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Response to the Special Editions Rant

A friend of mine recently emailed me this alternative viewpoint response to my Star Wars Rant:

Hi Argus, its me RAMA. I was just looking over your site--its better than ever I must say--and wanted to drop a line with some thoughts on the section about SW:SE. Let me go point by point:
 Section A: The Screw-upsBefore I start, I'll admit now that many of my gripes are very nit-picky. The majority of the SWSE changes hurt the movies in only the slightest ways. However, the fact that the changes in general hurt more than they helped means that they failed in their purpose.
Let me start by saying two things: 1. I am a fan of Star Wars in general, though I can point to many faults and I will always consider Star Trek infinitely more meaningful and valuable as a franchsie. 2. I am an artist, not professionally at the moment, but I have in the past and would like to do more in the future. I mention this because I LOVE "before-and-afters" in just about anything, from interior decoration to yes, movies. An artist especially one who has worked on the project before should be able to do what he wants with his work. If the artist is commisioned by someone who is the caretaker of the work such as a studio or estate, then I feel it is also OK. Such is the case with the TOS FX by my friends at "Digital Stream" and Foundation Imaging working with Robert Wise on STTMP. I have even contacted Andy Probert about the project and he tells me he was contacted by Wise AFTER I HAD E-MAILED him about the project, wondering if he was involved, so obviously he is, as some of the new footage will be based on his behind-the-scenes design work.

Episode IV: A New Hope

1. The Greedo-shoots-first scene doesn't work. Lucas wanted to clarify that Solo was not a cold-blooded murderer. I don't blame him, but the conversation with Greedo already made it obvious that Han was firing in self-defense; Having Greedo shoot first softens Han's rugged character. Besides, did Greedo shoot with his eyes closed? How did he miss by such a wide margin a target sitting three feet away from him?.

I agree here completely, though the new elements were pretty damn good.

2. The new look of Mos Eisley makes "the wretched hive of scum and villainy" look like a fun place to take the family on a picnic.

Now here is where I disagree. I feel the structures lent themselves to clean CGI, and it was Lucas' original intention to make it much bigger. I had laways wondered why the "hive" looked like a Anasazi settlement, with a few huts scattered here and there. The new footage is terrific.

2a. How about that shot of the huge CGI creature walking in front of Luke's landspeeder? The creature appears to be twenty feet from the camera, but the speeder behind it is only about ten feet away.

The persepctive here isn't all that glaring, and the creature is big enough, and the speeder fast enough that I have no major qualms over this insertion.

4. The original versions of the films helped create a feeling of ominous mystery around the character of Jabba the Hutt by not showing him until the last film. When we did get to see the humongous one himself he was surrounded by his foreboding pallace and multitudes of disgusting followers, all helping to establish that this vile gangster was not to be trifled with. However, the SE versions introduce the big dude slithering around in the open looking as unthreatening as possible. The suspense is shot. Now the Hutt looks like a harmless old lug who won't even get mad if you step on his tail. The Jabba from ROTJ would have fed Han to the Rancor for that.

One problem here: SW is NOT by any means a suspense movie. It is proud of the fact it shows EVERYTHING. It wants to dazzle and show everything in its pulpish Doc Smith glory. The scenes of Jabba were shot, Lucas simply couldn't edit them in because he couldn't accomplish the effect in 1977. An artist should be able to re-edit his work anytime he chooses. In fact, Lucas would fight for the right to have films seen as a ongoing maleable work and to that end is filming all his new films with digital cameras..making the editing process easier and changing the face of post production forever. Editing will now occur througout the film and will be seamlessly and effortlessly accomplished. Any other paradigm we have been used to for 100 years of filmmaking will eventually be seen as the result of technological limitations.

4a. Jabba's conversation with Han repeats half of the dialogue from the Greedo scene.

Again, this is the original dialogue with few changes. I saw the original stuff in an old letterbox release of the original movies before it was ever worked on.

4b. Again, the CGI here is phony. Jim Henson's animatronic Jabba in ROTJ looks far better.

Here I agree. But they finally got Jabba right again in SW:TPM.

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

1. The new ice-creature sequence on Hoth dampens the suspense by showing too much of the Wampa. Great suspense films of the past have often proved that "less is more," and the original version of this scene used that skill with precision. By showing the arm completely hacked off, the scene feels less graceful and reminds me too much of the it's-only-a-flesh-wound scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I disagree strongly here. Again this is not "Alien" its Star Wars, its a quick scene and means little to the rest of the movie. Instead of using quick, jarring cuts that were obviously originally done to hide the limitations of the mechanical effect, we have a full fledged creature that is more believable and integrates smoothly into the scene.

2. The Vader-steps-from-his-shuttle scene is too obviously an outtake from ROTJ. This was to me the most insulting change of all. Did Lucas forget that SW fans have seen each of these films dozens of times and practically have them memorized? Even if the shot had not been so recognizable, was it needed? Did Lucas think audiences were scratching their heads, unable to comprehend how Vader got from Cloud City to the Imperial ship? Don't worry, George. We can figure out these things for ourselves.

I've seen before and after shots of the Bespin scenes (the landing of Han and co, not this scene) and I think those are amazingly better. As for the Darth Vader scene, movies have been using stock footage since they began, what's to be offended about?

3. Then there were pointless line changes:
3a. In Empire, when R2D2 was spat out by the water-creature, why was the interesting and descriptive line "You're lucky you don't taste very good," changed to the boring and cliche "You were lucky to get out of there"?
3b. As for C3PO's new (un)comic line "How am I supposed to know the difference between a computer terminal and a wall socket?"--it's lame.

4. This one hurts. Alot. They just had to fiddle with the greatest scene in the trilogy, didn't they? Luke, having learned moments before of his not-so-proud parentage, sees only one way to avoid helping Vader tyranize the galaxy; kill himself. Calm and decisive, Luke jumps to apparent doom. Except, now... thanks to unneeded meddling, he screams. Look, we know that he's human and suffers the same fears as all of us, but what made the original scene so powerful was Luke's courage; when push came to shove, the naive farmboy from Tatooine proved that he would make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of justice. His newly added scream weakens that display of courage.

Well this I didn't even notice. Silly me. I'll have to rewatch both.

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

This was the least damaged of the three films. I have only a few complaints about this one:

1. The "Jedi Rocks" scene in Jabba's pallace is completely stupid. The only consolation is that it replaced the almost-as-bad Flashdance style scene in the original.

I agree here, but kids seem to like it, and with SW:TPM, Lucas is clearly aiming these at kids, first and foremost.

2. A new law of physics in the SWSE universe seemingly states "A beautiful ring of smoke will whiz outward from any extremely large explosion." Now, I loved the newly added firey ring in the explosion of Alderaan in ANH. Although it wasn't needed, it looked beautiful and did not harm the movie. The second ring around the explosion of the first Death Star looked cool again. However, by the time the second Death Star went kablooey at the end of ROTJ, those explosion rings were starting to feel a little cliche. Don't overdo it, George.

You can thank ST:VI. ILM loved the explosion of Praxis so much they've used it on several films since to convey a shockwave. Its no more or less scientifically accurate than any multitude of errors in SW in this area.
"Nothing is ever what it seems but everything is exactly what it is." - B. Banzai

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