Supreme Chancellor (Owner/Admin)
Joined: 14 Apr 2008
Location: Columbus, Ohio, USA, Earth, The Solar System, The Milky Way Galaxy
|Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:12 am Post subject: Star Wars: The Complete Saga (blu-ray)
|Classic Trilogy ~ Version Release History (last 4 versions)
1. Special Editions (VHS & laserdisc 1997)
2. DVD Versions (2004, often erroneously referred to as "Special Editions")
3. Original Theatrical Versions (adapted to DVD 2006)
4. Blu-Ray Versions (2011)
I'm a first-generation Star Wars fan since 1977, having seen the original versions of the original three films in the theater one time each as a child, then falling in love with them all over again on VHS in 1987. And I've been a huge fan ever since. The Star Wars Saga is the ultimate epic space opera and film series.
This isn't actually a review of the movies most of you reading this will have seen one or more versions of dozens of times (well, at least the classic trilogy), although this review will discuss some of the changes made (and not made) to all the films. This is meant to be an overview of the 9-disc 2011 blu-ray product entitled Star Wars: The Complete Saga with personal observations and select commentary thrown in.
Disc & Packaging Structure
The discs themselves are heavy-duty, yet smooth and well-coated with scratch resistance - the best available in retail products I've seen. The packaging is also of superior physical construction, taking the form of a hardback book with 9 sturdy pages (think baby/toddler cardboard book stiffness), and the book has an outer box it slides in and out of. The disc-book is about a centimeter shorter than a standard DVD case and slightly wider. Each right-side page is half-circle open in the middle, forming a sleeve with a super-smoothly-coated insides for the optimum protection for both storing and removing/returning the discs. The inside back cover has a more traditional sleeve for the set's single information booklet called "Guide to the Galaxy" which mostly details the special features on the bonus discs. For those of you with "green" consciousness, there is not a single sliver of hard plastic anywhere in the box/book - the only plastic in the entire product is in the discs themselves and I suspect the very thin, soft coating of the inner disc sleeves. I couldn't really have even imagined higher-quality discs and a better-constructed storage for my Star Wars blu-ray set. I'm very pleased with this aspect of it.
Disc & Packaging Appearance
Of lesser concern for me is the appearance of the product's physical components, but for sake of completeness, I'll mention it. The discs themselves do not have any images - they are light grey with blue trimmings. The movie discs (1-6) have the previously used logos of STAR WARS with the episode subtitle underneath, both on top of the episode number in the form of a large Roman numeral. The outer box and disc-book do not have a single photo - it is entirely original artwork. The info booklet has the single photo of the entire product (the Falcon flying through Death Star II), and more artwork. In my opinion, the artwork almost totally sucks. It's awful! The spine, front and back covers of the disc-book exactly match the box, which is also used for the cover of the info-booklet. The disc-book has 10 two-page images (minus half-a-disc-sized portion for the disc on the right-page of the 9 pages). The only tolerable movie disc image is for Episode II, but that is because the characters are more distant and the image has the most photo-realism to it. The only art I really like in the entire product is a small picture of Luke on a Taun Taun in the info booklet, and the disc book picture for Bonus Disc 1 (certainly by a different, better artist), although it depicts something that does not occur in the films or even deleted scenes: Boba Fett is riding a lizard mount like Obi-Wan rode on Utapau in Episode III. I think that picture may be a nod to the animated sequence of the old Star Wars Holiday Special in which Boba Fett rides a creature of some kind, IIRC.
I am somewhat disappointed that they didn't just use photographic imagery throughout this entire product like some of the other releases because that would have been more attractive. Or they could have at least just gotten a better artist for the art throughout the entire product! But like I said, more important than the product's appearance to me is the structural qualities of the discs and packaging, and of course the digital disc content.
THE BONUS DISCS
The films are much more important than anything else, but for completeness I'll touch on the special features discs.
Bonus Discs 1 & 2
Bonus Disc 1 is devoted to the prequels while Disc 2 is for the classic trilogy. Bonus Discs 1 & 2 have archive cast & crew interviews, 360° turnaround galleries for props and costumes, art galleries, and a total of 45 deleted/extended scenes exclusive to this release. I've watched all the deleted/extended scenes for all 6 films, and the most interesting ones to me were for Return of the Jedi, especially the Battle of Endor stuff. But there was nothing that I thought really shouldn't have been cut from the films.
