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For years now George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy has been undergoing changes, some subtle, others not so subtle. With the recent release of the trilogy on DVD I decided that now was a good time to try and catalogue the evolution of these films from the 1977, 1980 and 1983 releases, to their present day incarnations (including the Blu-ray release). We begin, of course, with the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. To illustrate the various alterations I have used screen shots from the original, Special Edition and DVD releases of the films, in that order. We will start by looking at alterations to existing scenes, followed by shots of scenes not included in the original theatrical release. There will also be a short section devoted to some of the audio changes at the end of the article. So, sit back, take a deep breath, and prepare for the first in a series of four articles devoted to these seminal films.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Alterations to Existing Scenes


The Fox Logo



Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see the original 20th Century Fox logo, as it appeared at the beginning of Star Wars way back in 1977.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
For the 1997 Special Edition release of the film onwards, the new shiny new Fox logo is present ahead of the film.

The Lucasfilm Logo



Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here is the old Lucas film log, as it was back in the late 1970s. Not particularly exciting, but it gets the job done with the minimum of fuss.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here’s the Lucasfilm logo as it appears in the Special Editions. He logo now fades up and sparkles, before changing colour. Ooh!

Along Time Ago...



Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here is the opening to perhaps the most famous titles sequence of all time, just as it was back in the late 1970s.

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Not a lot has changed for the Special Edition release onwards, although the blue is now a bit lighter than before.

The Opening Crawl



Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here's the original opening crawl for the film, which was known simply as Star Wars back in 1977.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
For the 1981 re-release of the film the subtitle A New Hope was added to the opening crawl, where it remains to this day.

The Escape Pod


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed that the lid of R2-D2 and C3-PO's escape pod was blue in the original release of the film, presumably to accommodate a blue-screen effect.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
In 1997 nothing changed for the Special Edition of the film. The lid is still blue (the quality of the capture makes it hard to discern, [/h]but no better source was available).

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we are with the 2004 release of the film. Yep, you guessed it, the lid of the escape pod is still blue.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Well what do we have here? That looks suspiciously like a grey escape pod lid on the Blu-ray release. Yep, it's one of the minor fixes that have been implemented for the high-definition release.

The Canyon


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see poor R2-D2 as he wanders down a lonely canyon on the desert planet of Tatooine. Little does the little astromech unit know the rocks are hiding Jawas, who are in search of droids to salvage.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see the same shot, Special Edition style. Notice that the shot starts on a typical Tatooine sunset, before panning down to our little astromech friend in the canyon below.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The shot is much the same for the 2004 DVD release. The only real difference is in the quality of the image, which has been further refined since the Special Edition.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Nothing much has changed for the film's Blu-ray release, as evidenced by this shot.

’Look sir, droids!’


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
In this footage from the original release of the film, the Stormtroopers have just discovered C-3PO and R2-D2’s presence aboard the escape pod.  As you can see the background contains a number of static dewbacks, but very little else.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
In this footage from the Special Edition release we can see that the scene has been expanded somewhat. The static rubber dewbacks have been replaced with CGI models and more Sormptroopers have been composited into the scene. A shuttle can also be seen leaving the area.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Nothing has changed for the 2004 DVD release of the film, aside from the obvious differences in clarity and colour purity courtesy of the restoration. While this scene does show the Imperial presence to be significantly enhanced, the way in which the CGI Stormtroopers move as they ride the dewbacks is less than convincing. Having said this, I can live with the change.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
It's business as usual for the Blu-ray release of the movie, which is the same as the 2004 version.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Amusingly, or annoyingly depending on your point of view, the blue pod lid that was changed to grey earlier in the film on the Blu-ray release is back to blue here. Was anyone in charge of continuity for the HD release?

