Star Wars: The Changes - Part Three
Chris Gould takes his third and final look at the last instalment of ever-evolving Star Wars trilogy, with the Star Wars: Episode ...
Alterations to Existing Scenes
The Fox Logo
Here we see the original 20th Century Fox logo, as it appeared at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back way back in 1980.
For the 1997 Special Edition release of the film onwards, the new shiny new Fox logo is present at the head of the film.
The Lucasfilm Logo
Here is the old Lucas film log, as it was back in the 1980s. 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. Wow!
Along Time Ago...
Here is the opening to perhaps the most famous titles sequence of all time, just as it was back in the early 1980s.
Not a lot has changed for the Special Edition release onwards, although the blue is now a bit lighter than before. Colour me unconcerned.
The Door to Jabba's Palace
In this shot from the 1983 release of Return of the Jedi we see the droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO, approaching the door to Jabba's the Hut's palace.
Fast forward to 1997 and nothing has really changed for the SPecial Edition release of the film.
Here is the 2004 edition of the same scene and as you can see it's largely the same as it always has been.
The 2011 the Blu-ray release of the film has been tweaked to include a panning shot of a much larger door to the palace. The droids now look much smaller by comparison.
Oddly in the reverse angle shot immediately following this scene the door doesn't look to be as big as it does from the outside.
The Max Rebo Band
Here we see Jabba the Hutt’s resident band. The original line-up comprises of Max Rebo (the blue, elephantine thing playing the keyboard), pipe player Droopy McCool and lead vocalist Sy Snootles. You can just make out Sy on the right of the frame, standing in front of Han Solo’s carbonite encased form. In this version of the film, the group is performing the song ‘Lapti Nek’.
For the Special Edition the Max Rebo band has been greatly ‘enhanced’. You’ll note the use of quotation marks here, and this is because this scene stands alongside Greedo shooting first and Jabba’s appearance in A New Hope as one of my hated alterations. As you can see, Sy Snootles has been redone in CGI, and she’s been given a companion—the Yuzzum creature known as Joh Yowza (again, an entirely computer-generated creation). Together they sing the execrably bad ‘Jedi Rocks’, which is so out of place in the scene it’s untrue…
The 2004 DVD release is identical to the Special Edition, albeit with radically enhanced image quality. This image helps to define some of the other band members who appeared in the Special Edition, such as Barquin D'an, Doda Bodonawieedo, Ak-rev, Umpass-stay, Lyn Me, Rystáll and Greeata. You’ll also notice that Han Solo’s form no longer appears on the wall (it's obscured by one of the larger instruments).
It's pretty much business as usual for the Blu-ray release.
Here's we see a shot from the 1983 release of the film, as Jabba's court slumbers.
Nothing has changed in 1997...
...or in 2004.
However, in 2011 the Blu-ray release includes a shot of a Dug walking across the frame just before Luke Skywalker enters.
In this shot from the original 1983 release of the film we see Han Solo being freed from his carbonite prison by Princess Leia, in her guise of the bounty hunter Boushh.
The scene remains unchanged in 1997...
...and in 2004.
For the Blu-ray release the thawing effect has been altered to a slightly more 'realistic' one (at least as realistic as it can be given that the technology doesn't exist). This ranks as another of the baffling changes that were made in favour of fixing genuine issues.
The Sail Barge
Here we see Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge skimming across the surface of Tatooine. It’s not particularly apparent from a still image, but the figure on top of the barge has very obviously been added to the shot at a later stage. The way in which it moves is unnatural; it almost lurches across the deck.
The Special Edition not only cleaned the scene up, but also corrected the shadows underneath the barge and the skiff. The figure atop the barge has been replaced by two new figures that walk in a more natural fashion.
The 2004 DVD release is unchanged from the Special Edition, at least in terms of new footage and improved effects. However, colour rendition and clarity are much improved in this release (but you know that by now).
Again, nothing has really changed for the 2011 Blu-ray version.
Here we have a shot of Luke Skywalker standing over the Great Pit of Carkoon, nesting place of the all-powerful Sarlacc. The creature is basically a gigantic mouth, with rows of inwardly facing teeth and a number of sticky tentacles that it uses to snare unsuspecting prey.
For the Special Edition release of the film, the Sarlacc had a major overhaul. Instead of the gaping, black hole at its centre, the creature now has a snapping CGI beak. A number of CGI tentacles have also been added, creating a more animated (if you’ll excuse the pun) creature.
The 2004 DVD release keeps things the same, but the overall quality of the shot has been cleaned up somewhat. I was initially against this addition to the film, as the CGI looks a little out of place, but I’ve now come to terms with it (more or less). The addition of the beak gives the creature more personality, although it does detract from the mystery of just what lies in wait in the belly of the beast.
