This decision sparked objections that it changed Han's moral ambiguity, fundamentally altered his established character, and diminished his transition from antihero to hero; it became one of the most controversial changes to the films.
Biggs Darklighter on Yavin IV
During the production of the Star Wars film, scenes were filmed featuring Biggs Darklighter and his friendship with Luke Skywalker set on Tatooine and at the rebel base on Yavin IV shortly before the attack on the Death Star. The scenes were cut because they were felt to disrupt the pacing of the film, and in the original theatrical release, Biggs is only seen briefly during the attack on the Death Star, in which he dies, and a relationship between Biggs and Luke is never stated. Despite this, Luke reacts strongly to Biggs's death. The 1997 Special Edition of the Star Wars film incorporated the previously deleted scene on Yavin IV. The loss of the scenes at Tatooine and Yavin IV was felt to lessen the significance of Biggs' death, cast Luke's reaction to the death as overly strong, and make the framing of the death as a tragedy confusing. It was felt that the readdition of the Yavin IV scene helped to rectify this issue.
Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett in Star Wars
The original script for the Star Wars film included a scene between Jabba the Hutt and Han Solo, and the scene was filmed with Harrison Ford, playing Solo, and Declan Mulholland, a stand-in for Jabba. Lucas intended to replace Mulholland in post-production with a stop motion character. Due to time limitations and budget constraints, Lucas could not achieve this, and the scene was cut. In the 1997 Special Edition, the scene was reinserted with CGI replacing Mulholland. Because Ford walked too close to Mulholland in the original scene, Han stepping on Jabba's tail, causing Jabba to squeal, was created as a workaround. Boba Fett was also added to the background of the scene. Jabba's design was modified for the 2004 DVD release.
The insertion of this scene into the film was criticized for being superfluous to the previous cantina scene, slowing down the pacing, and failing to move the plot forward. The original 1997 CGI was also described as "atrocious".
Max Rebo Band
The scene in Return of the Jedi in which Jabba the Hutt feeds the dancer Oola to the rancor opens with performance by the Max Rebo Band and its lead singer Sy Snootles. In the original theatrical release, the song is "Lapti Nek", sung for 45 seconds in the fictional language Huttese. The 1997 Special Edition changed the performance to the "less dated" song "Jedi Rocks", which runs nearly 2 minutes.
Owen Good of Polygon, though he understood the desire to update the song, described the "Jedi Rocks" performance as "an overproduced intrusion that takes twice as long to add nothing" and felt that it distracted from the intention of the scene: to establish the trapdoor leading to the rancor and Jabba's deadliness. He also felt that "Lapti Nek" was an overall better song and described the vocal performance in "Jedi Rocks" as difficult to listen to or understand and as having "the volume and vocal fry of a higher pitched Tina Turner but none of the soul". Brian Raftery of Wired wrote that replacing "Lapti Nek", which he praised as a track, was "one of Lucas' most salaciously dumb choices" and described "Jedi Rocks" as a Pointer Sisters "rip-off" and a "soul-free strutter, which is so grating that you can almost hear a tone-deaf Lucas beard-smirking approvingly in the background". Ryan Lambie of Den of Geek! similar noted that change negatively altered the tone of the scene and only "replaced one flawed effect with another", writing: "What was once a low-key yet appealing background moment in the movie’s first act had grown into a literal show-stopper—an in-your-face audio-visual spectacle that literally overshadowed the original hand-made effects".
The puppet used for Sy Snootles was also replaced with CGI in the Special Edition. This was made because, according to producer Rick McCallum, Lucas could not achieve the "large musical number" he envisioned because characters could not move in certain ways, Sy Snootles could not open her mouth to lip sync correctly, and her eyes did not move. Lambie criticized this decision because it removed almost all evidence of puppeteer Timothy D. Rose's work in the film. The 1997 Special Edition also increased the size of the Max Rebo Band from three members to twelve. While Good wrote that this change was inconsequential, Ratery felt that the additions made the scene "overstuffed" and described the CGI as dead on arrival.
Expansion of Oola's death scene
In the theatrical release of Return of the Jedi, Oola's death is filmed from outside the rancor pit: she falls into the pit, and her scream is heard from off-screen. In the 1997 Special Edition, extra shots were inserted depicting her in the pit, including shots where she looks up to the crowd, the pit door being raised, and a shot of her terror. The rancor and Oola as she screams remain off-screen.
