on September 11, 2006
So after waiting 11 years or so, we finally get a re-release of the original The Empire Strikes Back in all it's unaltered glory. Just as fans have been dreaming about since the advent of DVD.
Well, um...I don't think any fan was dreaming about this particular release.
The original release version of The Empire Strikes Back (the only reason to buy this set as most all fans will already have one of the previous Special Edition releases) is relegated to bonus material on disc two. Ouch! But wait, it gets worse.
George Lucas, the champion of pristine presentation in the theatre and at home has released the film that made him a legend in the state of the art of technology circa 1993.
Yes, that's right. This transfer is from the laserdisc release of '93. Even worse, the film is not anamorphic like just about every other modern day DVD. What does that mean? Well a non-anamorphic DVD has a low visual clarity and the image won't fill a widescreen TV. To make a movie anamorphic takes very little time and money. That Star Wars is not anamorphic shows a disregard for the film that is troubling.
Star Wars fans expect these landmark films to be treated just like many other films (Vertigo, Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, Snow White, etc.) that have gotten detailed restorations that cleaned up dirt, grime and audio ticks and presented the films in today's state of the art. This is the release most fans were dreaming of. A release that showed the film some modicrum of respect.
George, the fan base you have worked so hard to woo over the years is fed up with your shoddy treatment of these films.
on May 27, 2006
Lucasfilm is marketing this trilogy release on the inclusion of the unaltered versions of the films when in fact this is a shoddy laserdisc transfer on a bonus disc and the buyer is forced to purchase, yet again, the 2004 versions also. This is essentially retail fraud given that Lucasfilm holds itself as a bastion of home video quality and film preservation - these transfers are 13 years old, non-anamorphic and substandard. YOU WILL BE PAYING $[...] FOR OLD LASERDISCS TRANSFERRED TO DVD. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. You will not be able to watch them on a widescreen TV with adequate quality - this is shameful and shameless marketing taking advantage of buyers. DO NOT BUY!
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 1980 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.
on September 16, 2006
We are given 2-DVD releases where the films in the much sought-after original 1977/83 STAR WARS Trilogy are relegated to the status of "bonus discs," a remarkably cynical move even for Lucas and Fox, who know full well that very few people actually want the dreadful 1997/2004 revisions that have been around on DVD for two years. These "bonus discs" are largely non-cleaned-up, low-definition, non-anamorphic transfers based on the 1993 laser discs. The picture is actually not bad, all things considered--better, in fact, than any other issuance of the originals (which admittedly appeared in media far inferior to the DVD); but with a little effort, they could have been so much better--especially for folks with 16x9 TVs. The 2.0 sound is more than adequate--actually rather clearer than the 5.1 mess that was produced for the 2004 disasters. Ironically, it is the 2.0 mix, not the 2004 5.1 remix, which is more similar to, though less complex than, the 6-channel, non-digital, non-surround stereo that was heard theatrically 30 years ago.
A couple of interesting details: one reviewer felt that these DVDs were worse than the 1995 VHS tapes, which he remembered as having been better cleaned up. In point of fact, the LDs from 1993 and the LDs/VHS tapes from 1995 were the *same* THX remasterings--just packaged differently; having seen both, I can say confidently that neither are nearly as good as these still-below-par DVDs. Moreover, the 1993/5 THX versions from which these DVDs were transferred are full of print damage at the same points--odd for a THX mastering; it means that even for what he said would be the *final* release in 1995, Lucas *already* didn't care about the old versions, as he was about to embark upon his 1997 distortions! Another important point: not all of these DVDs are direct LD transfers. For STAR WARS, the LD, and *every* home video version since the film first appeared on VHS, had the later title scroll that included "Episode IV A New Hope." This one, nicely, does not--the first time in a home video release! However, either good elements for this truly original opening do not survive or were not searched for hard enough because the whole frame rocks from side to side somewhat--owing to uneven print shrinkage: it's disconcerting to see a sky full of stars that all move back and forth together. This could have been cleaned up along with the many other points of print damage in the source material. One last observation: someone said that the opening sequence in STAR WARS is time-compressed. That is rubbish: all earlier versions have identical running times *to the second*! Let's not savage Mr. Lucas when he doesn't deserve it, folks.