The Sandcrawler


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see the Jawas' Sandcrawler as it approaches the Lars homestead, carrying with it the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO. Even back in 1977 the shot gives you a good sense of scale, but George Lucas thought he could do better and…

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
…in this case I’m inclined to agree with him! While the original shot was acceptable considering the technology available at the time, the Special Edition version of the Sandcrawler is far more impressive. The new footage really helps to sell the vehicle as a viable habitat for the strange little creatures, while retaining the integrity of the scene.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
As you can see nothing has changed for the 2004 DVD release, aside from some the added clarity afforded by the restoration work. Notice how crisp the scene is and how pure the sky over Tatooine looks. Wow, a change I’m in favour of - we’re back on track!  
Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Again, not much has changed since 2004 for the Blu-ray release of the film.

The Binary Sunset


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we have a typical sunset, Tatooine style. This scene appears near the beginning of the film, as Luke Skywalker gazes at the heavens and contemplates his future. Nothing wrong with this you might say, and I’d have to agree with you there.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
As part of the restoration work for the Special Edition release, the film was colour corrected. This had a strange effect on some of the scenes, most notably those on Tatooine. As you can see the sky is now a very odd colour and the image is entirely too dark.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
For the 2004 DVD release the image has been further enhanced and restored, presenting possibly the best looking version of the sunset to date. It’s another 2004 enhancement thumbs up from me.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Another Blu-ray shot that is identical to the 2004 version.

R2 Hides


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here were have a shot of R2-D2 hiding from the Tusken Raiders after Luke Skywalker has been knocked unconscious.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
This shot remains the same in the 1997 Special Edition of the feature...

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
...and in the 2004 version.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here's the same shot from the Blu-ray release, now with added CGI rocks! If anyone can tell me how R2 was able to squeeze through that tiny gap please don't hesitate to post...

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
What's worse is that in the next shot, after R2 has come out of hiding, the CGI rocks have mysteriously disappeared! Again, was the continuity person asleep while they were making these changes?

Ben Kenobi's Home


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The modest budget of the original Star Wars allowed only for modest locations, as exemplified by this exterior shot of Ben Kenobi’s home. Personally I think this shot suffices for the brief period of time it is on screen, but once again Lucas disagrees.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The Special Edition release of the film added an alternate view of Obi-Wan’s home; one that offers a grandiose view of the rocky terrain of Tatooine. While this shot stands out like a sore thumb when compared to the original footage, it is one of the SE changes that I can live with.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The 2004 DVD release keeps the new footage, but as you can see everything is a lot clearer thanks to the additional restoration work. I’m still not one hundred per cent sure about the shot, but at least it looks nicer!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Guess what? The Blu-ray looks exactly the same as the 2004 release.

Overlooking Mos Eisley


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see Luke and Ben looking at Mos Eisley from a distance before venturing into the dangerous spaceport. As you can see it’s little more than a static matte painting with very little detail.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The Special Edition release of the film revamps the spaceport considerably. It’s now spread over a larger area and you can just make out traffic flying above the skyline (but only if your eyes are good).

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The DVD release keeps the Mos Eisley from the SEs, but as you can see the image is far more detailed than any previous home release format. The colour correction also makes the scene look more consistent with earlier Tatooine footage (the pink tint has gone).

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Yawn, yet another Blu-ray shot that's identical to the 2004 release.
 
The Landspeeder


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we have perhaps one of the most obvious special effects in the original release of the film. This landspeeder shot has several problems, most notably the rather fake looking way in which it has been composited into the image. You may also notice that C-3PO’s arm is almost straight in this shot, which is something made impossible by his design. R2 also looks as if he could fall off of the speeder at any moment!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
For the Special Edition release Lucas decided to have his team alter and expand the approach to Mos Eisley. You’ll notice that not only has the speeder been radically improved, but the surrounding environment has been given an overhaul as well. Whereas the original release showed only a few outbuildings, this version hints at a much busier spaceport complete with scurrying rodents. Unfortunately the CGI C-3PO still has the ‘straight arm’ problem and also looks entirely too gold for my liking. You may also notice how pink the image looks here.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The 2004 DVD release goes one step further by completely remodelling both the speeder and the droids. C-3PO’s right arm is now noticeably bent (although his left still looks suspiciously straight) and his colour is much improved over the Special Edition. Of course the restoration work also dramatically improves the level of detail in the shot, while the colour correction eradicates that nasty pink tint. Overall I’m in favour of this enhancement.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
As you might expect, the shot remains unchanged from 2004 for the film's Blu-ray release.

