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Original Star Wars Prequels vs. Special Editions: Which Gets Your Vote?

Original Star Wars Prequels vs. Special Editions: Which Gets Your Vote?

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Jay’s Galactic Espressions

Summer: A time when school-aged kids and their teacher-moms can stay up late on would-be school nights to have Star Wars marathons. It was just a few weeks ago, and my youngest son and I were finishing up watching Return of the Jedi. On-screen, we were amidst the various celebration scenes, post-second-Death Star destruction. He said: “Wow, Mom! It must have been pretty exciting for you back then to get your first look at all the other planets!”

*needle screech*

It hit me at that moment that my two young Padawans had never seen any version of the movies that were NOT altered in some way…they are now 15 and 13 years old…

“Son, that’s not the original ending.”

“You mean, they added that later?”

*gulp*

Nooooooooooo! What have I done?

Now, I am in no way what you would call a “purist” of the original trilogy, but I felt it necessary to clue in my offspring that what he has been exposed to thus far are not the theatrical releases; not the way I had first been exposed to Star Wars.

I proceeded to begin rattling off everything I could think of at that point, including Shaw vs. Christensen Force ghost (oh, I’ll get to that later), and the fact that Anakin/Vader originally had eyebrows in the unmasking scene, but were “erased” to mimic the fact that a burn victim would have no hair.

“Cool!” He said. “Can I see that?”

vader eyebrows

Thankfully, due to the power of YouTube, I did not have to dig out the old VHS tapes.

“Ewww,” he stated, upon viewing the original eyebrows. “Those are gross! The new version makes much more sense!” I then started on a tangent, showing him a variety of other examples I could muster from the recesses of my mind, but eventually lost him after about 10 minutes of altered scenes. He’s 13, after all.

Hmmpf. I was okay with that. I had my next blog idea.

With the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens exactly four months from today (squee), there has been much discussion about the intermixing of CGI and “practical effects.” The filmmakers are using methods that they hope will please the scope of all types of fans, as well as provide the most lasting impact for decades to come.

I welcome this spectrum of effects. It means, if nothing else, that some very talented people — from many different creative genres — will have jobs. They will be part of something much bigger than themselves. They will be part of a new era of history: A new era of Star Wars.

Will the new movies be forever unretouched? Forever unaltered? It will be interesting to see.

I realize the alterations have been a hot-button topic for fans since the very first changes were made. Some changes are so subtle, that a fan (including myself) may not even be aware that something had changed. On the other hand, some “remodeling” of items have become a powerful nucleus of controversy, pitting fan against fan in arguing the merits of each.

Not only did I want to pursue the idea of revisiting the changes for old-time-sake, but to approach the alterations with the following questions:

“What was the purpose of the change, and did it enhance — or detract from — the storytelling aspect?”

“Does new digital tech make a better movie and allow a more clear story? Or were the Special Editions a test run for what was to come for Episode I, and the rest of the prequels?”

Ironically, about the same time, a series of videos on YouTube was getting a lot of attention. Marcelo Zuniga dissected all of the changes he found between the theatrical releases and the 2011 Blu-Ray editions. So, like any good student of Star Wars, I studied and took notes. I was fascinated to learn new things, gain a fresh insight to the prequels, and simply revisit some of my favorite scenes. The originals definitely have a sense of pioneer wonder, especially considering the technology available at the time. Star Wars has truly blazed some significant trails in many aspects of filmmaking and storytelling!

I had originally planned to list my favorite changes, the ones I never noticed before (like a blinking Dianoga and capitalization of the word Rebels), and the ones I thought were poodoo, but that would take way too long. I encourage you to watch the video series I’ve linked, and explore the changes for yourself.

There is, however, one controversial change I would like to address. One that gets some fans’ blood a-boiling, no matter which “team” they are on: Force ghost Christensen vs Force ghost Shaw at the end of Return of the Jedi.

Quite honestly, I am torn as to which I think is better. I look at it from a storytelling perspective. Set aside the reality of film editing and digital effects. Which version would the Force itself have chosen?

The last time Anakin was “good” was pre-Mustafar, so if he’s being represented as his light-side self, it makes more sense to forever embody the Force as the younger Anakin. I do realize that there are a couple of arguments that could be made here: Anakin/Vader was redeemed as his older self, and that should be his representation in the Force, and it is also the one with which Luke identifies as his father, having never seen Anakin in his pre-Sith days.

