Jay’s Galactic Espressions
Summer: A time when school-aged kids and their teacher-moms can stay up late on would-be school nights to have Star Wars marathons. It was just a few weeks ago, and my youngest son and I were finishing up watching Return of the Jedi. On-screen, we were amidst the various celebration scenes, post-second-Death Star destruction. He said: “Wow, Mom! It must have been pretty exciting for you back then to get your first look at all the other planets!”
It hit me at that moment that my two young Padawans had never seen any version of the movies that were NOT altered in some way…they are now 15 and 13 years old…
“Son, that’s not the original ending.”
“You mean, they added that later?”
Nooooooooooo! What have I done?
Now, I am in no way what you would call a “purist” of the original trilogy, but I felt it necessary to clue in my offspring that what he has been exposed to thus far are not the theatrical releases; not the way I had first been exposed to Star Wars.
I proceeded to begin rattling off everything I could think of at that point, including Shaw vs. Christensen Force ghost (oh, I’ll get to that later), and the fact that Anakin/Vader originally had eyebrows in the unmasking scene, but were “erased” to mimic the fact that a burn victim would have no hair.
“Cool!” He said. “Can I see that?”
Thankfully, due to the power of YouTube, I did not have to dig out the old VHS tapes.
“Ewww,” he stated, upon viewing the original eyebrows. “Those are gross! The new version makes much more sense!” I then started on a tangent, showing him a variety of other examples I could muster from the recesses of my mind, but eventually lost him after about 10 minutes of altered scenes. He’s 13, after all.
Hmmpf. I was okay with that. I had my next blog idea.
With the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens exactly four months from today (squee), there has been much discussion about the intermixing of CGI and “practical effects.” The filmmakers are using methods that they hope will please the scope of all types of fans, as well as provide the most lasting impact for decades to come.
I welcome this spectrum of effects. It means, if nothing else, that some very talented people — from many different creative genres — will have jobs. They will be part of something much bigger than themselves. They will be part of a new era of history: A new era of Star Wars.
Will the new movies be forever unretouched? Forever unaltered? It will be interesting to see.
I realize the alterations have been a hot-button topic for fans since the very first changes were made. Some changes are so subtle, that a fan (including myself) may not even be aware that something had changed. On the other hand, some “remodeling” of items have become a powerful nucleus of controversy, pitting fan against fan in arguing the merits of each.
Not only did I want to pursue the idea of revisiting the changes for old-time-sake, but to approach the alterations with the following questions:
“What was the purpose of the change, and did it enhance — or detract from — the storytelling aspect?”
“Does new digital tech make a better movie and allow a more clear story? Or were the Special Editions a test run for what was to come for Episode I, and the rest of the prequels?”
Ironically, about the same time, a series of videos on YouTube was getting a lot of attention. Marcelo Zuniga dissected all of the changes he found between the theatrical releases and the 2011 Blu-Ray editions. So, like any good student of Star Wars, I studied and took notes. I was fascinated to learn new things, gain a fresh insight to the prequels, and simply revisit some of my favorite scenes. The originals definitely have a sense of pioneer wonder, especially considering the technology available at the time. Star Wars has truly blazed some significant trails in many aspects of filmmaking and storytelling!
I had originally planned to list my favorite changes, the ones I never noticed before (like a blinking Dianoga and capitalization of the word Rebels), and the ones I thought were poodoo, but that would take way too long. I encourage you to watch the video series I’ve linked, and explore the changes for yourself.
There is, however, one controversial change I would like to address. One that gets some fans’ blood a-boiling, no matter which “team” they are on: Force ghost Christensen vs Force ghost Shaw at the end of Return of the Jedi.
Quite honestly, I am torn as to which I think is better. I look at it from a storytelling perspective. Set aside the reality of film editing and digital effects. Which version would the Force itself have chosen?
The last time Anakin was “good” was pre-Mustafar, so if he’s being represented as his light-side self, it makes more sense to forever embody the Force as the younger Anakin. I do realize that there are a couple of arguments that could be made here: Anakin/Vader was redeemed as his older self, and that should be his representation in the Force, and it is also the one with which Luke identifies as his father, having never seen Anakin in his pre-Sith days.
Upon pondering this dilemma, I can’t help but to think of obituaries in the newspaper. Sometimes, the family chooses a photo of their deceased loved one when he/she was much younger; even younger than most family members may remember. Why…?
For me, the bottom line is that I like both versions equally, and can see the merits of both. It just depends on what mood I’m in.
In summary, I fancy that many of the revisions made, especially in Return of the Jedi, were necessary for the continuity and flow of storytelling from the original trilogy to the prequels. The rest can be debated, and I wholeheartedly welcome the debate. This is where the fun begins!
Thinking back to my encounter with my son, I know now that it wasn’t that he didn’t focus his attention on all the changes because he didn’t care. I think, to him, it just didn’t matter He loves the movies either way.
…Therein lies the difference.
If you have any favorite — or not-so-favorite — changes to the prequels that you would like to discuss, I welcome you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can reach me at:
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