In 1983, George Lucas’ tripartite masterpiece was complete. The Star Wars trilogy had finished and secured a highly regarded place in the history of cinema. But Lucas had big plans for his greatest work. In the years following the release of the films, they were, I’d argue, mutilated. I know I’m not alone in this feeling.
A load of ill-fitting CGI was tacked on (though changing the Sarlacc was probably for the best — anything to make it look less like genitalia in the desert), sound effects were changed, dialogue was dubbed over, and most appallingly of all, Greedo shot first. I may be a purist, but to me, this is the equivalent of taking a painting that you’ve spent years working on and that is beloved by all, and deciding to improve it by spray-painting an enormous cock and balls on it.
Here is what I consider to be the 10 worst things Lucas did to the Star Wars trilogy:
10. Luke’s Scream in The Empire Strikes Back
Though it’s not a bad idea to have Luke screaming (it shows vulnerability, and sort of reflects the fact that his training is incomplete, and that he doesn’t have the grace and confidence of a true Jedi), what is a bad idea is tacking on the Emperor’s death scream from Return of the Jedi. It’s a lazy edit, and it just doesn’t work, as it isn’t removed from Return of the Jedi.
I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that Luke Skywalker, a man in his early twenties, and the Emperor, an 84-year-old Sith Lord whose body has been ravaged by the Dark Side, wouldn’t sound the same. Even when screaming. It may only be a minor irritant, but it’s still annoying.
9. Altering the Entrance to Mos Eisley
Okay, say I’m nitpicking, but this really mars the sequence in my eyes. The CGI stuff in the background doesn’t blend in with the rest of the film and just draws attention away from the action in the foreground. It’s like an irritating five-year-old onscreen screaming, “Look at me look at me.”
And the dinosaur creature walking across the screen is a real pain in the arse, as it obscures the entire frame. It’s just a wall of reptilian flesh that covers the entire picture. Why? It doesn’t add anything, and it doesn’t really work. Sigh.
8. Putting Extra Stormtroopers on the Death Star
My gripe with this scene is that it just goes too far. The set-up is basically that Han is chasing a squad of Stormtroopers down a corridor. In the original release, he finds himself at a dead end with several more Stormtroopers. In the remastered version, it’s a hanger with close to a hundred Stormtroopers inside. The consequence of this scene is that Han runs back down the corridor while sporadically firing at the Stormtroopers.
The original scene with just a couple of Stormtroopers worked fine. A couple of fascist soldiers is enough to scare the crap out of someone. Close to a hundred of them is just too much. Also, it’s hard to believe that Han would even bother turning round to shoot at them when there were so many.
This is a case of less is more.
7. Altering John Williams’ Score in the Battle of Yavin Sequence
It may not be that noticeable, but in any case, this is nothing short of sacrilege. You do not alter a John Williams score from a film, no matter how tiny the bit you remove is. This is especially shocking as, at some points, the music is purposely drowned out by engine sounds.
6. Reinstating the Jabba the Hutt Scene in A New Hope
This scene was supposed to be included in the original cut of the film. The scene was shot with Irish actor Declan Mulholland playing Jabba. A stop motion alien was to be put over Mulholland in the edit. But Lucas deemed the effect unsatisfactory, and cut the scene. Then came the 1997 re-release and the scene was reinstated with a CGI Jabba, and (facepalm) Boba Fett in the background for no apparent reason.
It’s not a bad scene in itself but cutting it was good for the film. Not least because it slows the pace and throws too much focus on Han’s problems, rather than moving the plot forward. Han’s financial situation is perfectly established in the scene with Greedo, and the Jabba scene is just overkill, to be honest. Oh, and if you look closely, you’ll see Greedo in the background despite the fact that Han shot him in an earlier scene.
5. Editing the Jabba’s Palace Sequence
Who knows what Lucas was thinking when he decided to replace the musical number in Jabba’s palace. The new song’s actually not that bad. It’s not on the same level as “Lapti Nek” (the original song), but it’s alright. Though some of the lyrics are pretty grating.
