The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition - * * * *

The best of the three Star Wars films benefits from its Special Edition enhancements. This review will primarily cover the updates to the film, and assumes a general knowledge. If you haven’t seen the film yet, get away from the computer and get to a theater! The changes that have been made are less noticable than Star Wars: Special Edition, but they integrate better into the film. Unlike Star Wars:SE, The Empire Strikes Back contains no new content-filled scenes (there are a few new shots and transition scenes, however). The bulk of the changes are revamping the special effects, and adding background detail. As to enhancing the FX, Empire’s original effects haven’t dated as poorly as the original Star Wars’. The only sequence that needed punching up was the Hoth scenes (where due to technological limitations in 1980, some of the ships were semi-transparent). This has been mostly fixed, and although no new digital ships have been added, many of the laser blasts and explosions have been digitally enhanced, giving the whole battle a crisper, cleaner look and feel. In addition, the Wampa (the ice creature which attacks Luke at the beginning of the film) has been given more footage…the result of which integrates smoothly with the existing footage. Apart from one somewhat redundant shot of Boba Fett’s ship chasing the Millenium Falcon, the rest of the changes occur in the final act of the film, at Cloud City. The changes here, like the best enhancements to Mos Eisley in Star Wars:SE, are additional background details which enrich the environment, making it seem like a true city, rather than a group of sterile corridors. It is also in Cloud City in which the single detraction of the Special Edition exists. When updating the soundtrack, the sound engineers decided to add a scream to the scene where Luke falls away from his conflict with Darth Vader. The end result is puzzling… whereas before it seemed that his plunge was his voluntary rejection of the Dark Side, now it almost seems as if his fall is meant to seem accidental (did he try to grab the railing with his right hand?). This subtle revisionism, much like the reprehensible changes to the Greedo scene in Star Wars:SE, grates on the nerves of the true Star Wars fan. Rather than enhancing the film, they change the film, and in a bad way. However, that is a minor point, and the rest of the alterations to the film work wonderfully, and fit the film better than the additions in Star Wars:SE. The Empire Strikes Back has always been the best written and best shot of the three Star Wars films, and with the enhancements, it looks like it will have a good chance at holding the title.

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