734 of 761 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2006
I am one of those geeks who was ten years old when Star Wars came out (note: it was not originally called "Episode IV.") I watched it in the theater perhaps a dozen times. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.
This release contains two DVDs: the version that Lucas has been tinkering with, and on a bonus disc, the original movie in 4:3 letterbox, taken from the best-available videodisc masters.
About that "tinkering." The 2004 version of Episode 4 looks, for the most part, quite gorgeous. The _restoration_ that Lucasfilm did is impressive: the blacks are blacker, the whites whiter, the color richer, the contrast improved all around, and the soundtrack is great. The dirt and scratches are gone, the shaky color very solid.
However, at some point Lucas crossed over from "restoration" into making a new movie. That's fine; he has the right to do so. But for him to say that the original Star Wars is not really what he had in mind, when it was one of the most famous and popular movies in history and became entrenched in the culture -- well, I find that weirdly arrogant. And when he says, in effect, that his altered version _is_ "Star Wars" and the original _isn't_ -- well, hmmm. A movie is a historical artifact. There's a difference between preservation and tinkering. Mainly, that tinkering mostly is there to gratify the artist, while preservation serves the art -- and the fans of the art. Artistic creation is a fragile and uncertain process. For Lucas to assume that he knew exactly what made Star Wars great and presume to make it better misstates the amount of control that artists actually have over how their creations are received by the public.
Where you draw this line is slightly unclear. I think the cleanup of the backgrounds is fine. The improvement of the soundtrack to use the latest technology available is wonderful. I'm not sure why Kenobi's weird cry that drives away the sandpeople was replaced with a slightly different weird cry. He's redone some of the explosions twice now. I'm not sure why they all became pink in 2004. Why did he feel that Alderaan and the Death Star needed to explode in giant rings? Why do the lightsabers now give off blinding green flashes when they collide? Most of these changes are not improvements; they are just distractions. They tend to stick out like a sore thumb to fans who have seen the movie many times.
But there are more than just the small arbitrary changes, I'm not really happy with the addition of dinosaur-like creatures in Mos Eisley, and I'm really not happy with giving these little bits and pieces cartoonish _sound_ that sounds like it came from Episode 1. Star Wars, the original, had a different tone, a different mood, than Empire and Jedi and the whole prequel trilogy. It's a little darker. It's a world where rebels and stormtroopers are violently killed and Han Solo shoots first. Lucas is free to make that world happier and more cartoonish in his later films, but altering, and in some cases censoring violence from the original, is a very strange thing to do.
So, although I really admire the improvements to the image and sound in the 2004 edition, I generally prefer watching the original 1977 cut. For that, I'm sorry to report that the digital transfer, from the videodisc master, is only adequate. Many fans are griping that it is 4:3 instead of anamorphic 19:9. This means it isn't full-width on a widescreen TV. That doesn't particularly bother me, but I'm viewing it on an old TV, not a widescreen TV. It looks like a very good analog videotape, but we've recently -- and rather abruptly, in terms of years -- gotten used to DVDs of films that were transferred to the digital realm and mastered there. It's actually taken from the master for the analog videodisc. The audio is good, but again we now tend to compare it to all-digital productions. Negative comments on Amazon about the black level are on the mark; some of the space scenes make black outer space look brown, or gray. This is particularly evident when we see Vader's helmet in his tie fighter; his helmet is blacker than the black background of space. But that is true in the original film; it was noticeable in the theater on opening day. A number of the desert scenes have poor contrast and faded color; some of this is film deterioration, and some is because the contrast and color in some of the outdoor Tatooine scenes were never that good to begin with. There are noticeable scratches. The color is shaky in some scenes, particularly outdoor scenes, and flickers a bit. It looks like a film that is considerably older than it is. I've seen restored films from considerably earlier that look a lot better than this one does.
Here's the thing: it didn't have to be this way. We would have considered it to be a fairly good video rendering at one point in time. But our expectations have been raised considerably -- and, in fact, Lucas himself is largely responsible for raising those expectations, because of his constant embrace of new technology for delivering films to audiences. The 2004 DVD release has all those black level problems fixed. There aren't any visible scratches. The contrast is excellent. The colors are vivid. The missing dialog is restored.
So which version do I want to watch? Well, the answer is neither. I want to watch a version that doesn't exist: call it "Star Wars: the Nostalgia Edition." That version would be fully _restored_, but not _altered_. And it would have things like Han Solo's scene with Jabba available as a "deleted scene" special feature, along with all the other so-called lost footage such as the scene at Anchorhead, which introduces (and makes sense of) Luke's relationship with Biggs. It would have been presented with respect for the original work, not as a bonus disc given no special treatment. Instead, Lucas has disowned that picture.
And here's the thing: I'd be shocked if Lucas didn't have every scene, unaltered, from the first film in beautifully restored digital form. After all, wouldn't a restored original film have been the starting point for this whole process of remastering that led to the 1997 and 2004 versions?
So, I'm not actually advocating that we give up the advances in restoration that are evident in the 2004 release. But don't bother with the tinkering. The fans don't care about it. Keep the original death star cell block footage. Sure, the tunnel behind the actors is obviously a matte painting, and the perspective is off kilter when the camera angle changes. But you know what? I saw Star Wars at least ten times in the theater and I never noticed the problem -- because it isn't a "problem," it's an artifact of the budget and technology that existed in 1977. You notice it if you are looking at the frame cynically, not when you are immersed in the story. It might be an irritant to Lucas now, but it is the effect we grew up with. For the "Nostalgia Edition," let Star Wars be Star Wars.
Then Lucas can go on with his director's cuts, turning Star Wars into a 3-D cartoon until the sun explodes, for all I care. Just don't make me watch Greedo shoot first!
217 of 241 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2006
After reading countless reviews about these Star Wars DVD's over the past few months here on Amazon from some who are taking this issue way too seriously to others who just don't seem to have a clue as to what some words mean, I finally feel compelled enough to write a review of my own.
To begin, I agree with the majority of reviewers in the fact that these films, the original unaltered Star Wars trilogy, deserve much better treatment for release on DVD. Now, from what I understand, the original negatives/prints were destroyed or altered during the restoration for the Special Edition release back in 1997 and, as a result, can't be restored. Therefore, the laserdisc transfers from 1993 are being used as source material for the upcoming DVD release, which explains why these "bonus" DVD's (don't get me started on the originals only being - according to the soulless marketing geniuses at LucasFilm - "bonus" discs), won't be anamorphic and without 5.1 surround sound. I also understand that LucasFilm is not willing to put in as much time, effort, or money into this project since the original unaltered films didn't represent his true "vision" for the films. However, I take issue with the reasoning behind this thought process.
First of all, I'll admit I'm no film restoration expert, but common sense would tell me that 95% of the restoration of the original unaltered trilogy has already been done since only, at the very most, 5% of the original movies was altered for the Special Edition releases. And if all the negatives from the originals were, in fact, destroyed (which I highly doubt unless George Lucas cut them up and set them ablaze late one night during a fit of artistic rage), all one would have to do is find some copied negatives/prints that were used in the theaters when the movies originally came out (perhaps from a private collector if LucasFilm doesn't have any which, again, I highly doubt) and restore just the 5% of scenes that were changed or removed completely from the newer versions with better picture quality and 5.1 surround sound instead of re-restoring the entire original movies. As a result, the excuse of not wanting to put the time, effort, and money into this project doesn't really make much sense since they would only have to restore just a few scenes here and there, even if those scenes weren't taken from the original negatives. Also, keep in mind these are the same people behind THX, so LucasFilm releasing a half-hearted attempt of a DVD release is hypocritical of a company who prides itself on industry-setting high-standard video and audio quality.
As for the "anamorphic" situation, I think the meaning of the word "anamorphic" first needs to be explained. In simplest terms, a DVD in anamorphic widescreen format means the video contained in the DVD will take up the entire screen on a widescreen TV without having to zoom in and, in turn, no black letterbox bars will show (at least they won't if the movie was shot in 16:9 widescreen; Star Wars, on the other hand, was shot in "extra-widescreen" so the black letterbox bars will still appear on the top and bottom of a 16:9 widescreen TV, but roughly only half as much as they would on a standard 4:3 TV - the image will still fill the screen from side-to-side). Now, if you don't own a widescreen TV, this isn't a major issue since you will see the letterbox bars regardless if you're watching a widescreen-version DVD on a standard 4:3 TV. However, if you're like me and do happen to own a widescreen TV, there is nothing more frustrating than buying a DVD only to find out it isn't anamorphic when you start to play it, which defeats the whole purpose of owning a widescreen TV if the DVD you'd like to watch will not only show the letterbox bars on top, but on the sides as well. And zooming in to enlarge the picture and rid the bars doesn't help much either because whenever you zoom in on something, whether it be a DVD or a picture on a computer, you lose picture quality which again defeats the purpose of a owning a DVD in the first place. So for you reviewers out there who think some people are overreacting because these DVD's won't be anamorphic, you obviously don't own a widescreen TV and don't know what words mean.