The problem with allowing George Lucas to clean up, or even anamorphically enhance, *anything* in his original STAR WARS Trilogy is that he obviously wouldn't know when to quit, and we'd get another non-original permutation. It's a shame because far older films have been restored to look much better than the 1977-83 STAR WARS originals in their new DVD releases. Films of this cultural significance deserve far better. But since Lucas can't be trusted not to tinker, perhaps we should be satisfied while we're ahead, even though the results are compromised. If the originals ever do get issued in cleaner and higher-definition, anamorphically enhanced versions, you can bet that something will also be missing--again! My guess, however, is that Lucas regards his first versions merely as historical artifacts, remembering all the grief they caused him in the making; he obviously prefers to forget about them, continuing to insist that his most recent thoughts, however inferior we all find them, are the standards. It also occurs to me that Fox is testing the market: sure, thousands have been clamoring for the genuine films for years, but they wanted to see if we'd shell out the cash even for technically outmoded versions. Well, now we have. Perhaps they will realize that, despite how much we are currently protesting about Fox's (and perhaps Lucas') greed, when the originals are restored--not changed, just restored, preferably without Mr. Lucas' "assistance"--we will, in fact, buy them. In the meantime, these are better than nothing. Watch them on a 4x3 SDTV.
on July 13, 2006
to paraphrase darth vader " I find Mr. Lucas lack of faith in the oot disturbing"
out of all the three at least empire deserved the gold standard when It came on dvd in it's orginal version. But non anamorphic for one of the greatest sequels in movie history please!
again thanks for nothing mr. lucas.
Please somebody stop him before film history is erased forever by a so called film preservationist activist, who often likes to re-write history and cgi the crap out of it.
Please AFI and the DGA stop this madness! Lobby him to perserve these films as they deserve to be treated not as bastard children he once disowned.
on June 23, 2006
First off, I already have the special/altered movies on dvd. IF I bought this latest release, it would only be to obtain the ORIGINAL theatrical release (with all the matte lines/primitive technology). The original version is all that I'm missing from my collection & my only motive to purchase this dvd.
DVD has a maximum resolution of 720x480 dots on the screen; did Lucas take advantage of that improved hi-res technology for this "first time on dvd" original theater version?? NO of course not. He's giving us the original movie in laserdisc resolution:
(analog letterboxed). That's only *50%* the pixel resolution that DVD can offer!!! What a royal ripoff. Are we fans supposed to be happy about getting an inferior-quality print of the original movie? Fat chance. The original movie was recorded with 6-track surround & on hi-resolution 70mm film <---- THAT'S what we want, not some inferior 540x320 blurry picture from an old 1980s laserdisc.
Get with the program George.
You should have released the originals in hi-resolution 720x480. You should have taken advantage of DVD's full potential, not dump some inferior/blurry/lo-resolution video on us.
First off I have no problem with George Lucas altering his films. They are HIS films after all but I do take issue with Lucas not making the original films that a generation (or two) grew up on available in a restored form.
Fans should be aware that while a marked improvement on the laserdisc edition (which appears to be from the same source elements)the image is improved by being transferred digitally vs. analog. The film looks decent although no where near as good as the digitally enhanced edition included here. Why Lucas could not have had these anamorphically enhanced is beyond me (it would probably have required another transfer however and that does cost $$).
However, there's some issues with the print being unstable at times with the resulting image shakey on screen. Colors are bolder here than on "Star Wars" more than likely because the film elements survived the passage of time better (and the fact that they are a bit younger as well). The bigger your widescreen monitor is the more noticeable the flaws are in the prints, the transfer (it's nonanamorphic which basically means there's less clarity, less detail and inferior image quality). Anamorphic is the standard for DVD and improves the image quality signficantly so I'm a bit surprised that Lucas didn't at least try and upgrade these to an anamorphic transfer in some way shape or form.
The digitally altered version looks terrific. It's interesting because the fact that Lucas presents the original with minimal digital clean up and no restoration is kind of like an unhappy child being forced to hand over something they don't want to--they make sure it's in as bad of shape as possible so that no one will want it. It's almost as if Lucas is saying, "see I was right about how bad these things looked".
I hope we might see this improved for the NEXT incarnation coming out next year (rumor has it that it will be a deluxe boxed set of all the films)but have no firm info on that. This might be the only time fans can have original version I'm just disappointed that George didn't think enough of the fans of his films to improve the presentation of the original "Empire" without altering further.
on April 9, 2015
The new Instant Video is beautiful on a big TV. The *only* thing missing from Empire is the 20th Century Fox Fanfare at the start, a small thing. I like all the other enhancements from the original.
I plan to wait for the original Episode IV, where Han shoots first. But this is a wonderful HD version of Episode V. (I have Xbox, so I could have bought SD and up-converted, but they were the same price.)
One interesting note: By purchasing Episode V as an Amazon Instant Video, I automatically received a separately playable "movie" of bonus material, which I had not expected.
on June 8, 2007
I agree with any of a number of previous reviewers: Would somebody PLEASE take STAR WARS away from George Lucas before he ruins it completely?
Like Francis Ford Coppola, who messed with THE GODFATHER trilogy over and over again trying to "perfect" it, Lucas keeps coming back to the original STAR WARS trilogy and adding enhanced effects and formerly deleted scenes.
In what is now known as STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, (let me catch my breath a minute, please), Lucas decided to "enhance" the film by inserting extra dialogue in several scenes, apparently in order to strengthen the film's connection to the prequels. He should have done it the other way around when Episodes I, II, and III were first released. This attempt at backward compatibility just proves that time travelers should never try to change the past. Fortunately, the changes aren't jarring.
Lucas also decided to expand the scenes with the Wampa Ice Creature on Hoth. These changes ARE jarring. The updated Ice Creature doesn't look anything like the original, and the quick intercuts don't hide the disparity. The fact that Lucas chose to "improve" the creature despite having to retain the original footage doesn't demonstrate his creativity, it demonstrates his hubris. Why not just replicate the original? Clearly, his desire to make the change overrode any considerations of film continuity and audience expectations.
This is the kind of thinking that brought us the ridiculous Jar-Jar Binks and his race of Rastafari amphibians in THE PHANTOM MENACE. George Lucas isn't really trying to give us a better cinematic experience, he's just totally into playing with his favorite toys. It's a form of selfishness.
The same goes for the rest of his changes. Lucas decided to make the battle scene explosions more "dramatic," do a score of other little tweaks, and clean up the print. Lucas has done this so many times over the past three decades that it's now impossible to figure out which film is the "real" THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
Of all the questionable "improvements" he's made, cleaning up the print is the only worthwhile effort. Most of the added scenes add nothing to the film, the "extra" dialogue is interesting but unnecessary, and some of the changes (like the Wampa Ice Creature) actually degrade the movie.
Fortunately, this two-disc set contains the original theatrical release with all the nicks and imperfections it was born with. The print's a bit dim, and the special effects are showing their limitations after twenty-seven years, but this is THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK that will remain THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. It is what it is, and it never needed changes. Given the immense amount of material that has grown up around STAR WARS since it was first released, Lucas would have been smarter to release one or the other or both versions as he did, but added an Extras disc with all kinds of "The Making Of.." and "The Legacy Of..." goodies. I was disappointed that this isn't that set.
I was twenty when THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK debuted in 1980. At age 20, this now-classic movie became and remains a favorite of mine. It is arguably the best of the six STAR WARS films, because it takes the STAR WARS universe completely out of the realm of pulp science fiction. The appearance of Yoda and his Zen-like philosophy of The Force changes the entire tenor of the sextology. The Force ceases to be a kind of parlor magic useful for tricking Imperial Stormtroopers and becomes a form of bushido. The Jedi become Samurai, imbued with all of that caste's Warrior Ethos.
I never became a "Jedihead" (the original tag for the STAR WARS version of a Trekkie), but I did become a student of Zen and the martial arts. My personal decision was not at all made because of STAR WARS, but the films certainly brought such concepts into the mainstream consciousness.
The STAR WARS films are not CITIZEN KANE IN OUTER SPACE. Overall, they are not "great" films, but they are true "classics." THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in particular engages the viewer. Entertaining, exciting, and yet contemplative, the film makes you want to keep coming back for more, the true basis of success and the core of meaningfulness for any story.
The STAR WARS universe is clearly derivative. THE LORD OF THE RINGS has a "Dark Lord." STAR WARS has a "Dark Lord of the Sith." Lightsabers are yet another nod to the film's Sword & Sorcery roots. Yoda is a short green Sensei, straight out of the 1970s TV show KUNG FU. STAR WARS' "Corellians" appear in Isaac Asimov's FOUNDATION as "Korellians", and "Han Solo" is also there as "Hari Seldon." The space war elements are a mishmash of STAR TREK, FORBIDDEN PLANET, AMAZING STORIES, pulp fiction, and a hundred other sources. George Lucas was able to take these well-used pieces and combine them into something that is both very original and yet archetypal.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK carries the sci-fi retelling of the Mythos of the young Hero a step farther. Having been initiated into the Mysteries by Obi-Wan, Luke is now called upon to take up the discipline his craft requires. Immature and impatient, he ignores his Master Yoda's advice, and makes his own determination that his training is complete. However, he is unready, unready to face his external enemy (Darth Vader), and unready to face his even more potent internal enemy (his own impulses toward the Dark Side).
Classic mythic elements abound: Luke has a mysterious birth, a hidden twin, and a direct blood link to the Evil he is trying to overcome (as the son of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader). He suffers a horrific wound (the loss of his hand), is forced to face the Darkness within himself, and must decide how to confront his Enemy who is also his Dark Father.
A far more sophisticated story than the straight-ahead STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is so mythic and archetypal that it suffers none of the "beginner's jitters" of A NEW HOPE. Although the first film had some really bad acting by the background characters and a few missed beats here and there, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK brings forth the best from all the cast (including even Yoda who, despite his very real humanity, is, after all, a puppet). The story sustains itself through it all.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK even survives Lucas's post-theatrical obsessive-compulsive changes to remain a modern classic.
FIVE STARS FOR "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK", THREE STARS FOR LUCAS' "IMPROVED" VERSION.
on May 25, 2006
Save your money for something decent. These 1977 films appear to be what fans wanted all along but are tainted, old, non-anamorphic releases. Stay away. Stay far away.