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Why the Star Wars Blu-ray Changes Are Not Such a Big Deal

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By now you’ve probably heard of the changes made to the original Star Wars Trilogy in the recent Blu-ray release.  Another thing you may have heard of is the fact that a lot of fans aren’t too happy about these changes.  I’m here to tell you that it’s not such a bid deal.  True, some of the changes aren’t necessary, but are they detrimental to the series?  With one exception, I don’t think so.  Let me show you the reasons why I don’t think they’re such a big deal, though I will explain the change I don’t like.

Reason one: It’s not the first time Star Wars has been altered.

I’m not trying to sound like a know-it-all, and I’m sure many of you know that Star Wars has been altered before.  What I’m saying is that by now we should expect this.  Besides, none of the changes are really that big.  A few CGI monsters added?  So what?  The biggest change I can think of is putting Hayden Christensen at the end of Return of the Jedi instead of the original actor.  While I think this is unnecessary I understand the reasoning behind it.  It’s the same reason they replaced a human Jabba the Hut with a CGI version before adding that scene back into A New Hope; Continuity.  In the case of ghost Vader it wasn’t entirely necessary, but I understand why it was done.  In any case, if you think about it, the changes aren’t that big, and even though we can expect more I doubt the core movie will change that much.  Obi-Wan may have a new sound, but in the end it does the same thing, and that’s scare off the sand people.

Reason Two: The power of CGI.

I heard somewhere that, originally, stormtroopers rode on camels while searching for R2-D2 and C-3PO in the desert.  I’m not certain how true that it is, but I know they weren’t riding on those awesome CGI monsters in the original cut.  The CGI tech that made this possible wasn’t available when Star Wars first came out, but you can’t deny that its inclusion has made galaxy far far away come alive, more so than before.  I count the imagination more important than the technology, but the tech certainly helps.  Much in the same way Jurrassic Park benefited from CGI instead of stop animation to bring dinosours to life, the CGI in Star Wars has been a blessing, especially with that replacement of a puppet Yoda with a CGI character in The Phantom Menace.  Compared to the lively and expressive puppet from the original (which they should keep a puppet if you ask me) the one from that first prequel was still and emotionless.  That’s one case where the change is for the better.

Reason Three: No movie is perfect.

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.  No movie is perfect.  Even the original trilogy, as good as it is, has some flaws.  Return of the Jedi opens with a scene to resolve the ending to the previous movie, and then goes on to tell the real third story, which is a little awkward.  A New Hope has that rather tedius lightsaber duel between Vader and Obi-Wan (who was a little old for that sort of thing) and a few shots of X-Wing and Tie fighters reused.  A slight distraction if you ask me.  Then The Empire Strikes Back has that famous scene.  Don’t get me wrong, finding out that Vader was really Luke’s father was a shocking revelation and really effective, but thinking back on it, I’m surprised Vader didn’t react to Luke saying that Vader, who was really Luke’s father, killed Luke’s father.  Vader wouldn’t have known that Obi-Wan told him that.  Why wasn’t he surprised, or even amused by this information?  It didn’t seem to phase him at all.  Like I said, it was a great revelation, and the movies were all great, but they weren’t perfect.  If George Lucas wants to make some changes, I say he’s perfectly within his rights to do so.

To a point.

I’ll admit, even I don’t like the idea of Darth Vader crying out: “No.  NOOOOO!!!”  But I have a reason for it.  Part of the tension and mystery of that final movie came from what was going on behind Vader’s mask.  Was there some good in him?  Was Luke fooling himself?  You didn’t know a clue what Vader was thinking right up until that last moment.  Sure, ‘No!’ might have been what Vader was thinking, but people who have never seen Star Wars (and I know there are some) wouldn’t know that, until you spoil it for them.  For that reason let Vader’s thoughts remain thoughts, and keep us in the dark until Vader makes up his mind.  Actions speak louder than words after all.  Let him throwing the emperor into the reactor finally give us the truth, not the word ‘no.’

In the end the alterations are a double-edged sword.  Some can enhance the movies, others don’t matter, and some make things less effective.  Even if a change makes things better, there will be people who don’t like it.  All things considered there is one thing that validates changes to Star Wars for me.  At the end of Return of the Jedi, once the good guys have won, it cuts to three different planets all celebrating the defeat of the Empire before settling down on Endor where our heroes are.  It’s as if, while they celebrate their victory, the entire galaxy celebrates with them.  I mean come on, it’s the party across the galaxy!  How awesome is that?!  And you know something?  To my knowledge it wasn’t in the original version of the movie.  If anything that scene proves that something good can come from changes, but then again, maybe that’s just me.

