Star Wars: The Changes - Part Four
In the fourth and final article in the series we explore the changes to the prequels
Alterations to Existing Scenes
Here is the opening crawl as it appears in the DVD release of The Phantom Menace.
For the Blu-ray release the crawl was re-composited against the starfield. Notice how the relative position of the text to the brighter stars has changed?
Jedi Super Speed
In this scene from the original DVD version of the film you can see the Jedi using some Force-powered super speed to escape the droideka.
The Blu-ray release has added a new, slightly more realistic speed effect. This new effect is also visible as the Jedi run down the corridor in the next shot.
The Neimoidian Viewscreen
In this shot from the DVD we can see Nute Gunray and Rune Haako observing the droideka on a viewscreen as they pursue the Jedi.
For the Blu-ray release the shot looks very different. It’s no longer a close-up, but a wide shot. It also features a new digital effect for the screen itself.
Extended Podrace Grid Sequence
The second disc of the Star War: Episode I - The Phantom Menace DVD set includes a number of deleted scenes. One of these is a complete podrace grid sequence, which introduces all of the racers taking part in the Boonta Eve Classic. Some, but not all, of this footage was reintegrated into the feature film on disc one of the set, as evidenced by the above shot of Ody Mandrell. It doesn’t really have any effect on the plot but it does affect the pacing. Some felt that the podrace sequence was already long enough in its original form and that the extension merely slowed the film down even further.
Watto Cheers Sebulba
Immediately after podrace announcers Fode and Beed mention the name of Sebulba, the theatrical release of The Phantom Menace features a cutaway shot of Watto cheering on the ‘especially dangerous Dug’. For some reason the DVD release omits this scene. The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed an unmasked Warwick Davis sitting to one side of Watto. Warwick is most famous for playing Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi, but this little cameo is absent from the DVD release (although his is briefly visible in other shots).
Extended Pod Race Lap Two
Another fairly significant alteration to the DVD version was the inclusion of more footage during the second lap of the podrace. The race was originally much longer than the one shown in theatres (hard to believe I know), with more nastiness from Sebulba, more feats of daring-do from Anakin, more Tusken Raider activity and a brief appearance by some scavenger droids. Although not all of the deleted footage was reintegrated shots of Anakin repairing his racer and outwitting his rival Gasgano were included.
Fode and Beed
In the original release of The Phantom Menace there was a blink and you'll miss it rendering error that caused Fode and Beed's hand to intersect with their clothing, as evidenced by the shot above.
As you can see by this shot the error has been corrected for the Blu-ray release and the hand is now in front of the clothing where it belongs.
However, in another demonstration of inconsistency there's a shot early on in the film where part of Qui-Gon's clothing intersects Jar Jar's ears. Why go to the trouble of fixing one rendering error and not the other?
If there’s one thing all Star Wars fans can agree on it’s that the Yoda puppet in The Phantom Menace sucked. It looked nothing like any version of Yoda before or after and was generally pretty odd looking.
In one of the most well-known changes – thanks largely to its inclusion on the Revenge of the Sith DVD extras way back in 2005 – the Blu-ray release of The Phantom Menace features a new digital Yoda who looks a lot more like he does in the other prequels.
Here’s another shot of the original and quite frankly scary Yoda puppet.
Here’s how he looks in digital form. There are many such shots like this throughout the film on Blu-ray.
Orn Free Taa's Aides
This is one of those changes that most people probably wouldn’t notice, or even care about. Orn Free Taa’s aides were originally a red-skinned Twi’lek female named Supi and a white-skinned male who bore a passing resemblance to Bib Fortuna. Sometime before the theatrical release of The Phantom Menace, the aides were digitally replaced with two humans played by ILM Visual Effects Executive Producer Chrissie England and Lucas Digital President Jim Morris.
For the DVD release the human aides are gone and Supi is restored to the scene. She is accompanied by Pampy, Orn Free Taa’s aide from Attack of the Clones. We never did get to see the white-skinned Twi’lek male on screen, but there are numerous images of him scattered around the Internet.
Blu-ray Colour/Framing Differences
Here’s a shot from the original release of The Phantom Menace. Look how grubby it is. You may also note the odd pink tint to the image.