I've read some complaints about the menu organization of these first two bonus discs. First you choose the movie you want to access the features for, and then within each episode choice the features are divided up by planets/settings (Naboo, Tatooine and Coruscant for Episode I; Tatooine, Aboard the Death Star, and The Battle of Yavin for Episode IV; etc.). So when I went through to watch all deleted/extended scenes, I had to keep going up and down an extra menu level to get to the scenes for the next setting, and then up and down two level menu levels to move on to the next film. It is a little wacky but really just a minor inconvenience if you want to only view one specific type of feature for 1 or all 3 films on each disc. If you want to watch everything in one setting of one film at a time, then the menu tree is set up specifically for maximum convenience in that case.
And I just remembered that I read somewhere that Bonus Disc 2 has the animated sequence of the Star Wars Holiday Special. It is not listed as a special feature on the info booklet, but if you navigate through a certain menu you'll supposedly find it.
Bonus Disc 3
Bonus Disc 3 has documentaries not available on the Star Wars DVDs. As a whole they cover the entire saga, but the main focus is on the classic trilogy. They are not nearly as important to me as they are to a lot of fans I know, but I can speak on a few of them. I'm sure I was totally enthralled by The Making of Star Wars (1977) on TV when I was a kid. I used to have Classic Creatures (1983 - hosted by Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams) on VHS, and it is interesting if you want a behind-the-scenes look at the aliens from Return of the Jedi, including the operation of the 6-man Jabba muppet. I had taped the excellent Star Wars Tech (2007) onto a blank VHS, so it's cool that I now have it in a digital format, but it's disappointing that this disc didn't include History Channel's also excellent Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed (so I'll have to keep that tape).
The Making of Star Wars (1977) - Blast from the past! Hosted primarily by 3PO & R2 but there is also a narrator. I found the quick blooper reel of droids falling down or falling apart on set to be humorous. The interview segments of young Carrie Fisher in front of stand-up arcade games wearing jeans and a button-up shirt tied-up to show her midriff were super-cute! 8)
The Empire Strikes Back: SPFX (1980) - Exactly what you'd imagine it to be. Hosted by Mark Hamill.
Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi (1983) - A lot like TESB: SPFX except it's focused on alien effects.
These first three classic documentaries looked downright fuzzy on blu-ray, but that's ok for what they are. I doubt I will even watch any of them ever again. Maybe the first one, someday.
Anatomy of a Dewback (1997) - A feature from the Special Edition era about updating the ANH scene where the stormtroopers search the area around the droid escape pod. I found watching this again after all these years to be was somewhat boring, but it does kind of make me to get out my Special Edition VHS tapes for the first time in 8 years and watch the other features though.
Star Warriors (2007) - Did you know that George Lucas was Grand Marshal of the Rose Bowl Parade in 2007? I didn't. They had a whole series Star Wars floats, Twi'lek dancers and then 200+ stormtroopers chosen from the 501st all-over the world. This long documentary focused on the 501st Star Wars costume club members who submitted video applications to be selected by Lucasfilm to march on the parade. I certainly don't fault the club's admirable charity work, cool costumes and in-general love of Star Wars, but I guess I'm just not that kind of Star Wars nerd to think it is cool to dress-up as Star Wars character outside of Halloween. Getting completely through this documentary once, I know for sure I will never watch this feature again.
Star Wars Tech (2007) - This first aired only 4 years ago, but I loved watching this great modern program again, but this time not on my standard cable and instead in digital quality. Filled with high-quality segments from the entire saga, this features real-life physicists talking about the technology of Star Wars. Good stuff.
A Conversation with the Masters: The Empire Strikes Back 30 Years Later (2010) - This is an awesome feature, but only 25 minutes long. It included interviews with Geroge Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Lawrence Kasdan and John Williams, the true masters behind TESB. I was dissappointed it was so short.