Upon pondering this dilemma, I can’t help but to think of obituaries in the newspaper. Sometimes, the family chooses a photo of their deceased loved one when he/she was much younger; even younger than most family members may remember. Why…?

For me, the bottom line is that I like both versions equally, and can see the merits of both. It just depends on what mood I’m in.

In summary, I fancy that many of the revisions made, especially in Return of the Jedi, were necessary for the continuity and flow of storytelling from the original trilogy to the prequels. The rest can be debated, and I wholeheartedly welcome the debate. This is where the fun begins!

Thinking back to my encounter with my son, I know now that it wasn’t that he didn’t focus his attention on all the changes because he didn’t care. I think, to him, it just didn’t matter He loves the movies either way.

…Therein lies the difference.

If you have any favorite — or not-so-favorite — changes to the prequels that you would like to discuss, I welcome you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or you can reach me at:

Jayk@coffeewithkenobi.com
@joycekrebs

And remember…

This IS the Podcast You’re Looking For!

References: en.wikipedia.org, reddit.com, YouTube

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8 Comments

  1. Pam Bruchwalski
    August 18, 2015 at 15:41 Reply

    Wow. Love this entry, Jay! This is the kind of stuff I LOVE to think about when it comes to Star Wars. What’s the backstory? Why did this happen? What does this MEAN? I am a huge fan of the prequels and of Hayden Christensen’s Anakin, as you know. I’m glad you brought up how people are represented in obituaries as an example, because I think of the end of ROTJ along similar lines. Who would these people be as they enter “heaven?” How would they want to be remembered? It’s much more than just vanity! In the case of Anakin, the visage of Shaw never had the opportunity to be whole, to be good, to be light. That body never existed in “light” form, so it makes sense that the Force would embody Anakin as he was, not as Darth Vader. Shaw’s body was always more Vader than Skywalker, so why would the Force embrace him that way?

    Few other changes mean much to me. As long as the depth of the story, the power of the story, doesn’t change, I’m down with whatever changes come along. The added footage of “planets” at the end of ROTJ is PERFECT, if you ask me, and makes sense. The added bits in TESB enhanced that film to the point of making me love it more. Tweaks to the OT seem right, too. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that bothers me (you know how I think!…is there anything that bothers me?!).

    I’m glad you and your “little man” had a chance to watch some SW. <3

    1. Jay Krebs
      August 22, 2015 at 22:46 Reply

      Thank you!! 🙂
      I could go on and on about how much I love Hayden’s portrayal of the younger Anakin, and what a GENIUS George Lucas was for casting him. Hayden (yeah, like we’re on a first–name basis lol) gets waaaaaay too much criticism, imo. Not sure if it’s just jealous fanboys, cynical prequel-haters, or a combination of both. I guess it boils down to opinion, and you’re never going to please everyone, no matter what. Like the lens flares in Star Trek. WAY too much negative focus. I actually didn’t even really notice them until people made such a big deal about them!

      Your observation of Anakin being “more light side” inherently, than his Vader self, is brilliant…!

      Hmmm….what bothers Pam…meditate on this, I will!!

      Thanks again for your input!

  2. Erica Steinweg
    August 18, 2015 at 17:07 Reply

    I wrote a whole entry about this back on the hyperspace blogs about a jillion years ago. I won’t be so lengthy here! 🙂

    I love Anakin in his young form. ROTS is what made me jump from being a fan of SW to being a huge fan of SW. I learned so much about myself watching Anakin’s fall. For me it was the emotional connection of seeing that prequel face at the end of ROTJ that meant so much.

    There is a quote by T.S. Elliot that says it all for me. “And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

    Love this discussion, particularly the wondering about if the movies that are coming might be altered in the future as well. That’s interesting!

    1. Jay Krebs
      August 22, 2015 at 22:49 Reply

      I absolutely loved our discussion awhile back about this topic. I’m glad it was able to bring it full-circle for you and your blog entry! Remind me – did you print all of yours before Hyperspace went black? If so, I’d adore it if you would share that one with me!

      Love that quote, too…that really sums it up!