Mos Eisley Spaceport


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we have a shot of the landspeeder as it makes its way through the ‘bustling’ port of Mos Eisley. As you can see, budgetary constraints had a severe effect on the amount of activity that was seen. In this shot you may also notice the strange orange ‘force field’ below the landspeeder. This is actually Vaseline, which was put on the camera lens to obscure the wheels on the bottom of the speeder!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The Special Edition shot looks livelier, and a CGI beast of burden known as a ronto has been added to the scene. You can also see that the force field has been removed, which looks a lot better than the original shot. Unfortunately the scene still has that strange pink tint to it.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The DVD release has the best of both worlds. Not only do we get the additional creatures and corrected landspeeder, but also a properly colour corrected Mos Eisley. The sky is now blue again, and everything looks more detailed (although still a little blurry).

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Yet again the Blu-ray release looks very similar to the 2004 DVD release.

Mos Eisley Cantina


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
With the limited budget available to him at the time George Lucas had to cut a few corners when creating the aliens that inhabited his world. This is most obvious during the scene in the Mos Eisley cantina, where one of the locals bears a striking resemblance to the Wolfman!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
For the Special Edition a new computer-generated character has been inserted into the scene, replacing the old Wolfman mask. This particular alien looks to be some sort of pipe-smoking hippy!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Surprise, surprise, the scene is exactly the same for the 2004 DVD release. As with most other scenes, the only difference is the quality of the image.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
You’re probably going to get tired reading this, but the Blu-ray is the same as the 2004 version.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here’s the same character again, this time engaged in a discussion with another patron. While I never really paid much attention to this character until someone pointed him out I can see why George Lucas wanted to go back and alter him for the Special Edition.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
For the Special Edition yet another new computer-generated alien was created and inserted into the scene with the strange appendage-type creature. Will the wonders of ILM ever cease?

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
When it comes to this scene on the 2004 DVD it’s business as usual. Some of the more observant among you may have spotted a particularly ‘devilish’ alien in the background. This was yet another improvised mask, but unlike the Wolfman it was left in the film. The species even has a name: Devaronian.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The Blu-ray is the same as the 2004 release.

Greedo


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Now we come to perhaps the most contentious change in the history of the trilogy. In the scene above Han Solo, cornered by the bounty hunter Greedo, has little choice other than to shoot first and ask questions later. This scene established Han as an ice-cool space pirate; as someone who walked a fine line between good and evil (thereby making the evolution of his character all the more interesting).

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
For the Special Edition release of Star Wars George Lucas did the unthinkable - he made Greedo shoot first! Lamented by fans and filmmakers such as Kevin Smith alike, this is perhaps the single most objectionable change in the entire trilogy. Putting aside the fact that it transforms Han Solo from the aforementioned ice-cold space pirate to a lucky son of a bitch, the effects used to bring the new scene to life are simply atrocious. Greedo’s blaster bolt seems to fly off at an angle (even though his gun is pointed directly at Han) and Solo himself jerks his head to one side courtesy of some ropy CGI. The whole thing is absolutely hideous!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Of course it was probably too much to expect Lucas to reverse his decision to turn Han into a bitch, but we lived in hope. Unfortunately the 2004 DVD release shattered any illusions people might have had about Lucas coming to his senses and the dreaded scene appears as in the Special Editions. Well, that’s not quite true, as there have been minor alterations. The CGI has been improved so that the whole of Han’s upper body now moves, albeit in as unnatural a way as the previous ‘head dodge’, and the pair now fire almost simultaneously (I say almost, as Greedo still fires a fraction of a second before Solo).

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
From this still image it might look like the scene has remained unchanged for the Blu-ray release, but this is not the case. Approximately ten frames have been shaved off of the shot immediately before Greedo fires, making it appears as though Han and the bounty hunter shoot at roughly the same time. It’s still not great but it’s the best version since the original.

