Review: Star Wars Trilogy DVD

Published 10 years ago by , Updated September 12th, 2013 at 11:51 am,

By Brian Rentschler

The short version: There aren’t a ton of extras here, and purists will be annoyed by George Lucas’ changes, but picture and audio is excellent and you’ll finally have these on DVD.

Well, after all my bellyaching about how Lucas went and ruined a good thing by fixing what wasn’t broke, I decided to make the plunge and buy the Star Wars Trilogy DVD set. Overall, I am very happy with the movies (hey, it’s Star Wars after all!), but I have quite a few “nitpicky” things I want to point out here. This review is not so much of the movies themselves, since the movies have been reviewed to death elsewhere. This is more of a commentary on what’s there and what’s not there. Since I never saw the “Special Editions” of the movies that were released in 1997, I may be giving commentary on content that has existed for years without realizing it, so bear with me.

The first thing that surprised me about this DVD set was the lack of extras. Compare this to the collector’s edition DVD’s of Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown, or the Extreme DVD version of Terminator 2, and you’ll see what I mean. There is commentary on each movie disc, but that’s it. There is a fourth “extras” DVD that has a fairly lengthy behind-the-scenes documentary and some old trailers, but nearly everything else appears to be a plug for an upcoming movie or video game. Nearly every featurette on the “extras” DVD shows either a bunch of losers dressed up as Star Wars characters or a bunch of directors talking about how George Lucas is bigger than God. Ultimately, the extras were a bit of a letdown.

Now for the movies themselves…


Episode IV: A New Hope

The one that started it all… to me, this one has the greatest sense of adventure. Lucas originally said he meant for this one to play like a western, and in many ways, it does. (Like most westerns, it also lacks depth of character development, but that’s another discussion.) There were a few enhancements, such as short added scenes of creatures fighting and the like. Overall, they neither helped nor hurt the movie. However, two scenes are worth noting. The first is the scene between Greedo and Han Solo. Everybody says Greedo shoots first, but what I saw was both shooting at roughly the same time. What struck me about the scene was that Greedo appears to miss Han Solo by a good two feet. I hate to say this, but if you’re a bounty hunter and you shoot at a dude and miss by two feet from across a narrow table, you deserve to become a crispy critter. I liked the original scene better — Han Solo was smart enough to shoot first. Why mess with that, Lucas? It didn’t make sense to me. The second scene that I found noteworthy was the added scene between Han Solo and Jabba. Originally, we never saw Jabba until Return of the Jedi, and in that movie, he’s a ruthless slug (or whatever he is) that you don’t want to mess with. In Episode IV, he’s a sweetie-pie, for lack of a better term. He talks a little rough, sure, but he lets Han Solo walk away without getting a dime from him. And this is after he has put a price on his head! Did I miss something there? The rest of the movie is relatively untouched, except for a few CGI spruce-ups of explosions. I had no issue with those; I must admit they looked a little weak in the originals, especially the explosion of Alderaan. Overall, the DVD video quality is excellent, and so is the sound, considering it’s a digital mastering of a 27-year-old movie that was made on a tight budget.

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

By far, this is the best of the trilogy. It has the best storyline, the best character development, you name it. I thought director Irvin Kershner did an excellent job, but his career doesn’t seem to have reflected it. Aside from a few TV directing gigs, he directed the abysmal Robocop 2. What struck me about this movie was that it seems to be relatively untouched. There were only two things that stood out to me. The first was the redubbing of Boba Fett’s voice. The original had a deep, confident American voice, while the redub has a higher, insecure-sounding British voice. This was done to make Jango Fett (from the newer trilogy) and Boba Fett (from the older trilogy) sound the same, since they’re clones. There’s nothing wrong with a British accent, but I liked the original voice better. Does Lucas really expect us to believe it was that difficult to replicate the voice of the original Boba Fett? Sorry, but I’m not convinced. The second noteworthy scene was the one where Darth Vader is speaking to a holographic image of the emperor. Clive Revill has been edited out and replaced with Ian McDiarmid, who played the role in Return of the Jedi. That made sense to me, and I thought it was very well done. I remember watching the originals back in the day, wondering why they had used obviously different actors for the emperor in each of those movies. I can’t fault Lucas for making that change. Picture and sound quality are excellent on this DVD.

