7/02/2014

Star Wars (1977) - Darth Vader (David Prowse) and Obi Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness)

There are a lot of things to hate in the Special Edition of Star Wars. Greedo shooting Han Solo first. Vader's superfluous "Noooo!" Solo stepping on Jabba the Hutt's tail. But, in all the goofiness there are many things worth liking in the changes Lucas' made.

Don't get us wrong, if there's one thing we love it's the original unaltered trilogy. We think it's a tragedy that we can't watch it in high-def or in the theaters. But some of the changes make sense.

George Lucas says he was never really done with the films. He felt like he was "dragged off the picture kicking and screaming" and wanted to make what he felt was the "final" version of the original trilogy. Lucas spent over $10 million just to make changes to the original 1977 Star Wars film. He wanted the new films to match the special effects of the prequels and, in some ways, he succeeded. Here are 10 worthwhile changes to the original Star Wars trilogy.

1. Lightsabers





For the original films the lightsaber effects were done with the actors holding white spinning three-sided rods covered with reflective material. Korean animator Nelson Shin drew saber effects onto the film. They also added the glowing effect and the colors were put onto the film by hand. It was a complex feat of engineering for its time but it left many problems behind. There are many scenes where you can see the white rods or the colors were wrong. Lucas went through and corrected the mistakes with the lightsaber using CGI.


2. Aurebesh

The world of original Star Wars was very familiar and most of the characters speak English. The Empire used English and the writing was all over the Death Star. An alien language was seen and was eventually known as "Aurebesh."  Lucas had them change all the signage to the alien language for consistency. It makes a lot more sense.

3. Han Solo vs. the Stormtroopers

In one scene Han Solo chases some stormtroopers down a hallway and is confronted by a few Stormtroopers. It's funny, but they managed to one up it by adding an entire troop of Stormtroopers in front of him. Upping the danger he faced.

4. Death Star Explosion

The explosion of the Death Star in the first film was a standard movie explosion, but in the Special Edition of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi the Death Star explosions are rendered with a Praxis effect, which gives it that flat ring effect. It was first used in Alien and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It looks much more powerful.

5. Stormtrooper Bumping His Head

In the original Star Wars there's a famous blooper in the control room scene. The Stormtrooper on the far right side of the screen bumps his head on the low door frame and almost falls over. It's one of my favorites. It would have been easy to cut out. Just cut a few seconds. Instead, George Lucas did one better. In the 2004 re-release he added sound effects. Yes, now when that scene comes up you hear a hilarious clunking sound. Classic.

6. Mos Eisley

Mos Eisley is supposed to be a major spaceport on Tatooine, but the original Mos Eisley looked a little like a Greyhound bus station. So, they went through and added bigger buildings, more creatures, more aliens and more "scum and villainy."

7. The Emperor

In The Empire Strikes Back we got our first look at the fearsome ruler of the Empire: Emperor Palpatine. On screen the Emperor was played by Elaine Baker, the wife of make-up designer Rick Baker. She has Chimpanzee eyes superimposed over her eyes. He's super-freaky looking. By Return of the Jedi they cast Ian McDiarmid who had regular eyes and is a dude. So it's kind of weird to look back at Empire and see such a different look. Lucas went back and had McDiarmid reshoot the scene using his voice. It fits much better.


8. Jabba the Hutt's Door

In Return of the Jedi C-3PO and R2-D2 go to the palace of the crime lord Jabba the Hutt. The original door made Jabba's Palace look wimpy.  The new door makes his place look huge. A big man needs a big door. We know it introduced a continuity error since the inside shot shows the smaller door, but it's still cool.

9. Oola's Dance

In Jabba's palace we see that he likes to entertain himself with female slaves and a live band. It featured extensive rod puppets and cutting edge robotics. Some things are timeless. We absolutely hate the new song and band members Lucas introduced in the Special Edition. The original was a jazzy song that composer John Williams described as "both alien and yet familiar at the same time." The new song feels out of place in a galaxy far, far away.

The saving grace is they added an extended dance number for the slave girls. In the original film Oola, played by Femi Taylor, had a few minutes of seductive dancing before being dropped in the Rancor pit. In the new version they added more dancers and Taylor came back to shoot new dance scenes.  Oola really got to show off her dancing skills. The best part is Taylor looks exactly the same after all those years. Black don't crack.

10. Sandcrawler

The Jawa transport, known as the Sandcrawler, was supposed to be a massive vehicle. But the long shot we got made it look dinky. Lucas had them add a much more impressive Sandcrawler rumbling through the desert.

What do you think of the changes for the Special Edition of Star Wars? Was it worth doing? Do you have a favorite change? Is there a change you hate the most?

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13 comments:

Pat Dilloway said...

We do tend to focus on the negative changes. For the Emperor one I don't see why they had to change some of his lines. I didn't really think it was an improvement. Better lightsabers are definitely a good thing.

DAVID WALSTON said...

When I was younger one of my friends almost ruined watching the space dog fights. If you watch the ships closely in the original you could see outlines around them. It almost looked cartoonish. The new ones make this disappear. That is what I wanted my friend to do after he pointed it out to me!

M Pax said...

I liked Mos Eisley better as a pit and bus station. :)

The improved sand crawler is cool, though.

Clayton Graul said...

Groundbreaking movie, changed the face of hollywood. shaped childhoods.... lets change it FAIL

Clay said...

I believe it was Femi Taylor's daughter that played Oola in the special edition scenes...I remember a comment in a featurette where a production assistant or something mentioned how Taylor's daughter was a splitting image of her from 30 years prior.

Roderick T Faulkner said...

Very interesting factoids - many of them I didn't know! I love the fact that Lucas has a sense of humor and kept that stormtrooper blooper in! Still, while many of the revised visual effects look better, I wish the unaltered trilogy was available in high definition too.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I'll bet she does Clay but she did reprise her role for the special edition. The only one actually. http://starwarsinterviews1.blogspot.com/2010/01/femi-taylor-interview-oola-star-wars.html

tara tyler said...

wow! definitely like the improvements - esp the death star. most i recognized, but some i didn't, but appreciate now. except the trooper - classic blooper, keep it in!

f/x get better and better all the time...

and thanks for commenting on my broken branch falls blog tour!

InspectorSpacetime said...

The so called 'improved' lightsabers are an absolute nightmare. They are inconsistent in color from shot to shot, occasionally are transluscent. It's a mess, they are by far inferior to the original rotoscoped.

Tony Laplume said...

I never even knew about that language.

Jean Morel said...

Maybe you didn't read correctly...the trooper bumping is head is kept in but enhanced with sound effects

Jean Morel said...

You can get the original versions on DVD actually

Maurice Mitchell said...

Glad you liked them Rod! From what I’ve heard Lucas is a funny guy. I’m glad he didn’t get so uptight that he took the blooper out.

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