  3. gianfootography
    August 18, 2015 at 17:47 Reply

    The only two changes that bugged me are Greedo shooting at all and Jabba showing up, repeating Greedo’s lines and ruining all mystery of his character. I would like a Special Edition of the Prequels where they replace Hayden Christensen with CG Anakin from The Clone Wars voiced by Matt Lanter. I believe that would make all prequel hate go away.

    1. Jay Krebs
      August 22, 2015 at 22:50 Reply

      I never even really realized there was a “prequel hate” until fairly recently, and quite honestly have never understood why. I just shake my head and wonder….!
      I do love Matt Lanter’s interpretation of Anakin, but for me, it’s exactly that – an interpretation. For the movies, that character would have been way too watered-down. Clone Wars was originally designed for children, albeit having an immense adult following as well. That being said, the Clone Wars Anakin/Matt Lanter would not have brought the depth to that character needed to truly portray all of the intricacies of his persona. I still stand by my opinion that George Lucas knew exactly what he was doing when he cast Hayden. The teenage angst, the anger, confusion and pain were spot-on.
      Thanks for stopping by!!

  4. Melinda
    August 22, 2015 at 17:26 Reply

    Where to begin, Jay? Where to begin? 😉

    Regarding the Hayden vs. Sebastian appearance as the Force ghost of Anakin at the end of “Return of the Jedi” is concerned, on the whole I have to say that it no longer really matters to me. It has been such a long time since Hayden Christiansen’s visage appeared in that scene that I now am used to it. However, that being said …

    When the revision first appeared, and for quite a while thereafter, I was dead-set opposed to seeing Hayden’s head on Sebastian’s body. It just didn’t sit too well with me. I was in the camp of those who felt that the current state of Anakin’s body should have been revealed (including what his face looked like) — and stay that way. Vader made the “change”, and it is the older Vader/Anakin that Luke sees when the mask is removed. Why on earth would the face of a much younger Anakin suddenly appear as the Force ghost? Luke would not recognize his father as such (the younger Anakin). That Jedi standing with Yoda and Obi-Wan could have been ANY Jedi! WE all know who he is, but how is LUKE supposed to know?

    Now? Now it’s so ingrained in my own memory banks that it doesn’t matter to me anymore. As I tell anyone who cares to listen: “It’s George Lucas’ story. Not mine. It isn’t my place to criticize how he wanted to tell/enhance it. If he wanted my opinion, he would have asked me.” (What I would give to have a sit-down with The Maker himself! 🙂 )

    I think one of my favorite enhancements of the Special Editions is the additional footage from Jabba’s Palace scenes in ROTJ. They help lighten the darker, sinister air about the place (and what’s about to happen to our heroes). My least favorite change — Greedo shooting first. I never thought it inconceivable that Han would shoot the bounty hunter first. Han knew exactly with whom he was dealing, and his getting off a round faster than Greedo showed two things — that Han was not someone with whom to trifle, and the need for his self preservation was paramount (keeping with his character later in the movie; that is, until his heart comes into play.).

    Wonderful blog, Jay! I enjoyed it immensely. 🙂 I suppose those late nights might be curtailed with school starting soon (if it hasn’t started already). What a great way to spend time with your boys! 🙂

    MTFBWY 🙂

  5. Jay Krebs
    August 22, 2015 at 23:03 Reply

    Thanks for your wonderful reply, Melinda!
    I completely agree with you – at first, the Hayden replacement of Sebastian was a bit unsettling, but like you, I took an “it is what it is” approach, and just embraced both!

    I also agree about the whole “who-shot-first” thing. Puh-leeze is all I’m going to say 😉

    I do like the new Jabba’s Palace rendering, but I sort of miss the raw, dirty feel of the Lapti Nek version of Oola’s dance. I always felt like Jedi Rocks was just trying to appeal to the kids, and sort of carnivalized (is that a word?) the feel of the scene. It was fun to see Boba playing the swag playboy, though, and getting to see the other girls in action.

    I also miss Yub Nub. It, to me, embraced the true feel of what the Ewok’s music would have been like. The music is beautiful, don’t get me wrong. Keep the scenes with the different planets, but also keep Yub Nub!

    So much more I could go into…!

    Kolby-Wan and I finally capped off our summer marathon by watching ROTS the Sunday before we started back on the 18th. I can’t even tell you the rush of emotions I had revisiting that movie… 🙂

    Great to hear from you!!

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