‘Star Wars’ on DVD: Special editions only

The long-awaited classic Star Wars DVDs will street on September 21st, not after the third installment of the prequel trilogy is released as previously rumored. Hooray.

They will contain only the Special Edition versions of the films.

“The original versions technically don’t exist,” says Lucasfilm’s Jim Ward, who is the project’s executive producer. “(Lucas) wanted to represent the films as they exist in his mind, and that’s the special-editions versions.”

The original versions “technically don’t exist”? Give me a break. Cop out.

According to DVDFile

While the full details on what extras will be included in the set are still pending, Ward promises that Lucasfilm “are creating added-value material that gets inside the creation of the ‘Star Wars’ films in a fresh and fun way. We want watching this DVD collection to be as memorable as seeing the movies for the first time.” He also confirmed that rumors that Lucas would not contribute new audio commentaries to the set are false, although there are as of yet no exact details on which films will receive commentary tracks, and who will be among the participants.

I felt that one disc of bonus material was insufficient for the Indiana Jones trilogy, and I feel doubly-so about Star Wars. Episode I and II each have a two-disc set, for Yoda’s sake. I’m expecting another super-special edition boxed set to be released sometime after Episode III comes out. Maybe with the original versions.

The DVDFile article also quotes Jim Ward:

Of course, the big question mark amongst fans has always been whether Lucas would allow the original, unaltered original editions of the trilogy to also be released on DVD. Not possible, said Ward, who confirmed that the upcoming set will feature only the 1997 Special Edition versions of each film. “What George did in 1997,” Ward explains, “was [to] make the movie he originally wanted to make.”

“Not possible”? Maybe because Lucas has said ‘no,’ I guess. And I’m really tired of hearing all this crap about the Special Editions being what George wanted all along. I’ll grant that technical advances certainly allowed things to be “cleaned up,” and that a lot more is possible today than was even imagined in 1977.

But George Lucas “originally wanted to make” a film where some shots of X-wing fighters look obviously different than others? Why didn’t they spend some time making the new effects at least blend in with the old effects?

And all the changes in the Special Editions weren’t technical effects changes. There were also editing changes made that were not discussed at all. During the gun battle in the detention block of the Death Star, for instance, editing changes were made to the SEs to remove some fire and smoke issuing from the holes in stormtrooper armor after they were hit. There’s a clever side-by-side video comparison of the sequences, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

Also, I recall a George Lucas story in Reader’s Digest from around the time of The Empire Strikes Back where Lucas claimed that he planned to make 12 Star Wars movies. Not long afterwords he changed that to nine. Now he says six, and I haven’t ever heard him explain the reasons for the change in plans. Also in that Reader’s Digest story, he claimed that the common element would be Luke Skywalker, since he was the central figure of the whole saga. He maybe also said that the two droids would be in every movie, but I don’t remember.

I’m not bringing this up to point a finger and claim that he shouldn’t alter his plans. I’m just tired of hearing over and over again how this is exactly what he intended to do all along.

One thing that’s always struck me as just plain wrong, though, was the design of Jabba the Hutt. Lucas claims that the scene originally filmed in the original movie was always intended to have a puppet Jabba inserted in to replace the guy who actually acted the part during filming. When the technology wouldn’t allow it, Jabba was left out until Return of the Jedi. Then Jabba was digitally put in for the Special Editions.

Except that the Marvel Comics adaptation of the films included the scene where Han Solo meets Jabba, and it’s drawn exactly as originally filmed. Comic book artists are usually given the script and design notes (and drawings) so that they can make their comics look like the finished film. There are several other scenes in the comics that were cut from the film, included in the comic, and then inserted back into the Special Editions. In all cases, I believe, the comic book matches the finished scenes perfectly. Why would it be any different for the Jabba scene? Wouldn’t the comic book artists have drawn the scene to include the planned Jabba and not the stand-in? Why don’t we see any 1975 production drawings of the proposed Jabba puppet? I think George is flat-out lying about this one.

I’ve been harping on about this ever since Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, and I haven’t ever seen anything that’s changed my opinion one bit. If someone knows something more about this, please let me know.

Now, one thing that makes me open to the idea that the Special Editions ARE what Lucas intended all along is the look and production values of Episodes I and II. No budget limitations. No time constraints. Virtually no limit to the computer graphics special effects.

And we get Jar Jar Binks and a two-headed race announcer. Maybe it was actually an aberration that the original movies looked so GOOD in their first incarnation, and that the overdone CGI crap is what Lucas “intended all along.”

I say we keep after Lucas to release the originals on DVD. I’m not suggesting that we boycott the Special Editions, because I doubt I’d be able to hold out for very long. But the OriginalTrilogy.com campaign has almost 50,000 signatures on it’s online petition. I signed up last May. Go add your name if you want to see the originals.

E.T., after all, was only going to include the walkie-talkies-instead-of-guns 20th Anniversary version until popular outcry convinced the decision-makers to pull a last-minute switcheroo and include both versions of the film. The change came so late that the boxes didn’t even list the original version as being on disc two.

I believe the fans deserve to get the original version on DVD.


  1. Weird Al’ Yankovic’s parody of SW ep 1, to the tune of ‘American Pie,’ is better than the original movie *and* the original song.

  2. I was a big Star Wars in the 1980s, but the alterations to the great films (well, the third one was a bit weak, but still way better than any of the new SW flicks) have ruined the experience for me. I won’t be going anywhere near the new DVD box set. Seeing the butchery on the cinema screen back in 1997 was enough for me…