I’ve spent the last week re-living my childhood.
Like many others, I had been counting down the days until the release of the Star Wars trilogy on DVD. I pre-ordered a copy from Amazon. It showed up last Monday.
Since then I’ve been following the adventures of Luke Skywalker in gloriously pristine sound and vision. If I could go back in time and tell my younger self that one day I would actually own copies of these films in a format superior to that projected in my local cinama… well, my younger self would probably be more interested in my time machine.
The DVD boxed set comes complete with a documentary called Empire Of Dreams which takes a candid look at the rocky road that George Lucas travelled when he was making these films. It becomes clear that the films are actually filled with many compromises.
Being the consumate perfectionist (or meddler, as some would have it), Lucas has taken the opportunity to add a few nips and tucks on the DVD versions. These are the changes that I noticed:
In A New Hope, when the stormtroopers are searching the captured Millenium Falcon, one of them now says "there’s no-one here". There is also an audible clunk in the infamous scene where the stormtrooper bangs his head. This ties in nicely with the easter egg in Attack Of The Clones when Jango Fett, source of the stormtroopers, bangs his head when boarding his ship, Slave One.
Speaking of which, in The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett is now voiced by Temuera Morrison who played Jango in Attack Of The Clones. Also, the engine sound of Slave One has been updated to match the sound from Attack Of The Clones. The holographic Emperor has been completely re-shot, this time with Ian McDiarmid. The dialogue in this scene has also been subtly changed.
Perhaps the best change in The Empire Strikes Back is that an addition from the Special Edition has now been removed. Luke no longer screams like a girl when he steps off the gantry in Cloud City. That always bothered me even more than Greedo shooting first.
The changes to Return Of The Jedi come right at the end. Naboo is now included amongst the planets shown celebrating the defeat of the Empire. Finally, the spectral Anakin Skywalker seen standing with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda is played by Hayden Christensen (or at least that his head comped onto Sebastian Shaw’s body).
So there are no big changes. They’re mostly nice little details that are fun to pick out.
It’s been great fun watching the original Star Wars trilogy again. It’s surprising how much resonance the prequels have already added. I know that many people are cynical and dismissive when it comes to the prequels but I think they are succeeding in their aim of adding extra depth to the original films. It really is possible to view the entire thing as Darth Vader’s story which makes the end of Return Of The Jedi even more moving.
Then again, I even like the ewoks. I know that the general concensus is that "they suck" but I loved seeing them in 1983 and even two decades later, I can still view the films with that same sense of wonder.
If nothing else, the release of these films on DVD helps pass the time until the release of George Lucas’s remake of Lost In Translation.
By the way, if you think what I’ve just written is incredibly geeky, James Lileks devotes more pixels to desconstructing the music in a single episode of Star Trek.