Aside from the words “Jar-Jar” and “Jake Lloyd”, there are few words that instantly rile more original Star Wars fans than “Special Editions”. The 1997 theatrical re-releases, where George Lucas updated his then twenty-year-old films with new CGI special effects technology, actually continued a tradition he had started as far back as the early eighties, when he officially added the title card “Episode IV: A New Hope” to the original Star Wars for one of its first theatrical re-releases back in 1982. (The Empire Strikes Back was also re-released in 1982 along with Raiders of the Lost Ark, meaning you could see those movies as well as a ton of other sci-fi classics that summer, thereby officially making it the best movie summer of all time.)
But are the Special Editions really that terrible? Aside from a few things that are almost unarguably bad, like Greedo shooting his gun at Han Solo in the cantina (forget “shooting first,” he’s not supposed to shoot at all), the original CGI Jabba, and that stupid new droid when they enter Mos Eisley, a lot of the improvements made to the films, especially A New Hope, are actually for the better. YouTube user Marcelo Zuniga has made a comparison video of all the changes Lucas made to the original Star Wars trilogy from the early eighties to the ’97 Special Editions and the 2004 DVD’s to the most recent 2011 Blu-ray versions.
Here you can see how the sound mix and color timing has improved over the years, how the lightsabers are more vibrant now than they were in ’77, and how greatly improved the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope is compared to the original version. And while CGI Jabba might never please some fans, it is far less embarrassing now than the original ’97 version. Of course, due their incredible historical significance if nothing else, Lucas should absolutely release the original versions of each film in their best presentation possible, but these comparison videos show that, despite what many my think, many of the changes Lucas made actually do improve the films.
Check out part one of Zuniga’s videos on the changes to the original film above, as well as part two of A New Hope and the full videos covering the changes made to The Empire Stikes Back and Retrun of the Jedi below.
HT: Marcelo Zuniga