I remember when the Star Wars Special Editions hit theaters in 1997. As a huge Star Wars fan, I was thrilled with all of the added scenes. I was also blown away by what was considered cutting-edge CGI technology at the time. However, George Lucas did not stop making changes after 1997. He continued to tinker with each subsequent release. The latest changes come via the Blu-Ray releases.
In truth, George Lucas has been making changes to his Star Wars movies since it re-released in theaters just prior to The Empire Strikes Back. The original 1977 version of A New Hope never had “Episode IV A New Hope” in the scrolling marquee. Instead, the film was simply titled Star Wars. Nevertheless, whereas most of the changes back then were minor and actually enhanced the movie, the changes in the past 15 years have gotten out of hand. In my recent viewing of the Star Wars original trilogy Blu-Rays, I noted about 41 noticeable changes (these include the ones added in 1997). Below, I list the Top 10 most annoying changes that Lucas has made to the original trilogy since 1997. By annoying, I mean that they distract the audience from the movie or ruin a particular scene. These changes are in order of appearance…
1. Star Wars: A New Hope “The Dewbacks.”
How it was originally: Dewbacks were, in fact, in the original 1977 version of A New Hope. However, they were silent and still creatures.
How it was changed: In 1997, the Dewbacks were given the ability to bellow and move. Unfortunately, they bellow in every single scene they appear. That Dewback outside the cantina? He bellows when Luke and Obi-Wan enter and exit the cantina. This makes for a rather annoying creature. If I were a stormtrooper riding one of those creatures, I would most likely shoot it out of annoyance. Better to walk in the desert than have to listen to these things all day long.
2. Star Wars: A New Hope “Artoo’s Rock.”
How it was originally: In every edition except for the Blu-Ray, Artoo hides in an alcove after Luke is attacked by the Sand People. The Sand People, distracted by Luke’s landspeeder, pay Artoo no heed.
How it was changed: Artoo now has a big rock obscuring him from view. It most certainly keeps him hidden from the Sand People (even though they did not see him anyway), but it raises a bigger question: how did Artoo get into the alcove in the first place? There is very little room for a short, fat astromech to wedge himself in. On top of that, the rock itself just looks bad. One can definitely tell it is CGI upon examination. This was both an unnecessary and annoying change.
3. Star Wars: A New Hope “Obi-Wan’s Krayt Dragon Call.”
How it was originally: Obi-Wan’s Krayt Dragon call was both intimidating and rough in the original. One could certainly tell how it would startle the Sand People.
How it was changed: This was first changed in 1997. However, it was only changed slightly and it still sounded rather intimidating. The big change was in the 2011 Blu-Ray. If you watched the video, you would understand that the Krayt Dragon no longer sounds fearsome in the slightest. It honestly could be the sound of someone on a roller coaster. This was both an unnecessary and annoying change. On top of that, it was right after “Artoo’s Rock.” This scene is now 2 for 2.
4. Star Wars: A New Hope “Han Shoots First.”
How it was originally: (to see for yourself, go to the :54 mark) Greedo corners Han in the cantina. Things get sour after Greedo issues some rather threatening statements. Han ends the conversation with a quick shot from his blaster.
How it was changed: This scene has been reworked in every subsequent release since 1997. In the 1997 release, Greedo fires first and somehow misses. Han then shoots Greedo. In the 2004 release, the two almost fire at the same time. However, Greedo still shoots first. In the 2011 Blu-Ray release, after going frame-by-frame, I found that Greedo barely fires first but, in this version, they are still meant to fire at the same time. This scene is quite annoying because it keeps getting tampered with in every release. On top of that, Han getting the drop on Greedo in the original 1977 version says a lot about his roguish qualities. He is a dangerous man when backed into a corner. In the later releases, he is just a guy acting in self defense. Han’s character changes drastically throughout the films. Would the Han Solo of Return of the Jedi shoot Greedo in cold blood?
5. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back “The Emperor Contacts Darth Vader.”
How it was originally: First off, Return of the Jedi and prequel actor, Ian McDiarmid, did not play the Emperor in the 1980 release. In the original version, the dialogue is short and to the point. It is also very mysterious and sinister. Have a look:
How it was changed: In the 2004 release, Ian McDiarmid replaced the actor who originally played Palpatine. This would seem to be a welcome change. Unfortunately, new dialogue was added. Instead of saying that the new enemy is Luke Skywalker, the Emperor says, “The young rebel who destroyed the Death Star. I have no doubt that this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.” Vader then asks how it is possible. In response, the Emperor says, “Search your feelings, Lord Vader. You will know it to be true.”
