I have really struggled to write this post, but recently I came across a DVD of the theatrical cut of ‘A New Hope’ which I have decided will form the basis of this look at the film and how the various changes made to the film have developed and become a part of my fandom.
I was able to watch the film with my daughter (ok, the film was on and she was playing and every now and again would watch it), which is quite fun as she is becoming more and more familiar with the characters through her playing with some of my stuff (mostly POP! Vinyl figures) so when she saw someone she knew (Leia, Chewie, Luke and accidentally calling R2-D2 BB-8) and every now and again said “Wow!” at something on screen.
Anyway, the film. I have never seen the original, 1977 cut of the film. The earliest version I have seen was the 1993 Digitally Remastered version, then all of the subsequent re-releases, so the first massive difference was the lack of ‘Episode IV A New Hope’ during the crawl. Other than that, the film is exactly as I remember it from the early 90’s.
I honestly love this film, but that love has developed over time. When I was younger I wasn’t a fan of a lot of the Tatooine sequence, I felt like the film dragged between the Droids escaping the Tantive IV and Luke and co. arriving at Mos Eisley where for me at the time, was where the film started properly.
In my teens I struggled with it because Luke was insanely whiny and the Prequels looked much flashier so I gravitated towards them and then, as it was the most altered over time I lost interest, CGI Jabba no longer held the same place in my heart as he did in 1997.
It wasn’t until after ‘Revenge of the Sith’ came out that I began to appreciate the storytelling in those Tatooine scenes where Luke and Owen talk over Blue Milk and then with Obi-Wan about his Father and the Force. There was enough context for so much more that I no longer felt the need to skip ahead.
Comparing the original theatrical version’s Mos Eisley sequence and then the altered versions, I completely understand and am behind George Lucas’ vision of Mos Eisley being a busy, bustling spaceport where the worst scum in the galaxy came to get work. The Original Theatrical release does do this to a degree but you still need to fill in a lot of class is with your imagination. The shots of the Landspeeder driving through the streets in the later editions really expands the locale and the myriad of alien customers in the Cantina open the scene out more and removals some of the bad prosthetics.
Han shoots first. This was the worst change to the films over the years (even worse than creepy blinking Ewoks) when they really should have left well enough a lone. Lucas wanted to make it so that Han Solo was a more sympathetic character but his killing Greedo then later on saving Luke from Vader in the Death Star Trench really shows some amazing character development.
The Jabba scene is interesting, it was a show of technical brilliance in 1997 but it has not aged well, and after being changed for the 2004 DVD release it has actually gotten worse visually. Content-wise it feels like a re-tread of the Greedo scene and could easily be removed. My other issue with this scene is that it removes the sense of mystery around Jabba. When I was wounded I had to hear about Jabba from various characters and then when we see in in ‘Return of the Jedi’ it’s shock.
The scene on the Death Star where Han is chasing the Stormtroopers works so much better in the altered versions where he runs into a hanger bay full of Stormtroopers rather than a dead end with six or seven of them.
And finally, I have grouped some shots together, the new shots of the ships, like the Millennium Falcon leaving Mos Eisley and the updates to the Death Star attack give the scenes a more dynamic look. Don’t get me wrong, the models look great and hold up much better, but the updated versions give the shots a better flow, the ships can move a lot more fluidly. Granted, this was new technology in the 1970’s and had vastly improved by the time they made ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and even more by ‘Return of the Jedi’.
I feel that Lucas wanted to go back to alter this one more because of the budget and time issues he was coming up against at every turn he sacrificed a lot of his vision, especially when it came to the effects-heavy sequences and the technology just wasn’t up to the standard of his imagination.
Lucas certainly made a brilliant, enchanting and inspiring film, despite the well known hardships he had whilst making it, and not only did it spawn the whole beloved franchise that we know and love, he also paved the way, either through inspiration or the technology he and his company developed that allowed other filmmakers to realise their visions.
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