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I don’t think there’s anything in the history of cinema that has caused as much geek-wrath as George Lucas’ changes to the Star Wars films. Turning a revered sci-fi god into a sell out hack (at least in the eyes of fans),  the never ending animosity makes the prequels look positively praised.

Lucas was always happy to tinker with the trilogy; every rerelease of the originals has suffered some minor alterations. But it was only in 1997 with the cinematic release of the Special Editions that things got messy, with Lucas consistently returning to the films in an attempt to improve both their visual quality and linkage to the prequels. There’s been three notable releases where the trilogy has been messed with, each time the changes getting more and more superfluous:

  • The 1997 Special Editions – Each film was subjected to numerous computer generated ‘enhancements’, allegedly there to greater realise Lucas’ vision, but really only present to give an excuse to sell the movies again. This is the stuff like Jedi Rocks, Greedo shooting first and the Jabba scene in Episode IV.
  • The 2004 DVD release – As well as a few more visual changes, the focus here was to greater tie the originals to the then almost finished prequels. There’s fewer changes, but what was done has a bigger effect; Ian McDiarmid now pops up in Episode V (which I’ll get to later), Hayden Christensen is a blue ghost at the end of Episode VI and, worse of all, Boba Fett gets a Kiwi accent.
  • The 2011 Blu-Ray release – There’s fewer alterations here, but for the first time every one of them completely unnecessary, present only to add a bit of prestige around the release. Think blinking Ewoks, R2 behind a clearly CGI rock and more of Vader’s ‘Noooo’ and you’ve got the picture.

But while many of the changes are admittedly awful – Han Shot First is a phrase well known way beyond Star Wars purists – there are some changes that have been made to the films (all six in fact) that improve them no end. So if you thought the alterations did nothing but turn Star Wars into a sell out franchise, strap yourselves in as we make the jump to unaltered light speed and see how Lucas didn’t fully destroy his masterpieces.

DISCLAIMER: No, I do not like, or in any way approve of, the Special Editions or any further changes that have been made to the films. In fact, as with many fans, I’d love to own a restored, but unaltered version of the original releases. Until then, we’ll have to make do with these few good changes…

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This article was first posted on July 31, 2013