Star Wars: The Changes - Part Two
It's now time for Chris Gould's second trip into a galaxy far, far away with this examination of the changes to Star War...
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 ahead of the film.
The Lucasfilm Logo
Here is the old Lucasfilm logo, 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 Edition. The logo now fades up and sparkles, before changing colour. Wow!
Along Time Ago...
Here is the opening to one of the most famous title sequences 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.
While investigating a meteor impact site, Luke Skywalker is attacked by a fearsome wampa ice creature. After killing Luke’s tauntaun the wampa drags the young Jedi-in-training back to its lair, there to be stored until the creature is ready to feast. In this original footage the creature is mostly implied, relying on shadows and brief glimpses to build tension.
For the Special Edition release of the film the wampa was given a complete makeover. New shots of the creature feeding on the remains of a tauntaun have been inserted and we now get to see the creature in a lot more detail. These shots are interspersed with Luke trying to escape by using the Force to summon his lightsaber.
For the 2004 DVD release nothing has been added over and above the changes made for the Special Edition. There are many who prefer the original incarnation of the wampa, citing the ‘less is more’ rule as the basis for their preference. However, I’m actually going to stick my neck out and say that I don’t particularly mind the change.
The Blu-ray release is identical to the 2004 release. You'll get tired of reading this before long.
Speaking of our old friend the wampa, for a brief moment during the initial attack on Luke and his tauntaun you can see the puppeteer's arm, as per the shot below. You might also notice the black mark at the bottom left edge of the frame.
This little error remained in the film for over thirty years until the Blu-ray release took the opportunity to patch it up with some digital fur. The damage to the edge of the frame remains though.
Here we see the Emperor communicating with Darth Vader via hologram. As you can see the Emperor's appearance is radically different than in Return of the Jedi.
The Special Edition Emperor looks identical to the original release of the film, albeit with some minor differences in contrast. He still looks nothing like his Return of the Jedi counterpart, which is because the Emperor is played by a woman! In order to give the Emperor a more unsettling appearance, chimpanzee eyes were superimposed over the actress' eyes. This Emperor was voiced by Clive Revell.
Here we have the Emperor 2004 style. For the DVD release Lucas has replaced the chimp-lady with new footage of actor Ian McDiarmid, who portrays the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Aside from the cosmetic changes some of the dialogue has been altered during this scene (this can be heard in the ‘Audio Changes’ section below). It took a while to get used to the change and while it’s not perfect it does at least lend some much-needed continuity to the portrayal of the Emperor.
No change for the Blu-ray.
Boba Fett’s Pursuit
Here we see Boba Fett’s Slave I giving chase to the Millennium Falcon as it heads for Bespin. The ships are pretty hard to make out, but you can just see the glow of their engines against the blackness of space.
The Special Edition added another shot to the pursuit, in which the angle is reversed and both the Falcon and Slave I fly past the camera.
The 2004 release keeps this extended flyby without adding anything in the way of new footage, although Slave I's engine noise has been altered to sound more like it does in the prequels. The restoration also makes the star-field easier to see. This alteration doesn’t detract from the scene so it gets the thumbs up from me.
Again, the Blu-ray is the same.
The Approach to Cloud City
Here we see the original approach to Cloud City as the Millennium Falcon, flanked by a pair of cloud cars, makes its way towards the floating metropolis.
The Special Edition adds all-new CGI footage that shows a lot more of the city as the Falcon twists through towering structures on its way to landing platform 327.
The DVD release is identical to the Special Edition, as you can see from the screenshot. The computer effects work in these new sequences blends very well with the model work, creating an almost seamless transition between the old and the new.
Yet more Blu-ray similarities.
Tibanna Gas Refinery
Here’s a shot of Cloud City as seen from a distance. The city itself is a matte painting, while the cloud car is a moving element that has been composited into the scene. The image is quite muddied, especially when compared to the shots of the city in the scenes immediately following.
The Special Edition removes the cloud car but introduces a Tibanna gas refinery into the shot. Unfortunately the strange pink tint remains, making the scene look very odd when compared to the following scenes in which the sky is a pure blue.
The DVD release keeps the Tibanna refinery but thankfully it ditches the pink tint. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is by far the cleanest and sharpest looking of the three shots. The scene is now far more in -eeping with the following close-up shots of the city.