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Oh boy, where do I begin? This poor movie never stood a chance. Lucas always had some ‘splaining to do because of Han Solo inexplicably becoming a whipped puppy dog and because of the infernal Ewoks, but then he went and carved this bad boy up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Some scenes are nearly unrecognizable in comparison to the scenes from the originals. There are two scenes in particular that deserve mention. The first is the one in Jabba’s palace where things have settled down a bit, and the band is playing a musical number just before Jabba decides to throw one of the dancers to the Rancor. Originally, it was a lively jam session that didn’t feel overblown. In this one, it becomes a Muppet showtune that seems to feel more at home in Vegas than Jabba’s palace. It felt completely out of place to me, and it would have made more sense to leave the original scene intact. The second scene that deserves mention is towards the end of the movie, when the Ewoks are celebrating with everybody. The first problem I had with that scene was the song they were playing. In the originals, the song was lively and upbeat, appropriate for celebrating. In this one, the music is more down-tempo and subdued. Watching people dance and celebrate to a slow-moving piece like that is just weird; it doesn’t feel right. The second problem I had with that scene was when the “ghostly” Anakin was portrayed by Hayden Christensen instead of Sebastian Shaw. (Shaw still portrays Anakin in the scene on the Death Star, though.) The visual effect wasn’t as cheesy as I thought it might be, but still, I didn’t know whether to laugh or fall out of my chair. What was the point of portraying Anakin as young? Obi-Wan and Yoda were both very old when they died; why not replace Obi-Wan with Ewan McGregor and Yoda with a younger-looking Muppet? That made no sense to me; I preferred the original scene with Sebastian Shaw. (I was surprised to read that Sebastian Shaw was born in 1905, which means he turned 78 shortly after this movie was first released in 1983.) Picture and sound quality are excellent. I especially liked the look and sound of the first scene in this movie, when Vader’s shuttle arrives on the Death Star.

Overall, despite Lucas’s “slice-and-dice” predilection, I found the trilogy very enjoyable. This DVD set is well worth owning, as long as you’re not expecting a huge variety of “extras” with the movies. The widescreen version is in a silver box, and the fullscreen version is in a gold box. You must choose wisely… oh wait, wrong trilogy.

I remember seeing an interview with Lucas quite a few years ago where he was talking about how it’s the story that matters most, not the special effects. He went on to say that special effects are not a story unto themselves, and that they should only be shown as long as necessary to help tell the story, even if it’s only a few seconds. I totally agreed with that philosophy, and I still do. If only Lucas had heeded his own advice while making Episodes I through III…

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:
TAGS: 4 star movies, star wars

13 Comments

Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.


If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it.

  1. As far as extras, Lucas has stated that when these movies were made there wasn’t such a thing as DVD, so you didn’t have secondary production crews running around filming “making of” stuff. Still I’m sure there are tons of “blooper reel” and “cutting room floor” footage that would have been great to see.

    In the first special edition version, Lucas had Greedo shoot first… apparently he’s succumbed somewhat to fan complaints and reduced it to they shoot at the same time. He has stated that he wasn’t happy with the way the original scene turned out because he didn’t want Solo portrayed as a murderer.

    The Jabba addition has been in Episode IV since the first SE version, but it was VERY poorly done and I understand they’ve redone it and improved it considerably.

    In “Return” the scene in Jabba’s enclave was turned into a “muppet show” in the first SE release.

    I agree with your thoughts on the scene at the end of “Return”… they should either all be the age at which they died or all their youthful selves. Oh well, it’s not my trilogy. :-)

    Thanks for reviewing this!