Star Wars Spoofs (2011) - This is a 97-minute compilation of Star Wars spoofs and parodies from 1977 to the present. There are entire short skits (like the classic 1977 SNL Star Wars Lounge Singer Bill Murray, and the hilarious Natalie Portman SNL monologue). There are a multitude of clips from various TV episodes and movies (The Simpsons, Family Guy, That 70's Show, Robot Chicken, Fanboys, etc.). They even had Weird All Yankovic's
"The Saga Begins" music video. There is some great stuff and not-so-great stuff. There is so much there but a few things missing that should be there. The down side of this feature is, there isn't a chapter division for each individual clip so if you want to skip the one you're on or repeat one, you'll jump father away or have to scan ahead or back - a minor inconvenience. It's a long feature that I watched at night and I started getting sleepy by the end, so you may not want to watch it all in one setting like I did. (Being a blu-ray, you can bookmark it anywhere though.)
THE FILM DISCS
This is as good a place as any to mention that there are two audio commentary tracks for each of the films of blu-ray. There are the same ones from the previous DVD versions of these films, and then new commentaries compiled from "archival interviews with cast and crew". For the classic trilogy, I would expect that the word 'archival" to mean pre-1997, which should be a real treat for all the purists. I don't enjoy listening to commentaries while watching films, but I will force myself to listen to the new tracks once (as I did for the original DVD commentaries).
As I have only had one frame of reference for viewing the blu-ray films, I thought I should first specify what that is, in case my experiences are in any way relative to my equipment and viewing conditions. (This may mean more to you than it does to me.) My blu-ray player is a Sony BDP-S350. My HD TV is a Sony Bravia KDL-40V4100, a flat-screen LCD with a diagonal of a little over a meter. (My blu-ray player and TV are both almost 3 years old.) My line of vision is exactly 90° to the plane of the TV screen, and my eyes and ears are at a height equal to about 1/3 up from the bottom edge of the screen. I'm sitting such that the distance of my head to the TV screen is a little more than the width of the Death Star's thermal exhaust port.
The Films on Blu-ray
All six films sound and look awesome in HD! Even Revenge of the Sith, which had the least room for improvement, is substantially better. I fully appreciate all the pain-staking effort that had to go into improving the resolution of over 12 hours of high-quality sci-fi entertainment, frame-by-frame. Coruscant from space is breathtakingly gorgeous. The Millennium Falcon is amazingly detailed, with all of it's charming dents and carbon-scoring. The Death Stars seem even bigger and more epic due to the incredible level of detail now visible. I could go on and on, but you're really just going to have to see it for yourself.
There is one significant exception in the HD upgrade. A very logical and fitting artistic choice was made in the rendering of the holograms of characters. Throughout the all six movies, it looks like the holograms were not upgraded to HD, now looking somewhat pixilated compared to the surrounding 'reality' they are projected into. This of course is easily explained in-universe as they are just not high-resolution transmissions, and I feel this actually works to improve the illusion of the entire scene seeming real. The holograms are now an intentional vestige of the analogue age, left behind to honor the origin and evolution of the Star Wars films themselves which began as motion picture projections but have now become the ultra-realistic-looking digital media. A very nice touch. And the hologram effects also seems more unified between the two trilogies now.
A significant improvement that the HD upgrade also provides is a solution to a common criticism I have ran into since 1997. Over the years I have heard many Star Wars fans express that the addition of GC characters and objects into the films seems unrealistic, in not only the updated versions of the classic trilogy but even the prequels. (Ironically, these fans seem to have no trouble accepting the un-reality of rubber muppet characters, but CG is somehow unacceptable in their vision of the Star Wars universe.) Well, now muppets, rubber masks, human actors and CG characters can all exist in visual harmony together, thanks to the wonders of HD. The increase in resolution seems to have unified the apparent realities of them all. Now the real-world elements of the scenes have been 'raised' to the same level of visual reality of the CG elements, resulting in the CG elements seeming to much more naturally blend in with their surroundings. This is more apparent in the classic films, but applies to the prequels as well. This adds in a whole new level of visual realism to the films, perhaps being the greatest achievement of these new blu-ray versions of the films.
Now I'll go into more detail about some of the blu-ray enhancements and changes specific to each film.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
The effect for the Jedi Knights speeding away from the droidekas on the Trade Federation ship has been improved. The original effects error of the two-headed pod race announcer's hand passing through his vest was fixed.
