Star Wars: The Changes - Part One
Chris Gould has taken on the mammoth task of looking at the changes to the Star Wars trilogy, from 1977 to 2004, beginning with th...
Alterations to Existing Scenes
The Fox Logo
Here we see the original 20th Century Fox logo, as it appeared at the beginning of Star Wars way back in 1977.
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
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.
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...
Here is the opening to perhaps the most famous titles sequence of all time, just as it was back in the late 1970s.
Not a lot has changed for the Special Edition release onwards, although the blue is now a bit lighter than before.
The Opening Crawl
Here's the original opening crawl for the film, which was known simply as Star Wars back in 1977.
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
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.
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).
Here we are with the 2004 release of the film. Yep, you guessed it, the lid of the escape pod is still blue.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nothing much has changed for the film's Blu-ray release, as evidenced by this shot.
’Look sir, droids!’
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.
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.
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.
It's business as usual for the Blu-ray release of the movie, which is the same as the 2004 version.
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?
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…
…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.
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!
Again, not much has changed since 2004 for the Blu-ray release of the film.
The Binary Sunset
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.
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.
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.
Another Blu-ray shot that is identical to the 2004 version.
Here were have a shot of R2-D2 hiding from the Tusken Raiders after Luke Skywalker has been knocked unconscious.
This shot remains the same in the 1997 Special Edition of the feature...
...and in the 2004 version.
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...
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
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.
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.
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!
Guess what? The Blu-ray looks exactly the same as the 2004 release.
Overlooking Mos Eisley
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.
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).
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).
Yawn, yet another Blu-ray shot that's identical to the 2004 release.
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!
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.
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.
As you might expect, the shot remains unchanged from 2004 for the film's Blu-ray release.
Mos Eisley Spaceport
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!
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.
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).
Yet again the Blu-ray release looks very similar to the 2004 DVD release.
Mos Eisley Cantina
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!
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!
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.
You’re probably going to get tired reading this, but the Blu-ray is the same as the 2004 version.
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.
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?
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.
The Blu-ray is the same as the 2004 release.
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).
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!
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).
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
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.
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.
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).
The BD features another very similar shot to the 2004 release, with only some minor differences in image geometry.
The Destruction of Alderaan
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.
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’.
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).
Slightly better detail and colouring are about the only thing separating the Blu-ray release from the 2004 version.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Here's a shot from the 2004 version of the film that clearly shows the lightsaber's green tint.
Here's the same frame from the Blu-ray release. Still looks green to me...
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…
…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.
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.
I had hoped that the Blu-ray would restore the blaster impacts, but sadly that’s not the case.
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.
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?
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.
Yet more evidence that the Blu-ray is still censored.
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.
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…
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.
The censorship inconsistency is still an issue on the Blu-ray.
The Cell Block
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.
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!
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.
Not a lot has changed from 2004 for the Blu-ray release (again).
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.
Here we have the same creature Special Edition style. Nothing has changed, other than the image quality (which is slightly improved).
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.
The Blu-ray Dianogah is the same as the 2004 release.
The Tractor Beam
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.
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.
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.
Yes, you guessed it, the Blu-ray shot is mostly the same as the 2004 version.
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.
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…
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.
It’s 2004 business as usual with the Blu-ray release.
Lightsaber Consistency 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.
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!
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.
Nothing has changed from 2004 on the Blu-ray.
Lightsaber Consistency Two
These shots show just how much variation there has been in saber consistency over the years. This is from the original release.
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…
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.
Again, there’s no change from 2004 for the Blu-ray release.
Lightsaber Consistency Three
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!
Again, the Special Edition looks worse than the original release. Vader’s saber is almost completely white in this shot!
Thankfully the DVD release does a decent job of correcting this. Both sabers are coloured, and they both have their white cores.
This is yet another scene in which the Blu-ray mimics the 2004 version.
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.
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.
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!
Yes, another 2004/Blu-ray similarity.
Darth Vader's Lightsaber
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!
This little gaffe went uncorrected for the Special Edition release of the film and Vader’s saber is still without colour.
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).
Vader’s saber is still coloured red on the Blu-ray.
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.
The same error is present in the 1997 Special Edition of the movie.
It is also present in the 2004 version of the film.
Thankfully the Blu-ray corrects this long-standing glitch, so that's another positive correction as far as I'm concerned.
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.
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.
