It is generally agreed upon among Star Wars fans that the ‘Special Editions’ are hot garbage. Intrusive CGI, unnecessary dialogue alterations, and entire plot threads that were butchered beyond recognition (Han shoots first, anyone?) have been the subject of fan ire for over twenty years. Yet, some of the changes were actually worthwhile. Most of these changes are minor, while some of them actually enhance the original movies. Here are ten changes that we think make Star Wars better.
10 Stormtrooper clunk
In A New Hope, while Luke and the gang are stuck in the trash compactor, a squad of stormtroopers breaches the control room where C-3PO and R2-D2 are hiding. When entering, one of the stormtroopers hits head on a low-hanging bulkhead.
An onset blooper that managed to slip by into the final movie, the scene has become a running gag within the Star Wars fandom. The gaffe became so popular that, during the Original Trilogy’s first DVD release in 2004, an audible ‘donk’ was added as an easter egg.
9 Ewok eyes
Among some of the more polarizing changes made to Return of the Jedi for its 2011 Blu-Ray release was the decision to give Wicket the Ewok a pair of functioning eyelids. Sure, it may not have had the same level of backlash that Darth Vader’s “Nooo” had, but it was still a change that some found unnecessary. Still, giving Wicket eyelids is one of the few minor touches that does end up making him more lifelike. Also, despite what some fans believe, the effect is not nearly as creepy as it could’ve been.
8 CGI Yoda in The Phantom Menace
Of all the problems with The Phantom Menace, the one thing most people complain about the most is the CGI. The consensus is that so much effort was put into crafting digital landscapes that the writing felt like an afterthought. But of all the things in Episode I that should’ve been created on a computer, Yoda should’ve been an obvious choice.
Which is why it’s baffling to think that they instead chose the worst looking Yoda puppet they could get their hands on. It looks terrible, like someone left him in a dryer for too long. When the Star Wars saga came out on Blu-Ray in 2011, the puppet was covered up by a CGI model that was identical to the one seen in the rest of the prequels, making it more consistent with its counterparts.
7 Cloud City enhancements
Compared to Episode IV and VI, the changes made to The Empire Strikes Back were the least intrusive. Most of them consisted of continuity fixes and visual enhancements that many fans actually appreciate. A perfect example of this are the Cloud City scenes. While there is plenty of unnecessary CGI for fans to get angry at, some of it actually boosts the visual appeal. One such change was the addition of windows in many of the interior shots. These windows, which showed beautifully rendered backgrounds of the Bespin Platforms, helped open the scene up and make it less claustrophobic and stuffy.
6 Corrected colors/sound effects
Another change in Empire was the fixing of a slight continuity error that occurred during a dogfight with the Millennium Falcon. In the pre-Special Edition cut, as Han and the gang attempt to lose the Empire through an asteroid belt, some of the Tiefighters shoot pink lasers, rather than their typical green ones.
In addition, the sounds of their guns resemble the cannons fired by star destroyers, instead of the now iconic blast and echo effect. While only the most eagle-eyed viewers would’ve noticed, or cared, the error was fixed in the special edition, along with other continuity errors that flew under the editors' radar.
5 Enhanced explosions
There are a lot of things in the Star Wars galaxy that go ‘boom’, and for the most part, Industrial Light and Magic’s pyrotechnics in the original trilogy have held up fairly well. Still, though, there is always room for improvement, which is where modern CGI comes in. The explosions in the special editions were enhanced to be louder and bigger than before. ILM also added shockwaves, produce a ring effect that make the explosions grander in scale. This is particularly apparent at the end of Jedi, when the second Death Star is destroyed and it looks like the Millennium Falcon is literally trying to outrun the ensuing shockwave.
4 Darth Vader’s eyebrows
One would think that after burning to a crisp on the shores of a lava river, Darth Vader wouldn't have a speck of hair left on his body. Yet, in the theatrical editions, when Luke removes Vader’s helmet, he’s greeted by a pair of big, bushy eyebrows that somehow managed to grow back over time. Maybe it was some kind of force-powered hair restoration?
Either way, the eyebrows were removed in the 2004 DVD version, and actor Sebastian Shaw’s features were changed to make him look even more sickly.
3 It’s a celebration
While the special edition of Jedi got rid of the “Yub Nub” song that hailed the fall of the Empire, it did give us a look at how the Galaxy responded to the second Death Star’s destruction. Before Luke has his Kodak moment with the force ghosts on Endor, the camera cuts away to show a montage of anti-Imperial celebrations on Bespin, Tatooine, and Naboo. While the CGI does stick out a bit much, it helps to show just how large the Star Wars galaxy truly is, and gives viewers an idea of how much the Empire was hated. This montage also marks the first time Corsucant was ever shown on screen, two years before it appeared in The Phantom Menace.
2 The wampa
One of the first threats Luke faces while on the frost planet of Hoth is the wampa, an abominable snowman-like creature that knocks him out, eats his Tauntaun, and leaves him hanging like a side of beef. In the original cut of Empire, Luke’s encounter with the wampa is brief, ending with a quick showdown that is mostly made of jump cuts.
The Special Edition expanded on this fight scene, introducing a wider shot of the wampa chowing down on the tauntaun and its reaction to Luke’s escape. Not only is the design of the wampa more terrifying than it was in the original, but the build-up to the fight scene is much tenser and urgent.
1 The Emperor
The Empire Strikes Back is the first time fans ever got to see the evil Emperor Sheev Palpatine, via a holographic Skype call between him and Darth Vader. In the original version, Palpatine was played by Clive Revill, sporting a black hood and some mildly convincing prosthetics. Revill didn’t return to play Palpatine in Return of the Jedi, and was replaced by Ian McDiarmid. McDiarmid's role as the Emperor was lauded by fans and critics and has since become the actor’s signature role.
For Empire’s 2004 DVD release, Revill’s holographic form was replaced by McDiarmid in his Emperor makeup. Comparing the scenes side-by-side, there’s no denying that McDiarmid's portrayal of Palpatine is superior. No offense to Revill, but his attempt to sound sinister comes across as unconvincing and forced. McDiarmid, however, manages to pull off Palpatine’s malevolent nature seamlessly, proving that he was the best choice for the character all along.