Now for the fans who are taking this situation way too seriously, just take a deep breath and relax. Don't get me wrong, I'm as big a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy, especially "The Empire Strikes Back", as much as anyone and would like to see the original movies get the proper respect and treatment they deserve (even if only for preservation's sake). But keep in mind these are just movies meant to entertain - not cure the world of cancer. And even if the new computer-generated footage added in the Special Edition versions already released on DVD takes away from the original trilogy (which it does, especially that new Max Rebo Band song in Return of the Jedi - who was the genius that came up with that?) they are, like I mentioned, practically 95% visually the same and 99.9% the same story-wise as the originals and are anamorphic with 5.1 surround sound. And if not having Han shooting first or having the original "Star Wars" opening crawl from '77 makes you lay awake at night (the addition of "Episode IV - A New Hope" actually does improve the film from a storyline standpoint if you think about), I truly do feel sorry for you (even though I agree Han should be shooting first, which accounts for that extra 0.1%).
I could also get into how the original trilogy, even the Special Editions, is far superior to the blue screen-themed new trilogy by leaps and bounds (keep in mind George Lucas didn't write or direct "Empire" or "Jedi" and wasn't surrounded by "yes men" back then), but then I'd really ramble on and this review would be five times longer than it already is now.
Hopefully, one day in a galaxy far, far away (boy was that clever), George Lucas will put his ego aside, or at least follow a masterful yet soulless marketing plan, and give the cinematically-outstanding originals he created the proper respect and DVD treatment they deserve. But until then, I (along with almost every other reviewer here on Amazon - admit it) will probably end up buying these half-hearted DVD's just so I can say I've got the originals on DVD, even though these DVD's will probably only be slightly better than the widescreen VHS tapes I bought back in '95. In the meantime, though, I'll have to admit it is kind of entertaining to watch the real-life transformation of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader back to Anakin Skywalker in the form of one George Lucas.
Note: According to "The Rumor Mill" over at The Digital Bits website from 8/24/2006, it has been confirmed that LucasFilm will be releasing an "ultimate, 6-film Star Wars anniversary boxed set planned for 2007" with even more changes to the films (supposedly one change is the puppet Yoda from Episode I is now going to be a CG version like what was used in Episodes II and III), as well as more special features and deleted scenes. It is unknown if restored versions of the original trilogy will be included, but keep this in mind if you plan to purchase these DVD's.
334 of 382 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2006
The second disc of this release contains the movie as it was released in 1977; however it's non-anamorphic, which means that it won't display properly on a widescreen television.
Star Wars creator George Lucas, who doesn't mind tinkering with his own classics for special edition re-releases said, "I am very concerned about our national heritage, and I am very concerned that the films that I watched when I was young and the films that I watched throughout my life are preserved, so that my children can see them."
Does he know the definition of "hypocrite"?
Lynne Hale of Lucasfilm said,"...since these movies (as originally released) do not represent George's artistic vision, we could not put the extraordinary time and resources into this project as we did with the Special Editions. The 1993 Laserdisc masters represented the best source for providing the original versions as DVD bonus material. Although these are non-anamorphic versions, they do preserve the original widescreen composition of the movies."
Believe it or not, George Lucas was not the only person involved in the making of these movies. Ask Ralph McQuarrie, John Dykstra, Gary Kurtz, Rick Baker, or Marcia Lucas. Star Wars (what Lucas now calls A New Hope) is a great movie that represents some of the best filmmaking of the 1970's. What Lucas is doing is completely disrespectful to all of those people that were involved in the process of making those films. He's completely disregarding their work and dishonoring their memory.
By the way, last weekend I watched the "2004 version" and I didn't think it held up. The scene where Luke and Ben enter Mos Eisley looks too busy and too cartoon-like, in other words, like CGI. The new scene with Jabba: it's redundant. It's a almost a word-for-word retread of the Greedo scene.
Lynne Hale of Lucasfilm also said, "We want you to be aware that we have no plans - now or in the future - to restore the earlier versions.
We hope you will understand our decision and, again, want to let you know how much we appreciate your interest and enthusiasm."
Okay Lynne Hale and George Lucas, I want you to be aware that I have no plans - now or in the future - to purchase your poor quality versions of the original movies. Furthermore, I and my family will NEVER spend another dime on any of your future movies.
Lucasfilm is a multi-billion dollar company and it's not willing to spend an extra hundred grand to make it's product better and it's fans happy with an anamorphic print?
Well Lucasfilm, we hope you will understand our decision and, again, want to let you know how much we don't appreciate your lack of interest and enthusiasm.
