Ever Since the original trilogy, George Lucas has made many of changes to the films. George Lucas said that the changes were motivated by the desire to make the original films closer to his artistic vision for them. Lucas claimed that the original films were 25 to 30 percent of what he intended them to be. When the first alterations started in 1981, they were mainly towards revamping the sounds of the film. The biggest change made in 1981 was the line “Episode IV: A New Hope” being added to the opening crawl. This did not change much about the film but was the most noticeable. Since then, with every edition out since, there has been very controversial changes to the films. In 1997, Lucas spent 10 million to rework his original 1977 film. Many fans of the films think that the changes detract from the character arc of the films & tend to be more distracting than expedient. Due to so many alterations & trying not to make this article too lengthy, I will talk about the most noticeable & the most controversial alterations to the Star Wars saga.
Let’s start with the most controversial scene, which most people now know by as “Han shot first.” In this scene from episode IV, taking place at the Mos Eisley Cantina, Han is confronted by a bounty hunter (hired by Jabba the Hutt) named Greedo. Han owes Jabba for dumping some cargo that he was supposed to smuggle for Jabba. Han & Greedo sit opposite of each other at a booth & the 2 continue to talk about getting Jabba’s money that Han owes him. While Greedo has his blaster aimed at Han during the conversation, unbeknownst to Greedo, Han readies his blaster underneath the table aiming it back at Greedo. Han says, “even I get boarded sometimes. Do you think I had a choice?” Greedo answers, “You can tell that to Jabba. He may only take your ship.” Han replies, “Over my dead body.” Greedo tells Han, “That’s the idea. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” and Han replies, “Yeah, I’ll bet you have.” Then the camera immediately cuts back to Greedo being covered in a cloud of smoke, while the sound of a blaster is heard from Han’s blaster. In the 1997 special edition re-release, this scene is now modified. The version we all see now is an extra shot from Greedo which missed Han & then Han shoots back & kills Greedo. What fans don’t like about this scene being altered is that it no longer makes any sense. To start off, how is a bounty hunter going to miss a shot at point blank range? Why would Jabba hire a bounty hunter that can’t “hunt”? It also takes away from the character of Han Solo. Han is known for having a rebellious, wise cracking, do whatever he wants kind of attitude. What this modified scene now does, is makes him look like he was just protecting himself in self defense & no longer just taking charge. After this scene was modified, fans of the film created an online petition, demanding to have the new scene removed. But all the fans got was another alteration to the scene when the 2004 DVD release was pretty much the same as the 97 version just this time, the timing of the shots are altered so that it depicts Han “dodging” the shot & digital manipulation is used to lean Han to one side.
In Return of the Jedi, many alterations can be seen very early on in the film, in Jabba’s Palace. A new Jabba’s Palace Band musical number, “Jedi Rocks” replaces “Lapti Nek” with additional footage from the extended musical number of “Lapti Nek.” The puppet of female alien singer Sy Snootles is replaced with a new CGI version, though prior to the number, the puppet can still be seen in the palace with her original headdress feather in place. In addition, 9 new characters were added to the Max Rebo Band. There is also an additional scene of Oola in the Rancor pit. She also has new dance moves edited in with the original dance. Boba Fett is also seen flirting with a couple of female members of the Max Rebo Band. Also, during the rescue scene of Han & Leia, when Han is shooting the Sarlaac tentacle (which is now CGI tenticles), instead of Han’s original line of “It’s all right. Trust me.” Han now says, “It’s all right. I can see a lot better now.”
