by Stefan Abrutat
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Star Wars fan, just not a frothing, gibbering, Lucas-is-a-Genius type of fan. I don’t go to conventions or dress up as Darth Maul (although I have been known to make the occasional swipe at a passing friend with my motion-sensing iPhone lightsaber audio app, but let’s be honest, who hasn’t?). I’d rather have a root canal than engage in pointless, circuitous, endless debates about how, in later versions, Lucas screwed this bit up or should have left that bit unmolested.
I think George Lucas is a visionary, but not a skilled storyteller. If you look at the cringing narrative faux pas he’s been guilty of over this series of movies, the use of the word “canon” in relation to Star Wars material makes me want to grip the feckless offender’s homemade Jedi bathrobe, pull him in nice and close, and interrogate the skittish adolescent about his lifestyle and language choices.
I can tell you this abiding memory, though: I was eight years old in 1977 when Star Wars came out. My brother and I left the theater with eyes shining, chattering excitedly about the experience. We’d never seen anything like it. Neither had my accompanying mother, who commented, “What a load of rubbish.”
There was an initial dip of disappointment when I considered I had thoroughly enjoyed something my parent dismissed as piffle, but this was rapidly replaced by a surge of rebellion. She didn’t like it, because she didn’t get it. It was the first time I felt the thrill of independence, and considered an adult to be fallible. Star Wars gave me that, and I’ll be forever grateful. However, I somehow doubt driving wedges between parents and their offspring was ever Lucas’ intent…
Anyway, to the Blu-ray pack. Nine discs, one for each of the six movies plus three with additional documentaries, interviews, deleted/extended scenes, etc; all the usual bells and whistles. Two commentary tracks for each movie. No original trilogy theatrical versions and (thank all that is holy) no 1978 Holiday Special.
The Infamous Changes
Most of the controversial changes are inconsequential to the casual fan. The most abhorred change made in the 2004 re-release is retained, where Han Solo shoots the bounty hunter in the Cantina self-defensively instead of pre-emptively. Many purists were up in arms about the shallowing damage done to his arc throughout the trilogy. I tend to agree, though I steadfastly refuse to froth.
Puppet Yoda from The Phantom Menace has been wisely replaced by the CGI version from the following prequels.
Darth Vader has an added “NOOOOO!!” when he tosses the Emperor over the balcony, which is just as uncomfortably cringe-inducing as the “NOOOOO!!” squeaked by Hayden Christensen when Anakin Skywalker completes his conversion to a Sith Lord in Revenge of the Sith. Utter, utter Jar Jar Binks-level mistake.
I’m sure there’s many others, but those are the only ones that really stood out for me.
The Sound! Oh, the Sound!
The movies, as one might expect, look magnificent in all their high definition glory, but what really blows me away is the sound. This is DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 channel surround lossloss (or so I’ve been told). I don’t really know what any of that means but it inspires one word: epic. Watching movies with sound design on this level make you realize just how integral it is in the immersion process.
When that first Star Destroyer passed slowly overhead you can feel it in your marrow. Space battles and fight scenes are a cacophony of ear candy as ships and laser blasts swoosh through the soundscape, rattling fillings and making you jump. Explosions back you up the sofa. If you close your eyes you’re in it.
It’s breathtaking, and honestly whisked me back to that evening when I was eight. Any movie that can stir such emotional childhood memories deserves a coveted place in one’s heart.
$79.99 from most large retailers. Released on September 16th.