The big change that even the die hard purists don't seem to mind so much is the complete and utter removal of that awful imitation Yoda muppet. The TPM muppet bore a vague resemblance to the original muppet from the sequels, but I thought that the TMP muppet could at most pass for Yoda's crazy spice-addicted brother. I know some fans that feel the CG Yoda model from AotC and RotS was not as good as the original muppet, but even they would agree that the prequel CG model looks a lot more like the original muppet than the TMP muppet did. And in blu-ray the CG Yoda in all 3 prequels looks more realistic now, so I'm very happy with this change.
Episodes II & III (Attack of the Clones & Revenge of the Sith)
These mostly only had minute editorial tweaks like the exact transition between scenes, moving a couple reaction shots and dialogue lines to a slightly different part of a scene. The only really somewhat significant change is adding a line of dialogue in AotC where Anakin is having a nightmare about his mother while staying on Naboo. Shmi Skywalker's voice is now heard pleading for Anakin's help with the echo effect (signifying it is a thought or dream in Anakin's mind). It does accomplish the addition of a little more urgency to the drama of the film.
The Classic Trilogy
Above, I mentioned how great the Death Stars and the Falcon look. The asteroid field effects are improved all the way around, and Cloud City looks fantastic. The upgrade to high definition is more noticeable in the original trilogy and thus strikes me as even more stunning overall. For the most part, the lightsaber effects are improved and match the prequel effects.
However, there are some aspects of some scenes that you can only do so much with without completely new effects. The squares around the ships flying in front of outer space are no longer visible, but ships flying in front a capital ship still sometimes show a barely noticeable amount of distortion surrounding the smaller ship. The snowspeeder cockpits viewed from the pilot's point of view are now completely opaque against the Hoth landscape, but you can still just barely see the moon of Endor through Han's head and the cockpit of the shuttle Tyderium. And some distance backgrounds that were previously just out-of-focus in the original camerawork are now just understandably flat-out blurry in HD.
Episode IV: A New Hope
Obi-Wan's simulated Krayt Dragon roar (to scare off the Tusken Raiders that had attacked Luke) has been changed yet again. While I don't understand Lucas' need to change it, I also don't understand the big uproar this insignificant alteration to the film has caused among fans. A live Krayt Dragon is never seen onscreen anywhere in the film saga. Who's to say what a fictional off-screen animal should sound like? I would think Lucas is the only one that would even care. I certainly don't give a damn what the dragon is supposed to sound like. The fictional simulation of a never-seen creature's roar only has to convince the fictional Sand People, not us. You may not like a particular sound effect, but I think the harsh criticisms I have read about this (for any version of the roar) for something so inconsequential are ridiculous.
Rocks have been added near the opening of the little cave that R2 is hiding in when Obi-Wan shows up, and the negative criticisms to this are completely unfounded. It has been spread throughout the internet that the rocks inexplicably 'disappear' when R2 is later shown wheeling towards Obi-Wan and Luke, but the purists that have stated this are totally misinterpreting the scene. When R2 is coming out of hiding, the shot is from a different angle than the previous view into the cave, and the rocks that had been added to the previous shot would be behind R2 who is obscuring the mouth of the cave. So how are you supposed to see the added rocks through R2? There is no discontinuity caused by the added rocks, and I suspect that some purists are misreporting things in an attempt to fuel the fire of their hatred of Lucas and all changes in general.
I mean, there nothing wrong with aesthetically disliking the addition of the rocks in the shots they appear in, but it is incorrect to misrepresent a change as creating a new discontinuity in a subsequent shot when it doesn't really do that. I don't really like the added rocks but I don't dislike them either, because it really has no impact on the scene, just like the variations of Obi-Wan's dragon roars. The details of these two changes are just go in my 'Whatever, George' file and are then given no more attention. And some people say Lucas is all OCD about Star Wars!
The scene where Luke first turns on his father's lightsaber has been edited more tightly to better conceal the disjointedness that occurred from the original editing of two different takes together to appear as one continuous live action. I'm pleased with that minor but needed improvement. And now, Greedo and Han shoot virtually simultaneously (more on Greedo later).
