Written PostStar Wars is Coming to Blu-Ray and I Don’t Really Care…

Star Wars is Coming to Blu-Ray and I Don’t Really Care…

A few days ago, at the Star Wars Celebration V convention in Orlando, FL, it was announced that the Star Wars films will be released on Blu-Ray in the fall of 2011.  Click here for more details.

I should be overcome with excitement at the propsect of seeing the Star Wars films presented in the crystal-clear quality of Blu-Ray, but I really can’t muster up much enthusiasm for this announcement.

Back in 2004 I spent a lot of money to purchase the Original Trilogy on DVD, and I felt that the presentation of those films was so catastrophically bad that, after watching the trilogy in the week after I bought the set, I have not once gone back to re-watch those DVDs, and I can’t imagine that I ever will.  George Lucas has a long history of fiddling with the Star Wars films, and in theory I don’t object to that concept.  It’s just that so many of the changes that he has made to the Original Trilogy in recent years have, in my opinion, really been to the detriment of the films.

There were all sorts of problems with the 2004 DVD of A New Hope.  For some reason the Star Wars main title had been changed so that it receeded into the distance at a super-fast speed.  The color-timing was off in countless scenes, so that often Luke’s blue light-saber seemed green, and Vader’s red saber seemed pink.  In the climactic Battle of Yavin at the end of the film, the audio was poorly balanced so that, in one instance, John Williams’ score was totally buried under the sound effects.  The Han-Greedo scene was further altered and, even more annoyingly to me, the timing of Greedo’s subtitles were messed up.  Now the subtitles for Greedo’s first line of dialogue appear on screen a beat before he startles Han, ruining the surprise of his entrance.  I could go on and on.  Perhaps none of these changes seem particularly egregious to you, and taken on their own I admit that none of them are that huge a deal.  But all together, when scene after scene in the movie was altered — and not for the better — I was incredibly frustrated and disappointed by what had been done to the film.

Empire and Jedi were similarly mangled.  In Empire, all of Boba Fett’s dialogue had been re-recorded by Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in the prequel trilogy.  I understand the idea behind that change — Boba is a clone of Jango so would surely sound just like him when he grew up.  But the few lines of dialogue spoken by Boba Fett in Empire have all attained iconic status, and I found the notion of changing them to be wrong-headed and disappointing.  Furthermore, while I enjoyed Mr. Morrison’s performance in Attack of the Clones, I found his line-readings for this new version of Empire to be totally flat and off, far inferior to the original actor Jeremy Bulloch. 

In watching Jedi back in ’04 I at first thought that it had emerged unscathed, but the very worst change came at the very end.  As the movie closes, Luke sees the hovering, blue spectral form of Anakin Skywalker standing proudly with Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi.  In the original version of the film, Anakin was played by Sebastian Shaw, the same actor who plays Vader in his death scene when Luke removes his mask.  In the 2004 DVD version, Sebastian Shaw has been replaced at the end by Hayden Christensen.  Not only did I find the CGI used to make this change to be extremely poor (Christensen looks totally out of place in the image, to me — and the creepy look on his face in the scene doesn’t help matters), but the whole idea completely goes against one of the main points of the film.  In Return of the Jedi, everyone (Obi-Wan, Yoda, etc.) tells Luke that Anakin Skywalker does not exist anymore — that he ceased being Anakin Skywalker when he became Darth Vader.  But Luke believes that Anakin does still exist — that there is still some good in Vader.  In the end, Luke was right — Vader kills the Emperor and saves Luke.  “Tell your sister, you were right about me,” he tells Luke in his dying moments.  By replacing the older version of Anakin played by Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen — looking like he did in Episode III when he became Vader — that implies that Anakin DID cease to exist back then.  That’s why he appears looking like his younger self.  I think that is totally contradictory to the whole point of the movie. 

Okay, deep breath.  So I hated the 2004 DVDs.  Don’t I have some hope that Lucas & co. will have corrected some of these changes/mistakes for the new Blu-Ray discs?  Well, no, not really.  I’ll read the reviews carefully when the discs are released next year, but it seems to me that George Lucas LIKES all of these changes that he’s made, and I don’t see him going back on that.  Were the ORIGINAL, unaltered versions of the Original Trilogy being released on disc along with the new CGI-altered versions, THAT would get me excited.  But it’s not looking like that will be the case.  (It’s hard to express my disappointment that Lucas refuses to release the original versions — the versions that many many people, myself included, fell in love with — on DVD or Blu-Ray.)  There are hints at some cool new special features (there’s an awesome deleted scene from Jedi that has been making the rounds of the internet — this will apparently be included along with lots more deleted scenes and other archival footage), but I don’t see that prompting me to spend a lot of money on an expensive set that is just going to anger me when I watch it.  We’ll see what the word on the Blu-Ray collection is, among fans, when it’s released.  But this is my reaction today.


For now, I have Adywan’s AMAZING restoration of A New Hope to enjoy, and I hope that his long-awaited version of Empire will someday soon see the light of day!

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