Star Wars: Special Edition

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George Lucas rereleases his cinematic triumph with revamped sound and special effects. There are very few people who need a summary of the film; if you're one of those who hasn't seen Star Wars, what the heck are you doing reading this review? Get out of your chair and get to the local cinema, post-haste! This review will address the issues relating to the rest of you...why go to the theater to see a film that is readily available on videocassette and has been USA network cable fodder? Well, the folks at Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox have spruced up this copy with a remastered digital soundtrack, several cut scenes, and the addition of new special effects. How do they work? The sound mix is definately a plus, with the rumbling bass and directional sound effects currently unavailable in any home theater. There are two primary cut scenes that have been restored. The first is the much-hyped meeting between Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt. Unfortunately, although interesting to watch from a technical standpoint, it doesn't really add anything to the film (the dialogue is nearly a word-for-word rehash of Han's earlier Greedo conversation). The other problem with the scene is that, more than any of the other special effects in the revamped film, Jabba is all too obviously a computer graphic. His face is too liquid, as if every muscle were spasming and contorting at the same time, giving him a fluidity of expression that looks fake by today's standards, and will be begging for another special edition just to clean it up. The second restored scene doesn't involve as much hoopla, but adds a bit more to the plot. A small scene between Luke and one of his old friends, Biggs, has been added just before the final battle. Though a relatively minor scene, it adds more emotional punch to the final battle. Finally, the special effects of the film have been enhanced, though I wished they put as much effort into this as apparently went into the Jabba scene. There is still plenty they could have cleaned up (including a truly horrendous flaw involving Ben's lightsaber which could have easily been fixed). But, it seems they were more interested in adding to the quantity of effects in the film rather than the quality. Some of the new effects work well, small changes that have been placed in the background of Mos Eisley, for example, or most of the new spacecraft shots. Some of the new effects, however, are unneccessary additions. Several of the opening scenes in Mos Eisley, involving droids, Jawas and Rontos, for example, seem to exist merely to cry out "look at us! We're new effects!". Instead of enhancing the film, they detract from it. On the whole, since the new effects do replace some particularly bad '77 era FX, the good sleightly outweighs the bad. So all of that said, what's my final verdict on the Special Edition? An enthusiastic recommendation. Even if nothing had been changed since its original release, Star Wars would be worth seeing again on the big screen, if only because that is where an epic like this deserves to be experienced. The twentieth anniversary enhancements may not add much, but when you've got a great movie to begin with, you can't go wrong.

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