The shot is identical for the Blu-ray release.
Cloud City Exterior
Here is an exterior shot of Cloud City as it appeared in the original release of the film. You may notice Princess Leia walking around inside of the apartment to the right and a cloud car taking off to the left of the frame.
The Special Edition version redesigns the building and offers a clearer view of Leia, along with adding a second cloud car to the scene.
The 2004 release keeps the Special Edition footage and benefits from the added clarity afforded by the restoration work.
The Blu-ray release goes one further by introducing more natural reflections on the window for added realism.
Here we see Chewbacca searching for C-3PO in the bowels of Cloud City in this shot from the 1980 version of the film.
Not a lot has changed for the 1997 Special Edition release of the feature.
Again, not much change in 2004 beyond the improvement in picture quality.
However, the Blu-ray release radically alters the look of the scene with new colour timing and digitally added sparks, lending it a much warmer appearance.
Cloud City Interior
Here we see Lando Calrissian escorting his ‘guests’ through the interior of Cloud City. Notice the lack of windows, which denies us an exterior view of the city.
All of this changed with the Special Edition, with the introduction of windows affording a view of the skyscrapers, landing platforms and other structures that comprise the city. This opens the city up a great deal, making it more believable as a floating habitat.
The 2004 DVD release keeps everything that the Special Edition introduced, but as ever it benefits from the added clarity afforded by the restoration work. Having said that, the DVD release's boosted contrast does obscure some exterior detail that was previously visible in the SE.
Still the same on Blu-ray, contrast boosting and all.
Here’s another shot of the new windows added to the city. In the distance you can just make out Boba Fett’s Slave I sitting on a landing platform as he prepares to depart for Tatooine with the carbonite-encased Han Solo.
Here's another example of Lucasfilm's inconsistency when it comes to the Special Edition additions. Remember those lovely big windows with the view of the buildings? Well they're gone in the reverse angle shot. Continuity? What's that? Why this wasn't fixed for the Blu-ray release is beyond me...
Here we see Han Solo immediately before he’s encased in carbonite. Notice how the shoulders of his shirt appear much darker than the surrounding material? This led many people to think that it was a continuity mistake and that Han was actually wearing a sleeveless jacket in this scene.
Here we see the same scene from the Special Edition release. Once again, it looks like Han could indeed be wearing a jacket - except he’s not. If you’ve watched the show When Star Wars Ruled the World you might have seen a behind the scenes clip that shows this very moment being filmed. Han is clearly wearing a white shirt and it is not until he steps up to his marker that the lighting casts a strange shadow, giving the appearance of a sleeveless jacket.
Obviously Lucas decided to finally put this little argument to rest with the 2004 DVD release, as he had his team of effects wizards digitally alter Han’s shirt to remove all doubt. The lightsabers are all over the place, but at least Han doesn’t look like he’s wearing a short-sleeved jacket anymore!
No shadow on the Blu-ray.
Darth Vader’s Lightsaber
If you read my previous article you will probably remember that the lightsabers weren’t as consistent as they could have been through the years. In this shot from the original release we can see Darth Vader’s lightsaber as it is meant to appear, although it's still not as red as it is in other shots (or as red as other Sith sabers).
The Special Edition shot looks a little washed out when compared to the original release, but the red corona of the blade is still clearly visible around the brilliant white core.
Oh dear, what happened? Here we see another of the inconsistent lightsabers found throughout all three films. The restoration work has resulted in an ‘averaging out’ of the scene’s contrast and brightness, which means the loss of the brilliance of the saber’s core. It’s pink-saber Vader!
As you can see Lucasfilm hasn't fixed this error for the Blu-ray release.
Here we have a close-up from the next scene. Notice how the blade still has a red-ish ‘edge’ to it, even though the core is very white?
Things remain largely the same with the Special Edition, although there’s slightly less red apparent than in the original release.
In 2004 Vader’s saber is still pink. This actually occurs numerous times throughout the film, to both Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker’s lightsabers. However, the effect is more noticeable on the red blade of Vader’s saber than the blue of Luke’s. Thankfully the blades are fine for most of this climactic dual and the shots in which they appear to be incorrectly coloured are infrequent. There is also a very brief moment on Dagobah where the sabers look off, but it is almost too fleeting to mention.
