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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘I have a bad feeling about this’: ‘Star Wars’ on Blu-ray

Published: October 7, 2011
Section: Arts, Etc.

The phrase “I have a bad feeling about this” has become synonymous with “Star Wars.” In fact, typing the phrase into Wikipedia will lead you to the “Star Wars” article. As it turns out, the phrase also accurately represents the hesitation that many fans like myself felt about the new “Star Wars” Blu-ray releases. This is due to a simple reason: George Lucas’ tendency to make changes and alterations, whether through added lines or special effects, is often considered destructive by “Star Wars” purists.

The “Star Wars” Blu-ray set was announced May 4, known to some as “Star Wars Day” (see Facebook: “May the fourth be with you”) and was met with the hesitant wariness that fans have developed as a result of past disappointing releases.

The six movies remain fundamentally the same movies that you have hopefully seen by now. There are, however, some notable differences in the Blu-ray releases. One of the most prominent changes is seen in “Episode I: The Phantom Menace.” Yoda, originally portrayed by a puppet, has been replaced with a CGI version that more closely matches the CGI Yoda used in the rest of the prequel trilogy. While many fans were disappointed by this change due to a fondness for the original puppet, I found it fitting. The Yoda puppet worked in the original trilogy because its style fit the settings and the other effects used at the time. In the prequel trilogy, which boasted greatly improved special effects and visual creations, the puppet seemed out of place and anachronistic.

Another difference occurs in the cantina scene in “Episode IV: A New Hope.” This scene has been controversial since the release of the “special editions” in 1997. In a gunfight between Han Solo—at the time a smuggler with a bounty on his head—and bounty hunter Greedo, Lucas changed who shot first. In the original 1977 edition, Han shoots first; it’s an early sign that he doesn’t perfectly fit the good-guy archetype. In the special edition, the scene was altered to make it seem as though Greedo shot first. In the Blu-ray edition, the scene is about as close as Lucas has been willing to go toward the original “Han shot first” version, as Greedo shoots barely a few frames before Han, making it seem like Han was little more than lucky to survive the gunfight.

Other changes in the Blu-ray, however, prove less positive. One such change, at the end of “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi,” involves the iconic scene in which Anakin Skywalker—now Darth Vader—redeems himself and defeats Emperor Palpatine. In the original release, and in every subsequent release until now, Vader is largely silent throughout this process. In the Blu-ray release, Vader shouts “No!” when he can no longer accept the emperor torturing his son. More than anything else in the prequel trilogy, this single word ruins the fearsome persona of Vader by taking away his sense of “badassery.”

Despite these changes, its the three bonus discs that really make the Blu-Ray collection worth having. These discs are not included in the two trilogy sets and are only available in the six-film set. After owning the set for three weeks, I have still barely watched all the special features due to their vast nature. One of the discs, for example, contains a 100-minute collection of Star Wars spoofs and parodies from the last 34 years. Scenes from “That ’70s Show,” “Family Guy,” “Robot Chicken,” “How I Met Your Mother,” four decades of “Saturday Night Live” and many others not only entertained, but also give a unique appreciation for just how deeply “Star Wars” has penetrated American pop culture. I may have felt guilty after spending 100 minutes watching this on a night when I had coursework to do, but it was worth watching more than any other special feature or movie-related documentary.

Overall, if you’re a purist, this set—special features aside—isn’t really for you. I personally doubt Lucas will re-release the unaltered original trilogy again for a long time. If you’re looking for that, I’d recommend the 2006 DVD releases, which include the original versions on the bonus discs. (They are available to rent at the Goldfarb Library.) If you enjoy new special features and are generally not bothered by minor changes here and there, this is a great set. In fact, considering the planned theatrical 3D re-releases, which are scheduled to begin in February with Episode I, this might be the last great set for a “long, long time.”