Another very similar shot. I had hoped that the odd pink tint would be absent from the Blu-ray, but it was not to be.
Here it is ladies and gentlemen—proof that Han Solo has the strongest toes in the galaxy! Before his Wookie co-pilot managed to grab Han’s ankles, everyone’s favourite scoundrel was hanging from the edge of the skiff, somewhat implausibly, by his toes.
The Special Edition release addressed this little problem by adding some CGI ropes, which curl around Han’s ankles. Han’s ability to hang from the skiff now makes a lot more sense, although it’s still not entirely convincing.
Nothing much has changed for the DVD release I’m afraid. Colour rendition is a lot better, and the image contains more fine detail, but other than that things are pretty much the same as the Special Edition.
Han's feet are still tangled up in the Blu-ray version.
Those Blinking Ewoks
Here's a shot of Wicket the Ewok from the 1983 version of the film.
Here's the same shot from 1997. Awww, ain't he cute?
Here's Wicket 2004 style. I don't know about you, but I always thought there was something missing from this shot. Wouldn't it be cool if Wicket could blink?
Well in 2011 he can! Yes that's right, the Blu-ray release features multiple shots in which Wicket and other Ewoks have more natural eyes and can be seen blinking their eyelids. Perhaps this was what was needed for people to finally stop hating the furry buggers!
R2 Freaks Out
In this shot from the 1983 version we see R2 having a bit of a fit after being shot by a Stormtrooper.
The Special Edition shot from 1997 is much the same.
As is the 2004 version of the same shot.
In this shot from the 2011 Blu-ray you can see that R2 has been 'enhanced' with various new CGI appendages, his panels open and close more rapidly and steam comes out of various nozzles (including, oddly, his hologram projector). The water that shot from one of the nozzles has been crudely erased (presumably because it looked like R2 was having a wee) and the ground on the left hand side of the frame has been patched to cover up a cable.
Here’s the first of the lightsaber consistency shots. As Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader cross swords in front of Emperor Palpatine, his face is illuminated by the intensity of the blades.
The Special Edition shot looks almost identical, although there is a definite increase in brightness and contrast. The Emperor’s infamous ‘head slugs’are all the more noticeable for this increase.
Oh my God! What happened here? It would seem that the side effects of the restoration work are rearing their ugly heads again. The contrast and brightness of the scene have been rationalised, leading to sabers with absolutely no vibrancy. Gone are the white cores, Vader’s saber looks pink, and both blades are all but translucent. This is perhaps the best example of the image problems affecting the 2004 DVDs. Regardless of what Lucasfilm or anyone else says, as a paying customer I expect better than this, and it should not have passed quality control. You may also notice that the ‘head slugs’ remain, even in this edition.
In another tacit admission that the 2004 release wasn't up to scratch the lightsabers have been restored for the Blu-ray release. The eagle-eyed among you might also notice that the Emperor's 'head slugs' (hand animation used to cover up dodgy make-up) have finally been removed on the Blu-ray.
Here’s another shot from the original release of the film. The blades are still vibrant shades of red and green, with the solid white cores we’re used to.
The Special Edition scene is pretty much the same, but once again the brightness and contrast have been elevated causing some slight blooming.
Once again the DVD release suffers in comparison to the other versions. The cores are all but missing, and this is especially noticeable when looking at Vader’s pink saber.
The lightsabers again look better on the Blu-ray, although they're still not quite right.
Yet another shot from the original release showing the red and green blades flashing with brilliant intensity (especially Luke’s lightsaber).
The contrast in this Special Edition shot is actually a little too high for my liking. Vader’s saber has become indistinct, with the core blooming into the corona. However, it’s still fairly close to the original release.
Yet again the lightsabers in the 2004 release suffer from the washed out look. Luke’s blade is very dull in comparison to the previous shots, while Vader still has his pink blade.
The bright core has returned to the lighsabers in this shot from the Blu-ray.
In this final shot we can see the blades very well. Both are well defined and easily identifiable as red and green (although this is probably the weakest Vader’s saber looks in the original release).
The Special Edition blades are very similar. Once again, the scene has elevated brightness and contrast, but it’s nothing that adversely affects the weapons.
In this final shot from the DVD release, Luke’s lightsaber looks almost dead on. However, although Vader’s lightsaber is better than in previous shots, the blade is still slightly off. I don’t want to sound like I’m criticising the restoration work as a whole, because that’s simply not the case, but these quality control issues smack of an ‘it’s good enough’ attitude. When combined with the issues on the A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back one has to wonder if these films received all of the attention they required prior to release…
The cores are again a little bit brighter on the Blu-ray, but Vader's saber is still pink. What really irks me about this is that there are numerous shots where his saber is clearly a deep red, followed by the lighter pink and so on. After all of the fuss made about this issue after the 2004 release you'd have thought saber consistency would have been addressed over silly little additions like a larger door for Jabba's palace.