    Vic

  2. Just as I don’t like to see revisionist history, color remasters of black and white films,”director’s cut” remakes,and “behind the scenes back slapping clips,* I don’t want to see this monstrosity.

    I liked them the way they were. With all the warts and weak parts and wonderfulness.

    Thanks for watching it, and telling me about it, so I can avoid it. And I mean that my friend.

    May the Force be with you….. always.
    ;-)

    *Outakes can be really fun when included at the end of a comedy though….. just to be perverse in my predilections.

  3. Vic,

    Lucas should consider that it’s hard for Solo to be portrayed as a murderer when there’s a gun pointed at him. Now if Greedo had been running like a sissy and Solo shot him in the back, maybe a different story… As for the Jabba scene in Episode IV, I should clarify that the CGI is very well done. I had no problem with Jabba’s realism, just the inclusion of the scene.

    Yetzirah,

    I miss the originals as well, but they’re safely in the history books. Lucas had them destroyed, so these “slice-and-dice” versions are all that’s left. That doesn’t mean they’re a monstrosity, though. Despite a few “what was he thinking?” kind of changes (and a few that actually make sense), the magic hasn’t gone away. Trust me. :-)

    For what my $0.02 is worth, I always thought whenever a movie included outtakes, it meant the filmmakers ran out of ideas. The only exceptions so far have been Jackie Chan movies and Toy Story 2 (but the TS2 outtakes were made up).

    Brian

  4. Hey guys,
    I was skeptical as well. I did buy th DVDs and I am still skeptical. The one thing I absolutely love is the clarity of these movies on DVD. I never realized how poor the picture quality was on VHS. These new movies for all of their faults(changes, deleted scenes) are beautiful to watch. My wife thought I was watching the prequels.
    Shane

  5. Just a thought on putting Hayden in for Anakin at the end of RotJ: He looks as he did right before he “ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader” as Obi-wan would say. So his spirit looks like Anakin at the time of his “death”. One could argue Anakin came back into existence right before the end (though I suppose then his ghost should look like a piece of toast), but it’s just a thought.

    Han will ALWAYS shoot first in my book. He was a SMUGGLER, not leader of the Jawa Scouts.

  6. Dale,

    Regarding Anakin, that’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I can’t help thinking that Lucas isn’t that clever, though…

    Your comment about Han Solo is right on. I couldn’t agree more.

    Brian

  7. Dale has already answered it but I will add some more. :D

    Obi Wan and Yoda couldnt be younger in the enhanced version of RotJ in the DVDs because they never turned to the Dark Side, they were one with the Force until their time of death but as we already know, it was Ani who did. And, this is Anakin’s story to tell, not really Obi Wan’s and Yoda’s. :wink:

  8. I agree with simone. I mean, think about it, Anakin was old as a Sith, right? Why would he want to portray himself as the sith, he’d rather look like the Jedi he used to be. Also, if Obi Wan was made younger, Luke would be pretty freaked out since he never saw young Kenobi. Anakin’s Luke’s dad, so Luke would notice a family resemblance more without the wrinkles anyway. :o

  9. Thanks for agreeing bleh. :wink: I am guessing youre a fan?

  10. I’m sure Boba Fett’s voice/Jango Fett’s are of a New Zealand accent, not British.

  11. this is re-done so the trilogy can be more relevant to the first 3, I think the jabba episode iv is a great sequence, it explains the whole situation between han and jabba more clearly,I think that you are not a true fan of star wars because you don’t appreciate the re-mastering of the movie, this is for the greater good of the star wars saga.

  12. I will not tolerate personal insults on this site and I’ve edited your comment. If you have a difference of opinion, fine. But keep it civil or you comments will be deleted.

    Vic

    • Nice to see the actual admins moderating the site. Just saying hello from a fan of Screen Rant :)