Femi Taylor, who played Oola, impressed critics with her ability to reprise the role over a decade later without visible difference. James Whitbrook at io9 praised the additions to the scene, especially in comparison to the decision to bring the wampa on-screen in the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, writing that it teased the rancor well while still keeping the monster a surprise for Luke's later battle with it. Den of Geek! UK, however, criticized the additions as unnecessary and felt that they made the audience familiar with the pit, lessening fear during Luke's scene in the pit.
Addition of Darth Vader's "No!" in Return of the Jedi
At the climax of Return of the Jedi, the Emperor tortures Luke with Force lightning, prompting Darth Vader to throw the Emperor down a chasm and kill him. In the theatrical release and earlier home video releases, Darth Vader watches and acts in silence. The 2011 Blu-ray release adds Darth Vader muttering "No" and then yelling a drawn out "No!", creating a parallel with his similar cry at the end of Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. This addition was described as unnecessary and awful sounding, and it was said to "[take] what was once emotional and [make] it laughable" and even ruin the film's climax. It was also felt that the addition displayed a distrust in an audience's ability to interpret Vader's emotions. The symmetry created by the parallel was described as "clumsy" and was felt to mock the scene in the prequel.
Victory celebration in Return of the Jedi
Return of the Jedi ends with a scene of the Rebel Alliance and a village of Ewoks on Endor celebrating the death of the Emperor and victory over the Empire. The original theatrical release of the film featured the song "Ewok Celebration", also known as "Yub Nub", playing over the celebration. The 1997 Special Edition release of the film replaced "Ewok Celebration" with score composed by John Williams titled "Victory Celebration", and the scene was lengthened to include shots of celebration on the planets Coruscant, Bespin, and Tatooine. The 2004 DVD release further added a shot set on Naboo, in which a Gungan is given a line of dialogue.
Consistency between original and prequel trilogies
In The Empire Strikes Back, the Emperor appears via hologram. In the original theatrical 1980 release, he was portrayed by a woman under heavy makeup and voiced by Clive Revill. The Emperor was later played by Ian McDiarmid in Return of the Jedi, and McDiarmid reprised the role for the prequel trilogy. To reflect this, the 2004 DVD release of The Empire Strikes Back replaced the woman with McDiarmid and new dialogue was written.
Boba Fett's dialogue in The Empire Strikes Back was originally recorded by Jason Wingreen. Subsequently, Attack of the Clones revealed Boba to be a clone of Jango Fett, played by Temuera Morrison. To reflect this, Morrison re-recorded Boba's lines for the 2004 DVD release of the film.
At the end of Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader is redeemed by killing the Emperor to save Luke Skywalker's life, then dies of his injuries shortly after, and appears to Luke as Anakin Skywalker alongside the Force ghosts of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi. In the 1983 theatrical release, Sebastian Shaw plays this Force ghost in addition to an unmasked Vader. Later, Hayden Christensen was cast as Anakin in the prequel trilogy films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. To reflect this, the 2004 DVD release of Return of the Jedi controversially replaced Shaw's appearance as the Force ghost with Christensen.
In the film The Phantom Menace, the character of Yoda received a major alteration. In the original 1999 theatrical release of the film, Yoda had been portrayed by a puppet; but for the 2011 Blu-ray release, the puppet was replaced in favor of portraying the character with the same CGI-model used for the other two prequels Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The change was done to create consistency with the other prequels, because The Phantom Menace's puppet looked too different from the other depictions of the character.
The first Star Wars won the Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, and the Special Edition changes to the sound mixing, sound effects, and visual effects were felt to have "stripped the film of every aspect that it had won its Academy Awards for".
Lance Ulanoff of Mashable, who in 2015 viewed the original theatrical print of Star Wars submitted to the Library of Congress, notes merit to Lucas' belief that technology did not allow him to achieve his vision, noting that a visible marquee around Leia's ship is "so jarring that it temporarily pulls me out of the film" because it is "lack[ing] the seamless quality [he has] come to expect from sci-fi and fantasy". Despite this, he "hate[s] each and every one" of the later added CGI effects and describes positively his ability to view the original print despite "Lucas's meddling".
Dave Tach writing for Polygon noted minor changes, such as adding windows to Cloud City on Bespin, adding sparks to Jango Fett's jetpack, or replacing the original Emperor hologram with McDiarmid, as "innocuous" ones that "angered, to a close approximation, nobody" because "there was a solid logic behind those amendments".
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