"The Battle For Star Wars' Soul - Collin Kelley reviews the Star Wars DVDs
© 2004 Collin Kelley
Fanatics get up in arms -- for no reason --
over DVD release
am a Star Wars purist. The
original three films, Star Wars,
Empire Strikes Back and Return
of the Jedi, are
enough to sustain me. I hate the prequels; I don't play video games; fan
fiction is creepy; and the "worlds" created by a legion of sci-fi
authors attempting to extend the Star
Wars franchise bore the hell out of me (except for the first one, Alan
Dean Foster's excellent Splinter of the Mind's Eye, where he
has Luke and Leia getting horizontal before they realize - oops -
they're brother and sister).
when creator/director George Lucas announced that he was finally releasing
the original trilogy on DVD, I was overjoyed. This was all I needed. Then
rumors started creeping in that he had tinkered with the films: adding new
scenes, making Greedo shoot at Han first in the cantina, super-imposing
Hayden Christensen at the end of Return
of the Jedi. Basically, he was erasing the original films in all of
their 1970s flawed glory. Lucas said he would not put the original cut on
the DVDs, because he believed those were inferior and not the
"complete" films he wanted to make. "The originals are on VHS,"
Lucas said in one interview. "If you want them on DVD, you can burn them
on to disks." Thanks, George.
had already toyed with the original trilogy back in the late 90s when he
released the 20th anniversary editions into theaters. He
layered in more CGI work, more elaborate matte paintings, made the
explosions bigger, cleared up the weak battle sounds. The most notable
change was in Star Wars (which
Lucas had started calling Chapter
IV: A New Hope in the run up to the release of the prequels) with the
addition of more scenes on Luke's home planet of Tatooine and the port
city of Mos Eisley. These were basically computer generated scenes of the
city and its many creatures. I could live with that. I didn't like
seeing Jabba the Hut show up to talk to Han Solo, slithering on the ground
and looking fairly small in comparison to the Jabba we see in Return
of the Jedi. Still, no big whoop. Theatrical re-releases of The
Empire Strikes Back and Return
of the Jedi remained pretty much unscathed except for cleaning up
battle sequences and better sound.
DVDs were a different story all together. After the Internet exploded with
fans demanding the originals on DVD (a petition signed by more than 60,000
fans was sent to Lucas demanding their beloved un-molested versions), and
the rumor that a scene of Jimmy Smits as Bale Organa (Princess Leia's
adopted father) screaming in horror as Alderaan is destroyed had been
inserted in...ahem...A New Hope,
had me ready to boycot the DVDs as well.
me put this in perspective. When I was a kid, I didn't even want to see Star
Wars. I was eight years old when the first film came out and had never
been exposed to science fiction. What I wanted to see was Smokey
and the Bandit, which had been filmed near my family's home. I had
seen Burt Reynolds and Sally Field sitting in the TransAm getting ready to
film a chase scene. The day we were going to see Smokey
and the Bandit, my childhood friend Chad had spent the night and
begged to go see Star Wars instead.
I protested, probably pouted and stamped my feet, but my ever proper
parents said the polite thing to do was see my friend's choice since he
was company. I know my parents still rue the day they made that decision. Star
Wars had me hook, line, and sinker from the opening credits. I had to
have EVERY toy made, every action figure, coloring book, promotional
glasses sold at Burger King, etc. I nearly sent my parents to the poor
house buying merchandise. Serves them right.
original Star Wars films have
remained a childhood touchstone for me. They still thrill me like nothing
else (although Return of the Jedi is
pretty damn weak -- and I hate those Ewoks), and I even managed to save
some of my action figures and toys. Drawn like a tractor beam, I was at
Borders on the day the DVDs were released and went home with the
widescreen set. Why did they even bother with a "full-screen" pan and
scan version? Wake up, George. I watched the three films in order over a
long weekend, and my review? They are still like nothing else. Yes, there
is more CGI, more explosions, Greedo shoots first, Hayden Christensen
shows up at the end of Return of the Jedi, and the Emperor gives some new dialogue in Empire
Strikes Back that helps tie this trilogy to the prequels. Thankfully,
there is no Jimmy Smits. The films are still brilliant; they look and
sound better than ever and the "new stuff" does not distract from the
experience of the "originals."
only bitch I really have with the four-DVD set is that the "bonus
material" disc is a bit bloated. It's bizarre to see other people
screen-testing for the lead roles, including a horrible Terri Nunn reading
for Leia. She made a wise choice by turning to music and becoming the lead
singer for Berlin. The long documentary is fascinating and a must-see, but
Lucas gives away too much from the final prequel Revenge
of the Sith, by showing Hayden Christensen being put into the Darth
Vader costume. Less is more, Georgie, less is more.
Lucas said the films now feel "complete" to him. Luckily, his need for completion hasn't marred the legend that is Star Wars.
Collin Kelley is an award-winning playwright, poet, and journalist. Visit his site at http://www.collinkelley.com/.
© 2004 SubtleTea Productions All Rights Reserved