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ISSUE 118 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/8/2004

Return of a new hope

By Derek Zobel
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 8, 2004

Be sure to make some room on your shelf for the Star Wars Trilogy. No, not the original VHS release, not the THX digital re-master, nor the special edition release. Move all of those aside and make room for the four-DVD set. The package also includes a bonus DVD with extras and documentaries focusing on the original trilogy, as well as the most recent episodes. Its available in both full screen and widescreen formats and supports most types of surround sound.

Part of what makes buying another copy of the trilogy worth it is the bonus DVD. Featuring documentaries about different aspects of the Star Wars universe, especially Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy, the bonus DVD offers hours of additional footage, outtakes and behind-the-scenes action on the creation, characters and technology of Star Wars that will entertain for hours.

The bonus materials are not the only new material added to the trilogy. Other changes, some more convincing and logical than others, were made to the three movies themselves. Of the three installments in the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi features the most notable change made by George Lucas, creator of Star Wars. At the end of the movie during the Ewok celebration, Luke glances over a railing and sees the spirits of the Jedi that have become one with the force: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and ... Hayden Christensen? Amazingly, the surly old man representing Anakin Skywalker was replaced with an image of the younger, talent-challenged actor. This change was made to add continuity to the six-movie sequence.

A lack of consistency with Episodes I and II necessitated another change at the end of Return of the Jedi. The destruction of the second Death Star and the death of the Emperor were cause for celebration on many planets. Newly included in this section is a celebration scene on the planet Naboo, the featured planet in Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

The original Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope, added a new scene featuring Jabba the Hutt. In the VHS version, the computer generated Jabba the Hutt has a texture similar to Shrek. The only problem with that is Shrek was made in an entirely computer generated world. Jabba must fit into a real world. For the DVD release, Lucas decided to make the encounter look much more plausible.

The next movie in the sequence, The Empire Strikes Back, has one big alteration. When Darth Vader is speaking to a holographic image of the Emperor, the old version depicted the Emperor as a generic cloaked figure with glowing eyes. Once again in the name of coherence the plain image of the Emperor has been replaced by that of Ian McDiarmid, the actor who plays Senator, and later Emperor, Palpatine.

In addition to those special changes, all of the lightsaber scenes have been redone to make the weapons of the Jedi look smoother and more defined. Also, the movies are crisper and have much better resolution. This is especially true when either component video or S-video is enabled, as both improve the pixilation and picture quality. All in all, this is the best quality the Star Wars movies have ever had.

In a time when acting in Star Wars movies has become devoid of any depth or talent, the convincing and talented performances of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Alec Guinness and Carrie Fisher stand out compared to the horrible performances in Episodes I and II.

Whether you've been a die-hard Star Wars fan your entire life or are unfamiliar with the universe George Lucas created, the release of the trilogy on DVD is something that anyone can appreciate. For long-time fans, it is a fresh new look at the films of our youth. People new to the series will have the luck of encountering the adventure and excitement for the first time in a much higher quality than ever before. The magic is still there to transport you not only back to your childhood, but to a galaxy far, far away.

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