In the emotional climax of the film, Luke Skywalker removed Darth Vader’s mask to reveal the face of his father, Anakin Skywalker. Anakin was portrayed by actor Sebastian Shaw.
The Special Edition of the film is identical to the original release, so there’s very little for me to comment on here I’m afraid!
At first glance the 2004 DVD release looks the same as the original and Special Edition releases, but look closer. Along with the improved picture quality, the digital wizards have removed Shaw’s eyebrows and coloured his eyes to match Hayden Christensen! This makes perfect sense when you consider the extreme likelihood that Anakin’s eyebrows weren’t made of asbestos (all will be revealed come Revenge of the Sith).
This shot from the Blu-ray looks the same as the 2004 version.
The Destruction of the Death Star
Here we have the original shot of the second Death Star exploding after the Rebels detonate the main reactor. The familiar sight of the Millennium Falcon can be seen as the ship streaks away from the conflagration.
The Special Edition release of the film changed the explosion to be more consistent with those found in A New Hope. The colour of the fireball has changed, and the familiar ‘Praxis’ shockwave can be seen emanating from the centre of the blast.
The DVD release keeps the Special Edition fireworks, but the colour correction has returned the explosion to something more akin to the original release. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ‘ring of fire’ effect when I first saw the Special Editions of the films, but I’ve now come to accept it.
The Death Star's demise still looks the same in on the Blu-ray and I still think that colour and contrast are off.
The original celebration scene on Endor showed a panoramic view of the Ewok village, complete with the distant glow of fires in the treetop villages themselves. The scene appeared immediately before the close-up shots of the Ewoks performing their ‘Yub Nub’ (or is it ‘Yub Yub’?) song as the Rebel Alliance celebrates its victory over the Empire.
For the Special Edition release of the film, a number of Ewoks have been digitally added to this scene. It’s difficult to make them out in this image, but believe me when I tell you that they are there. ‘Yub Nub’ has been replaced with another piece of music that John Williams composed especially for the film.
The DVD release is exactly the same, save for the usual visual enhancements. It’s worth noting that this scene now appears after a montage of celebrations on various other worlds across the galaxy.
The Blu-ray celebration is largely the same as it was in 2004, although the black crush isn't quite as bad so there's more visible detail.
Prior to the close-ups of Luke and the Jedi spirits, both the Special Edition and 2004 DVD release feature more scenes of Ewoks and Rebels celebrating. Here we see a group of Ewoks blowing horns.
The celebrations continue in both the Special Edition and DVD releases, with groups of Ewoks and Rebels dancing around a series of bonfires. All of this has very obviously been added to the original Endor scenes, but compared to some of the alterations it’s not particularly intrusive.
The Jedi Spirits
Here we see the spirits of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Anakin Skywalker as they watch Luke and the Rebels celebrate their victory over the Empire. As with Vader’s death scene, Anakin is played by actor Sebastian Shaw.
Here’s the same scene from the Special Edition release of the film. Nothing much has changed here, although the contrast has been bumped up a little bit. I always thought this scene was a fitting end to the trilogy. Anakin gained redemption by saving his son and ridding the galaxy of a greater evil, so it is only fitting that he should join Obi-Wan and Yoda, becoming one with the Force.
Here we have the scene from the 2004 DVD release, but with one huge difference—Sebastian Saw has been replaced by Hayden Christensen! For many this ranks as perhaps the worst change in the whole saga (at least if the majority of posts I’ve read are to be believed), and I have to agree. I know there are those who will argue that Anakin died when he became Darth Vader, and so it makes sense for him to appear as a young man, but this just doesn’t sit right with me. In killing the Emperor, Anakin was redeemed; he returned to the light side of the Force. It’s worked this way for twenty years, and it didn’t need to be changed in such a ham-fisted manner in order to tie the film into the prequels. To top it off, Sebastian Shaw’s warm, loving smile has been replaced by Christensen’s decidedly creepy glare. Lock up your children!
Sigh. Hayden Christiansen remains and his footage hasn't even been reshot to make him look more like he belongs in the scene and not a maximum security facility for sexual predators.
For the Special Edition release of the film onwards, a couple of shots of the unfortunate Twi’lek dancer, Oola, have been added. This reaction occurs after she falls into the rancor’s pit. Unsurprisingly, she looks a little apprehensive! You may be interested to know that this scene was shot specifically for the Special Edition release, and actress Femi Taylor was in such good shape she was able to reprise her role after almost fifteen years.