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About Jason Richard

  • Sherry

    Personally I think obliterating the originals is just plain wrong. That has nothing to do with likes or dislikes about specific changes, I just think it’s wrong. It’s wrong to change history, it’s wrong to delete people’s hard work. Lucas didn’t do all that stuff himself.

    Going to specifics –

    You like the new celebration scene, I prefer the old – who is right? You are saying you are.

    If Hayden Christensen is there for continuity, then why didn’t they change Alec Guinness to Ewan McGregor? There is no reason Obi Wan should be young in that scene. Yeah, that was the last time his body was whole, but we are talking about a spirit. He found his soul before he died, so they should have just left it the way it was.

    Lucas can make all the changes he wants, but he should preserve the originals.

  • Drib

    The celebration scene round the galaxy was not in the original, and the new song that has replaced the Ewok tune is terrible. Hayden is also terrible and unneeded.

  • mev186

    This had to be the weakest defense of George Lucas’s idiocy I have ever read. So just because He’s done it before and it “looks cool” we’re just supposed to accept it ? Should Frances Ford Copolla be able to add new CGI to the Godfather ? If course he can. But heres the thing, once a work of art is released to the public, It doesn’t belong to the creator of that piece of art anymore. It belongs to society. Changing big things like Vader’s sacrifice is like drawing a moustashe on the Mona Lisa. Even if Da Vinci came back from the dead and did it himself, it still isn’t right.

  • Jordan Richardson

    What baloney, mev186. Star Wars does not belong to the public. It’s not in the public domain, it’s not yours in any meaningful sense. The only thing you are is a CONSUMER of someone else’s artistic endeavour. That’s it.

    You’re free to gripe about it all you like, but stop acting like you own it or had anything to do with its creation.

    The Mona Lisa comparison is a weird one, too. Star Wars as a series is held/owned by Lucas’ Lucasfilm, whereas the Mona Lisa is property of the French government. As owner of his own property, Lucas is free to draw as many moustaches as he wants and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it but whine and refuse to buy it.

  • sirhanon

    @Jordan Richardson
    I think you are confusing “what someone is legally allowed to do” with “what is acceptable or right to do”. Generally, if there is a celebrated work, regardless of whose property it is in whatever legal system you are speaking about, it is still considered questionable to go about making changes to it, and not release the original. Sure, the French government may “own” the Mona Lisa, but there would be more than a few unhappy people if it 100% legally drew mustaches on it. In this way, there is both the physical item (the cultural artifact) of the Mona Lisa which is legally owned by the French government, and then there is a broader cultural symbol of the Mona Lisa which is “owned” by the French people, and people in general. Now I don’t think Star Wars and the Mona Lisa are really comparable art, but the point remains.

    Fans may not have had anything to do with the creation of the Star Wars cultural artifact, but they do claim they have something to do with the creation of fandom and the extended universe, and thus claim they own a more expanded interpretation of “Star Wars”. In my opinion, most people do not really think about legal definitions: what is good or bad, and the notion of “ownership” has little to do with copyright laws invented in the last few decades by Disney’s lobbyists.

    But, I may just be taking these comments too seriously 😉

  • KJ

    I basically agree with Sherry. I don’t really have a problem with releasing a version with changes. I have a problem with not releasing the original.

  • John

    The only problem I had with all the changes was Han Shot first. Lucas really changed the character of Solo by changing that. Solo was supposed to be a rogue when we first see him, and then watch his character evolve into the rebel hero by the end.

  • Sherry

    @Sirhanon – I couldn’t agree more. Not sure why Jordan is supporting obliterating an original piece, but I guess he does not care about them all that much.

    The thing is we paid Lucas for his product and he would not have his own empire if not for the consumers. I have every right to want the original cuts in the newest format. I saw some clips of them at the store and they look great, but I do not want to see the changes. They ruin the movies for me.

    So I can want what I want and if Lucas never brings it out, then he won’t get my money ever again. And I can complain all I want about it. I don’t see why the supporters don’t want anyone to say anything about it.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Didn’t see these posts until now.