Both sequels overall look great, but almost all the changes were made to RotJ. While holograms have been left in a lower resolution, the Force Ghosts have been fully upgraded to HD further differentiating between the two effects. For the purist muppet-lovers out there, rest easy. Yoda and Jabba the Hutt remain the original muppets they've always been in the sequels, but even the muppets look better in HD. And I'll throw in here that contrary to false rumors, Sebastian Shaw's portrayal of Anakin de-masked remains unchanged from the previous version of the film (besides the upgrade of it to HD).
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
The static shot of the droids moving up to the blast door to Jabba's palace is now slightly expanded into a wide pan-in to the droids starting with a larger door. It adds heightened impression of scale to the beginning of this space opera adventure - a nice touch.
The "thawing out of Han" has been slightly altered so the carbonite seems more like it's "melting" away, an improvement to the original effect.
A Dug (the species of Sebulba in TPM) is added walking in an empty space in one shot in the palace (not a close-up), and some people say it looks fake. I think it looks better than a lot of the rubber aliens in the palace, and I like it how the Dug adds a little more visual continuity between the two trilogies.
A few shots of Ewoks show them blinking, and a couple close-ups of Wicket show the details of his eyes, making Ewoks seem more like real animal life-forms and less like midgets in suites.
It does seem like a few TIE Fighters were added to the Battle of Endor, another improvement made in the interest of increasing the sense of epic scale.
When R2 is blasted in front of the shield generator bunker, I noticed that the electricity effects were enhanced. My wife noticed that they added some gadgets popping out of R2. I'll watch for that next time, but since I didn't even notice the new gadgets I doubt I will have any problem with the change.
When Vader is watching Luke getting zapped by the final attack of the Emperor's Sith lightning, Anakin now says "No." Then as he picks up Palpatine, Anakin more loudly says, "Nooo!" I've read this described as a "scream" but that is way overstating it. And contrary to what is commonly being reported, it is also not quite the extended "Noooo!" from RotS when Vader finds out that Padme is dead. (That may have been the recording they used as a basis, but if so it was augmented and shortened for this scene in RotJ.)
When looking at the complete Star Wars saga, these two additions of the word "No" do not seem out of place to me at all. Obi-Wan yelled, "Noooo!" when he saw his Jedi master get struck down by Darth Maul in Episode I. Luke yelled, "Nooo!" when he saw Vader strike down Obi-Wan in Episode IV. Luke has his mega-no sequence to Vader in Episode V, "No! No! That's not true. That's impossible! Noooooo! Noo!" It seems that now Anakin in Episode VI is just following in a time-honored tradition among his master and son. But at the climax of the six-film saga, it's stated at the prevention of the negative outcome. This broken man who had killed his wife and Jedi master was now sacrificing his life to save their son and destroy the Sith master. My wife, who had made it a game when watching the blu-rays to point out every change to the films she noticed, made no mention of Anakin's new 'No's. It seemed so natural and appropriate to her that after seeing the blu-ray once, she thought they had always been there. Anakin's new 'No's make perfect sense to me with respect to the entire film saga.
I have read criticisms that the new 'No's were out-of-character for Vader. Well, it is not Vader who said them! It was the buried persona of Anakin Skywalker who was emerging back to the surface to conquer Darth Vader. The titular Jedi who was at that moment returning. I like Anakin's new 'No's!
I've long ago accepted the fact that I am a severe minority among first generation Star Wars fans. Many of the fans from our generation like to point out things they would change about the prequels or changes to the original trilogy they don't like. So now that the films are all so close to perfection, I thought I would represent a radical view by going 'anti-purist' and provide my fan-boy list of things in the classic trilogy that in my opinion still need changed or corrected!
Episode IV: A New Hope
After the droids land on Tatooine, the inside of the escape pod's open hatch that was previously blue is now a slightly more realistic-looking black in the blu-ray. But later when the stormtroopers search the area, the hatch is still blue. What, it is a black material than turns blue under the hot suns? This is minor point but just seems unfinished.
Lucas has long stated that the cantina scene was incomplete in the original release. He ran out of time and money to finish it. By now he's had decades, no shortage of money, and obviously no qualms about revising his movies. But one of the two Duros has long alien fingers while the other still has normal human hands. A little CG fix in a dim background, come on!
And in blu-ray it is now more than ever apparent that when Ponda Baba (walrus man) is shown at the bar he has fin-cup hands, instead of the more humanoid hand of the severed arm shown on the floor after Obi-Wan slices it off. The ANH deleted scenes even have the original shot of the severed fin-cup hand on the floor. Changing it to more humanoid hand in post-production for the original release was a completely sensible decision because without a humanoid hand it wasn't very clear what was on the floor. But now, with all this financial success and time, Lucas couldn't just go ahead and fix the previous shots of the alien to also have the five-fingered hands? A couple minor CG fixes, come on!
Also, I really don't see the need for all that blood on the floor by the severed arm. Putting the humanoid hand with a gun makes it pretty clear what Obi-Wan had cut off. All the other cases of limbs and heads getting chopped off by lightsabers throughout the rest of the film saga do not show any blood (in fact the severed body parts sometimes also conveniently disappear from view).
In watching the blu-ray, I noticed for the first time that Greedo's shot didn't leave the slightest mark on the wall near Han's head. Of course I realize that this problem was created by an alteration to the original scene, and the reversion back to the original would eliminate this oversight. See below for more on Greedo.
In 1976, the remote-control R2 was unreliable and often failed. So they improvised in some shots where only the top of R2 is visible by having the live actor that played him just hobble along with his own legs, which resulted in R2 appearing to bob up and down while traveling over a flat surface the character would be rolling across in-universe. Even as a kid I thought that looked ridiculous because R2 just shouldn't move that way. On blu-ray, the CG R2 in the prequels looks virtually identical to the live ones in the entire saga, so there is really no reason that they couldn't have just corrected the bobbing R2 shots to one moving in a manner consistent with all the other scenes he is shown rolling in.
An often pointed out effects problem is the appearance of Skywalker's lightsaber blade on the Falcon. The fix the blu-ray applied appeared inconsistent in my viewing. Sometimes it looked consistent with the saber blade's appearance in RotS and TESB, bold and bluish. But other times it still appears weak and turquoise-tinted. Why only fix some of the scene and not all?
In TESB blu-ray, it looks like R2's blue parts that originally appeared black while in Luke's X-wing have finally been made blue. But in ANH's Battle of Yavin, there are still shots of R2's blue parts being black. That should have been cake to fix them all by now.
I'm a huge film score music aficionado. TESB's iconic "Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)" was based on the "Imperial Attack" theme from ANH. There was no longer a need for the original "Imperial Attack" so it never appeared in the saga outside of ANH. "Imperial March" was used in the subsequent five Star Wars films as appropriate. When the saga is viewed chronologically, the theme appearing significantly in the films taking place before and after ANH makes ANH seem somewhat at a loss without it. I feel it would be appropriate to edit brief phrases of "Imperial March" into ANH in two places: When Vader first appears in the film as he enters Leia's starship, and when Vader last appears in the film as he gains control of his TIE fighter and flies away. Thematically, that would make a lot of sense without altering the musical landscape of ANH as a whole.
Episodes V: The Empire Strikes Back
It makes perfect sense for walker vehicle motion to be produced with the use of stop-motion photography. Intuitively, machines moving in that non-organic fashion seems realistic. But I have always had a problem with the effect of tauntauns moving. I do understand that in 1979, claymation was the only way to bring tauntauns to life, but the choppy motion looks incredibly fake by today's standards, especially on blu-ray. I still have no problem with the muppet Taun-Tauns used for the close-ups, but for a couple distant shots they should have CGed the tauntaun scenes.
It seems to me that the scene where Han rescues Luke on Hoth uses a little short-cut in the upgrade to HD. The scene is now darker, which of course means less detail is needed. It actually makes the scene more dramatic because it visually supports Han's dialogue about it getting dark and there not being much time to get the shelter built to save them both from the cold Hoth night. But there is one shot of Luke laying down in the snow by the dead tauntaun in which the brightest seems to suddenly change. Is this a glitch from viewing it on my equipment, or a flaw in the blu-ray itself?
And in the modern age of ILM, there is no longer any need to depend on the 1979 live-action short sleeve/long sleeve "effect" to portray Luke with his hand cut off. Just fix his really long-looking arm with CG.
And as great as most of the lightsaber battle looks, Vader's lightsaber still comes across as hot pink in a couple shots. So the blu-rays almost got all the lightsaber shots fixed in the classic trilogy. And at the end of TESB when Luke, Leia and the droids are watching the Falcon fly away, R2's blue parts are still black.
Episodes VI: Return of the Jedi
Like almost everything on the Star Wars blu-rays the surface of the rancor's body looks impressive, but I'm still not happy with outcome of the effect of slowing down the footage to make the creature seem larger. Just like in my childhood, the rancor still moves too slow-mo to really seem that menacing to me. But since speeding up the footage would only make the creature seem smaller, the only way to really improve the effect in this manner would be to start over with a CG rancor. They'd need to either re-edit some of that scene visually to have extra faster movements to pace with the current music, or to just have the faster scene have a shorter overall runtime and edit out some of the musical score. I'd prefer the former over the latter.
When Yoda dies, the blu-ray still uses the archaic original effect of Yoda's blanket fading out with Yoda, while at the same time the blanket without Yoda can be seen fading in (but not exactly the same position) before it falls into the vacuum left by Yoda's passing. So for a time, two blankets are visible as Yoda fades away. It should now be easy to fix this transition by simply adding a CG blanket over both of the original blankets, with the CG blanket falling down not unlike the original one did after Yoda is completely gone from the shot.
The prequels expand upon and enhance the meaning of the classic films. In Episode I, John Williams introduced a new musical theme based on "Imperial March called "Anakin's Theme", a softer, lighter theme which is used throughout the prequels. With respect to the entire film saga, it would be thematically appropriate to briefly quote Anakin's theme when Anakin dies and into Luke's reaction shot.
Editing a brief quote of the epic prequel musical theme called "Duel of the Fates" somewhere into the final confrontation of Jedi vs. Sith would also thematically unify the saga. The prequels make good use of the classic musical themes, while also evolving them into new themes, so a couple minute additions of prequel themes into the RotJ's soundtrack could enhance the cohesion of the saga as a whole.
Although it does not appear as much as the Luke's 'long-sleeve' severed arm in TESB, a similar live-action 'effect' was used for Vader/Anakin when Luke cut off his hand. This is more visible when in the close-up on Anakin after he throws Palpatine into the pit, the forearm that bends like it has a wrist in the middle of it (because in the real world, it does). But Anakin is a cyborg so maybe his forearm also got broken inside the leather suit? OK, fine. But it really stands-out when Luke is dragging Anakin to the shuttle by one hand and one bent forearm that happens to appear just as long as the arm that had the hand cut off. CG it!
Future Revisions to the Films?
Based on Lucas' pattern since 1997, the classic films get changed every 7 years so that alone would indicate that we have another revision to the saga coming by 2018. However, it has been announced that all 6 films will be re-released theatrically in 3D one-at-a-time starting with Episode I in February 2012. If the 3D films come out at the rate of one per year, the final episode will come out in 2017 which is also the 40th anniversary of the original Star Wars film. Now that I am seeing commercials for 3D TVs and even 3D smart phones, it seems extremely likely that the films will be re-released in a home 3D format either one-at-a-time or all at once by 2017. (Either way I suspect that I'll need a 3D TV by 2017). I doubt that Episode I 3D will have any changes from the blu-ray version since it is coming out so soon, but there is plenty of time to put further revisions into the rest of the films, especially the classic trilogy. I'd be thrilled if they revised anything from my 'still uncorrected' list above! Lucas won't live forever so I doubt there will be any new versions of the films after the home 3D versions. So when will Lucas stop revising his films? My guess is 2017.
HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND DIVERGE FROM G-CANON
When my wife and I were watching ANH on blu-ray, we watched the Greedo scene and then paused it so my wife could use the restroom. While she was gone, I went to YouTube and watched the original version of the scene in which Greedo never shot, and I noticed something I had forgotten years ago. In the original version of the scene, it does not actually show any blaster bolts at all, even from Han. Han says, "Yes, I bet you have!" and then it just shows the impact of an attack on Greedo. It seems obvious that Han had shot, because Han had stealthily drawn his blaster and Greedo got hit with something and died. But I realized that the original version of the scene actually also allows for the possibility of Greedo also getting off a shot. And if Greedo had gotten a shot off before or at the same time as Han's, Greedo had obviously missed because Han was fine. However, besides it being extremely unlikely that Greedo could have possibly even missed Han at point lank range, there was no blast mark anywhere near Han, and as mentioned earlier in this review, there still isn't.