The Falcon’s Departure


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see the Millennium Falcon as it blasts away from docking bay ninety four, watched by several Stormtroopers. Owing to the limitations of technology at the time, the Falcon flies in a diagonal line with little or no deviation.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we have the Special Edition equivalent. Notice how the angle of the Falcon has changed? A new CGI ship now twists and turns as it flies away from Mos Eisley, which makes for a more exciting spectacle.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Things are much the same as the SE release on the DVDs, aside from the obvious restoration work. As with the SEs, you may also notice how the shot has been reframed slightly from the original (both the Jawa’s body and the Stormtrooper’s legs are now missing).

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The BD features another very similar shot to the 2004 release, with only some minor differences in image geometry.

The Destruction of Alderaan


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
In the image above you can see the aftermath of the Death Star’s attack on the planet of Alderaan. The battlestation’s primary weapon has obliterated the planet, leaving only rocky debris. Although adequate the resulting explosion isn’t as impressive as one might expect.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The Special Edition added a couple of new effects to the scene, most notably the huge shockwave that emanates from the centre of the explosion. Putting aside the improbability of such a shockwave, the explosion itself now looks more ‘convincing’.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
As you can see, not much has changed for the DVD release. The intensity of the image looks to have been bumped up a notch by the colour correction, which makes the explosion and the shockwave look more consistent with one another (although it’s a little too orange for my liking).

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Slightly better detail and colouring are about the only thing separating the Blu-ray release from the 2004 version.

Luke's Lightsaber


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see Luke Skywalker taking his first step into a larger world aboard the Millennium Falcon. You can see how the colour and density of the lightsaber varies slightly between the original theatrical release and the special editions.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Notice how Luke’s ‘blue’ lightsaber is actually closer to white in both of these shots? There is actually considerable variation in the lightsaber while Luke is training on the Falcon, and closer examination reveals a ‘greenish’ tint to the blade.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
For the 2004 DVD releases that ‘greenish’ tint has unfortunately been replaced by, well, green! Whether the result of the restoration work or a genuine effects gaffe, this should have been caught at the quality control stage.  

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
It seems that the years of moaning paid off, as the saber's colour has been (almost) fixed Blu-ray release of A New Hope. Notice how the blade and in fact the entire image has less of a green push? Lucasfilm made a big deal of pointing this particular scene out to journalists during their press events, but unfortunately they didn't show anyone the scenes immediately preceding or following this particular moment. The reason for that was probably because the saber is still green in those shots! Way to go Lucasfilm! You've only had, what, nine years to fix this?

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here's a shot from the 2004 version of the film that clearly shows the lightsaber's green tint.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here's the same frame from the Blu-ray release. Still looks green to me...

Censorship!


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
In this scene from the original release of the film, you can see a clear flash as the blaster bolt hits the Imperial officer. However, if we look at the same scene from the Special Edition we can see that…

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
…the flash has gone! One of the little-known edits to the film included the trimming of a few frames to remove the flashes when the bolts hit the human officers.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here’s the same scene from the 2004 DVDs. As with the Special Edition, the only evidence of the blaster impact is the smoky residue left behind.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
I had hoped that the Blu-ray would restore the blaster impacts, but sadly that’s not the case.

More Censorship!


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see the original scene in the detention area, as Luke and Han blast everything in sight - including a hapless Imperial! As you can see, the pink impact flash is clearly visible.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Well, now you see it, now you don’t! As before, a few frames have been trimmed to remove the impact flash. Notice the different body position of the guard in this shot?

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
One again, the DVD release follows the Special Edition very closely. The only difference between the two is the quality of the image, which is greatly improved.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Yet more evidence that the Blu-ray is still censored.

No Censorship!


