Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Star Wars Revisited DVD - Review

I made a post last year as an April Fool about a new DVD that Lucasfilm was releasing with more changes to the Star Wars films here and here. People fell for my joke thinking this would be just the sort of thing that George Lucas would do again.

Now a year later along comes a new version of Star Wars, not a new version by Lucasfilm, but a version put together by a fan. A fan who has decided to make his own edition of the film that he is happy with. A DVD made freely available on the internet for fans to download, not for sale, but free, he's making no profit from his version.

I was interested in this version for 2 reasons, firstly I was never happy with the Star Wars Special Editions, I still prefer the version I seen back in 1977. The 2nd reason was to see if a fan could out do what Lucasfilm had done with the film. I always thought that some of the stuff was decidedly ropey on the re-releases, Greedo shooting first, the addition of Jabba the Hutt etc... plus some FX shots that were never altered when some were. Now I know you could go on forever replacing stuff but ILM's work seemed a bit spasmodic at times. Anyway I would have to go as far as to say that if I had to watch either the Special Edition or this DVD called Star Wars Revisited then I'd choose the latter work by the fan.
Adywan as he calls himself has made quite a number of changes, some very subtle such as adding blinking light to Vaders chest panel and removing the red tint on his helmets eyes that he has in this film. And some such as whole new FX shots and sequences. Some scenes have even been changed editorially, but more on that later.

I'll pick out some stuff, there's lots to choose from but I'm highlighting some. One change that I thought worked was C3-PO sighting of the Jawas sandcrawler. In all versions it appeared as a black dot on the horizon, Adywan has moved C3-PO in the shot and added a much bigger sandcrawler, we can actually see what it is now and you get the idea it's close enough to see C3-PO waving and shouting. Continuity changes are shots such as when Luke is talking to Beru before he joins Owen with the Jawas, several bushes have been removed from the shot for continuity with the following shots where Luke walks away to join his Uncle. OK this is something most people wouldn't spot or give a toss about but Adywan figured in his cut it was worth doing. The FX for Luke's macrobinoculars has been updated to produce a much clearer image of what Luke is seeing.
One shot that I was surprised ILM never did was adding the missing radar dish to the top of the Millennium Falcon in docking bay 94, Adywan has not only added the dish but he's extended the back of the bay as well under the front forks of the Falcon.

The trip into Mos Eisley has been re-edited so we don't see the Jawa swinging from the Ronto anymore and other Ronto shots have been trimmed back. The famous cantina sequence has had a number of tweaks, mainly shots of alien creatures blinking and frowning etc... just to add a bit of life to what was otherwise a static latex mask. These on the whole are quite well done. And now we also get to see Greedo with some facial expressions, he blinks his eyes and tweaks have been done around the face to give him some movement. The great thing is Han shoots first again.
Another change for continuity is the shot when Ben, Luke and the droids are heading to docking bay 94, in the original shot R2-D2 was behind C3-PO and yet as they turn in the same shot to enter the area where Chewbacca is waiting R2 enters frame at the bottom, like he's just sprinted 30 foot in a second, they obviously had two R2's in this shot originally. Adywan has recoloured the original R2 red so he looks like a different droid, a new R2 has been added to the shot up front of Ben and Luke, you can see this in the pic above, so now when they turn R2 seems to be in the right place. Oh yeah and other great news is the Jabba sequence has been removed also.

Just going back to the cantina scene, a big change here is the severing of the arm by Obi-Wan. It's Dr Evazan, the ugly guy who actually pulls the gun on Ben who now loses his arm, not Walrus Man who was further back. A big change but it kind of makes sense. A mate said that the original furry arm was probably easier to get past the censors back in 1977. As far as we see in the film Walrus man never pulls a gun yet we see it next to his severed arm. The blood has been replaced with a smoking cauterized wound.

