you will about George Lucas’ seemingly endless desire to fix what wasn’t
“correct” on the original “Star Wars Trilogy.” Yes, he’s changed a few
things. He made Greedo shoot first, and now has performed some digital body
replacement surgery on Darth Vader/Annakin Skywalker, but it’s still
exciting news to have these films now on DVD.
these films brought into the 21st Century in pristine digital picture and
sound should be a treat to fans that now can enjoy these films again. The
last time these films were available on a high quality home video format was
in 1997 on LaserDisc. Since that time, the
format has become the choice of not only home theatre enthusiasts, but of
the public at large.
“Star Wars Trilogy” is comprised of the three original films Lucas made from
1977-1983 (with the 1997 and 2004 revisions), plus a disc with bonus
material that includes trailers, featurettes and a very good 2 1/2 hour
documentary called “Empire Of Dreams: The Story Of The Star Wars Trilogy.”
Each one of the feature film discs contains audio commentary, the “THX
Optimizer,” and audio and subtitle options. All of the movie discs are
encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX at 448kbps. “Episode IV: A New
Hope” contains audio commentary by writer/producer/director George Lucas,
actress Carrie Fisher, sound designer Ben Burtt and visual effects
supervisor Dennis Muren. “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” contains
audio commentary by George Lucas, director Irvin Kershner, Carrie Fisher,
Ben Burtt and Dennis Muren. “Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi” contains audio
commentary by Lucas, Fisher, Burtt and Muren.
has been written about the impact the “Star Wars Trilogy” made on not only
the film business, but on culture itself. But since this is a peek at the
we’re going to focus on the discs themselves.
looks past the changes that Lucas commissioned, there is currently no better
way, outside of a first-rate theatrical presentation, to see the “Trilogy.”
For the most part, the
versions of these films are superb. The visual quality of the films was
stunning to begin with, but these new DVDs give the picture added detail not
previously available for the home market.
Most of the scenes look
very good. But there are some things you will notice, especially if you’ve
seen the films a number of times.
has been enhanced so much that die hard fans might think they’re seeing a
slightly different movie of “Star Wars,” for instance. Fans might notice
that the color of black, most notably Darth Vader’s uniform, is black. Dark,
perfect black. Also, characters and scenes elsewhere in the “Trilogy” seem
to have a different color hue than in previous incarnations. R2-D2’s tiny
blue plates on his robot head appear to be bluer than on previous versions.
Dark scenes, like those in the freezing chamber on Cloud City, appear darker
from the original film of “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Some other scenes, like the interior of the Jawa Sand Crawler, are darker
than ever before. These picture adjustments are a little bothersome, as
these kinds of scenes are almost too dark to see what’s happening on screen.
You may think that your television isn’t calibrated correctly. If you
haven’t fiddled around with the colors on your television too much, you’re
not seeing things.
possible that George Lucas wanted the DVDs to replicate how the original
negatives were exposed. And perhaps for the first time, we’re seeing what he
originally intended. But then again, with Mr. Lucas’ penchant for changes on
his “Star Wars” films, maybe there’s a little bit of revisionist history
that’s been applied to the discs.
Either way, fans should be delighted with the majority of the reference
quality picture. Detailed sharpness,
clarity and definition are in almost every frame. Digital clean-up was
performed by Lowry Digital.
the film’s Dolby Digital soundtracks progressively improve from “Star Wars”
through “Jedi.” Sound recording technology and playback improved as each
film was made. Therefore,
owners of this disc set might notice a difference in audio quality as they
go through each film. Going from “Star Wars” to “Empire” and “Empire” to
“Jedi” might require lowering the volume on one’s A/V receiver, or turning
it up! With that said, each disc has an excellent soundtrack regardless of
their age. Credit Ben Burtt’s now-classic sound design and George Lucas’
desire to have the best sound quality he could get at the time that these
films were made.
thing that can be said is that the soundtrack for “Episode IV: A New Hope”
is a vast improvement over the 1997 Special Edition theatrical release. In
that release, the sound was tinny and had an unusual amount of background
tape hiss. Yet this soundtrack is well presented on
perfectly suitable for home theatre. The sound is clean and detailed.
of information can be gleaned from the audio commentaries on the movie
discs. Even though many fans have been disappointed with the recent
prequels, Lucas does have an incredible gift of storytelling. By listening
to his vast knowledge on storytelling, viewers can get a glimpse of what he
was trying to do with all of the “Star Wars” films. Much of it makes perfect
sense to the “Star Wars” story line, even though the prequels didn’t quite
succeed in executing those ideas.
Burtt’s contributions to the audio commentary tracks are worth mentioning.
His stories of how he got many of the sound
effects are insightful and at times amusing. Some of Burtt’s anecdotes
include using a neighbor’s dog for a monstrous sound effect and his hiring
of an old lady affectionately named “Grandma Vodka” to provide the voice of
an Ewok. And Carrie Fisher is a hoot throughout the discs.
having the “Star Wars” movies on
wasn’t enough, Lucasfilm commissioned a 2 1/2 hour documentary on the
original trilogy. Directed by Edith Becker and Kevin Burns, and written by
Ed Singer, the documentary is a well-paced look back on the films. George
Lucas is highlighted throughout the film as a gifted, genius filmmaker who
created one of the most indelible film franchises in history. Even if you’re
not a “Star Wars” fan, the documentary filmmakers have crafted an
interesting, if not “juicy” story on the origin and execution of the series.
We’re treated to never-before-seen footage of the making of the films,
portions of long-sought-after deleted scenes, vintage footage of the
phenomenal cult following the original film had and some great audition
footage featuring Kurt Russell and Terri Nunn (of the rock group, Berlin).
The outtakes featuring actor Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and David Prowse
(Darth Vader) reciting dialog are hilarious. It’s also intriguing to see an
interview with Special Photographic Effects Supervisor, John Dykstra, who
allegedly feuded with Lucas during production. Also included on the Bonus
Material disc are trailers from each of the films, including the original
“Revenge of the Jedi” teaser, three well-done featurettes, a sneak peek at
“Episode III,” and a “Battlefront” game preview. The trailers are fun to see
with their over-the-top narration and retro graphics. Does anybody remember
Vader’s virtually transparent head floating through space in the previews
for “The Empire Strikes Back?” It’s here.
changes Lucas commissioned enough to deter buyers from this
set? Should buyers hold out in case Mr. Lucas changes his mind and gives
them the original “Trilogy” on DVD? No and no. But then again, this is about
as critic-proof a DVD could ever be! Jump on your speeder bike and rush down
to your nearest retailer and buy this set. If you can’t stand the Special
Edition treatment, fast forward through those parts. If they really bother
you just in principle, at least consider buying the set for the bonus
material. There you will find vintage “Star Wars” footage that should
satisfy the craving of that inner Jedi in you. “Empire of Dreams” alone is
worth the price of the set. This is a must-buy DVD set for anyone who stood
in line to see the Rebels versus the Empire a long time ago in a theatre
far, far away.
Century Fox Home Entertainment
Digital 5.1 (Surround EX)
Release Date: September 21, 2004
IV: A New Hope
Director: George Lucas
V: The Empire Strikes Back
Director: Irvin Kershner
VI: Return Of The Jedi
Director: Richard Marquand
Artwork © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All