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Obi-Swan Warns That Episodes IV-VI May Be Back More Powerful Than We Ever Imagined!!

I am – Hercules!!

It took me a few years to realize it, but “The Empire Strikes Back” may be the best movie ever made. Better than “The Godfather,” better than “Godfather II,” better than “Raiders,” better than “Strangelove,” better than the Bedford Falls movie, better than “Pulp.” It’s ridiculous how great it is. And yet it’s just a sequel. I wish I could convey how excited I was when I first read Gene Siskel’s giddy-with-love review, and I wish I could convey how shell-shocked I was when “Empire” exceeded my hypered-into-a-frenzy expectations.

“Empire” has the funny gay robot, funnier than ever. It has the guy who effortlessly beat down Vader in IV, and it has that same guy winning the heart of the princess. Not a princess. The princess. And it has Yoda of Dagobah, when Yoda was willing to pummel R2 with a round stick to establish dominance over a Snackwell. And mynocks and carbonite and “I know” and an unhappy ending.

Obi-Swan is Moriarty’s writing partner and the man who loves Star Wars so much he’s drifted into territory so insane he’s actually come out on the side of sanity. He presents here the perfect and definitive review of the original trilogy DVD. There is no greater fan of the franchise, no greater apologist. I am unworthy to post his true-believer comments, yet am so jealous of his love I insisted I do so (even though Moriarty really did the editing). Obi-Swan, Moriarty and Hercules disagree about much, but I believe we all understand and share an transcendent understanding of the pure, shining moment in cinematic history that was “Empire,” and I was selfishly determined to wedge myself into this historic DVD moment.

“A New Hope” (or “Star Wars” as I will always know it) was pretty fucking fantastic also.

Bow, son of Jor-El. Bow before Obi-Swan. He knows which side of The Force he's on.


A Review By Obi-Swan

I remember the feeling of getting my first VHS copy of STAR WARS. I was fourteen at the time and my parents had just bought our first VCR. RETURN OF THE JEDI had come out in theaters only a year before, and I was starting to reflect on the entire six-year cinematic journey we had all taken. Watching that tape over and over again allowed me a look at the film I never could have had while it was in theaters. I tried to understand what it was that hooked me in the first place.

I recently had lunch with Mark Hamill to discuss his directorial debut, COMIC BOOK: THE MOVIE. Even though we were there for his film, I couldn’t help but go full-on geek and bring my old VHS for him to autograph. Mark signed it and was more than gracious as we chatted about STAR WARS. Understandably, he seemed a bit weary concerning the inevitable subject, but he allowed me to indulge for a while. I asked him what he thought about the new movies. “I like ‘em,” he was quick to respond, “but they’re not the STAR WARS movies we used to make.” When I asked him how it felt to watch the old movies these days, he replied, “It’s like looking at your high school yearbook. You look so different, it’s like watching an animated movie.”

That was a long time ago, and for the past few years I’ve been almost exclusively wrapped up in the prequels. Since the original trilogy wasn’t on DVD, that meant I had to drag out the old laserdiscs and contend with side changes if I wanted to watch them. As a result, I’ve mainly been watching the great DVDs of EPISODES I and II.

We’ve been waiting a long time for the classic movies to come to DVD. Even though these aren’t exactly the movies we saw all those years ago, I can’t help but feel like that fourteen year old kid again, holding my first VHS. It’s my fountain of youth. I’ll never actually be that kid again, but these films take me back to a simpler time. They remind me what it was like before I had to grow-up, pay bills, and hold a job. I intentionally stopped watching the laserdiscs and VHS tapes several months ago so I’d be good and ready. And now that I finally have the DVDs, I find myself watching them all over again, now at a striking new level of clarity.


Didn’t George Lucas say he’d only release these movies after the prequel trilogy was behind him? Jim Ward acknowledged this, but claimed there was an opening in Lucas’s schedule and it was just perfect timing. I have a guess as to the real reason why they’ve chosen to release these DVDs now instead of later, and this is pure speculation on my part, nothing more. I think this is exactly the same situation they were facing when the Special Editions were released on laserdisc and VHS. DVD was on the horizon and they knew there was only a small window of opportunity to make money with the old formats. Right now, High Definition is creeping up, so this is probably the last time they’ll be able to release these movies on regular DVD. I wonder how this release will eventually stand up next to High Def. Will they look like our VHS copies do now by comparison?