Then I went back to the blu-ray and watched the latest version of the scene again. In this re-viewing, right as Han said, "Yes, I bet you have!" something wondrous occurred. I sneezed. Wha?! How could that possibly be significant?! I'll tell you. As you may realize, it is impossible to keep our eyes open while sneezing. Even if only closed a split-second, yours eyes will close. In this case, my eyes were closed during the camera shot of the blaster bolts being fired, and they reopened when Greedo gets blown away. I was playing the ANH blu-ray, but because of the sneeze, what all I had seen with my eyes was the original version of the film in which no blaster bolts were visible and there was no evidence that Greedo had fired his gun at all.
This made me realize that when watching ANH going forward, I could enjoy the overall superior blu-ray version and all I have to do was close my eyes for split second at the right moment, and I personally have restored 'only Han shoots' to my personal 'viewing' of the film! Then I thought about how silly that sounded, and after we finished watching the movie, that caused me to seriously reexamine my previously self-imposed standard of defining my personal Star Wars canon as including all elements of G-canon appearing on screen in the latest version of the films.
I thought back to Lucas' statement that there is a Star Wars multiverse. There is his universe, the expanded universe of publishing, and there is also each fan's personally-defined universe. I had already personally defined my world as being expanded from the Lucasverse by diverging from some of Lucas' statements about some off-screen elements of his universe and some of the secondary g-canon elements (novelizations, comic books and radio dramas) that do not appear in the films. My SW universe has plenty of original elements of my own devising and differing interpretations and explanations of elements not overtly explained or portrayed on-screen, and my universe includes only some elements of the Expanded Universe but far from all. But I had previously still chosen to not diverge from Lucas' on-screen g-canon (of the latest versions each film), which had included the dramatically inferior Greedo getting a shot off at all.
That ultimately lead to my full embracement of Lucas' statement that I am completely free to define canon for my own personal Star Wars universe, even if it contradicts his G-canon. Since all my non-Greedo-related criticisms of the blu-rays are just visual effects or musical score concerns, I have now officially updated my Star Wars universe to include all the story continuity seen in the blu-rays except that Greedo doesn't fire at all.
Contrary to how WEG statted Greedo, I still think that Greedo was not a PC-caliber bounty hunter. Greedo was just a mook, a two-bit thug. It is likely that he did have to drink some liquid courage to even get up the nerve to confront Han, and Greedo being intoxicated is still a good explanation for how he could possibly not even notice that Han had drawn his blaster. It's still not a huge deal to me, but it is undeniably better if Greedo never shot.
I may try to rig up a bookmark device in the blu-ray to allow me to skip over the second showing the blaster-bolts for when I first show the movie to my son when he is older. That way, my son will be able to experience the heightened drama of Han's moral ambiguity, so Han's return to help Luke at the climax will be that much more satisfying. Then, after the movie is over, I will do what the 'Parental Guidance' rating of the film expects. I will discuss the morality of shooting first, making it clear that Han did not choose to completely become a good guy until the end of the film. I think this discussion will even work better than Lucas' solution to his concern because it will further emphasize that morality is about choices. And this goes right along with Anakin's story arc in the saga. I don't need Lucas' revision to the Greedo scene to do my job as a parent for me.
You may not agree with all the opinions I expressed throughout this review, but if you are reading this then you must be a Star Wars fan of some kind on some level. If so, then do yourself a favor and watch all six films on blu-ray at least once, even if you have no intention of ever owning them. You'll see much more than I could possibly ever hope to describe in words. And if you wish to criticize the blu-ray versions after viewing them, at least you'll then have an educated opinion for doing so.
In my first viewing of Star Wars: The Complete Saga, the rich Star Wars multiverse has deepened in a way I couldn't have even imagined before seeing the films on blu-ray. While still not perfect, my favorite films have just gotten an incredible amount better. As impossible as it previously seemed, I'm somehow now even more of a Star Wars fan than I was before. But this blu-ray release has also reminded me that EVERY version of any Star Wars film is awesome!
If you have any questions, please feel free the ask. If you have also seen the blu-rays and want to comment on them with respect to my review, please also feel free. May the Force be with you.
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