Star Wars Trilogy review by The Grim Ringler

As much of a fan of the Star Wars film series as I am, never let it be said I am a George Lucas apologist. While I can accept and appreciate his need as a filmmaker to create the best version of his films that he can i.e. versions he can live with I completely disagree with his attitude that the original way the trilogy was released is long gone and we need to move on. No. We dont. I for one actually dig the new versions of his films and can understand why he made the changes he has, but I dont understand how you can act as if the originals have no place in cinema history. The original films, as they were first released, are landmark films that stretched film, stretched special effects, stretched story-telling, and stretched the industry they were made within. These are movies that were, for a generation of filmgoers, the neatest things in town. These were the dreams they had, the lives they lead. They invested in the characters and the films and deserved better than to have the filmmaker behind the films decide he wasnt happy with his movies and change them. I mean, hell, fine, change them, do as you will, but how dare you not release the original films as well so people can have those versions if those are the ones they preferred. DVD is about choice, is about giving fans what they want, but here comes Lucas titillating his fans with the news that the trilogy will be released well before any of us thought they might be, but without the original versions anywhere to be seen. Thats just selfish. Especially when weighed against the potential good will it would have created had Lucas put the original films into this set as well. So, while I am not completely happy with the man, I can say that this is a pretty comprehensive boxed set of the second trilogy and first films in the Star Wars series.

It seems rather redundant to review the three films in the original trilogy New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi as most people at least know about them if they havent seen them, so I will just talk about the set itself. All three films have been re-mastered and look truly jaw dropping. You arent apt to see cleaner prints of these films until the next generation of DVD technology hits, so if you wanted clean prints, you got em baby. The funnies thing to me though is that with all the work done on these films, there is STILL one scene where you can see the faded gray background behind the Tie-Fighter as it swoops past the Millennium Falcon. Considering they went to all this work on the films, it seems funny and odd that they missed something THIS glaring. Hell, it bothered me as a kid. While all three films look wonderful, the big thing fans will want to know is what he futzed with. The fact is that Lucas cant leave well enough alone and did add more material to the films, but, you know what, I dont have a problem with this, and most fan shouldnt eitherup to a point.

-Now Han shoots JUST after Greedo, making it look as if he was ready to draw but waited for the bounty hunter to fire first. And his reasoning on Han not firing first makes sound sense to me if Han fires first, do you like him as a character? Hes a murderer then and. Sure, its silly that Greedo misses at point blank range but I do agree with Lucass point about Han especially when you remember that these ARE movies for kids as well as adults, and showing that you should kill someone who is a threat is not the greatest behavior for a hero.

-Lucas also cleaned up the lightsaber duel between Vader and Obi-Wan. The sabers now look better, cleaner, and the color of each is stable and doesnt diminish when the blades are not upright. My issue here, as a fan, is that the death of Obi-Wan is kinda low-key, especially when you consider that youre going to have followed the guy for three previous films and then he just sorta dies. Hell, Id almost say that the first trilogy is more about the supposed failure of Obi-Wan as a mentor. Hes a far more interesting character than Anakin is, but thats just an aside.

-The best change made to the films as far as I am concerned is the swap-out of the emperor in Empire with actor Ian McDiarmid. It always bothered me that in Empire the emperor had these crazy brows and he looked like an alien and it completely distracted the viewer from the scene. Now we see McDiarmid in the makeup from Return and see the emperor as he was in the third film, thus creating a stronger feel of the emperor as a character.

-I had read that there were now Gungans the race that Jar-Jar belongs to at the end of Return now and people were furious. So I watched the films and me, I saw no Gungans. What I DID see was that the planet of Naboo had been added to the planetary celebration at the end of Return. I am sure people are angry that this was done but ya know what, good for big and beardy! The damage was done, the ending was changed, and to me, for the better. For all the hell the galaxy went through under the Empire, it makes good sense that we see the rebellion celebrating. And as important as Naboo becomes in the first three films, it makes good sense to have a digital fly-over of the city as it celebrates.

-The final addition will be the one that will anger fans the most, and they have a point. At the end of Return there is a moment when, essentially, the Force is one, when the Light has won the day, and Anakin is saved, and at the celebration of Endor we see Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Anakin all standing together, as spirits, watching the festival. In the original versions we saw Anakin as he was when Luke saved him, as an older man, but now we see young Anakin, as played by the young actor in the last two Star Wars films Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith. This is more of an emotional change than most of the other ones because it changes the feel of the ending. But I, and I know, I am a sucker right, buy it. Anakin essentially dies when he becomes Vader, and they say that through the entire first series, so why the hell would you see Anakins Force essence as the old man? He was saved as an old man, but his true self died as a young man. I think what makes fans mad is that Lucas doesnt seem to be changing things to make them make more sense but when it seems cool to do so. But if a person were to come to the films today and see them in order, this revelation would have more resonance and would hold more of an emotional epiphany for the watcher.

The sound as well is brilliant and, if you have the system for it, can blow your neighbors into next week. The sound is well mixed and its fun to hear fighters go from the front channels to the rear or vice-verse. There has been a stink made at the apparent changing of some music cues and some of the mix elements but I didnt pick up on them. Its silly that they did this its been confirmed that they did fidget with the mix but its a small issue to me.

The supplements are pretty hefty, and each one is well put together. Three are short subjects on the characters, lightsaber design, and other ephemera about the series with one extra featurette being about the return of Vader in the last Star Wars film Revenge of the Sith. The Vader one is a great teaser and really does get you amped up to see the next entry in the series but I think its a mistake because the fun of seeing the next film will be seeing when Vader appears at the end. And now theyve sorta watered that down. The big daddy doc here though is Empire of Dreams the two and a half hour monolith that tells the tale of George Lucas and his fight to get these first three films made. Its a hell of documentary but it is flawed. Most of the time is spent on New Hope and the remaining two films seem to get a shortened attention, which is funny as Empire is the best of all of the films. I also was disappointed that more time wasnt spent on the cultural changes the Star Wars films brought about. These are movies that changed pop culture forever and you only get about five minutes on that subject. They also dont get too deeply into the notion of the title change for Return of the Jedi which was initially Revenge of the Jedi. These are nit-picks but as great as this doc is, it still misses some things, and if you are a fan like me, youd watch a four hour doc if it got all the stuff right.

The big disappointment for me was the exclusion of the deleted scenes that have reached legendary status. There were several sequences that never made it into the films and this would have been a great chance for the fans to see these scenes and to have them explained. Nope, what we get are some stills and a short explanation that the scenes never worked and were excised. Sigh.

There are commentaries as well and they offer the usual tidbits wrapped around a lot of techie info that isnt really necessary for the average fan. But its neat they have them at all.

This is a far from perfect set. Perfect would have been to release a seven disc set with the original films as they were initially released in the set as well. Sadly, thats never likely to happen so this is the best were gonna get. And its pretty damn great. The films look wonderful, sound wonderful, and its nice to have these films at our fingertipsand in such beautiful editions. I fought getting this set because I was tired of giving Lucas money for his arrogance, but after having to sell my laserdisc boxed set earlier in the year, I am happy I got this edition. These are beautiful, wonderful films that deserve to be enjoyed, and to hell with Lucas. I grew up with these movies and refuse to let him and his tinkering get in the way of my love of them. Perfect? Not by half, but its a great, comprehensive set that deserves your shelf-space and will fuel nerd debates into the next millennium.

c




9 out of 10 Jackasses
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