There are shots tweaked all the way through the escape from Mos Eisley and Death Star scenes, but I'm jumping forward to the Death Star escape. We now get new graphics on the Millennium Falcons targeting monitors as Han and Luke battle the Tie Fighters, we also see several new shots of the Falcon being attacked and tweaked stuff like the star fields out of the gun bay and cockpit windows moving faster. The shot after C3-PO says "Help I think I'm melting" of R2-D2 has been given a new background, the shot before looked like it was on the Death Star, and although we see R2 in a new location you can still see the Death Star corridor lights reflected in R2's blue just to the left of him on the pic.
During the journey back to Yavin we now see the Millennium Falcon traveling through Hyperspace, so the cockpit shots of Han and Leia talking have been tinted blue and the Hyperspace corridor added through the viewport.
Some of the best of the new additions are the Death Star schematics during the rebel briefing before the Death Star battle, I was always sure that this was the type of thing that Lucas would have updated for the Special Editions. Adywan adds new graphics some of which still incorporate the old graphics as part of them. They kind of show just how primitive the CG displays actually were in 1977.

During the preparation for the Death Star attack we see numerous shots of pilots putting helmets on, these helmets used to sport a blue rebel logo, these have all been changed to red now as we never see a pilot in battle with the blue rebel emblem. What hasn't been fixed, and I'm sure it would have been hard, is the cleanliness of the helmets in the pre battle montage. Once the pilots get into action they all have battle worn and painted helmets.
In a number of shots now out of the cockpit windows we can see the red planet of Yavin, an orange gas giant. This is logical seeing as though the Death Star is passing this planet in order to get a clear shot of the rebel base on Yavin 4. Another nice addition is the war room displays that Leia and the rebel commanders stand around during the battle, firstly we see a new graphic of the relation of the Death Star to Yavin 4 with the main planet in the middle, see pic above. And then secondly once the battle has started we get a schematic of the Death Star dome where the ships are fighting, and small specs representing the craft can be seen moving around. Now when rebel officers are pointing at the chart it seems more like they're actually viewing the events that are happening in space. See pic in the group below.

We also see some exterior shots during the Death Star battle that feature the orange planet. The schematics on the Death Stars display screens have been updated too.

Some of the biggest changes are during the battle. When the Tie Fighters first appear we see a whole squadron of them heading towards the camera, we then track around with them to the surface of the Death Star were they engage the rebel ships. Quite an impressive shot. We also get numerous shots that have been enhanced with more ships, lasers, explosions etc... But in this scene there are a number of brand new shots. Edits also change the structure of some scenes and dialogue changes such as when Luke says "Blast it ! Biggs, where are you ?" He now says "Blast it ! Wedge, where are you ?" this is an actual sound recording from what Adywan calls the 'Original 1977 Monomix' Again this change makes more sense as in the scene before Wedge says "I'm on him,Luke !" and after the ships destroyed we hear Luke say "Thanks,Wedge." So it makes no sense this he's calling for Biggs, Wedge already has the situation covered. And I assume as this dialogue exists then at some point this is how the scene played anyway.
Later after Biggs is destroyed we hear the electronic voice of Luke shouting "Biggs, Biggs !" this is taken from Luke's reaction to Bigg's death from the Radio Play.

The Death Star explosion has been changed and also includes the planet Yavin again. One scene a lot of people have talked about in the past is the giving of the medals, why Chewbacca never got one. Well Adywan has tried to rectify this, although we do see Chewie stood with his medal the actual presenting has been done editorially using flipped shots and some cut and paste, and although you can see what Adywan has tried to do we never physically see Chewbacca step forward and Leia place the medal over his head. Still a nice attempt at fixing the scene.