The shot is exactly the same on the 2004 DVD release, albeit with enhanced visual quality courtesy of the restoration work.
Here is the same scene Blu-ray style. It looks almost identical to the 2004 DVD release apart from the added detail.
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!
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!
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.
Once again this Blu-ray shot is very similar to the 2004 DVD version.
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.
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.
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!
The Blu-ray release is much the same as the 2004 version.
The Rebel Starfighters
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.
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.
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.
The X-Wings look all-but identical to the 2004 versions on the Blu-ray.
The Battle of Yavin
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.
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.
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.
Here is the same scene Blu-ray style.
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!
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.
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.
This is yet another Blu-ray shot that is identical to the 2004 version.
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.
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.
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.
The Blu-ray release retains the odd contrast issues from the 2004 version.
The 'Humdinger' Glitch
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.
There's the same shot in the Special Edition of the film. Not much has changed and the garbage mattes are even more visible.
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.
Thankfully this glitch has been fixed for the Blu-ray release. Yay, another positive!
The Destruction of the Death Star
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.
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).
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).
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!
Expanded Mos Eisley
Here’s one of the extended shots added for the Special Edition DVD release (and unaltered for the DVD/BD releases). As you can see, Mos Eisley is now a bustling spaceport, complete with ships and droids. Unfortunately, Lucas decided to introduce some Jar Jar style ‘comedy’ into the scenes…
Here we see an even wider shot of Mos Eisley, which really helps to set the scale of the spaceport. The more observant among you may have noticed Luke’s speeder, not to mention Dash Rendar’s Outrider ship (which features in the Shadows of the Empire video game and novel).
The expanded spaceport scenes continue with yet another angle, featuring new buildings, a speeder bike and a ronto being ridden by a group of Jawas. Watch the ‘hilarious’ consequences as the ronto is startled by the speeder bike…
Here we see the final approach to the Mos Eisley cantina. As you can see, there are many more people going about their business, while giant rontos, dewbacks, buildings and derelict spacecraft litter the surrounding area. On the whole these shots aren’t too bad. The CGI does look a little too obvious at times and I could have done without the slapstick humour, but they do lend the spaceport a sense of scale that was lacking before. Then again, this is a barren, desert planet…
Jabba the Hutt's Introduction
Ah, it goes from bad to worse! For the Special Edition release of Star Wars, Lucas felt the need to restore a scene in which Han Solo encounters Jabba the Hutt after his meeting with Greedo. The scene was originally filmed with a human actor, who Lucas intended to replace with a stop-motion creature. However, due to budgetary and/or time constraints, this never happened, and we were first introduced to Jabba via the fantastic puppet in Return of the Jedi. The very presence of this scene is unnecessary as we learn nothing more than we already know from the Han/Greedo confrontation. It also spoils Jabba’s appearance in Return of the Jedi, not to mention the Millennium Falcon’s big reveal.
Here we have the same scene from the 2004 DVD release. I think it’s fairly safe to say that the CGI Jabba has been significantly improved since 1997, but there are still big problems (see below).
Jabba the Hutt and Han Solo
When the scene was restored for the Special Edition, Lucas had a team of animators create a CGI Jabba (some would argue that this was done to test the viability of an all-CGI character for The Phantom Menace) to cover up the human actor. I feel the result speaks for itself. The manner in which Han and Jabba interact is completely unrealistic, and includes several instances where Han’s body occupies space that should belong to Jabba. Add to this that fact that the CGI model looks nothing like the puppet it is supposed to represent, and you have what is probably the worst moment in the entire trilogy.
Here is the 2004 version of the scene. Firstly, as you can see, Jabba looks nothing like either the Return of the Jedi puppet, or the CGI creature from The Phantom Menace. His colouration is way off (he was never that dark), and his eyes are yellow instead of orange. It’s almost as if no one bothered to check for consistency. What isn’t apparent from this picture is just how ‘plastic’ the CGI model looks, which doesn’t help it blend in with the surrounding live elements.
Jabba the Hutt's Tail
Now we know that the CGI Jabba bears no resemblance to the puppet, looking instead like some hideous reject from a PlayStation 2 cut-scene, but bigger problems were yet to come. At one point in their conversation, Han Solo walked around the human actor, something that would be impossible with the puppet/CGI Jabba (because of his tail). Never fear - the ILM animation department is here! To get around this tricky moment the animators simply had Han step on the crime-lord’s tail in a ‘hilarious’ moment of ‘comedy’ genius!