This added dialogue is annoying for two reasons. First, it destroys the mystery and sinister nature of the original version. Second, it makes it sound like this was the first time Vader had heard about Luke. In the original version, it was implied that Vader knew about Luke being his son after the destruction of the first Death Star. Perhaps he was secretly trying to find Luke and create an apprentice to destroy the Emperor. The Emperor knowing about Luke throws a crick into Vader’s plans. Now he has to tread lightly since the Emperor knows. On top of that, the added dialogue rips off Vader’s lines later on in the film. This is a choppy and unnecessary addition.
6. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back “Fett’s Dialogue Replaced By Prequel Actor.”
How it was originally: The above video has Jeremy Bulloch, the original actor, as the voice of Boba Fett. He has a threatening sort of growl he uses when he says his lines. He is both convincing and intimidating as a bounty hunter.
How it was changed: Jango Fett actor, Temuera Morrison, replaced Bulloch’s voice in the 2004 release. Although Morrison does a decent job, he sounds more like a soldier than a bounty hunter. Although this change establishes continuity, it is hardly necessary and only makes Fett sound less tough.
7. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back “Vader’s Departure of Cloud City.”
How it was originally: Following his battle with Luke, Vader angrily departs Cloud City. He snarls at one of his officers to, “Bring my shuttle.” After Luke is rescued, we see Vader on the bridge of the Executor.
How it was changed: Perhaps George Lucas believed we needed more information as to how Vader reached his ship. “Bring my shuttle” has been replaced with “Alert my Star Destroyer to prepare for my arrival.” We then see him walk off as seen in the picture above. The Millenium Falcon‘s rescue is periodically interrupted by scenes of Vader’s shuttle taking off and landing in the docking bay. There are two problems with this addition. First, Vader no longer sounds angry when he leaves Cloud City. That is unfortunate because his angry “Bring my shuttle” line makes him sound scary and unpredictable. Second, the frequent interruptions destroy the suspense of the Falcon‘s rescue and escape. This was an unnecessary change. In the original, we knew he left and ended up on the Executor. We did not need anything more.
8. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi “Jabba’s Palace Song”
How it was originally: As seen in the original video above, the Max Rebo band plays a song for Jabba the Hutt. During the song, Jabba becomes displeased with Oola, his twi’lek slave. He then opens a trap door that sends her straight to the rancor for his meal.
How it was changed: Animation has come a long way since the 1980s. However, instead of making the characters move in a more realistic manner, Lucas replaced the original song and made the Max Rebo band more comical. This is annoying because Jabba’s Palace is supposed to be a dark and dangerous place. The original seedy song perfectly established that tone. Unfortunately, the new song makes light of the situation and makes us forget we are in the home of a vile gangster. Instead, it feels more like something out of a muppet show. Sy Snootles’ “uh-oh,” uttered after Oola gets fed to the rancor, is not helpful either. Speaking of which…
9. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi “Oola Fed to the Rancor”
How it was originally: Jabba opens the trapdoor on Oola, and she falls into the rancor pit. We then hear her screams as the rancor devours her.
How it was changed: Following her trip into the rancor pit, we now see Oola look up and seem surprised by her surroundings. Then we see the door open to release the rancor. We briefly see Oola cringe with fear as the shot cuts back up to Jabba’s Palace and her screams resound. This was an unnecessary addition because we already know that something deadly happens to those who fall through the trapdoor. In the original, it left it up to our imaginations to figure out just what made Oola scream. That is much more effective than additional shots of seeing her scared in the pit. Sometimes, telling is better than showing.
10. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi “Vader’s ‘No’”
How it was originally: Vader silently watches as the Emperor is killing Luke with the power of the dark side. Unable to take it any further, Vader picks up the Emperor and tosses him down a shaft, killing him in the process.
How it was changed: Right before Vader picks up the Emperor, he utters, “No.” This is following by a long “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” as he carries the Emperor to the shaft. The addition of this particular edit was meant to be a sort of poetry when Vader yelled “NOOOOOOOO!” in Revenge of the Sith. In that movie, his yell was supposed to signify the symbolic death of Anakin Skywalker. When it is placed in Return of the Jedi, it is supposed to tell us that Anakin had come back and that Vader was dead. Although this is interesting, this absolutely ruins the suspense of the scene. No one was truly sure what Vader would do. Perhaps they would all die as the Death Star was destroyed. Vader’s silent betrayal of the Emperor is effective in shocking the audience. He had saved Luke’s life and had clearly returned to the light side of the force. What else needed to be said?
Are there any scenes you think should have made my Top 10 cut? What Star Wars changes bother you most? Do any of my picks seem justified to you? Comment below with your thoughts!