Thursday, September 22, 2011

Six Things I’ve Realized Thanks to the ‘Star Wars’ Blu-rays

The Blu-ray release of all six Star Wars films last week has inspired many fans to re-evaluate their relationship with the saga. Do I need to purchase these movies yet again simply because they’re on a new format? Can I forgive George Lucas for the prequels? Is The Empire Strikes Back really the best in the series? Will Han ever shoot first again?

Like many geeks who wear their Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band tour shirts with pride, I went out and bought the set on release day, ready to dive into the incredible selection of special features and scope out the deleted scenes that we’ve never glimpsed until now. However, part of me was also bracing for the inevitable revisions Lucas has been making since the films hit DVD in 2004. Having spent some time with the set, I’ve realized a few things about the films that, in many ways, shaped my childhood and kick-started my passion for fantasy storytelling.

6) Return of the Jedi is Underrated
You read that right. Hardcore fans have been bitching about the Ewoks for nearly 30 years now, but I’ve actually come to admire the furry denizens of the forest moon of Endor. Per Steven Spielberg’s suggestion, Lucas “dared to be cute,” and the end result effectively conveys the idea that intelligence and ingenuity can overcome even the most impossible odds. Wicket? You’re alright.

Plus, the Jabba’s Palace sequence—puppets and all—is incredibly imaginative and a testament to the power of practical effects work. I could do without the cringe-inducing “Jedi Rocks” musical number added in 1997 for the Special Edition re-release, but this explosive finale is a solidly entertaining experience from beginning to end that gives these beloved characters the proper sendoff.

5) I Have No Reason to Watch the Prequels Ever Again
I’ve seen The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith more times than I’d care to admit, and I can’t imagine when I would ever get the urge to pop in the Blu-rays for another go. Do they have some cool moments? Sure. But I don’t see myself ever getting the desire to revisit the Boonta Eve Podrace, the Battle of Geonosis or the video gamey Mustafar clash between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Been there, done that, bought the limited edition Pepsi cans.

4) Lando Calrissian Rules
I can’t stress this enough. Billy Dee Williams was an amazing addition to the cast in The Empire Strikes Back, and helped give his longtime pal and fellow scoundrel Han Solo even more depth as a character. Plus, I never get tired of calling my friends “slimy, double-crossing, no-good swindlers.”

3) I Really, Really Hate the Jabba the Hutt Scene in A New Hope
It might have been cool seeing 1970s-era Harrison Ford conversing with a computer-animated Jabba the Hutt when the original trilogy was re-released in 1997, but now this scene stinks on ice. Besides the fact that Jabba the Hutt is portrayed as a simpering goon in this reinstated footage—a far cry from the all-powerful crime lord we meet in Return of the Jedi—but the sequence is redundant. Pay close attention to the dialogue next time you watch it. The conversation between Han and Jabba is nearly identical to the one Han has with Greedo just moments earlier. Did you hear? Even Han gets boarded sometimes! Do you think he had a choice?

2) The Deleted Scenes Were Deleted for a Reason
If you couldn’t stand The Phantom Menace before, just wait ‘til you get a load of the scenes that didn’t make it into the movie! Prequel bashing aside, I’m very glad that the sequences cut from the Star Wars films—many of which are being revealed for the first time on Blu-ray—were not included in the final products. It’s cool getting to see Luke hang out with his friends on Tatooine and I’m glad the much-talked-about “sandstorm” sequence in Jedi is included in this set, but the first act of The Empire Strikes Back would have been horrendous had it included the subplot about Wampas running amok in Echo Base.

1) George Lucas Alters His Movies to Spite Us All
Yes, I’m referring directly to Darth Vader’s awkward exclamation of “Noooooo!” at the end of Return of the Jedi. Really, George? Was it not at all apparent over the last 28 years that Vader intentionally sacrificed himself to save his son from The Emperor’s wrath? Do we need The Dark Lord of the Sith to vocalize his emotions in the most cliché manner possible? My theory about this pointless new addition to one of the most powerful scenes is that Lucas was so bitter about the fan backlash to Vader’s cheese-tastic “Noooooo!” in Revenge of the Sith that he included the line in Jedi just to piss us off. And lo and behold! He succeeded!

The funny thing is, I’m not totally against Lucas updating the films as long as the changes make sense. Blinking Ewoks? Cool. Making Yoda computer-animated in The Phantom Menace to maintain consistency with the other prequel films? Great. Adding more TIE Fighters to the Battle of Endor? Fine by me. Hell, I’m even okay with Lucas enlarging the door to Jabba’s Palace through the magic of CGI. But having Vader scream as he tosses The Emperor into a chasm robs the character of his mystique, drowns out John Williams’ brilliant score for the sequence and handholds the audience through a scene that’s pretty self-explanatory. Ugh.

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