So a week ago I took some time to discuss what was really good and really bad and really pointless in Star Wars: Special Edition, released in 1997. When it was first released in 1977, Star Wars changed the movie industry forever. When its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980, it not only redefined what a sequel could be, but moved the Star Wars story beyond just a fun summer flick that’s fun to watch. Talk to any fan that knows what they’re talking about, and they’ll tell you that Empire is hands-down the best of the original three (and for sure the best of all six). So when we start talking about the Special Edition, one could get a little nervous . . .
Well, they weren’t perfect with it, but I was delightfully shocked during my re-watch over a week ago that they didn’t ruin that much, and most of what they did add actually did improve the movie. So let’s get started . . .
THE SHOT OF THE WAMPA EATING AND GETTING UP
Due to budget and technology constraints during the filming of the 1980 masterpiece, director Irvin Kershner opted for a more old-horror style scene in the wampa’s cave where you don’t see the monster that much and only hear him. I can’t properly cite anything, but I know I’ve heard both Lucas and Kershner mention their disappointment with how the original final scene turned out. Adding the shot of him eating and then standing when Luke got his lightsaber back, thus establishing him as a nearby threat, was welcome.
CLEANING UP THE EFFECTS FROM THE BATTLE OF HOTH
For many fans, the errors here and there in the special effects and set designs in the three movies are beloved imperfections . . . but I see nothing wrong with wanting to fix a couple of them here and there. They didn’t touch the “boxes” around the TIE fighters attacking the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars, which I found puzzling, but they did correct the fact that the interior of the cockpits of the snowspeeders were transparent in Empire. Good work.
THE MYNOCK FROM INSIDE THE MILLENNIUM FALCON
While inside of the space worm, which I’m sure has a name but I don’t know it off-hand (honest!), Leia learns that there are mynocks outside the ship. What are mynocks? They’re like a cross between bats and algae eaters, except in space. Or something. I dunno. Anyway, in the original version, after she mentions this to Han, they hear some sounds resonating through the ship, and Threepio declares that it’s the mynocks. And it turns out it was. The issue is that the sounds resonating sounded more like the metal in the ship settling, and would be more contributed to the space worm moving. The Special Edition makes it sound more like a smaller creature of some kind crawling around on the ship. This isn’t something I necessarily would have thought to change were I on the team deciding on the changes, so kudos to them!
IAN MCDIARMID AS THE EMPEROR
In and of itself, this was a good idea. Granted, this wasn’t in the 1997 Special Edition, but was added in for the DVD release in 2004. I say, if you’re going to change and “fix” things in the movie anyway, you should make the Emperor consistant. After all, the same actor that played the Emperor in Return of the Jedi played Palpatine/The Emperor in the prequel trilogy, so it stands to reason they should do a very easy re-shoot with him and change the scene in Empire.
ALL THAT WAS ADDED TO BESPIN
I think I remember some people knocking Empire’s Special Edition because it was “boring.” Well, if I’m remembering that right, I’m here to defend it because it added such subtle things, and Bespin is the shining example of this. And I do mean EVERYTHING they did to ALL that took place in Bespin, the Cloud City. The re-doing of the Millennium Falcon’s entry. The adding of more spires and towers and floating things. The busier skies. The train that passed beneath the landing pad when Lando meets Han and everyone. The open windows. The conversion of hallways into balconies. I could go on, but you get the point. There are two further things about these edits that I think are neat. The first is that they didn’t do everything they could have done. There are definitely many windows and fixtures in the movie that COULD have been opened up and had things added to them, but they didn’t. This is really what Mos Eisley could have been like had they not gone berserk. The second thing that I think is neat is I watched the Special Edition in the theater and saw that they did all of this and immediately thought, “Right! Because a city in the clouds should be more open!” And then it turns out that Lucas had the exact same reasoning, as demonstrated in this video:
LANDO’S ANNOUNCEMENT TO THE RESIDENTS OF BESPIN
When Lando announces to the population of Cloud City that they need to get out since the Empire’s there, it was originally just in some corner hallway that sounded like it went onto a loudspeaker in a lobby down the hall. The Special Edition added in a couple of shots, including a huge, open air courtyard, of people who live there. It not only helps with you understand that more people live in this city than the 20 or so folks wandering the halls, but further establishes that Lando really is in charge of the whole place. It adds to the significance of him joining the Rebellion, I think.
