Changes in Star Wars re-releases
These current defacements are just the beginning. Today, engineers with their computers can add color to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder. Tomorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with "fresher faces", or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor’s lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new "original" negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires. (...) In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be "replaced" by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten. - George Lucas, 1988. Yes, really.
The Star Wars Trilogy, also referred to as the original trilogy by fans, is considered to be one of the greatest film trilogies of all time, consisting of GMW (later known as A New Hope since its 1981 reissue), GMW, and GMW, but the later release of the prequels prompted George Lucas to make re-edited versions of the original three films, which resulted in a colossal amount of backlash from fans.
List of changes in Star Wars
"Han shot first"
"Han shot first" is a phrase referring to a controversial change made to a scene in the original Star Wars, in which Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is confronted by the bounty hunter Greedo (Paul Blake) in the Mos Eisley cantina.
Han Solo and Greedo both independently work for Jabba the Hutt, a crime lord based on the desert planet of Tatooine. Before the events of the film, Jabba puts a bounty on Han, a smuggler for Jabba, after Han jettisons some cargo to avoid capture by an Imperial search party. In the Mos Eisley Cantina, Greedo corners Han and forces him at gunpoint to sit down in a booth. Solo tells Greedo that he has the money to compensate Jabba, but Greedo demands the money for himself. Han says he doesn't have the money at the moment, quietly readying his own blaster under the table. Greedo tells him that Jabba has run out of patience with Han and that Greedo has been "waiting for a long time for this", referring to Han's capture. Han replies, "Yes, I'll bet you have." The scene's conclusion varies depending on the version of the film.
In the original 1977 theatrical release, Han pulls out his blaster and shoots Greedo in the chest, killing him instantly. As Han leaves the booth, he tosses a coin to the bartender and says "Sorry about the mess."
However, in the 1997 Special Edition re-release, a few frames were inserted in which Greedo shoots first at Han and misses, before Han returns fire and kills Greedo.
When the Special Edition was released, the Star Wars fandom heavily criticized the revamped scene, considering it removed Han's moral ambiguity and diminished his plot arc by having him start out as a regular guy instead of a roguish anti-hero. Lucas' claim that the original scene made Han look like "a cold-blooded killer" led to additional criticism that Lucas had drifted so far that he no longer even understood his own characters.
The scene was altered several times. In the 2004 version, they both fire at around the same time, in the 2011 version, it goes by as fast as the original and in the 2019 Disney+ version, Greedo says a word similar to "Maclunkey!" before firing.
Addition of CGI
Various scenes in the original trilogy were re-made using CGI, or CGI simply used to add more background clutter to scenes. A substantial amount of these re-made scenes were heavily criticized by Star Wars fans; most notably the scene where Han Solo meets Jabba the Hutt at Mos Eisley Spaceport (especially the 1997 Special Edition version) in "A New Hope", and the entire "Jedi Rocks" musical sequence at Jabba's Palace in "Return of the Jedi".
In some cases, actors from the prequels were inserted in place of the originals. When Boba Fett speaks in the 2004 DVD re-release, he is voiced by Temuera Morrison (who played Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones) instead of the late Jason Wingreen, and when Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader's Force ghost appears to Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi, it is shown as a prequel-age Hayden Christensen rather than an older man (played by the late Sebastian Shaw, whose body is left intact; Christensen’s head was added from a costume test). Another example of this is in the hologram scene in The Empire Strikes Back, in which Palpatine (who was voiced by Clive Revill and physically portrayed by Marjorie Eaton wearing a mask) was re-cast as Ian McDiarmid. Many longtime fans feel that it is disrespectful to some of the now-dead actors who had their lines re-dubbed or their appearance removed.
Darth Vader's "Nooooo!"
In the 2011 Blu-Ray release of Return of the Jedi, a "Nooooo!" was added from Vader as the Emperor is torturing Luke to death, supposedly meant to parallel his infamously stupid reaction to being told Padmé had died in Revenge of the Sith. This did not exactly please fans.
The 2004 DVDs received very poor colour correction, a result of the effects team ordering it done in a pace of 30 days. Standouts include Darth Vader's lightsaber being pink instead of red, and pink blotches in the sky in some scenes.
As a direct response, some edits, like Harmy's Despecialized Editions, have countered by undoing all the damage Lucas brought to these films, while some, like Adywan's "Star Wars Revisited" edits, improved upon the changes and removed some of the controversial changes.
Related edits to other films
- In 2002, Steven Spielberg edited GMW, with the most infamous change being the replacement of the shotguns the police carried with walkie-talkies, which is basically censorship. This was mocked in the BTSW episode "Free Hat". Unlike Lucas, who continued to edit his movies until Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, Spielberg later regretted his changes and told fans to watch the original versions instead. Every home video release since then only uses the original version (complete with the opening logo).
- George Lucas also altered his first feature film, THX 1138, in the 2000s. Controversy erupted, but on a smaller scale since THX 1138 is not as well known as Star Wars.
