published Friday, September 16th, 2011

Star Wars fans react with mixed feelings to changes in new Blu-ray release

Star Wars fans have reacted with mixed feelings to changes in the new Blu-ray release.
Star Wars fans have reacted with mixed feelings to changes in the new Blu-ray release.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A galaxy far, far away is about to look and sound better than ever.

Today marks the debut on Blu-ray disc of George Lucas' epic Star Wars sci-fi saga. The series will be made available in three editions, a complete, six-film version and three-film versions of the original and prequel trilogies.

Local Star Wars fanatics had mixed reactions to the films' release on the latest video format.

While they said they appreciate technical improvements such as remastered audio and video, fans pointed to leaked information about tweaks to scenes and characters as unnecessary changes that detract from the spirit of the original films.

"I've seen some of the changes they've made on the Blu-ray versions, and ... I find myself wondering if Lucas is now doing these changes just for the sake of change," said Jeff Hickey, historian of Chattooine, a local Star Wars costuming group.

Hickey says he was introduced to Star Wars at age 5. Throughout the history of the series and its numerous re-releases, Hickey said he has approved of some changes and been appalled by others.

"If technology allows you to add more ships to a scene, or clean up degraded film, or fix production errors, I'm fine with that," he said. "It's unnecessary for my enjoyment of the films, but if that makes him [Lucas] happy, they're his movies to change."

Star Wars has been released on virtually every major home video format, beginning in 1977 with Super 8 clips of the first film, "Star Wars" (later renamed "Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope").

Full versions of the films began releasing in home video formats with a laser disc edition in 1982. Numerous re-releases have followed, from VHS trilogy packages and wide-screen versions to special edition DVDs.

In 1997, Lucasfilm released a special anniversary edition of the original trilogy, including new special effects, such as computer-generated characters layered onto pre-existing scenes. Subsequent home releases retained these alterations, some of which are controversial among fans, such as an alteration to the shoot-out between pilot Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and a bounty hunter in the original film.

"[Han] was a smuggler, and he was quick, but not quick enough to dodge a blaster from five feet away," said Josh Lang, 26, who has been a Star Wars fan since age 5.

The additional effects and characters added to the special editions of the original trilogy released in the late 1990s create a "cluttering" effect that removes the elegant simplicity of the theatrical originals, Lang said.

"George Lucas took out a lot of the imagination and excitement," he said. "He seemed like he was putting stuff in just because he could.

"I don't know what was going on in his head. He had very, very good films back in the '70s and '80s. I think every little addition they add is killing it."

In addition to high-definition audio and video transfers, the Blu-ray re-release will feature more altered scenes. Leaks of clips from the Blu-ray edition feature additional voice-over lines and visual alterations, such as adding blinking eyes to the teddy bear-like Ewoks in "Star Wars: Episode VI -- Return of the Jedi."

Lang said he still loves the series, despite these and other changes, but will not be buying the Blu-ray editions of the film because he doesn't own a compatible player.

Jonathan Cantrell, 35, however, plans to pick up his copy today.

While the consistent tweaking is irritating, it's something fans of the series have grown used to, Cantrell said.

"With Lucas, you just kind of come to expect it," Cantrell said. "He's always going to tweak his baby."

Ralph Covino, 35, is a professor of history at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a long-time Star Wars fan. He is teaching his fifth iteration of "Star Wars and the Roman Empire," a first-year seminar drawing parallels between ancient history and the Star Wars saga.

Lucas has long been a proponent of taking advantage of new technologies to enact changes on his films, Covino said, adding that that trend isn't likely to stop, as long as new editions continue to sell.

"They [Lucasfilm] have been at the forefront of the merchandising revolution from the very beginning," he said. "They know they have the fan base, and we're going to buy them, no matter what.

"We know it; we just have to accept it from time to time. They know it as well, which doesn't help matters."



ABOUT THE COLLECTION

  • Format: Blu-ray discs.
  • Cost: $140 for The Complete Saga. Prequel and original trilogy collections (middle and right) are also available for $70 each.
  • Number of discs: 9 in The Complete Saga (3 discs for each trilogy).
  • Video: 1080p.
  • Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 surround sound.



ON THE DISC

Here are some of the documentaries that make up the more than 40 hours of bonus content on the complete Star Wars Blu-ray saga.

  • "Star Warriors" (84 minutes): A documentary tribute to the 501st Legion, a global Star Wars costuming group.
  • "A Conversation With the Masters: The Empire Strikes Back 30 Years Later" (25 minutes): Crew members involved in the production of the second film discuss and reminisce.
  • "Star Wars Spoofs" (91 minutes): A collection of pop-culture Star Wars spoofs and parodies, including clips from "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons" and a video by Weird Al Yankovich.



A LONG TIME AGO

1977: Theatrical release of "Star Wars" (later known as "Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope").

1977: First appearance on Super 8 format.

1980: Theatrical release of "Star Wars: Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back."

1982: First appearance on laser disc format.

1983: Theatrical release of "Star Wars: Episode VI -- Return of the Jedi."

1984: First appearance on VHS/Betamax format.

1989: First appearance in wide-screen.

1997: Theatrical release of special editions of the original trilogy.

1999: Theatrical release of "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace."

2001: First appearance on DVD.

2002: Theatrical release of "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones."

2005: Theatrical release of "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith."

2011: First appearance on Blu-ray.



RELEASE EVENT

According to the organization's Facebook page, members of local Star Wars costuming group Chattooine will be making an appearances in coordination with the launch of the Star Wars Blu-ray. Members will appear in costume from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Best Buy at 2290 Gunbarrel Road.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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dao1980 said...

Han shot first...

September 16, 2011 at 4:07 p.m.
GordonShumway said...

"A galaxy far, far away is about to look and sound better than ever."


Abomination! This statement deserves many qualifiers. While technically superior in quality to DVD, laserdisc, and VHS releases of the past, in terms of narrative, the original trilogy has never been worse. While the clarity of the sound is no doubt impressive, the new sounds like Vader wailing "Noooooooo" or the new Krayt dragon sound (which sounds like Little Richard yelling into a toy microphone) are not the best quality in production. The digital effects that they added look obviously out of place and much of the CGI looks like the dated 90s models they are. It has been reported that the Phantom Menace suffers from DNR smoothing (presumably to remove film grain so that it kinda sorta matches the later digitally captured prequels).


And while technically better than ever, they still suffer from a great number of technical flaws in coloring and sound. The artwork provided in the set is also fairly atrocious.


As for Mr. Hickey: "If technology allows you to add more ships to a scene, or clean up degraded film, or fix production errors, I'm fine with that," he said. "It's unnecessary for my enjoyment of the films, but if that makes him [Lucas] happy, they're his movies to change."


Yes, of course, Lucas is entitled to put Jar Jar Binks into the original movies if he wants. Lucas is entitled to burn his negatives, never release another version of Star Wars, and prosecute all those who would try to preserve it (necessarily via copyright infringement). To what degree we're "fine" with what Lucas is entitled to do is always a matter of opinion.


Ultimately, they're not only Lucas's movies. The theatrical release made a huge impact on American cinema and that original version earned Oscar nominees for many involved in its making. That original version was beloved for 20 years and earned Lucas lots of money. Now that original version has been deemed obsolete by Lucas. He claims that it is destroyed, in fact.


Almost all fans could respect what Lucas is doing IF he were to release the original theatrical versions in the same high quality. It would make him more money. It would make all fans happy. If newer fans don't want to bore themselves by watching the movies as they actually existed, they won't be made to watch them. This debate is about far more than not liking Lucas's current ideas. I've actually liked a few of them myself.


The issue is the offense at his claiming to have destroyed the original movies and refusing to take any action to preserve and present his historical creation to those clamoring to buy it. But sure, if y'all have a big hi-def TV and a bluray player, don't pay much attention to coloration, smearing, and the occasional switched audio channel, don't care about Lucas's attitude about film preservation, didn't like the original movies that much anyhow, etc....go buy em today.

September 17, 2011 at 7:02 p.m.
GordonShumway said...

Just to follow up: Comparison between sound that's existed for almost 35 years and what Lucas did on the bluray:

September 18, 2011 at 12:42 a.m.
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