THE SECOND HATCH ON THE MILLENNIUM FALCON
This was another small touch that I’m glad they fixed. In the original version, Lando elevates through a hatch to get to Luke. Well when that hatch opens and you see bright, white sky outside. Except they’re below Cloud City at dusk. So in the Special Edition, they added in a secondary hatch. I guess they could have added in, I dunno, Cloud City at dusk, but this works, too.
THE WAMPA SANS ARM, AND THE BADLY RE-EDITED MUSIC
This is the first of a couple of additions that had good and bad sides to them. When the wampa stood up in the ice cave, I was okay with it. Then they had the original shot of the wampa running forward with his claws up. That’s cool, too. Then Luke slices his arm off and runs . . . and we get a ridiculously cheesy shot of a one-armed wampa screaming. It looks cheesy, it’s badly acted, his proximity isn’t right, and the arm you see fall to the ground is CLEARLY just elbow-forward, but the wampa is missing it all at the shoulder . . . ugh. Add on top of that they had to awkwardly re-edit the music to make all of it fit. I guess if a music re-edit was necessary even with the parts I liked, so be it, but they could have done a WAY better job than what they did. It sounds like it was an afterthought. “Oh, hey guys . . . um, the music doesn’t fit, now.” “Oh, no problem, just hold ‘back’ on the CD player.”
“YOU WERE LUCKY TO GET OUT OF THERE”
Are you not sure what I’m talking about? It’s after the whatever-it-was in the Degobah swamp tried to eat Artoo and spit him out. The original line from Luke was, “You’re lucky you don’t taste very good.” The new version has Luke saying, “You were lucky to get out of there.” Now, aside from taking away a pretty good line and sterilizing it like that, they couldn’t have had any actor come in and re-do that line. That line had to have been recorded in 1979 or 1980 during the original filming by no one else but Mark Hamill. So these guys dug up an inferior line and added to the movie, with absolutely no justification for it whatsoever.
IAN MCDIARMID AS THE EMPEROR
You see what I did there? While I like the idea of McDiarmid being added in so the Emporer is consistant, the whole scene stinks. They changed the dialogue, the holographic image looks too “clear” compared to other holographic images in the movies, and McDiarmid looks tired and fat. There was nothing inherently wrong with the original scene outside of having a different actor in the part, so really nothing else should have been changed.
CHANGING BOBA FETT’S VOICE
Okay, honestly, I just add this in because I don’t want anything in one of my favorite movies to remind me of one of my least-favorite movies. The actor who played Jango Fett, Boba’s dad, stepped in to do the voice of Boba Fett for Empire. The reasoning is that Boba isn’t a normally conceived son, but a clone of Jango that he raised as a son, so he would have an identical voice to Jango (the same way all the Clone Troopers, also Jango’s clones, looked and sounded like him). I hate Attack of the Clones. I thought the whole Jango/Boba story was stupid and lazy. I want my Jeremy Bulloch back.
ARTOO’S WHINE AS HE LOOKS THROUGH YODA’S WINDOW
When Artoo raises himself up on his “toes” to look through Yoda’s window in the pouring rain, it originally looked like Artoo’s curiosity. In the Special Edition, they added in his sad whine as he did so, which makes him seem like a sad and lonely puppy. It’s a small alteration that changes the motivation of the character, and it’s pointless. I disapprove . . . but ultimately doesn’t matter.
YODA SHOUTING “RUN!” AS LUKE TRAINS
Now HERE’s a useless addition. When we first see Luke with Yoda on his back, Yoda now shouts “Run!” I really can’t elaborate on that more . . . it’s completely useless. We know he’s running; he seems to be doing fine at it.
EXTENDING VADER’S EXIT FROM BESPIN
In the original film, after Luke falls down the air shaft, handless, it shows Vader walking through the halls with stormtroopers behind him, and he says, “Bring my shuttle.” The next time we see him, he’s walking onto the bridge of his Super Star Destroyer. Are YOU smart enough to figure out what happened? I think it’s pretty implied. But the guys behind the Special Edition don’t want to give you that much credit. Now Vader says, “Tell my Super Star Destroyah . . . to preparrrre for my arrival . . .” And we’re treated to him getting on his shuttle and the shuttle approaching the Star Destroyer and . . . did they show him walking off the shuttle with lines of stormtroopers on either side? I don’t remember. I was dosing off pretty bad by that point.
Okay, so one more movie to go in this series. As of finishing this post, I haven’t re-watched Jedi yet, so I honestly don’t remember a whole lot of what was added or changed. No . . . wait . . . I remember a couple of things now. I have a bad feeling about this . . .