- Not even American Graffiti could escape editing. In 1978, to piggyback on the success of Star Wars, the film was re-released with a few additional scenes, and the soundtrack was remixed in Dolby Stereo. In 1998, Lucas also altered it by adding a digital sunset sky to the intro. Luckily, this was the only change.
- GMW was re-edited by producer and co-writer John A. Russo into a "30th Anniversary Edition" without George A. Romero's involvement whatsoever. The changes included newly shot scenes, new sound effects, removal of some scenes and even stripping away all of the grain. Ain't It Cool News webmaster Harry Knowles threatened to ban anyone who defended this version as he saw it as a butchering of one of his favorite films.
- Apocalypse Now was re-edited into a longer cut called Apocalypse Now Redux by director Francis Ford Coppola for its DVD release. The actual changes were less contentious since they were just restoring footage that was deleted from the theatrical version, but it did lead to some controversy about it being the only version released on DVD.
- The Indiana Jones trilogy almost got this, but thankfully it did not happen. The only change that happened was the removal of an obvious glass glare when Indy was falling into a pit of snakes.
- Blade Runner was re-edited many times until director Ridley Scott's Final Cut was released in 2007 as part of the film's 25th anniversary. Unlike other examples, this was praised by the fans and is seen as the definitive version (though the new green-tinted color grading is seen as horrible). The films were also packaged with the original versions, which also helped.
- Not even GMW could escape editing. In 2002, the film was re-released in IMAX, with the sound being enhanced and the film having additional changes such as the completely re-done animation for the crocodiles featured in "I Just Can't Wait to be King", and a new song called "The Morning Report" which replaces the pouncing lesson scene.
- In the 1980s, several films were colorized, mostly under the supervision of media mogul Ted Turner. This attracted huge controversy, even from George Lucas (whose quote against colorization is at the beginning of this article), because it takes away the charm of the original versions.
- In the early 2010s, several older films were converted to 3D, such as the first two Toy Story films, GMW, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and even GMW. Animated film conversions (especially CGI ones) aren't really problematic due to the fact that they can be re-rendered with a second camera, but conversions of live-action films can produce disastrous results, such as Clash of the Titans.
- Spider-Man 3 was re-released in 2017 by Sony in the form of an "Editor's Cut", which featured unused music from Christopher Young, alternate edits of scenes, a restructured story, and scenes both added and removed throughout. As a result, the Editor's Cut was two minutes shorter than the theatrical cut.
- In 2003, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released an extended cut of GMW which contained almost every scene featured in the original Italian release, with Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach brought in to record their lines, as well as Simon Prescott to dub over Lee Van Cleef, who died in 1989. Eastwood and Wallach noticeably sounded older than they did before, as Eastwood was 72 and Wallach was 86. The reinstatement of a scene where Tuco recruits his brothers in a cave after Blondie terminates their partnership, which director Sergio Leone had cut after the film's first showing in Italy, was particularly controversial. In addition, a new sound mix was created in which all the gunshots and cannon blasts were replaced with new sound effects. This sound mix is often criticized for being jarring.
- In re-releases of some of the early GMW movies, the classic opening Walt Disney logo with the CGI castle and its fanfare have been removed in favor for the current one, which takes away the history of the Walt Disney logo and the company. A similar thing has been done with classic Disney movies, in which the old 2D Walt Disney logo has been replaced with the modern one.
- Some major studios tend to plaster their old logos with newer ones in the newer prints of classic movies. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. are extremely guilty of this. For starters, MGM often puts the 1986-2008 logo in front of most classic films from United Artists, Orion etc. WB, on the other hand, haphazardly plasters its old "Big '//" logo that was used between 1973 and 1984 (when the 1948 shield was revived).
- GMW was re-released in 3D in 2012, and it features the 100th Anniversary version for the Universal logo, as well as minor changes such as digitally removing a wire from the frill of a dilophosaurus, as well as the safety cable, plant pot and set dressing from the scene where the T-rex flips over the explorer in the road attack, and some additions such as adding rain to the T-rex attack to give it depth. The color grading of the film was also re-done and the grain was removed, though the color grading isn't really great, as it feels like the sun is setting (mainly due to the orange-ish color scheme).
- On that subject, many 4K re-releases of older films go through the process of removing film grain and changing the color scheme to look more like a modern film (by giving it an orange or teal color). While the concept of removing film grain isn't a bad thing and gives the film an appearance that doesn't stand out horribly on a modern TV, messing around with the grain structure usually results in its own issues (e.g. some characters appearing "waxy"), which are far more distracting than the grain itself. Not only that, adding an orange or teal color messes up the original color grade of an old film and can even look distracting at times.
There will only be one. And it won't be what I would call the 'rough cut', it'll be the 'final cut.' The other one will be some sort of interesting artifact that people will look at and say, 'There was an earlier draft of this.'...What ends up being important in my mind is what the DVD version is going to look like, because that's what everybody is going to remember. The other versions will disappear. Even the 35 million tapes of Star Wars out there won't last more than 30 or 40 years. A hundred years from now, the only version of the movie that anyone will remember will be the DVD version [of the Special Edition]. - George Lucas, "An Expanded Universe", American Cinematographer magazine, February 1997
Video (and playlist)