Here’s the same scene from the DVD release. I have to admit that it looks a lot better, but the scene should still be lying on the cutting room floor where it belongs (if Jabba puts a price on Solo’s head for dumping a spice shipment, imagine what he’d do to him for standing on his tail). I had hoped that this scene would be removed for the Blu-ray release, but it remains and looks identical to the 2004 version. They could at least have upgraded the CGI Jabba. Better yet they could have made Jabba appear as a hologram, thereby removing the need for Solo to step on his tail at all...
The Falcon Takes Off
Here’s a new shot added for the Special Edition and included in the 2004 DVD release. Immediately before taking off, a group of Stormtroopers blast the Falcon as it attempts to depart.
As you can see from this image, the Stormtroopers continue to fire on the ship even after it is airborne. Obviously this is a new CGI model of the Millennium Falcon, but on the whole I think they did a very good job with this brief addition (which is also present on the BD).
The Special Edition restored a scene featuring Luke’s old friend, Biggs Darklighter (Red Three). Biggs was previously mentioned early on in the film at the Lars homestead, but in the original release he appeared in the final battle without so much as an introduction. This scene allows Luke to briefly catch up with his old friend before they depart Yavin 4 to attack the Death Star. Those of you who have seen the deleted Tatooine footage on the Internet - in which Biggs tells Luke he’s going to join the Rebellion - will get more out of this scene than most.
When it comes to differences in the audio things start to get even more complicated. There were a number of different mixes created for the theatrical release of Star Wars, which has led to some confusion over the years. What’s more, the latest DVD releases have combined elements from a lot of the previous releases, creating yet more subtle differences. Here are some of the more obvious audio changes you’ll find throughout the film.
'Tell your uncle...'
In most versions of the film when the Jawas arrive at the Lars homestead Aunt Beru tells Luke to remind uncle to get a translator that speaks bocce. For the Blu-ray release the line has been subtly changed to 'remind your uncle, as heard here.
When R2 and 3PO are on their way to the Lars homestead aboard the Jawa Sandcrawler, the original release sounded like this. However, 3PO always appeared to say something else immediately before this, so it made perfect sense to alter the dialogue for the 2004 DVD release. You can listen to the new line of dialogue by clicking here. The Blu-ray release retains the line.
Old Ben’s Call
When he first appears, Ben Kenobi supposedly imitates the fearsome krayt dragon to scare the Tusken Raiders away. However, this call always sounded suspiciously like that of a dewback (the creatures ridden by the Stormtroopers). You can hear the original call here. For the 2004 DVD release the call has been replaced with this new sound. For the Blu-ray release of the film the call has been altered again to this. I’ll let you be the judge of which is better…
'There’s no one here.'
When checking the Millennium Falcon for signs of life, the Stormtroopers pause for a moment before departing the ship. In the original release there is no dialogue during this scene, as evidenced by this clip. In the new DVD release a line of dialogue has been added, confirming that the Stormtroopers have found nothing during their brief visual sweep. You can hear the new dialogue by clicking here. The Blu-ray release retains the line.
'TK-421, why aren’t you at your post?'
When Luke and Han have ‘liberated’ the Stormtrooper uniforms, an officer queries the whereabouts of the troops. You can hear original dialogue by clicking here. For the 2004 DVD release, the sound of Luke tapping his helmet has been added to the scene, thereby clarifying the officer’s line about a ‘bad transmitter’. You can hear the new effect by clicking here, but it is very hard to make out. The Blu-ray release retains the new effect.
The Tractor Beam
Some home video releases of the film omitted a line that was apparently present in the theatrical version (or so I’m told). When C-3PO tells our heroes that R2 has found the main controls to the tractor beam, certain versions of the film sounded like this. However, other releases - including the Special Edition and DVD - contain another line, which can be heard here. The Blu-ray release retains the line.
When the Stormtroopers enter the control room where the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 are hiding, one of them accidentally hits his head on the blast door. This has been a favourite blooper for many years, appearing in magazines and trivia quizzes alike. Since Lucas decided to acknowledge this blooper in Attack of the Clones, it was probably inevitable that he would revisit the original film to add a little ‘oomph’ to the original effect. Click here for the scene as it originally sounded, and here for the updated 2004 DVD version. The Blu-ray release retains the effect.
'I think we took a wrong turn!'