Having said all this, the restoration is nothing short of jaw-dropping and worth the price of the box set. All three films looks spectacular... pure eye candy. They’ve never looked or sounded better. They’re so pristine it’s hypnotic. It’s not STAR WARS; it’s the dream of STAR WARS. I’ve seen these films a hundred times, but I was struggling to take my eyes off the screen. All three movies are stunning, but it’s NEW HOPE that is the most startlingly different. It’s a totally new movie and it will blow you away. I’ve had these discs for a couple days now and I’m still marveling at it.

The only draw back to these DVDs is the fact that the new source material is so much better than the current DVD format could ever allow them to be. These would need to be in a High-Definition home format or screened in a digital theater for us to see the true brilliance of the restoration. I’m surprised Lucasfilm isn’t doing a limited theatrical run in digital houses. Also, I’ve noticed some aliasing on certain shots when viewed on a regular 4x3 TV set. If you’ve got a nice 16x9 set, this shouldn’t be a problem.

The clean-up work on all three movies was preformed by the technicians at Lowery Digital Images, a Burbank, California-based company. Founder and CEO John Lowery, in one of the more interesting and uncensored moments during the DVD press day Q&A session, admitted that he would’ve liked to have had the films a little longer, adding that there are places in the film that stand out to him as needing more work. A distressed look from Jim Ward, Vice President of Marketing & Distribution for Lucasfilm, silenced Mr. Lowery. He made a quick about-face then concluded with a simple, “No... they’re perfect.”

Lowery is right, though. I just watched the trilogy in one sitting yesterday and there are a few shots that look less than perfect. In particular, watch the scene in JEDI when Wicket leads Princess Leia away after their altercation with the biker scouts. One shot jumps out from all the others. It’s like you’re suddenly watching laserdisc again. But these are just minor problems. I really enjoyed listening to Lowery speak. His honesty was surprising and a refreshing change from the usual predictability of these press events.

One thing Lucasfilm is adamant about with this new version of STAR WARS is that the films now “look even better than opening day.” They’re definitely different and they’re obviously cleaner, but are they actually better? I guess it’s all subjective. To tell you the truth, I can’t remember what these films looked like during their theatrical runs. It’s sort of like when Coca-Cola put out New Coke then switched back. We all forgot what the old Coke tasted like.


Jimmy Smits makes a brief appearance as Bail Organa on Alderaan right before it explodes in NEW HOPE, Boba Fett takes off his helmet to reveal Temuera Morrison on Cloud City in EMPIRE, and Ian McDiarmid mentions Padme Amidala by name and describes how she inadvertently maneuvered him into the seat of power while reminiscing with Luke on the new Death Star in JEDI.


Astonishingly, there aren’t many big changes to the films, but there’s an ass-load of tiny changes, mainly on the soundtrack in the form of additions and subtractions in dialogue. In the Jawa sandcrawler, C3P-0 now has the line, “We’ve stopped,” right before the doors open and they’re herded out. As Luke fires on the stormtroopers following Obi-Wan’s demise, there’s an additional “Luke, come on!” from Princess Leia. After the two stormtroopers walk through the Millennium Falcon, one of them now says, “There’s no one here.” During the Death Star attack, the line, “He’s on your tail,” has been removed again. And Vader’s voice sounds different. I don’t know if this is the result of the new mix, or if it’s an intentional change to make him sound more like he does in the other films.

The most notable on-screen change to NEW HOPE is the inclusion of a new Jabba the Hutt. He looks much better than he did in the ’97 cut. The animation is more subtle and has more character. It’s much closer to the creations in the prequels.

Other changes include a new landspeeder swooping into Mos Eisley, and the Dianoga in the trash compactor has a more realistic, articulate eye. The lightsabers also look much better. For some reason, though, Luke’s lightsaber is green when he’s practicing with the remote. Greedo still shoots first, but it doesn’t look as bad. And sorry, kids, Chewie does not get a medal. Come on, George. Can a Wookie get a medal?

Like the Special Editions, EMPIRE is the film that gets messed with the least. This is no doubt because of Lucas’s respect for director Irvin Kershner. The biggest change is the replacement of the old Emperor with Ian McDiarmid. The lines are a little different, too. It seems that Vader is unaware of his son and the Emperor also mentions the name Anakin Skywalker during the exchange. I was talking with a friend who absolutely loathes this alteration. I don’t mind it, though, and it connects the film to the rest of the saga.