I said at the top that I'd talk about some of the editorial changes, a sound edit early on has changed C3-PO's words from "There'll be no escape for the Princess this time." to "There'll be no escape this time." I suppose the fact that when Luke asks C3-PO who the young lady on the hologram is later, C3-PO says "I'm afraid I'm not quite sure,sir." Now you could say either C3-PO is protecting Princess Leia or he genuinely doesn't have a clue. So if it's the latter this the change makes sense.
A major re-edit is the scene in Obi-Wan's house, the whole structure of the sequence has been changed , but still works. The original cut started with Luke saying that his father didn't fight in the wars, and was a navigator on a spice freighter, Ben responds with that's what you're uncle told you etc... and then Luke says to Ben " You fought in the Clone Wars ?" Ben then tells Luke about how great a pilot his father was and then gets his lighsaber chats about how his father died then see's if he can find the message in R2-D2, then asks Luke to join him.
The way the scene plays on Adywan's cut is that the first thing we see is Obi-Wan saying to R2 about the message, the message plays through and as Ben sits back to contemplate what the recording of Leia has said, Luke says " You fought in the Clone Wars ?" Obi-Wan responds with "Yes, I was one a Jedi Knight the same as your father." it's now that Luke says "No, my father didn't fight in the wars, he was a navigator on a spice freighter." Ben then tells Luke how his father was a great pilot and a good friend, now he gets Luke's lightsaber, Luke asks about how his father died and the force, then Obi-Wan asks Luke to join him. On first watch I though what the fuck has he done with this, it's only when you watch again you realize that all the script is still there, it's just in a different order. Star Wars editor Paul Hirsch says in the book Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays that "In the original cut of the film Ben and Luke heard the message first and then they talked about Luke's father and the sword"
So what Adywan has done is return to something closer to the original edit.
During the Vader and Obi-Wan duel he's added music and cut the scene tighter, I wasn't to fussed on this but a mate said it does make you think how dull that fight was with no music back when it was made.

Some stuff that doesn't work in my opinion is the shot he's added of R2-D2 in the ravine on Tatooine, he's altered the shot to try and create some sort of continuity with the look of Tatooine from the prequels. Also we now see the Death Star in it's establishing shots orbiting a planet, this appears to make use of footage from The Empire Strikes Back, several times through the course of the film we now hear the Imperial March, such as this scene and when the Tie Fighters show up in the Death Star battle.

As I said at the top, Star Wars is the film I seen in 1977 and I prefer that cut, faults and all. But what this Star Wars Revisited disc does is show how todays generation can take a film and make what they would say is a near perfect version for them. OK you can't create live action scenes that never existed but you can tweak and adjust what's already made. And in a lot of cases Adywan has fixed faults that Lucas left behind or wasn't bothered about fixing. Some may agree with that others not.
The DVD features a track you can select to bring up a text description of what changes have been made etc...

For a full list of changes and links to dowload the DVD then visit here here


Natalie said...

This is fantastic. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and this info. I've resorted to watching old VHS versions recently just so I wouldn't have to endure the newer edits.....

allen etter said...

Wow...can we give him the prequels to tweak?

Fraser Lovatt said...

You don't fool me Andrew -- it's another trap! I'll never believe you again after you tricked me the last time and I posted it to /.

OK, maybe this one time.


Niel Bushnell said...

Does he fix the pop during Lukes lightsabre training on the Falcon? As Luke switches the blade off there is a very obvious jump cut where they swapped the full sabre for the handle. Its alwasys bugged me.

Andrew Glazebrook said...

All the jump cuts with the lighsabers have been smoothed. Another one he's fixed is the shot were R2 and C3-PO run across the corridor and dodge the laser bolts being fired by the rebels and the stormtroopers,when they get to the other side an explosion went off with an obvious jump in the frame, that looks much better now. A simple fix no doubt which no one has bothered with until this guy.

crookymike said...

Fair play to the guy, but sometimes its the imperfections which make something perfect.Thats why, for me, the original originals rock!
As for the prequels, they need far more than a tweak. How about a complete remake with a decent script? Think of the money, George!

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Oh yeah Natalie, the old versions are available on DVD, it's just you have to but the new ones with them, simply use the newer disc as a handy coaster to stand your coffee cup on.

Natalie said...

You are now my number one source for all things Sci-Fi and interior decorating related. Honestly, I'm kind of pumped about the Star Wars coaster idea...

Moonwatcher said...

This looks like it could be fun. I've passed the info onto a mate in hopes he can download me a copy.

Michael Grant Clark said...

I bet this chap has a go at the floaty blob on the emperor's face in Jedi next, I hope so.

Nice work but a tad mental I'd say. Either Lucas will give him a job or destroy him with his Sith powers.