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Now things get really weird. Here we have the familiar impact flash as Luke blasts another Imperial officer. Now let’s take a look at the censored Special Edition equivalent.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Wait! What’s this? That’s right - the impact flash is still there! Surely there must be some mistake? This is the ‘kiddie friendly’ version of Star Wars, where all violence towards humans is removed! I bet they fixed it for the DVD release…

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Except they didn’t! Of all the changes to the trilogy over the years, this has to rank as one of the strangest and, quite frankly, most ridiculous. Lucas is quite happy to show people having limbs severed or being blown away in the prequels, so why the coyness here? What makes matters worse is that this censorship isn’t even consistent throughout one scene. I was really hoping that this PC nonsense would have disappeared by the time the DVD was released, but I guess it was not to be.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The censorship inconsistency is still an issue on the Blu-ray.

The Cell Block


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we have the scene in which Luke and Han ‘rescue’ Princess Leia from her cell. You may notice that the perspective of the corridor doesn’t look quite right in this shot.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here’s the same scene from the Special Edition. Nothing has changed, and the perspective is still wrong. It’s worth noting that the corridor is actually nothing more than a matte painting!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here’s the scene 2004 style. As you can see, the perspective of the matte painting has been corrected, and the corridor now stretches off into the distance in a more convincing manner.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Not a lot has changed from 2004 for the Blu-ray release (again).

The Dianogah


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we have the eye of the hideous Dianogah, the creature that pulls Luke under the filthy water in the trash compactor. I always thought this was perfectly functional.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we have the same creature Special Edition style. Nothing has changed, other than the image quality (which is slightly improved).

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we have the creature from the 2004 DVD release. It’s difficult to tell from the image as everything is so dark, but the eye has been digitally enhanced to make it blink. Again, not a particularly important change, but a change nonetheless.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The Blu-ray Dianogah is the same as the 2004 release.

The Tractor Beam


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
This is the scene in which Obi-Wan Kenobi deactivates the tractor beam to allow the Millennium Falcon to escape from the Death Star, as seen in the original release.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we have the same scene taken from the Special Edition release of the film and as you can see it all looks very similar to the shot above.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Now we come to the scene as it appears in the 2004 DVD release of the film. At first glance it looks very similar to the first two shots, but look again! As you can see, Aurabesh, which is the written form of the ‘basic’ language spoken in the films, has replaced the English language writing. Personally I don’t mind this change, although I feel there were other things more deserving of their attention.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Yes, you guessed it, the Blu-ray shot is mostly the same as the 2004 version.

The Stormtroopers


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
In this shot from the original release we see Han Solo biting off more than he can chew as he rounds a corner only to be confronted by a group of Imperial Stormtroopers. This is one of those classic Star Wars moments that has stayed with me since childhood and is a good example of how the original films managed to be humorous without resorting to slapstick and fart jokes.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
For the Special Edition Lucas had his effects guys add a hanger full of Stormtroopers, all standing around just waiting for the hapless Han Solo to appear. Although I’m not particularly for or against this change I do find it odd that the hanger simply ‘appears’ at the end of a corridor…

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here’s the same scene from the 2004 release. As far as I can tell nothing has changed but you can certainly see the effect of the restoration. The image is far more detailed and both colour and contrast are greatly improved.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
It’s 2004 business as usual with the Blu-ray release.

Lightsaber Consistency One


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
In this shot from the original film we can see that the lightsabers are extremely washed out. Obi-Wan’s saber fairs better than Vader’s, but it’s still not particularly impressive.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we are again with the Special Edition version. To my mind, this looks even more washed out than before. Vader’s saber is now almost completely devoid of colour!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Ah, this is more like it! For the DVD release the lightsabers have been enhanced to look a little more like the sabers we’re used to later in the series and in the prequels. Both Obi-Wan and Vader now have vibrant, well-defined blades.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Nothing has changed from 2004 on the Blu-ray.

Lightsaber Consistency Two


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
These shots show just how much variation there has been in saber consistency over the years. This is from the original release.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
This shot from the Special Edition looks more pink than red. Here, the core of the saber is missing completely. I never had Darth Vader down as a pink sort of a guy…

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here’s a shot from the new 2004 DVD. As you can see it’s got more in common with the Special Edition than the original, but at least the white core is there. To be fair, this is such a brief shot you could blink and miss it.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Again, there’s no change from 2004 for the Blu-ray release.