The Blu-ray release fixes the pink tint and opens up the frame to show more of the image. The Blu-ray release actually shows more of the image in almost every scene, with the exception being those at the very beginning of the film.
The pink tint is again visible in this shot.
On the Blu-ray it’s gone.
Here’s a shot of a sunset on Coruscant from the original DVD.
Here’s the same shot from the Blu-ray. This is actually one of the few scenes where the different colour timing and contrast boosting look worse, as the blacks have been crushed and the sunset is now too bright.
Coruscant Air Taxi
When the Jedi, Queen Amidala and Anakin arrive on Coruscant, they meet with Supreme Chancellor Valorum. After a brief exchange, in which Qui-Gon states that ‘the situation has become much more complicated’, there is an optical wipe to Senator Palpatine’s quarters. In the DVD version, after Qui-Gon’s line, there is a new scene in which Padmé, Anakin and Jar Jar board an air taxi. The taxi’s journey allows for an extended view of the Coruscant cityscape before the wipe to Palpatine’s quarters. This is another scene that slows the pacing of the film, although it does allow for some nice visual effects shots. It also gives Jar Jar another couple of lines of dialogue… It's also worth noting that the addition of the air taxi scene results in the omission of an establishing shot of Senator Palpatine's quarters, as seen below.
This shot immediately followed the old optical wipe, before the scene moved to the interior of Palpatine's quarters. Now, there is an optical wipe at the end of the air taxi sequence, which takes us inside of the building without this establishing shot.
Alterations to Existing Scenes
Stay away from power couplings!
For the Blu-ray release of the film two scenes have been re-edited, shifting the order of certain sequences. The first of these changes occurs during the speeder chase, specifically as Anakin and Obi-Wan pass through the damaged power coupling. In the shot below, the images on the left show the original sequence, with those on the right representing the Blu-ray.
One theory as to why this was changed is that the original order made it appear as though they were passing through multiple couplings, when only one is visible in the wide shot. Unfortunately as a result of altering this sequence of shots two lines dialogue spoken by Ob-Wan's, which were naturally punctuated by the angle change, now flow into one another and sound a little bit odd. (I'll try and get some audio clips when I have time). Part of me wonders whether this is simply an editing mistake...
This is one of those ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ moments. In the original theatrical release, Anakin loses his lightsaber while trying to apprehend Zam Wesell, only for Obi-Wan to pluck it out of the air as it flies past. In the shot above you can just about make out a speeder to the left of the frame (look for the long white light above Obi-Wan’s head). In fact, several speeders fly past at high speed during the scene.
What’s this? The above capture is taken from the same moment in time as the first image, but now the speeder has disappeared! In fact, all of the speeders that used to fly past have gone. One theory is that the quick movement of the speeders drew focus away from the relatively small, spinning lightsaber as it flew through the air. This has to rank as one of the most bizarre alterations in the entire saga, but it looks as though no change is too big or too small.
'To be angry is to be human.'
For the digital and DVD releases of Attack of the Clones, the scene in which Anakin confesses to the slaughter of the Tusken Raiders was briefly extended to include new dialogue. You can click here to listen to the original audio, or here for the revised version. In this instance, the extended dialogue actually goes some way to explaining the ease with which Padmé forgives Anakin’s crimes.
Jango's Jet Pack
This remains one of the most contentious of the alleged changes to the film, and I’m still not entirely convinced anything has been altered. However, so many people claim that the scene has been enhanced I thought it best to include it. In the DVD commentary for Attack of the Clones, George Lucas states that additional sparks have been added to Jango’s jet pack for the DVD version of the film (just after the reek stomps on him). While preparing this article I compared both versions side-by-side and they appear to be identical. However, the quality of my theatrical release of the film isn’t particularly good, so it is possible that the sparks are slightly more vibrant or visible on the DVD version, but there are no additional sparks.
'Are you alright?'
This was one of the most welcome changes for the digital and DVD releases of the film. In the theatrical release, Padmé makes a startling recovery after being thrown out of a moving gunship, as evidence by her rather comical reply to clone trooper’s question. For the digital and DVD releases, the much-derided ‘yes’ was replaced by a more pained expression of ‘uh-huh’.