    I think you are confusing “what someone is legally allowed to do” with “what is acceptable or right to do”.

    No, I think many fans are. They act as though Lucas has no right to augment or alter his own work. It goes above and beyond mere complaining to statements like the one I was responding to in which comparisons are made to the freaking Mona Lisa.

    Now you suggest that it’s not “right” or “acceptable” to change Star Wars. According to whom?

    The inference is that Lucas somehow doesn’t care about his own creation, which is something that I consider to be demonstrably false. It’s not an issue of right or wrong.

    Of course people can be unhappy with the changes. I absolutely agree with that and wouldn’t dare suggest that people shouldn’t be upset or unhappy with changes to any piece of work they’re familiar with.

    My complaint was and continues to be with the notion that Star Wars somehow belongs to the public. It doesn’t. The public consumes Star Wars, nothing more. They can speak by not consuming it, by not purchasing the updated films and so on.

    But to suggest that changes shouldn’t occur because Star Wars belongs to them? That’s where I draw the line.

    The thing about Star Wars is that everybody has an interpretation of it. To an extent, this matters. But the extent to which it matters is in the individual universes of those with the interpretations. I think it’s the heights of arrogance to suggest otherwise.

    What matters with respect to these releases is Lucas’ interpretation, like it or not. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. I haven’t.


    Not sure why Jordan is supporting obliterating an original piece, but I guess he does not care about them all that much.

    A few things things:

    1. I don’t think the “original piece” has been “obliterated.” I own copies of the movies and they are, amazingly enough, still working just fine. My opinion and my interpretation of the Star Wars universe is not (and should not be) bound to whatever changes may occur from the mouth of the creator. I can watch and enjoy the originals whenever I want.

    2. As for whether or not Lucas should put out a Blu-ray edition of the movies without his additional touches, I don’t see why not. There would probably be a market in it and it’ll probably happen.

    3. You do have “every right” to see Star Wars as you want it, I guess.

    4. I daresay you’re giving the act of consuming too much credit. You can influence the creative process, such is the sorry state of movies these days with their focus groups and their blind appeal to consumers and audiences, but I wouldn’t necessarily argue that as being a good thing. Sounds more like blackmail to me.

    5. No, I don’t care about Star Wars all that much. They’re movies and I think that many fans take them far, far too seriously. If we could rally as much disdain for the Wall Street thieves as people have over these changes, I think the world would be a better place.

  • A. Caveney

    Did Picasso change a painting and re-release it every five years because a new paintbrush of better technology came out?

    Or should Pink Floyd remake Dark Side of the Moon over and over because songs can be recorded on computers now?


    This is certainly my opinion, but many model shots look more realistic than CGI to me. A bit of green rubber of a pile of wood is far more realistic than any computer can generate, even now…

  • Jordan Richardson

    Dark Side of the Moon has been remastered quite a few times, including in 2003 when an “updated” surround sound version was released. This used a new 5.1 channel mix. There was also a 2003 18-gram vinyl reissue. And anniversary sets and reissues.

    So yeah, it happens.

  • Picasso was an artist. Lucas is a businessman. Don’t confuse the two.

    Also, rather ironic that you use DSotM as an example when there’s a new version being released today

  • Also, it was and is far from uncommon for an artist to make many different versions of a painting, and that’s without counting preliminary sketches and studies.

    There are, for example, no fewer than 72 versions of Gilbert Stuart’s famous portrait of George Washington.

  • zingzing

    new order has put out at least four distinct versions of “blue monday,” not counting the fact that the song itself developed from a song called “video 586,” which was then spun off into another song called “586.”

    james joyce’s “portrait of the artist” developed out of an earlier novel called “stephen hero.”

    andrei tarkovsky’s “stalker” is a remake of the same film.

  • And I would be all in favor of changes made to Episodes I-III considering how bad they are

  • The man

    A better analogy relating DSotM to the SW films would be if the only digitally re-mastered copies of the album available had an added kazoo track that flew circles around the room at various key points without any apparent cues to the original music.

    My opinion: I don’t mind using digital techniques to restore the film to it’s original state, or even using techniques to enhance the color, or create a more convincing sound stage…it’s when the content of the story is changed (Han shoots last), or when things are done needlessly (random CGI events take center stage in Mos Eisley where none existed before) that I become distracted and pulled away from the story.

    You’d think after so many releases, that choice would be available.