Other changes include Temuera Morrison’s voice for Boba Fett and the removal of Luke’s girly scream as he chooses a jump to his death over a future at Vader’s side. The scream always put me in mind of a Mountain Dew commercial. I kept expecting a can to fly into Luke’s hand. Luke’s scream was as nasty a stone in the shoe of STAR WARS fans as Greedo shooting first. And now it’s gone. I guess we complained loud enough.

JEDI is far from a perfect film, no matter how many CGI Muppets get jammed in there. It isn’t without its charms, though, and it definitely delivers when the Emperor comes into the picture. Jabba’s palace keeps getting worse and the Ewoks are still annoying and unrealistic. A little CG animation on select faces at key moments would help quite a bit.

One aspect of Jabba’s palace that’s actually significantly better is the appearance of Oola, Jabba’s main dancer, played by Femi Taylor. As a kid watching the initial VHS release, I freaked out when I realized her boob pops out right before she falls through the trapdoor. It’s not just a nip-slip; it’s an entire tit-slip. Thank the maker, Lucas has chosen not to delete this juicy wardrobe malfunction. Since it’s obvious this section of the movie is for the kiddies, I’m surprised it’s survived all these recent editions. And with the new digital clean up her nipples are even more visible right after she plummets into the Rancor pit. Check out the pictures. All I’m saying is, it must be really cold down there.

The significant new changes occur late in the film. When Vader is unmasked, Sebastian Shaw’s eyebrows have been removed. The effect is chilling and I suspect it was done to add continuity to what we’re about to see in REVENGE OF THE SITH.

Later during the Galactic celebration sequence, we see a celebration on Naboo outside the main palace. Gungans dance on the top of one building and one of them exclaims, “Wesa free!” I’m not kidding. The pan across Coruscant now reveals the Senate and the Jedi Temple in the background.

The most noticeable change occurs moments later when the spectral images of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin appear. Hayden Christensen now replaces the elderly Shaw as Anakin, who sports his EPISODE III quaff and seems pleased with his youthful appearance. And Obi-Wan seems cool with this deal, for some reason. This is a strange message Lucas is sending here. Obi-Wan led a good life, never went to the darkside, and yet he’s decrepit in the afterlife. Anakin took the quick and easy path, allowed himself to be ruled by evil, and his Force Ghost looks ready to go to the mall and pick up high school chicks. I know which side of the Force I’m on.

A lot of people are already complaining online about these changes. It’s really no surprise to me that more changes have been made. And if we don’t like ‘em... tough. Lucas has made it abundantly clear that STAR WARS is not a democracy. Just like the Empire. I get the feeling he doesn’t care if the kid from ’77 disapproves of recent tinkering. I strongly suspect that all he cares about is satisfying his own artistic whims and eccentricities. I’ve watched the first film three or four times now, and these changes aren’t enough to pull me out of the film and ruin it.


Like the previous work done on the DVDs for EPISODE I and II, the Original Trilogy DVDs have three random animated film-themed menu sets. These are actually a little better than the stuff on the Prequel Trilogy DVDs. There’s more dialogue and the clips just feel more like part of the films.

After the piracy warning at the start of the disc, the STAR WARS logo pulls back, filled with moving images from the film. At the EPISODE II DVD press event, I asked Van if this was inspired by the Manga STAR WARS comic adaptations, which displays a strikingly similar logo at the front of each book. “Actually, it wasn’t,” he responded sharply. “That just felt right. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought about that... thought about that idea. I think that we started doing that on Episode I, and we wanted to carry that through. But if it follows a Manga tradition, I’d be, you know, I’d be proud to be a part of it.”

Whatever the case, Van Ling and his team have certainly outdone themselves this time. The menus are film-like and transition in and out of the moves and all over the discs beautifully.


Rated PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered, keep case packaging with custom slipcase, THX Optimizer, DVD-ROM weblink, 3 random animated film-themed menus sets with dialogue and music, scene access, languages: English (DD 5.1 EX & 2.0 Surround), French and Spanish (DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned.

A NEW HOPE: 125 mins, commentary with writer/director George Lucas, star Carrie Fisher, sound designer Ben Burtt and special effects supervisor Dennis Muren, layer switch at 63:08 at the start of chapter 28.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: 127 mins, commentary with writer/producer George Lucas, director Irving Kershner, star Carrie Fisher, sound designer Ben Burtt and special effects supervisor Dennis Muren, layer switch at 58:02 in chapter 27.