123 of 141 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2006
To market these as being able to get the originals, when the real deal is georgie boy is just trying to make more money off his "special edition". This extra disc with the original in crappy format is the bait. Don't take it. Lucas films has never released bonus material as these are being labeled in Non-animorphic format. If you own the laserdisc this will be no better as that is where this is being sourced. This yeilds about 30% less resolution then an animorphic (or enhanced for 16x9) transfer would and will look like bad in comparison even on a 4:3 TV. These aren't the discs your looking for. Move along.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2006
I was very reluctant to buy the "limited edition" versions because of the negative reviews. While I wanted the original non-doctored-and-rewritten-within-an-inch-of-their-lives versions, I was worried about the supposed inferior quality everyone was complaining about. Well, maybe my TV and sound system is just too primitive, but I certainly didn't notice poor quality. In fact I thought the quality was amazing! That flat cartoony look of hi-def Lucas loves so much was blessedly absent. And Star Wars looked like Star Wars - not a CG parody of itself! It was like watching the trilogy for the first time all over again.
To anyone in the market for the original edition, feeling nervous after reading these reviews - take the gamble and judge for yourself. I for one now consider my Star Wars collection finally complete.
166 of 198 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2006
INTERIOR: REBEL BLOCKADE RUNNER -- CORRIDOR
The angry Darth Vader stands amid the broken and twisted DVDs of 2004 versions of Star Wars.
IMPERIAL OFFICER: The new version is only a poor copy of the laserdisk, and it's only provided as a special feature.
Vader squeezes the neck of George Lucas, who struggles in vain.
VADER: Where is the original film? What have you done with the 1977 theatrical release?
Vader lifts General Lucas off his feet by his throat.
VADER: What have you done with the anamorphic widescreen?
LUCAS: The original negative is in too bad a shape to make a better copy.
VADER: If the original is in such bad condition, how did you make the 2004 edit version?
The Dark Lord begins to squeeze the producer's throat, creating a gruesome snapping and choking, until Lucas goes limp.
VADER: Commander, tear LucasFilm apart until we have a true version, and make sure it has the original 5.1 SOUND!!
55 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2006
To echo the sentiments shared by a lot of reviewers here, my anticipation for these releases dropped to nothing the moment I heard the theatrical versions wouldn't even be anamorphically enhanced. Lucas has bonus features on his dvds that are technologically superior to this; unpolished 1993 laserdisc transfers are pretty much what you'd get from bootlegs and pirated online copies. I don't need to pay money for that.
Personally, I think we'll see the original theatrical versions again in the future. If these can be released after Lucas has already put his foot down, they'll be released again. And somewhere down the line, Fox and Lucasfilm will finally get the release right. Until then, I'm not buying into any "limited edition" scams.
40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2006
It's sad that Lucas would do this again. I remember as a teenager, I eagerly awaited the releasae of "Empire" on VHS. Lucas released the movie in 1980 and the VHS in 1984 (pan and scan). I remember well, visiting my family (south Asia) as a 14 year old and finding Empire at the local video store. How could it be - it's not released yet! That's when I discovered the wonderful world of black market video. The video that I rented was VHS and it was wide screen!!! In 1984, a widescreen version of Empire.
Over the years, Lucas has managed to release and re-release various versions of the same film. Go to this site to see how insane this process has been for more than 2 decades: [...]
I counted 28 releases of the episode 4. Insane.
Don't buy any more until you see this version of episode 4, 5 or 6:
Anamorphic wide screen
Dolby Digital 5.1 or any variation 6.1, 7.1, DTS, etc.
Fully restored 70mm Print
Of course THX transfers
Until then, just borrow these from your local rental store, or Netflix, or even better, a friend.
40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2006
Sorry, I want the original, *cleaned up* trilogies, not some outddated laser disc transfer from the 1990's. This DVD is going to be in no way shape or form up to today's standards. Your basically buying a movie that is going to slightly better than your VHS copy of Star Wars. Is that what you want? Sorry but those are the facts.
69 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2006
If you love the original Star Wars trilogy as much as me, it is time to send a loud and clear message to Lucas that you will not endorse a subpar, inferior product. Do not get too excited when you pop this DVD into your player to watch on a widescreen TV. The 1977 version will appear as a tiny, low-resolution image. It is a non-anamorphic transfer (which in 2006 is NOT an industry standard), so it is NOT enhanced for 16x9 viewing. Get ready to enjoy Star Wars like you never have before - as if you were watching it through a mail slot!!!
Boycott this DVD until Lucasfilm acknowledges and corrects this. This trilogy's most loyal fans deserve better.