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How George Lucas Changed Star Wars for the Better


Like many people on May fourth, I celebrated by watching the original Star Wars Trilogy.* As I was watching it, I realized a few things. First, Star Wars is one of, if not the best, pieces of science fiction media of all time. Not that this is anything new. I have the same realization every time I watch Star Wars. Second, I realized that as much as nerd culture both loves George Lucas for creating Star Wars, it also hates him for changing Star Wars. I think it is pretty understandable for a number of reasons that I am not listing for the sake of brevity. Suffice it to say that the prequel trilogy was not the glorious return fans were hoping for. However, my final realization had nothing to do with the prequels. No, instead, I realized that many of the changes George Lucas made to the original Star Wars trilogy were actually good. Whatever irate fans might have to say about the prequels or the list of negative changes George made to the original trilogy there are some decisions that genuinely enhance my enjoyment of the films. I present them now, in no particular order.

He made everything look better

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: The updated version looks a whole lot better than the original. It is sharper, crisper, and has deeper, richer colors. This wasn't as easy as pressing the"make it look better button." George and his team went back to the original film strips and discovered that they had all deteriorated and taken damage. They proceeded to painstakingly go through the film correcting all the errors caused by the damage. The end result is a pretty fantastic restoration of the original films. The difference is probably best demonstrated with a visual comparison:


The additional scene with Jabba the Hutt and Han Solo in Mos Eisley

I remember, a long time ago before I had seen the special editions, being confused by the appearance of Jabba in Return of the Jedi. He seemed to come out of nowhere and his motivation seemed unclear. It might have been because I was a kid and didn’t pick up on everything else, but I feel like this scene in Episode IV does a great job of setting up the events in Return of the Jedi. I also appreciate the creativity of the people who inserted it into the film (it was filmed with Jabba as a human man, not a giant slug). Bumping Han Solo up a foot as he steps on the Hutt’s tail is entertaining and seems to fit with Han’s personality. I also like that Bobba Fett makes an appearance.

Explosions

I love explosions. There. I said it. The truth of the matter is that the original release lacked the proper explosion aesthetic. Things that were exploded seemed to disintegrate like a small Fourth of July sparkler. Not so in the special editions. When Alderaan, the Death Star, the OTHER Death Star, and other large things blow up, they do so in a satisfying way. Rings of fire spread out from the blast zone, red flames puff out, and the large sounds which accompany the visual effects all come together and it feels like proper destruction.

The wampa

This is one that I think a lot of people take for granted. These days, we actually get to see a full wampa in The Empire Strikes Back. You know what people saw in the theatrical release? A clawed hand with white hair on it. While the scene with Luke trapped in the wampa lair is good with only ominous growling sounds emanating from the back of the cave, it is vastly improved by an additional scene added to the special edition which shows the full blown wampa creature. This makes the scene feel more dangerous and results in more dramatic tension.

Cloud City

In the original version of the film, we never really had a good look at Cloud City. George Lucas went back in and added more shots. These included: more windows with the city outside, an extended arrival scene with the Millennium Falcon, and extra reaction shot of the people outside in Cloud City. Before it felt a bit claustrophobic and all we were really shown was the classic far away view of the city and a bunch of hall ways. The alterations give you the impression that the city is a lot bigger than what we might otherwise believe.

The CGI cities at the end of Return of the Jedi

While Star Wars is certainly epic in scope, we are never really shown other parts of the populated galaxy. That changed with the release of the special edition. After the explosion of the second Death Star, there is a montage of scenes showing the reaction to the emperor’s death/the dissolution of his power. True, we have never been shown some of these places in the original trilogy. However, with the death of the galactic emperor and the destruction of a super weapon capable of obliterating planets, it is nice to have an idea that other places in the galaxy are also celebrating, not just the rag-tag group of rebels and mini-bears on Endor. (Fun fact: the term “Ewok” is never actually used in Return of the Jedi.)

The Sarlacc Pit

The reinvention of the Sarlacc Pit was a good decision in my opinion. The original was basically a hole in the ground with some spikes and a tentacle or two. It didn’t really look all that dangerous or threatening. In the revision, the Sarlacc received a large beak and more tentacles, making it seem like it wanted nothing more than to rip your arms off like a sore Wookie loser.

Spaceships look better-er

One thing that I will always love about Star Wars is how cool the ships look. X-Wings, the Millennium Falcon, TIE fighters, these ships are all ingrained into our cultural perception of Star Wars. I like the fact that George went in and revamped a few of the scenes with the ships. The Millennium Falcon received the most visual enhancements. You can see tons of little details that were either never on the original model or were, but we just never saw them. In the original Star Wars, there is a scene where the Rebels are going to attack the Death Star near Yavin 4. A lot of ships are digitally inserted taking off from the planet and during their approach to the Death Star. You even get to see Luke through the glass of his X-Wing cockpit. There are many more additions like the previous two, but I won’t bother you all by going over every one of them.

Regardless of whether you love or hate the prequel movies or if you hate some of the changes Lucas made to the originals (personally, I hate that he put Hayden Christianson into Return of the Jedi). It is hard to deny that these changes were positive and enhanced your experience watching the films.

What do you think of Star Wars?

Did you have a marathon on the fourth?

Favorite Star Wars moments?

Feel free to share in the comments!

*Disclaimer: I did not watch the movies on May fourth. I watched them a few days prior as I knew I would not have time to watch them on said date.

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