Another saber colouring error that's gone unfixed. Actually, unlike the other films in the original trilogy none of the saber errors have been touched in The Empire Strikes Back. Still, at least they added CGI sparks to the scene with Chewie eh?
Cloud City Evacuation
Here we see Lando Calrissian warning the inhabitants of Cloud City to flee before the arrival of more Imperial troops. While this scene worked well as it was, it didn’t lend a particularly impressive sense of scale to the proceedings.
The Special Edition introduced a few new shots to this scene, such as people taking time out from their everyday activities to listen to the message. This shot also gives us another nice look at the exterior of the city.
Things remain the same for the DVD release, with the obvious benefits of the restoration. Other additions include a wide shot of Cloud City's colossal plaza, with many of Cloud City’s inhabitants pausing to listen to Lando.
Again the Blu-ray is identical.
Darth Vader’s Departure
In the original release, after having failed to lure Luke to the dark side of the Force, Darth Vader demands that his troops bring his shuttle so that he may return to the Executor
The Special Edition adds a new scene in which Vader and his troops stride out onto the landing platform to board the shuttle. This extended scene doesn’t really detract from the pacing of the film, and I have nothing against the change (a controversial stance among many Star Wars fans).
Things remain the same for the DVD release. It’s worth noting that the dialogue immediately preceding this new scene has been altered and you can listen to the new lines in the ‘Audio Changes’ section below.
The latest in a long line of identical Blu-ray shots.
In the original release of the film there was an inexplicable ‘white glare’ when Lando opened the top hatch to retrieve Luke from the belly of Cloud City. This created a continuity error, as in the scene immediately following this we see an exterior shot of the Falcon and another hatch opening before Lando appears.
The Special Edition fixed this mistake by adding a digital hatch to the scene. This is one of the small changes that often goes unnoticed, but I for one am glad they did it.
Things are very much the same for the DVD release, although the overall level of detail and clarity of the image is greatly improved (along with the purity of the colours).
You guessed it, the shot is the same on Blu-ray.
Here we see two Imperial officers standing on the bridge of the Executor delivering a report to Darth Vader.
The scene from the Special Edition is much the same, but the observant among you might have noticed that the insignias in their uniforms are on a different side to the rest of the film!
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Lucas had his guys digitally reposition the incorrectly placed insignias, much to the delight of anally retentive people everywhere!
Few, this is the last time I have to write the words 'identical' and 'Blu-ray' together.
Darth Vader’s Shuttle
In the original release of the film we never see Darth Vader return to his Star Destroyer after summoning his shuttle. This was fixed for the Special Edition and subsequent DVD release of the film. Here we see the shuttle departing Bespin.
Immediately following the departure from Bespin is a scene portraying the shuttle en route to the Imperial flagship, Executor. I’m particularly fond of this addition, because it showcases the massive scale of the command ship (although it could be argued that it’s a little redundant).
Arrival at the Executor
Here we see Darth Vader’s shuttle landing in one of the flagship’s hanger bays. Or do we? Those of you with keen senses may have noticed that this hanger looks very similar to the one from the Death Star in Return of the Jedi, and you’d be right. This scene is actually an outtake from the third instalment of the trilogy! It's also the topic of many a debate among fans as the insertion of this scene truncates a classic piece of music from John William's amazing score.
Here we see Darth Vader disembarking from his shuttle, where he is greeted by a group of Imperial officers. But wait, who’s that? Why it’s Moff Jejerrod, commander of the second Death Star. But isn’t Admiral Piett in command of the Executor? Oh wait, it’s another outtake from Return of the Jedi! If you look closely you can actually see the Moff mouth his dialogue from the sequel!
After he is attacked by the wampa Luke is treated in the Rebel medical bay by the droid 2-1B. Immediately afterwards, R2-D2 and C-3PO enter the room and express their relief at their master’s wellbeing. In the original release Luke is less than gracious in his acceptance of this sentiment, as evidenced by this clip. Later releases of the film added a line of dialogue that acknowledges the droids, as you can hear by clicking this link.
'This is it!'
When flying into battle against the Imperial walkers Luke can be heard giving commands to his wingmen. However, in one particular scene, Luke’s mouth can be seen moving but no words are heard! Click here for the original version of the scene in question. For the Special Edition onwards the line of dialogue has been restored to the film, as evidenced by this audio clip.