What is annoying is the horrendous singing gonk monster and the CGI version of Sy Snootles. The backing dancers are fine. Mainly because they’re real and blend into the scene practically seamlessly.
The CG Sy Snootles, and that furry singing monster, just don’t. It detracts from the grit of the scene that’s created, in part by the aliens in the background, that in this case are actually portrayed by actors or puppeteers.
Despite this, I must say it’s impressive that Femi Taylor (the Twi’lek dancer) was able to do new close-up shots thirteen years after Return of the Jedi was filmed, without there being an obvious difference.
Also, the extra Rancor pit scene is another case of less is more. It’s brilliantly creepy and foreboding with just the pit closing and the sound of a scream. The extra scenes in the pit are just unnecessary, and as a result, we don’t share in Luke’s fear when he first enters the pit, as we have already been there and don’t see it as a completely alien environment in the way that he does.
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The Ewoks weren’t too bad. They’re annoying but they’re sweet and cuddly, and actually show some competence in helping to defeat the Empire. The Gungans are merely comedic idiots and cannon fodder, and shoving them in Return of the Jedi is just beyond the pale. Nothing takes the shine off the second Death Star being blown up more than a Gungan yelling out “We’s-a free.”
And don’t say I’m overreacting and that they’re in there for less than five seconds, because that’s not the point. The point is they’re in there at all. Even if there was one milling about in Jabba’s throne room, it would lower the tone.
3. Greedo Shoots First
The most infamous alteration to any of the Star Wars films. The reason that Star Wars devotees are so outraged at this scene is because it not only alters a classic scene, but it ruins the scene’s establishing of Han’s character. Here we see what a skilled gunslinger and crafty bastard Han can be. He takes advantage of Greedo’s monologuing by shooting him, while Greedo bangs on about how he’s going to kill him.
Having Greedo shoot first undermines all of that. Lucas says that he altered the scene to make Han seem less unscrupulous and more like the hero he would eventually become. The point of character development is that the character changes, though. Han is supposed to be amoral to begin with and becomes more heroic as time goes by.
To make matters worse, before he sold Lucasfilm to Disney, Lucas made one last change to this scene. Not only did he edit a new version of the scene that has both characters shooting at the same time, but also has Greedo shouting “Maclunkey” before he is killed by Han. What?
Why not just edit all of Luke’s scenes so he is a master swordsman and an expert Force user to make him seem less neophyte and more reminiscent of his character in Return of the Jedi?
2. Redoing the Emperor Scene in The Empire Strikes Back
Though replacing the image of the old woman with chimpanzee eyes and the voice of Clive Revill with Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine is a sizeable annoyance, the most horrendous thing about this change is altering Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan’s dialogue. I wonder what possessed Uncle George to bastardize the script of what is widely regarded as the saga’s best film.
There was nothing wrong with the scene as originally written, and this just seems to have been changed for the sake of change. It’s an even bigger disgrace, as this was Leigh Brackett’s final work before she died.
Even when she was suffering from cancer and nearing the end of her life, she still managed to pull it together and co-write an amazing script. 20 years later? Lucas went tinkering, and not to the benefit of the end result.
1. Replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen
So here’s number one on the list. Replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen as the ghost of Anakin Skywalker. Why not just smear shit over the screen and be done with it? Replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen ruins the image of a trio of venerable old Jedi masters.
Rather than the Anakin Skywalker we saw before his death, restored to how he would look if he were healthy, we’re given another image of Hayden Christensen, grinning smugly. Lucas didn’t even bother to get new footage of Christensen. He just took the head from an early costume test video and superimposed it over Sebastian Shaw.
It also dilutes the concept of Anakin’s redemption, as the edited scene implies that only his younger self was considered to be a true Jedi. Plus, I was always under the impression that only Luke could see the ghosts, and that their appearance was based on how he had seen Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Yoda. Clearly, I was wrong.
This article first appeared on Den of Geek UK in 2011.