579 of 599 people found the following review helpful
Restoration versus Cartoonization,
This review is from: Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (Two-Disc Widescreen Enhanced and Original Theatrical Versions) (DVD)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!
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Showing 1-10 of 38 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 12, 2006 5:08:42 PM PST
Bernardo Fiol says:
I agree with you. Great review.
Posted on Jan 19, 2009 3:27:09 PM PST
2+2=4 and Han Shot First. Nuff Said!
Posted on Jan 23, 2009 10:19:38 PM PST
100 times, amen and AMEN.
Posted on Feb 12, 2009 7:54:15 PM PST
Good review. However, the colors on the 2004 release are actually very bad and way off. The black levels are too dark. (also known as crushed.) The colors are far more accurate on the original versions and the black levels are accurate. The black levels are better and the picture is much clearer than the '93/95 laserdiscs which used the same THX digital master.
Now as for wanting a nostalgic edition, you may be interested in Star Wars Revisited. You can find more information about it (and a lot of other stuff!) at originaltrilogy.com but basically it features some more enhancements (they're good, trust me), gets rid of the ones everyone hates and most importantly is masterfully color corrected. Here's an example:
Posted on Jul 27, 2009 9:33:55 PM PDT
E. Cohen says:
great commentary...it's all so crashingly obvious, yet it needs to be said...'weirdly arrogant' indeed, but I would go further and say that it's the sign of a bad artist who won't preserve his own best creation to the best of his ability...star wars affected me in 1977 the same as it did you, but if george lucas can't be bothered to keep it restored properly (without the tinkering that you catalog nicely), then it will wind up staying right there in 1977 with all the rest of the great american culture of the period that's time-specific, like punk rock and old school hip-hop...
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 3, 2009 5:49:51 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 3, 2009 5:51:22 PM PDT
These are all great reviews. I too had serious problems with his tinkering with the film. Nothing aggravated me more than seeing Greedo shoot first. It was ridiculous. They say the reason Lucas did that was to mollify Solo's character and make the film more palatable to soccer moms and their children. The 1990s were a time of criticism when it came to movie and TV violence. Lucas clearly had his finger in the wind and wanted to be politically correct.
Yes, much of the new editions were made to be cartoonish and thus the new scenes only distracted the viewer. But the scene I would love to see before I die is that scene with Biggs. I've had to make do with the Radio Play and book versions, but I've never seen the edited one from the 1977 movie. Do any of you guys have any ideas on where I could see the scene?
A. Nathaniel Wallace, Jr.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2009 10:36:47 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 25, 2009 10:50:47 PM PDT
Anathaniel: Here is are 2 links. The first is the best one I've seen, yet:
You have to travel in time and space to Germany!
IN CHRIST JESUS!!! THE LORD GOD INCARNATE & TRIUMPHANT!!!
Posted on Sep 3, 2009 2:48:09 PM PDT
M. Torres says:
Excellent review, just excellent. This whole situation with the tinkering of the originals ultimately led me to believe that poor George must have some kind of perfectionism on a scale I can't even imagine. Who on earth was leading him to believe that his movies were incomplete because we didn't get to see a CGI dinosaur on Mos Eisley or we were troubled by the fact that Han shot Greedo first?
I completely agree and want the same thing as you. I want a completely restored but not tinkered with version of the original trilogy. Nothing would make me happier.
Posted on Dec 10, 2009 4:16:08 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 10, 2009 4:17:56 PM PST
Bob B. says:
You are incorrect. I saw the movie when it first came out. I stood in line for hours, and had a GREAT TIME! I only saw it twice in the theaters. but both times it was subtitled,"Episode IV","A New Hope". Everyone was scratching their heads at the time wondering what that meant. We all found out later. I don't know why your recollection is different.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2009 5:55:20 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 19, 2009 6:00:10 AM PST
Cary S. Whitt says:
Actually he is correct. Upon release is was simply titled "Star Wars" Not the longer Episode 4 - A New Hope. While this is in the opening rolling paragraphs, it wasn't part of the title. Look at the original screenplay or movie posters. Episode 4 - A New Hope isn't on them. While Lucas had a bigger story in mind, no one ever knew we get 3, let alone 6 films out of that first movie. It was afterwards when Lucas officially change the titles to the now universal title system: Stars Wars, Episode:4, A New Hope