'This is suicide!'
After escaping the pursuing TIE fighters, Han Solo attempts to find a safe haven among the asteroid field. As usual C-3PO is less than optimistic about their chances, as you can hear by clicking this link. Later versions of the scene added another line of dialogue to the scene, which paints 3PO as an even bigger worrier. Click here for the new dialogue.
At one point during the film the Emperor contacts Darth Vader aboard his flagship, the Executor. This exchange acknowledges that both the Emperor and Vader know they are searching for Luke Skywalker. Click here for the original version of this scene. For the 2004 DVD release, actor Ian McDiarmid reprised the role he played in the other films and re-recorded all of the Emperor’s dialogue. What is more, certain lines were altered to make it appear as though Vader was keeping something from the Emperor. You can listen to the new dialogue in its entirety by clicking here.
'As you wish.'
Now we come to one of the audio changes that really annoys the fan-boys. The voice of Boba Fett, which was originally supplied by Jason Wingreen, has been re-recorded by Temuera Morrison (who plays Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones). You can hear the original dialogue by clicking here. The updated dialogue featuring Morrison can be heard by clinking here. Personally I’m undecided on this change, mostly because the quality of Morrison’s delivery is inferior to Wingreen’s.
Many different mixes have been used over the years, some featuring adlibbed dialogue. One such instance led to one of my favourite lines from the trilogy, just after the swamp creature spits out R2-D2. Click here for the old line. For the Special Edition onwards, a different take of this scene was used. This take featured actor Mark Hamill reading the dialogue as it was on the page. It makes sense in the context of the scene, but it’s not as funny as his adlib. Click here for the new dialogue.
'He’s no good to me dead.'
Now we have more of Boba Fett’s altered dialogue as the bounty hunter informs Darth Vader of his need to keep Han Solo alive. You can click on this link for the old dialogue or this link for Morrison’s new reading.
'What if he doesn’t survive?'
Yet another of Boba’s altered lines can be heard during the scene in which Han Solo is frozen in carbonite. Simply click here for the old dialogue and here for the new rendition. Morrison’s dub has to rank as the worst delivery of a line in the whole of the film and the original dialogue sounds so much better.
'Put Captain Solo in the cargo hold.'
Boba Fett’s final piece of altered dialogue can be heard as he oversees the loading of Han Solo’s frozen body into Slave I. You can compare the two versions by clicking here for the original line and here for the altered one.
In the original release of the movie, when Luke threw himself to his apparent doom after his duel with Darth Vader, he did so with silent dignity. You can listen to this clip by clicking here. For the Special Edition release of the film a scream was added as Luke fell. You can hear the new sound effect by clicking here. Many believe this scream to be the same one used for the Emperor’s death in Return of the Jedi. Whether that’s true or not, I’m of the opinion that it sounds terrible. Thankfully the scream was removed for the 2004 DVD release.
Darth Vader’s Shuttle
After his duel with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader commanded his underlings to bring his shuttle. People lament the loss of this scene, but I never really liked the quality of the dialogue or the score. You can hear the original dialogue by clicking Click here. For the Special Edition onward, the dialogue has changed considerably to accommodate new footage. You can hear the new dialogue by clicking here. In a move sure to annoy the purists I think this sounds much better than the old line, and contrary to popular belief it is James Earl Jones providing the voice of Darth Vader.
Well there you have it. As with A New Hope before it, The Empire Strikes Back has undergone some serious changes over the years. However, unlike A New Hope the changes made to Empire are more subtle, with fewer CGI scenes shoehorned into the film. The audio substitutions a more numerous than the previous film, but on the whole they work in the context of the story. I’m in agreement with those who believe that Empire stands as the film least corrupted by the various ‘enhancements’ and substitutions, primarily because there have been very few new scenes inserted over the years (such as scenes featuring CGI creatures like Jabba the Hutt). Of course it helps that Empire was easily the best of the three films to begin with. As with my first comparison I doubt this one will ever be truly finished. I will be updating as and when I discover new alterations or additions, or when I receive suitable recommendations from you, the readers. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the film, and don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the Return of the Jedi comparison in the near future.
You can read the first, third 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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