Lightsaber Consistency Three


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
You can see how washed out the lightsabers look in the original release of the film. It’s like two people fighting with white sticks!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Again, the Special Edition looks worse than the original release. Vader’s saber is almost completely white in this shot!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Thankfully the DVD release does a decent job of correcting this. Both sabers are coloured, and they both have their white cores.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
This is yet another scene in which the Blu-ray mimics the 2004 version.

Obi-Wan's Lightsaber


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see Obi-Wan’s lightsaber head-on. Well actually, we see the reflective white stick that was used instead of a lightsaber! This was one of the things that always bothered me in the original release.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here is the Special Edition version of the shot. The stick is slightly brighter, but no bluer than the first image. I always thought that this should have been corrected in 1997.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we are in 2004 and the saber has finally been given a makeover. Sure, it’s still not perfect, but at least some attempt has been made to make it look like a lightsaber rather than a walking stick!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Yes, another 2004/Blu-ray similarity.

Darth Vader's Lightsaber


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here is yet another look at a dodgy saber effect. As Darth vader walks toward the blast doors we can clearly see that someone forgot to colour in his lightsaber!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
This little gaffe went uncorrected for the Special Edition release of the film and Vader’s saber is still without colour.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Thankfully the DVD release has fixed the effects blunder and Vader’s lightsaber is now a vibrant hue of red (just as it always should have been).

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Vader’s saber is still coloured red on the Blu-ray.

Missing Laser


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
In this shot from the 1977 version of the film you can see that a portion of the frame is missing on the right-hand side of the screen. The laser blast that the  Millennium Falcon has fired at the TIE is cut in half.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The same error is present in the 1997 Special Edition of the movie.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
It is also present in the 2004 version of the film.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Thankfully the Blu-ray corrects this long-standing glitch, so that's another positive correction as far as I'm concerned.

Approaching Yavin


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see the Millennium Falcon as it approaches the fourth moon of the gas giant Yavin. In this original scene the Falcon flies directly underneath the planet, slowly revealing the moon.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see the same shot from the Special Edition release of the film. In this version the planet Yavin is off to the left and there is more movement as the Falcon slips past the planet to the fourth moon.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The shot is exactly the same on the 2004 DVD release, albeit with enhanced visual quality courtesy of the restoration work.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here is the same scene Blu-ray style. It looks almost identical to the 2004 DVD release apart from the added detail.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see a Rebel lookout observing the Millennium Falcon as it comes in for a landing on the fourth moon of Yavin. Or do we? In this shot the Falcon is nowhere to be seen, even though the lookout is focussing intently on some distant object!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
This time the lookout actually has something to look at! Those of you with keen eyes might be able to spot a small Millennium Falcon in the above image as it swoops down and comes to rest on a landing platform. It is hard to make out due to the size of the image, but it is there!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Once again the 2004 DVD release is the same, but the Flacon is much easier to make out in this image due to the enhanced visual quality.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Once again this Blu-ray shot is very similar to the 2004 DVD version.

The Launch


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The original release of Star Wars depicted the launch of the rebel fleet as a series of bright flashes that ascended rapidly into space. While this did the job at the time, it wasn’t particularly visually impressive.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The Special Edition shot is far more elaborate, with X-Wing and Y-Wing fighters now lifting off in front of the camera before blasting off into space. As you can see, the view of Yavin itself has also been altered. This is one of those SE changes that I’m in favour of.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The 2004 DVD release is almost identical to the Special Edition, although as you can see the overall detail and colour balance has been dramatically enhanced. This looks fantastic on a big screen!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The Blu-ray release is much the same as the 2004 version.