While running from Stormtroopers aboard the Death Star, Luke and Leia take a very dangerous wrong turn—right into an impassable chasm! In the original release an echo effect was added to their voices in order to lend the Death Star a sense of scale, but as most of you will know this wasn’t the most convincing of effects. You can find the original dialogue here. For the 2004 DVD releases, this artificial effect has been replaced with one that is much closer to a how a true echo sounds. You can hear the new echo by clicking this link, and I believe this change is actually an improvement over the original. The Blu-ray release retains the effect.
'They’re coming through!'
Immediately after blasting the door lock, thereby rendering the bridge inoperable, there’s are more lines of dialogue that illustrate the differences between the old and new echo effects. Click here for the old echo, and here for the new. As with the previous alteration, I believe this to be an improvement over the old effect. Once again the Blu-ray release retains the effect.
The .44 Magnum Blaster
Another audio change that might have gone unnoticed by all but the most ardent fans was that of the sound of Princess Leia’s blaster. As she covers Luke while he attempts to use his grappling hook to bring them to safety, Leia’s blaster makes the distinctive ‘bang’ normally associated with handguns. The Special Edition used a different mix to the original release, and sounded like this. On the 2004 DVD the mix sounds as it did for the original release of the film, as you can hear by clicking on this link. As expected the Blu-ray sounds like the 2004 version.
'Close the blast doors!'
While fleeing from a group of Stormtroopers, Han Solo and Chewbacca escape through a set of blast doors leaving the pursuing Imperials attempting to open the doors in frustration. This sequence actually omits a line of dialogue that was present in the original theatrical release. You can hear the pursuit by clicking on this link. For the special edition and 2004 DVD releases the missing line of dialogue has been reinstated, and actually makes the whole scene more amusing (it was the Stormtroopers’ fault that Han and Chewie escaped). Just click here to listen to the scene with the dialogue reinstated. The Blu-ray release retains the line.
'He’s on your tail!'
The Special Edition release of the film includes a line of dialogue that does not appear in either the original film or the 2004 DVDs. Just after Red Leader makes his unsuccessful run through the Death Star’s polar trench, he is pursued, and ultimately destroyed by Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter. You can hear the line by clicking on this link. If you’d like to hear the scene without dialogue, click here. The line is not present in the Blu-ray version.
The Force Fanfare
Here we come to one of the more contentious issues surrounding the DVD release of A New Hope. During the Rebel attack on the Death Star, just as the X-Wings swoop down to attack the trench, a triumphant statement of the Force theme can be heard. You can listen to this by clicking here. The DVD release of the film buries this music so far down in the mix that it is virtually inaudible, as demonstrated by this clip. This exemplifies the problems with the audio on this DVD release of A New Hope. However, Lucasfilm issued the following statement to reassure everyone that there was nothing wrong:
"We are always impressed with how closely fans listen to the many different sound mixes we have made for the Star Wars movies over the years. It is flattering to know that, indeed, the audience is listening. Consequently, each mix comes out differently and any changes that you hear on the all-new Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX tracks on the Star Wars Trilogy DVD set are deliberate creative decisions. We can confirm that there are no technical glitches as has been reported."
Well, thank goodness for that then. There’s obviously nothing wrong with the release, and the reported inconsistent dialogue levels, reversed stereo score and missing music are all ‘deliberate creative decisions’. Phew! However, it was nice of Lucusfilm to make the creative decision to give French speaking people the chance to view the DVD with the Force theme intact, as evidenced by this clip. So, it’s a deliberate creative decision? Yeah right—mind tricks only work on the weak-minded!
To further reinforce how the above was bull the Blu-ray release of the film has restored the Force Fanfare to its former glory. Not all of the audio errors have been fixed mind you, but that's a story for another time...
It should be apparent to everyone that there have been a lot of changes to the trilogy over the years, some good, others bad. While this list should in no way be taken as the definitive comparison of the different versions I hope it will serve as a good starting point for those curious about the changes. This comparison will never be truly ‘finished’ as long as Lucas continues to make alterations to the movies, but hopefully I’ve covered the majority of serious changes for the time being. If you think I’ve missed anything that warrants inclusion in this comparison please post a comment below and I’ll consider adding it. That’s all for this comparison, but stay tuned for the next article in which I tackle the changes to the second instalment in the trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back.
You can read the second, third and fourth instalments of the guide by clicking here, here and here.
Editorial by Chris Gould
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