An interesting quirk that Star Wars fans have to deal with in the re-releases of the Original Star Wars Trilogy is that, since the original film was released on VHS for the first time in 1985, George Lucas has been tweaking his creations by implementing changes to all aspects of the film – effects, dialogue, sometimes entire characters and scenes have been removed, added or altered in all three original films and even some of the prequels. The topic of the re-release changes has created some debate in the fandom, with some arguing that the changes improve the films and others preferring the original releases. It wouldn’t be as bad if there was a version of the original Star Wars film out there, but since the changes began with the original release, it is now impossible to watch the film in its original state, regardless of whether you like the changes or not. With that in mind, here is my list of the 5 Best and 5 Worst changes to the beloved series.
5 – Improved Effects
This is an obvious choice, but the re-releases do improve most of the effects in the film, with just a few exceptions. One might argue that the film’s original effects were part of what made it so good – after all, at the time of release the visuals were one of the major selling points of Star Wars. But most fans agree that there’s nothing wrong with bringing the original films up-to-date with modern special effects, and that certainly shows when you compare scenes like the Battle of Yavin where the older effects do somewhat break immersion, particularly if you are used to the newer releases. The improved laser blasts and lightsaber effects make the action scenes appear less scratchy, and improve continuity between this trilogy and the ones that come before and after it in the timeline. It would certainly be
4 – Oola
It’s strange to consider when you watch it now, but in the original cut of Return of the Jedi Oola’s death scene was much more brief – she simply falls down the trap door into the Rancor pit in Jabba’s Palace, and the Rancor reveal is saved for later. Amazingly, the actress who played Oola filmed the extended death scene over a decade after first appearing in Jedi, with no difference to the visuals whatsoever. The Rancor isn’t revealed completely, meaning that the impact of its later appearance isn’t spoiled, but it does create a menacing scene showing more of the mercilessness of Jabba’s henchmen. Interestingly, Oola was allegedly supposed to have a much larger role in the film, but due to changes in the script her role was drastically reduced, so if anything this change simply provides a bit more screen-time for a fan-favourite character.
3 – Victory Celebration
This one might be controversial, but the change to the music at the end of Return of the Jedi is, in my opinion, one of the best decisions George Lucas ever made. The original song that played during the celebrations on Endor was ‘Yub Nub’, a nonsensical and comically puerile ditty that doesn’t do the finale justice, but the replacement, John Williams’ aptly-titled ‘Victory Celebration’, seems a much more fitting tune to end the original trilogy. For comparison, one needs only to look at the ending of A New Hope – the tune used there fits the tone and gravitas of the scene, and ‘Yub Nub’ simply does not. Whilst it is a fan-favourite, that doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice for what is to some the conclusion of the Skywalker saga. But, then again, the dancing doesn’t sync up with the new tune as well.
2 – The Real Palpatine
As important as it is to remember Marjorie Eaton, the original actress who portrayed the Emperor – and yes, I said ‘actress’, as Clive Revill was merely dubbed over her performance – for the sake of continuity her original scenes as the Emperor no longer work. In heavy makeup with digitally inserted chimpanzee eyes, the 78 year old effectively filled in for the Emperor in the original 1980 release of The Empire Strikes Back but, after Ian McDiarmid was cast as Palpatine for Return of the Jedi and then again in the prequels, it only makes sense to retroactively insert him into Empire as well. Admittedly, as many have stated before, the original Emperor does appear more visually intimidating, with some criticizing the newer editions for making the Emperor look outright bored as he calmly drops the bombshell onto Vader that Luke is Anakin’s son, and sort of ruins the idea that Vader came to that conclusion himself. Nonetheless, A+ for effort.
1 – Young Anakin
Okay, before I even explain the details of this change, I would like to get one thing out of the way first: I understand why people hate this change. In fact, for many years I too cringed in resentment at the awkward, out-of-place looking Hayden Christensen who had been clumsily imposed over the charming, warm smile of Sebastian Shaw that was in the original cut of Return of the Jedi. Upon reflection, however, I have also conceded that I understand why this change was made, and in many ways it is one of the most important changes to the Star Wars films because it establishes something interesting about the Force and about the character of Darth Vader that was only hinted at in the original films. By showing Anakin’s ghost as he looked in his youth, it firmly establishes the idea that the dark side corrupted and twisted Anakin to such an extent that by the time he had been burned alive on Mustafar he wasn’t even the same man anymore. Anakin being burned and chopped up and turned into a Cyberman is just a formality, Vader consumed him during the events of Revenge of the Sith meaning that, in returning to his former self in death, Anakin lives on through the Force in the way that he was before his turn. This brings a whole weight of validation onto the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi who, when you consider how he goes about relating the events of the prequels to Luke, comes across as a manipulative and downright inconsiderate arse-hole who attempts to warp Luke’s perception of reality to fit his worldview. If, however, we accept that the redeemed Anakin Skywalker appears to Luke in the form of his younger self, it not only metaphorically shows that the corruption of Vader has fallen away to reveal the man he once was, but it also shows that the nature of the Force itself backs Obi-Wan’s claim that Vader and Anakin are separate entities, and that is arguably far more important to the story than just seeing Vader as he would have looked if he hadn’t turned evil. From a technical standpoint, the change itself needs work (mostly to make Hayden look less creepy for no reason) but ultimately I believe it adds to the depth of the lore of the Force and I will gladly agree to disagree with anyone who says otherwise.