At the end of Return of the Jedi, is where the not so much well received, alterations take place. During the epic battle between Luke Skywalker & Darth Sidious, while Luke is being struck with the Force lighting from Sidious, in Darth Vader’s most important decision, Vader now says “No. Noooo!” & then grabs Sidious & tosses him into the Death Star’s reactor core. This modified scene was altered for the 2011 Blu ray edition. The fact that Vader says “no” twice, again, makes the alteration pointless. After Vader said “no” once, wouldn’t Sidious look at Darth Vader & attempt to use the Force lighting on him, knowing that Vader will try stopping him from killing Luke? It makes it seem that the Emperor is not a smart man. Also during the celebration scene on Endor, the ghost scene is also edited. Originally, there is one medium shot of the ghosts of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, followed by Luke rejoining his friends, and then another long shot of Anakin, Obi-Wan and Yoda. For the special edition, the medium shot is split in two, so that the first medium shot is shorter, and ends with Obi-Wan looking down at Yoda, then cuts to Luke rejoining the rebels, then cuts back to the rest of the medium shot, before cutting to Luke, and then finally back to the long shot of the ghosts with a young Anakin played by Hayden Christensen, replacing the original ghost of Anakin played by Sebastian Shaw. While this made more sense, fans did not like it simply because they did not like the prequel portrayal of Anakin by Hayden Christensen.
Even the prequels could not escape the wrath of Lucas. The most noticeable of the changes are to Yoda. In A Phantom Menace, Yoda was originally portrayed by a puppet. In the newer versions of the prequels, Yoda is now a CG model. Which can be a good thing since the puppet in A Phantom Menace looked kind of ridiculous.
A few of the altered scenes actually helped the films a bit both visually & story wise. Like in A New Hope, the scene when Han Solo is chasing a squad of Stormtroopers on the Death Star. Han originally runs into a dead end. Instead, he ends up at a hangar bay with numerous amounts of Stormtroopers and officers. This makes the scene a bit funnier. There are also new digital shots of the X-wings and Y-wings taking off from Yavin approaching the Death Star. In the original version, they just appeared as white flashes. There are also new and revised dog fighting and attack run scenes during the battle at the Death Star. In the 2004 DVD version, an audible bump was added to the memorable moment where a stormtrooper accidentally, bumps his head on the door-frame as the stormtrooper squadron breaks into the control room. Also in the 2004 version, after the lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Vader, as Vader approaches the closing blast doors towards the hangar in which the Millennium Falcon is docked, Vader’s lightsaber blade is colored red and glowing. In all previous editions of the film, there was no glowing red animation on Vader’s lightsaber blade. Instead, he was seen carrying a tapered white tube with a rounded-off tip.
In The Empire Strikes Back, the opening battle sequence was cleaned up, including fixing some instances where the blue screen process allowed the cockpit window frames of the snow speeders to be partially transparent. There are also new scenes on Hoth with a redesigned Wampa ice creature, including showing the full bodied Wampa eating a carcass and later screeching in agony when Luke chops off the Wampa’s arm with a lightsaber. Boba Fett also now has more screen time than he originally did, by adding him into numerous scenes in the newly altered additions. During the celebration scene at the end of Return of the Jedi, additional scenes of Bespin, Naboo, Tattooine, & Coruscant are now added to the celebration of the Empire being defeated. What that did was make the worlds & creatures from the prequels, no longer meaningless. Also in the In the Coruscant celebration scene, the Galactic Senate and Jedi Temple have been added to the background. This indicates that the Jedi Temple was not destroyed during the Great Jedi Purge, thus carrying continuity with the extended universe since Revenge of the Sith, such as Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, which shows a post-purge Jedi Temple. In Attack of the Clones, right before Mace Windu decapitates Jango Fett, sparks & a puff of smoke can be seen coming from Jango’s jetpack, signifying that the jetpack malfunctioned which would now answer the question of many fans as to why Jango Fett just didn’t attempt to avoid Mace Windu by flying away or around him.
While George Lucas claims that the original versions of Star Wars do not exist, we all know that isn’t true. We know what we saw originally & we loved them. Most of us fans, would like to think, why change something if it was great the first time? The fact is, an artist is never fully satisfied with his work & George Lucas is in fact an artist. But what fans would like to see is that there is no denying of the originals taking place. Hopefully now that Disney owns Lucasfilm, maybe they will release the original trilogy in it’s full original state. Let’s hope.