Saturday, July 02, 2011

Star Wars revisited

I've apparently written about Star Wars enough that I'm out of classic familiar posters, so I'm going to this from Trippy Vintage Hungarian Star Wars Posters. They're pretty dang awesome, huh?

But hopefully not too distracting from my point.

A while ago I wrote an Open letter to George Lucas discussing how I'll introduce my son Conan to Star Wars. At that time I was leaning heavily toward Star Wars: The Original Radio Drama, and that's still a strong contender.

However, when I do introduce him to the actual movie, at this point, I expect it will be Star Wars: Revisited.

Sure, like any good geek, I'll be picking up Star Wars: The Complete Saga and taking a look at it. I expect I'll stick with the Blu-ray of The Empire Strikes Back for the image quality, as I have no significant complaints with the current version.

Return of the Jedi, in my opinion the least (and most frustrating) of the six movies, will be the trickiest, but some of the Fan Edit folks seem to be on the right track, so I'll have to experiment with that. I expect to start with Return of the Jedi: The Spence Final Cut, which sounds like it addresses the majority of concerns I have, including the generally popular opening sequence.

Unfortunately, the most basic fact that it's action climax merely replicates all the beats from Star Wars is impossible to correct.

As far as Star Wars: Revisited, it does all of the things you'd expect. The most obvious are the concerns I noted previously. In fact, the Mos Eisley sequence, which I said was one of the things improved in the "special edition" stands out as a great improvement over either official version, leaving in the larger scope and more bustle of the "special edition" version while removing the distraction of CGI creatures wildly moving in front of the lead characters and cutting most of the broad comedy bits added.

The Jabba scene is removed and, yes, Han Solo shoots first.

I have to say that not having watched the original scene in some time, it's kind of dull and too fast.

In a generous mood, I might think Lucas added the "Greedo shoots first" in order to create some suspense and action. Mind you, the new version, even the slightly improved 2004 DVD version, doesn't fix that, and it detracts from our understanding of Han as a character.

This version also tries, only somewhat awkwardly, to give Chewbacca his medal in the final scene, among any number of other re-edits.

I think the most obvious to the average viewer would b the lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader. Anyone who has returned to this movie has discovered how slow and poorly choreographed this sequence it. Not only in comparison to the elaborate high-energy lightsaber battles in the prequels made 20 years later, but also in comparison to somthing like The Adventures of Robin Hood from 40 years earlier. Presumably time and budget constraints were an issue with choreographing a proper scene and working out the details of making the effect work.

The re-editing here attempts to make up for that, speeding up the paces, etc., to play a little closer to what we'd expect from such a sequence.

Unfortunately, it doesn't really work. There's simply not enough there to work with. And the sequence ultimately stands on the gravitas of Alec Guinness and the power of Dave Prowse in that iconic Ralph McQuarrie/Brian Muir costume with the power of James Earl Jones voice. In the original version that basically works, even if not as well as one would hope, but by speeding it up, it feels like some part of that is lost.

I also wasn't entirely happy with the color correction through all of it. In places it had an overadjusted look that made some scenes look mildly like they were colorized.

I found far less to complain about than I did to praise, however. Including nice bits such as including sound effects from the original mono mix and bits of dialogue from the radio drama. I'm comfortable with this as my preferred version of the movie. There are few radical changes, as few were needed, but it finds a nice middle ground between the original theatrical version and the "special edition".

It kind of brought me back to my love of this movie. It's funny, but in this world of sequels, prequels and Expanded Universe, it's sometimes hard to remember what a simple, straight-forward adventure that first movie is.

On the other hand, I wondered how well it would have held the test of time as a single movie. Concepts like The Force, without the development of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, feels in 2011 like it would have felt like a dopey product of the '70s and would seem to date the movie on its own more than it does as part of the larger version.

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