Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition (1997)

Rating: ***
Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guiness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, Billy Dee Williams

The twentieth anniversary re-release of the "Star Wars" trilogy has been totally cleaned up and restored, and features some new scenes and "enhanced effects." It's a mixed bag, but the cleaned up prints look great. With the first viewing, I found the new material to be an interesting curiosity, but on the second viewing I was annoyed by the stuff Lucas had changed. By the third time I watched them, I was infuriated and now I refuse to watch them ever again. I won't even consider watching the "Extra Special Edition" DVDs, and just the mere thought of them makes my blood boil. George really should have just left everything alone, but I doubt that his megalomaniacal ego will ever allow him to release these timeless classics in their original form. Overall, it's better to stick with "Star Wars Trilogy: The Definitive Collection," travelling mattes and all.

In "A New Hope," Greedo shoots Han Solo first, totally ruining the impact of the scene and making Han end up looking like the good guy instead of the bastard that he is. This makes me more mad every time I see it. The Jabba the Hutt scene was restored for the special edition, and a computer generated Jabba was composited into the scene. Although it's neat to watch, it seems redundant and unnecessary, and Jabba's voice is all wrong. Finally, some footage of Biggs was restored at the end of the movie, but the establishing footage on Tatooine is still missing, making the restored scene seem clunky and out of place.

In "The Empire Strikes Back," the enhanced effects are much more subtle and for the most part are very good. However, the new version of the Wampa sequence is very disappointing and spoils the dramatic tension that was present in the original. There are also numerous scenes in the revised Cloud City that just look all wrong.

"Return Of The Jedi" boasts a few entirely new scenes, but the annoying Ewoks were left untouched and the Emperor's "black slug" matte on his hood wasn't fixed. Instead, what we get is a totally redone musical number in Jabba's palace that's even WORSE than the original atrocity, with cheesy CG critters and an image-shattering scene of Boba Fett hitting on one of Jabba's dancers. Aaargh! The Ewok celebration on Endor gets a facelift as we see people on Tatooine, Cloud City, and Coruscant celebrating the destruction of the Death Star with a much more appropriate musical accompaniment.