RETURN OF THE JEDI: 135 mins, commentary with writer/producer George Lucas, star Carrie Fisher, sound designer Ben Burtt and special effects supervisor Dennis Muren, layer switch at 62:38 at the start of chapter 22.


The fourth disc of bonus material is similar to the bonus discs for EPISODES I and II. It’s loaded with trailers, documentaries and great behind the scenes stuff. The only thing that’s missing is a deleted scenes section, which would have ruled. There is a blooper reel, but it isn’t very funny. The best part comes when Chewie catches fire on the skiff in JEDI. It’s not funny, but it’s cool.

The Characters Of Star Wars, The Birth Of The Lightsaber, and The Force Is With Them: The Legacy Of Star Wars are the three featurettes on the disc. There’s lots of great behind the scenes footage that we’ve never seen before and some DVD quality transfers of shots from the movies that have been cut and replaced in the Special and DVD Editions. LORD OF THE RINGS director Peter Jackson pops up occasionally and even compares Lucas to Tolkien at one point. Together, these docs total about fifty minutes.

The Return Of Darth Vader offers a brief glimpse into the key moments of REVENGE OF THE SITH. Specifically, the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into the legendary villain, Darth Vader. There’s a fascinating bit in which Lucas discusses the dark path Anakin goes down. As he’s describes it, it sounds more like he’s describing his own transformation as a filmmaker and his revisionist handling of his movies. “It was his greed to control things that were his undoing. The problem that Anakin has in the whole thing is he has a hard time letting go of things.” Will George ever be able to let go? Will his desire to control every detail of these movies be his undoing?

During the Q&A session at the DVD press day, things turned ugly for a few minutes when questions focused on the changes. One person put it nicely when he suggested that if Lucas completely erases aspects of his original works, we’ll never be able to have proper perspective of him as an artist. Jim Ward countered with “This is really a question for George, but I’ll support his right as an artist to change his work.” I’m curious how the young Lucas who made these movies would feel about the older version of himself coming in and altering his work.

When I visited Skywalker Ranch in 2001, I asked Mr. Lucas about the making of his saga and how technology has dramatically changed from the early days. “When we made STAR WARS it was with a sort of pioneering spirit,” he explained, “but now it's sort of old hat. You know, people forget very quickly the technological advances that are made on each movie. I guess there are technological advances made all the time. It's a progression of the medium, especially in terms of being able to incorporate digital characters and sets and that sort of thing. It had been done before but not on this scale. And you know the next film will be more extreme and I assume that when I make the third one it'll be even more extreme.”

Based on the preproduction artwork I saw at the San Diego ComicCon and based on the last forty minutes of ATTACK OF THE CLONES, I have no doubt REVENGE OF THE SITH will be the most remarkable special effects film of all time. It’s also going to serve as the bridge to the original trilogy. The coolest part of the Darth Vader documentary comes at the very end with the unveiling of Hayden in the Vader costume. It’s just a quick couple of shot, but I can see how compelling the connection has the potential to be in the final film. Anakin, as Vader, turns to a person next to him, who appears to be Ian McDiarmid as Darth Sidious. When they showed us this at the ComicCon, I nearly shat my pants. Upon watching it again on DVD, I’ve noticed that the shot has to be from the birth of Vader sequence. If you look closely at the shot, you’ll notice that Vader is secured to a slab behind him, shackled by the wrists. I can’t believe they’ve given this moment away so early.

There are more trailers and TV spots than you can shake a lightsabers at. Twelve TV spot and 10 trailers, actually. They’re letterboxed and in 16x9, which is awesome. I’m not sure why they only included the first of the three Special Edition trailers, though. Also included is a production photo gallery, poster art gallery, Episode III: Making the Game featurette, videogame trailer, playable Star Wars Battlefront Xbox game demo, Easter egg blooper reel, and a DVD-ROM weblink to all kinds of exclusive content.

This box is a damn decent chunk of STAR WARS and an awesome way to pass the time until REVENGE OF THE SITH. As always, George Lucas is predictably unpredictable when it comes to what we’re actually getting with our periodic STAR WARS fix. There’s stuff we don’t get that we’ve wanted for years, and there’s stuff we get that I had no idea even existed. It might be considered a mixed bag for some fans, but I find the set very satisfying and I suspect it will make a few bucks for Lucasfilm starting September 21, 2004.

May the Force be with you, and since we’re already changing things, I’ll ask again… may Chewie one day get his medal.

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