I mentioned earlier that there were two re-edited sequences in the film, and this is the second. At the end of Dooku's dual with Yoda, the Sith Lord crushes a pillar to distract the Jedi long enough to make his escape. As Yoda struggles to save Anakin and Obi-Wan Padmé arrives with a group of clones and they fire fire on the Count's ship. The shots have been reordered for the Blu-ray release, as you can see from the image below (original on the left, BD on the right).
Again, I'm not entirely sure why this was changed, or if it was even intentional. As with the previous instance of reordering, the audio is affected, jumping randomly to different parts of the score. Yoda also appears to stand idly by while Dooku's ship is still in the hanger. As with the first instance, I'm more inclined to think that this is an editing mistake than a creative decision.
Hand in Marriage
In the original theatrical release of Attack of the Clones, there is a shot of Anakin’s mechanical arm during Anakin and Padmé’s wedding. In this version the arm remains relatively still, with only a few ticks and twitches before the shot pans upwards.
The digital and DVD releases are different, in that Padmé now takes Anakin’s mechanical hand in hers before the vertical pan. The fingers of the hand are also considerably more animated in this version.
Blu-ray Colour Differences
Although there are no specific visual changes for the Blu-ray release of the film the entire image has been given a blue tint that noticeably alters the look of the picture. Here are a few shots taken from both the original and Blu-ray releases to illustrate the difference. Notice how the Blu-ray's colours are very different in some scenes and, dare I say it, less natural?
To my knowledge the following only affected the UK release of the film (and subsequently the UK release of the DVD). Because our beloved BBFC had a thing against head-butts, apparently because they’re an ‘imitable technique’ (and punches and kicks aren’t?), a one-to-two second shot of Jango Fett head-butting Obi-Wan during their fight was excised. Here we see the shot immediately preceding the head-butt.
In this shot, Jango’s helmet connects with Obi-Wan’s comparatively unshielded face. Of course, you didn’t get to see this if you went to see the film in the UK, or if you bought the UK release of the DVD.
Here we see Obi-Wan reeling from the impact of Jango’s helmet (no jokes, please). Again, this shot was absent from the UK theatrical and DVD release of the film.
Finally we cut to another angle as Obi-Wan flies unceremoniously backwards, to eventually land on his arse. This shot was included in the UK theatrical and DVD release. You’d be correct in thinking that the omission of the head butt makes for a rather confusing jump in the action, as Obi-Wan appears to fly backwards for no good reason. Another triumph for the BBFC! Thankfully the head-butt has been reinstated for the Blu-ray release.
As far as I can tell there is only one audio difference between the DVD and Blu-ray versions of Attack of the Clones. For the Blu-ray version, during Anakin’s nightmare, the sound of his mother’s voice can now be heard. Here's how it used to sound
Alterations to Existing Scenes
The Optical Wipe
The Revenge of the Sith DVD features only one change from the theatrical release. In the scene above, Obi-Wan has just left Mustafar aboard Padmé’s skiff after defeating Darth Vader. As you can see, there is an optical wipe to a shot of Vader clawing his way up the bank of a river of molten lava.
While the DVD release of the film is much the same, the wipe has been replaced by a traditional cut (this is the exact same frame as above). Not a particularly huge difference, but a difference all the same.
Curiously the Blu-ray release of the film restores the fade. I actually prefer this transition so I'm happy to see its return.
That concludes the list of changes to the prequel trilogy. As you can see, the alterations are nowhere near as extensive as those made to the original trilogy of films, but it’s still interesting to see that changes do occur even in the relatively short window between the theatrical and DVD releases. The Phantom Menace suffers/benefits from the most tinkering—quite probably because of the length of time it took for the DVD to come to market—and as we move through the trilogy the number of alterations lessens until we reach the solitary, almost inconsequential change made to Revenge of the Sith. However, when it comes to George Lucas, the changes still paint a picture of a man who’s never satisfied with the state of his own work. But I digress… Look out for a complete overhaul of the original Star Wars – The Changes articles in the coming weeks, along with reviews of the new DVDs just as soon as I can get my hands on them. Until then, I’m off to imitate Jango’s head butt...
You can read the first, second and third instalments of the guide by clicking here, here and here.
My thanks go to Russ Dawson for his invaluable help in sourcing some of the material for this comparison. I'd also like to thank Greg Rossiter and SKot Kirkwood for pointing out the speeder scene change.
Editorial by Chris Gould
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