Boba Fett Flirts
For the Special Edition release of the film onwards, a new shot featuring Boba Fett flirting with dancers Lyn Me and Rystáll has been inserted as the bounty hunter Boushh brings the captive Chewbacca into Jabba’s courtroom.
A Herd of Banthas
For the Special Edition release onwards, a short scene featuring a herd of Banthas is included. This appears immediately before the first shot of Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge traversing the Dune Sea of Tatooine, on its way to the Great Pit of Carkoon.
From the Special Edition onwards the film contains a number of new scenes that precede the initial shot of the celebrations at the Ewok village. The first of these is a shot of the inhabitants of Cloud City, rejoicing at the news of the Empire’s defeat. Obviously this CGI addition stands out in comparison to the practical sets, but on the whole it’s not too bad.
The next planet we visit is Tatooine, which is literally teeming with activity as people line the streets to express their joy at the demise of the Empire. My Cloud City comments are applicable to this scene to a certain extent, although I have to admit it makes for an impressive spectacle.
In one scene featured in the 2004 DVD release that wasn’t present in the Special Edition we take a brief trip to Naboo, home of Padme Amidala, Emperor Palpatine and, of course, Jar Jar Binks and the Gungans. Here it is in all it’s glory, complete with Gungans shouting ‘Wesa free!’…
Perhaps the most impressive of the celebration shots is that of Courascant, seat of galactic power. Millions of citizens are visible as the entire planet celebrates its freedom from Imperial tyranny.
This shot is much the same as the preceding image, save for one difference. Those of you with keen eyes might have noticed that the senate building has been added 2004 DVD release. To me, this is a slightly unnecessary attempt to tie the original and prequel trilogies together.
Here we see another shot from the celebrations on Courascant. If you look very closely at the right hand side of the frame you may notice Emperor Palpatine’s statue being toppled.
Here we have the same shot from the 2004 DVD release. It looks fairly similar at first glance, but if you look closely you’ll see that the building second from the left has gone in order to make way for a shot of the Jedi Temple. Once again this seems to be another unnecessary attempt to tie the trilogies together. You have to wonder if the Sith would even have allowed the temple to remain standing.
Luke Congratulates Wedge
For the Special Edition release of the film, a new shot of Luke congratulating Wedge Antilles has been inserted. Although shot during production, it did not appear in the 1983 theatrical release of the film.
When Lando Calrissian falls into the Great Pit of Carkoon, Han Solo attempts to save his friend by lowering a force pike. As he does this, the Sarlacc latches onto Lando with a sticky tentacle, forcing Han to use a blaster to remove it. Of course, at this point in time Han is still blind due to his hibernation sickness, leading to the following exchange. For the Special Edition onwards, Han’s line has been altered to this. Personally I think either line is pretty funny. I imagine that this dialogue change is a result of a different audio element being used (possibly from an alternate take), much the same as Luke’s ‘You’re lucky you don’t taste very good’ line in The Empire Strikes Back.
The climactic scene of Return of the Jedi sees Darth Vader turn away from evil to save his son, Luke. For almost thirty years the Dark Lord has looked on in silence before ultimately making the decision to sacrifice himself, as heard in this this clip. For the Blu-ray release of the film George Lucas has decided to add some dialogue to the scene. Now, instead of making his decision silently Vader yells 'no!' before he hurls the Emperor down the reactor shaft, as evidenced by this clip. Already the cause of many boxset cancellations and the subject of countless memes, this change has met with a lot of criticism from people who feel that the new dialogue spoon feeds us Vader's emotional state where it was merely implied before. Others just think it sounds bad. It would appear that it was done to add symmetry between the ending of Revenge of the Sith and this film, but as with so many of the Blu-ray additions it just feels tacked on. There's no real anger in Vader's voice, which would have helped to better sell the new dialogue. Still, it's here to stay so we'd better get used to it.
Well there you have it. Return of the Jedi has undergone some major changes throughout the years. Like A New Hope before it the film has suffered from the introduction of a number of CGI creatures, but perhaps the worst of the changes is the introduction of Hayden Christensen, who replaces Sebastian Shaw as the spirit of Anakin Skywalker. I know Lucas has his reasons for doing this but surely the prequels should fit the continuity of the original films, not vice versa? The Blu-ray release brings with it yet more changes, many of which seem to be a case of 'because we can' rather than 'because we should'. As with the other comparisons (and indeed the films themselves) this article will never be truly finished. I will continue to update it as long as George continues to tinker. I hope you’ve enjoyed this retrospective look at Return of the Jedi and indeed the other films in the trilogy, and that it’s opened your eyes to the scope of the changes, for better or worse.
You can read the first, second and fourth 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.
Editorial by Chris Gould
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