But now, let’s take a look at some of the really bad changes to the Star Wars films…
5 – Jabba the Hutt in A New Hope
Although some like the inclusion of the unused ‘Jabba’ scene from A New Hope that digitally replaces the man who was originally going to be ‘Jabba’ with the slimy slug-like Hutt that we all know him as today, this change is fundamentally awful for a number of reasons. For one, when it was originally included in the 1997 re-release of A New Hope, the CGI Jabba looked absolutely horrendous – it would be hard to distinguish between it and the Globgogabgalab if the latter didn’t periodically break into song. In fact, if my previous list of terrible CGI characters had included a section on the original trilogy, this Jabba would have topped the list. Thankfully the 2004 re-release of A New Hope changed Jabba into something that looked a little bit more like what we remember from Return of the Jedi but that still doesn’t answer the question of why this scene is even necessary in the first place – for one, it spoils the reveal of Jabba from Jedi, and it doesn’t establish anything that we didn’t know from the previous Cantina scene. To add insult to injury, Han steps on Jabba’s tail, something he would probably have been killed for if this was the real Jabba instead of a CGI imposter.
4 – Vader’s ‘Nooooo’
This change is a perfect example of how altering the tiniest detail can have a whole lot of impact. Adding in Vader screaming ‘No’ Revenge of the Sith-style into the climax of Return of the Jedi essentially threw any hope of subtlety in the scene out of the window, with the Emperor cackling maniacally like the pantomime villain that he is in Jedi. After all, wouldn’t the Emperor hear him say it and blast him with lightning instead? The point of his betrayal originally was that it was totally unexpected – the Emperor never had a chance to stop Vader by the time he had been lifted into the air and hurled over the balcony to plummet to his death, but now it just makes Palpatine look like an idiot. Speaking of treating people like idiots, surely the audience can basically figure out by his body language and actions that Vader is saving Luke without a clear statement from him? But according to Lucas, everything needs to be spelled out for us, it’s not like we’ve had over 30 years to figure out what Vader must have been thinking during the final scene.
3 – CGI creatures everywhere
It’s almost comical when watching it back, but the iconic ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ scene in A New Hope now begins with a really close up shot of a reptilian creature lumbering in the way of the camera, totally blocking the shot and obscuring all of the main characters for seemingly no reason whatsoever. But that’s not the only creature that was added in to the original trilogy, there are plenty – a Dug (one of Sebulba’s species, for anyone who wanted a grim reminder of The Phantom Menace) can now be seen in Jabba’s palace, the Wampa now gets a full reveal (spoiling the ambiguity of the creature) and that dance number in Return of the Jedi makes me want to burn everything in my house that links me to Star Wars. Seriously, it’s that bad. Heck, they may as well go and retroactively add Porgs into the films, scurrying around on the Millennium Falcon or screeching over the dialogue in Empire. In fact, it’s not just the addition of creatures that make this so bad – Lucas couldn’t even digitally insert a rock in front of R2-D2 whilst he hides from the Tusken Raiders without having it disappear between shots, and the gap when it is there be too small for R2-D2 to even fit through. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
2 – Greedo Shooting First
It may surprise some that this isn’t number one, because it has become the most infamous change to the Star Wars films with, the motto ‘Han Shot First’ seemingly encompassing the Star Wars fandom’s rejection of the majority of George Lucas’ changes to the films. After all, Greedo shooting first not only detracts from the firm establishment of Han Solo as a no-nonsense, quick-triggered badass, but it also devalues him as a character – what kind of bounty hunter can fire at that close a range whilst sitting down and having a totally clear shot and yet still miss? Is this another attempt by Lucas to add out-of-place slapstick humour to Star Wars that absolutely fails at every level? Ignoring the neck-breaking head motion that Han has been edited to perform in newer releases with this edit, the change just doesn’t look right. Everything happens so fast that it’s impossible to tell why Lucas felt this was necessary, aside from a vague excuse that ‘good guys don’t shoot people’. Well George, tell that to the dozens of Stormtroopers who are dispatched by Han throughout the movies, they’re people too.
1 – Boba Fett’s voice
This is the change that I take most issue with, regardless of the whole ‘who shot first’ fiasco. In fairness, this change was obviously made with continuity in mind, rather than just a random desire to pollute the frame with more random CGI creations like the Stormtroopers on the Death Star or the Max Reebo band – for those not aware, Boba Fett is revealed to be a clone of Jango Fett who features in Attack of the Clones. Obviously by replacing James Wingreen’s voice from the original cut of Empire with the voice of Temura Morrison, who played Jango, Lucas was bridging the gap between Clones and Empire and admittedly, this change could have been done well under different circumstances. But the fact of the matter is that Wingreen’s performance was just so much better than Morrison’s, and even if you apply the logic that Boba is a clone, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that he had the exact same voice – after all, environmental factors have much more of an impact on accent than genetics, making this change ultimately pointless.
So that was my list of the Top 5 Best and Worst Changes to the Star Wars movies, I hope you enjoyed, if you did then you can always leave a like either here or on Facebook, and be sure to follow us if you want to read more content like this!