George Lucas has a long and chequered history of tinkering with the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy since release.
“Films never get finished, they get abandoned” he once famously said, and he’s never managed to fully abandon his sci-fi trilogy yet. The first changes were made to ‘Star Wars’ just weeks after the film hit cinemas in 1977 when a new audio track was added featuring amended sound effects and alternate dialogue takes.
Since then, Lucas’ itchy fingers have wreaked havoc with the original films, for better and worse, as these recent comparison videos demonstrate.
Some of the changes are subtle and enhancing, while others are incongruous and jarring. Here’s the worst changes made to the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy since their release to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the infamous Special Edition re-releases in 1997.
As a counterpoint, here’s our list of the best changes made to ‘Star Wars’…
Greedo shot first
The most controversial and debated change made to ‘Star Wars’ came in the 1997 Special Edition release. In the cantina confrontation where Han coolly dispatches Greedo in cold blood (watch the original here), George Lucas made it look like the bounty hunter shot first in a misguided bid to make the Millennium Falcon pilot seem less ruthless.
The exchange now looks stilted and has caused countless nerd arguments ever since. Aware of this, Lucas has continued to tinker with the scene multiple times for the DVD release and the Blu-ray release, but it’s still completely pointless; Han Solo IS a scoundrel and that’s why we love him.
Jabba the Hutt
George Lucas originally planned to include Jabba The Hutt in the first ‘Star Wars’ film and shot a scene with Scottish actor Declan Mulholland playing a human incarnation of Jabba.
For the Special Edition, Lucas reinserted the scene replacing Mulholland with CGI, but the ‘new’ Jabba looked terrible and was never convincing, particularly when Han steps on his tail. The CGI was improved for the 2004 DVD release but it still sticks out like a sore thumb.
New Max Rebo song
The original Jabba’s palace scene featured a very brief musical interlude from the funky, blue-snouted Max Rebo band, called ‘Lapti Nek’ which saw Jabba lusting over green-skinned dancer Oola.
For the Special Edition, Lucas bafflingly decided to add a whole new musical number called ‘Jedi Rocks’ complete with new fully CGI band members, a dance routine, and teeth-gratingly irritating singing. This addition is totally pointless and badly executed.
In the 1997 Special Edition release of ‘Empire Strikes Back’ a scream was added to Luke’s fall when he decides he’d rather jump to his death than join his father Vader on the Dark Side. The implication being that his leap was not entirely intentional. It’s a controversial amendment as it suggests he fell rather than jumped. It’s since been changed back to no scream for the DVD and Blu-ray versions.
Young Anakin ghost
This addition to the original trilogy has proved to be the most contentious behind the whole “Greedo Shot First” controversy.
For the final scene of ‘Return of the Jedi’, Lucas in his infinite wisdom changed Anakin Skywalker’s Force ghost from Sebastian Shaw (who played the unmasked Vader) to Hayden Christensen – the actor who played Anakin in the prequels – for the 2004 DVD release.
You could argue that it makes sense for the redeemed Anakin to appear to Luke as a Force ghost, but you’d be wrong. It’s pointless. We’ll let Robot Chicken have the final word on this.
Revels on Naboo
Following the destruction of the second Death Star in ‘Return of the Jedi’, scenes of celebration from across the galaxy were added in the 1997 Special Edition.
Parties, fireworks, and revelers can be seen on Coruscant, Bespin, and Tatooine, but annoyingly, for the 2004 DVD release a scene showing celebrations on Naboo was also added, featuring someone who suspiciously sounds like Jar Jar Binks shouting “Weesa free!”
As well as the new scenes of jubilation across the galaxy, the ending of ‘Return of the Jedi’ has been significantly altered audibly too. The Ewok song known as ‘Yub Nub’ or ‘Ewok Celebration’ has been ditched entirely and replaced with an insipid new orchestral number from John Williams called ‘Victory Celebration’. The Ewoks may not have been great, but they had decent tunes.
Inexplicably, for the 2011 Blu-ray release, rocks were digitally added in front of R2-D2 in the scene where he’s hiding from the sandpeople. This just reeks of tinkering for tinkering sake; what does it add? Nothing.
Image credits: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm