Last week I learned of the existence of a thing called Star Wars Revisited, which turns out to be a “Fan edit” — basically, some guy armed with a Mac put together his own version of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Well, OK, that’s simplifying a bit — he did quite a labor of love here, actually. Here’s a list of the changes “Adywan” made, using the Special Editions as his base film for moving forward. I was naturally interested in what this was all about, so I tracked it down, downloaded it, and gave it a viewing. I wasn’t exhaustive in watching it; I skipped forward a lot and basically watched what I felt like watching in about forty minutes. So what did I think?
Well, I’m not sure.
There’s some very cool stuff done here, make no mistake. It always surprised me that even when they did the Special Editions, Luke’s lightsaber still looked awful in the “training with the remote” scene. That’s fixed now. Other stuff that stood out? Well, Adywan added the two suns of Tatooine to the shot of the escape pod flying toward the planet. I thought that was kind of neat:
Most of the changes are small — looking at the list, in fact, many of them are things even I, who almost knows the film shot by shot at this point, wouldn’t have even thought of as errors that needed fixing. But even some of those changes are kind of cool, such as the new motion given to the ships during the Millennium Falcon‘s escape from Tatooine.
And this, the first appearance of the Death Star in the film, is pretty cool:
There’s a lot of stuff like that: new effects created by an amateur filmmaker that at this point look, for the most part, right at home alongside all the ILM stuff. There are some really nice new effects shots during the post-Death Star escape dogfight, for instance. And I’m sure most Star Wars fans will most appreciate this version of the film for two simple reasons: the Jabba scene that George Lucas “finished” and put back into the film for the Special Editions is gone again, and Greedo’s finger never touches the trigger of his blaster.
What didn’t I like? Well, for one thing, he completely resequenced the scene in Ben Kenobi’s home, where Luke first learns of the Force. Presumably this was to make the conversation flow better in terms of its topics, but…maybe it’s just that I’ve heard the original scene so many times, but it was horribly jarring. I think the original scene works fine.
There were also some things done with music that bothered me. When I was active on various film music discussion fora, it was funny to note that every time a rumor or report would show up about George Lucas tinkering with the Original Trilogy again, someone would immediately speculate as to whether Lucas would re-do the score of the original film to include the famous Imperial March that would only debut in The Empire Strikes Back. Lucas hasn’t done this, yet…but Adywan does. When we first see the Death Star, there’s the Imperial March, big as life. That bugged me — not only am I used to the film not having the Imperial March in it, but it also removes a key leitmotif from the ANH score at the moment when it needs to be heard the most. Didn’t like that. I also didn’t care for tracking in “Battle of the Heroes”, the dueling music from Revenge of the Sith, into the fight between Obi Wan and Vader. That just didn’t work either for me. Neither did some replacement of music during the Death Star battle.
What did work musically was a restoration of sorts. As the Battle of Yavin starts up, Red Leader says something like “Cut across the axis and try to draw their fire” as the ships engage in battle. At that moment, the score surges into a blazing rendition of the Force Theme in the trumpets. It’s as musically thrilling a moment as there is anywhere in all of Star Wars — but it was dialed down, and the ship engine sounds dialed way up, for the DVD releases of the films back in 2004. Adywan has fixed that, which makes me happy.
And for one last tantalizing thing: he’s re-done the destruction of the Death Star itself. Now, I kind of liked the Special Edition “Praxis Wave” when the Death Star exploded, but it’s gone. What’s really nice here is that Adywan has the Death Star exploding just as it’s firing its superlaser at the Forth Moon:
That’s a nice touch, there.
Of course, the existence of such a film raises the obvious question: how “definitive” is it? Nothing happens in it that changes any kind of Star Wars canon one iota, so is it a matter of viewer taste? Are we entering an era in which there will be more and more versions of films out there? Are we to pick and choose our personal Star Wars?
"…Are we entering an era in which there will be more and more versions of films out there? "
Dear god, I hope not. Maybe this says more about my own psychology than anything, but I am deeply unsettled by the constant tinkering and revisionism that (some) films are subject to these days. What's wrong with just accepting that something is finished, that it is the best movie it could have been for the time in which it was made, and given all the applicable circumstances?
In nearly every case I can think of where multiple versions of a movie exist, the original theatrical release is my preferred version. Those scenes that got added back in for the extended cut? Usually removed for good reason the first time around. Those new CG'd special effects? Stand out like a sore thumb against the rest of a decades-old movie. And those are just the changes made by the actual filmmakers or studios.
As for "fan edits," I can't summon anything other than a big old "meh." I'm as frustrated with G. Lucas over his treatment of the original trilogy as anyone, but I'm no more interested in some joe-schmoe's revisions than I am in George's. What I want to see is the movie that captured our attention and our affections in the first place. It must not have all that bad, or it wouldn't be remembered and loved, right?