The Rebel Starfighters


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see the rag-tag group of Rebels flying towards the Death Star. This was an impressive shot for its time and it still holds up well today.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The Special Edition radically enhanced the approach to the Death Star. As well as improving the ships by using CGI models the number of vessels was increased and we actually get to look inside of the cockpits at the pilots as they fly by.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Again, there’s nothing different about this shot aside from the dramatically improved visuals. Contrast, colour balance and detail are all significantly better than the SE version of the shot.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The X-Wings look all-but identical to the 2004 versions on the Blu-ray.

The Battle of Yavin


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
In this scene from the 1977 version of the film you can see three Rebel X-Wing fighters as they swoop down towards the surface of the Death Star.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here’s the shot as it appears in the Special Edition. The X-Wings are now computer-generated and a great deal more manoeuvrable than before! They twist and turn as they head towards the Death Star’s equatorial trench.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here’s the same scene from the 2004 DVD release of the film. As you can see, nothing has been altered, but the footage is obviously a great deal cleaner than any previous effort.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here is the same scene Blu-ray style.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
In yet another altered scene Biggs is trying to evade the Imperial Tie Fighter that is closely following him. The original shot - as seen here - was quite effective, but ILM could do better!

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Although not apparent from this static image this new scene features a rear-angle view of the TIE Fighter tracking Biggs’ X-Wing. This is immediately followed by another new shot of Luke flying to the rescue. All-in-all this is quite a nice addition.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here’s the same scene from the 2004 DVD release. Nothing has changed bar the visual quality of the shot. This is just one of many enhancements made to the Battle of Yavin, all of which look better in motion.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
This is yet another Blu-ray shot that is identical to the 2004 version.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
In this shot we see Wedge Antilles coming to Luke Skywalker’s rescue by eliminating a pesky TIE Fighter. Immediately after this shot an explosion can be seen, followed by a reverse angle of Wedge’s X-Wing streaking away.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
In this shot the explosion is still visible, but now Wedge’s X-Wing flies directly through the fireball before flying away. It’s quite hard to make out from this shot, but you can just see the nose of his fighter emerging from the conflagration.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here’s the scene again, 2004 DVD style. Wedge’s X-Wing is much easier to make out in this shot, but as you can see the contrast is slightly off resulting in a less colourful fireball and X-Wing. This is yet another example of the image problems that detract from the overall quality of the transfer.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The Blu-ray release retains the odd contrast issues from the 2004 version.

The 'Humdinger' Glitch


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here is a shot of Darth Vader leading a couple of TIE Fighters on an attack run over the Death Star in the 1977 version of the film. You can see the garbage mattes surrounding the ships quite clearly.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
There's the same shot in the Special Edition of the film. Not much has changed and the garbage mattes are even more visible.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here's the same shot from 2004 and the garbage mattes look to be much improved. Wait, what's that at the bottom of the frame? It's a technical error that has come to be known as the 'humdinger' glitch/frame. It's present on the digital master used for all 2004 versions of the film, so you'll find it on the DVD and the various HDTV broadcasts.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Thankfully this glitch has been fixed for the Blu-ray release. Yay, another positive!

The Destruction of the Death Star


Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here we see the destruction of the Death Star as seen in the original release. To be honest I never really gave this much thought as a child, but when I look at the shot now I do have to admit it’s a bit weak considering a space station the size of a small moon has just exploded.

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The Special Edition introduced the ‘Praxis’ effect shockwave, as seen earlier with the destruction of Alderaan. While this does give the explosion some much needed visual impact I’m not particularly fond of the effect (which was stolen from Star Trek to begin with).

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
The 2004 DVD release is very similar to the SE shot, but as you can see the colour of both the explosion and the shockwave has changed. I’m assuming that this was an intentional shift, rather than an error as in the case of Luke’s lightsaber. The change in colour makes sense if you make the distinction between the organic world of Alderaan and the cold, metallic Death Star, but this theory is somewhat ruined when you see the explosion of the Death Star II in Return of the Jedi (more of that in another article).

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Here is the same shot from the Blu-ray release. As you can see it’s very similar to the 2004 version, with one very noticeable exception: the odd blue tint surrounding the explosion has been removed. Wow, a positive fix!