Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

Star Wars [Special Edition] (1997)


Films are now able to be electronically perfected two decades after their original production, and we have taken the first steps toward the point when movies can be digitally manufactured from the beginning. A huge step in filmmaking, and a saddening loss of tradition and accountability.

The film’s attraction lies obviously in its old and new special effects. This is one of the best films in transporting the viewer to an alternate reality because of those effects and incredibly detailed visual design. The new effects are nice (and the onld ones look great after striking another copy of the original negative), but they did not make the film as a whole significantly better. All the additional footage is very crisp and neat-looking, and it does a good job “oiling the joints” between scenes where there had previously been uncomfortable jumps, but most of the new shots (and the amazing bass that goes with them) just don’t mix with the old movie very smoothly. I think they did an amazing a job (as good as they could possibly do) modernizing an older movie, but it just felt disjointed somehow. One of the most creative and interesting special effects decisions was to orient the blast wave from the Death Star explosion almost vertically while every other movie orients the same effect horizontally (Stargate comes to mind). Although the film’s effects were vastly improved, the film’s computer effects are still far from perfect. Another modernized release in 2017, maybe?

Another big complaint that I have about this film is that almost all of the photography (in space and on the ground) is TOO perfect. The camera always seems to catch that magic sunset, that perfect mountain formation, that special planetary alignment, orthose beautiful planet colors. I just don’t think it works. It almost seems like the visual perfection is so commonplace that it is not art. The cinematography spoils us, when it is really only the climax of the film (or specially selected dramatic moments) which should contain such pristine photography. Some more “normal” shots of more common, imperfect settings might have actually worked to enhance the beauty and magic of special shots at key moments within the film.

The film is great for kids (and thus more marketable) because everything is very basic, very visual, and spelled out for the viewer. But personally, I think it would have been a better film if it had not been “subdued” for children and instead veered away into more realistic relationships between characters. I mean, wouldn’t it be cool if Han Solo yelled out “Fuck!” when his hyperspace switch failed or yelled “Oh shit!” when he runs into the room of Stormtroopers? It’s definitely in his character. No real wit to this film or any of the series.

Even with all the effects and action, the film still seems slow story-wise, as if this entire film would be the first thirty minutes of almost any other film. The fact that this film is the first in a trilogy explains part of it (and makes it more marketable), but I just don’t think the story is strong enough for a stand-alone feature film.

As if Lucas wasn’t rich enough to begin with. This film will no doubt break Independence Day’s box-office record, having sold out its entire opening weekend a week before it opened. And I saw it coming months ago. If the original Star Wars audience loved the film, and Star Wars has since become a pop icon around the world, why WOULDN’T this new and improved release make at least as much money as the first one? To Lucas’ credit, however, he has finally gotten of his lazy ass and done something to warrant the kind of money he has made.

I went to the film at the most prestigious movie theater in Hollywood on opening night. And it was certainly an event. Lines and news crews around the block. Yelling, clapping, costumes, and flash photography (often of the screen) before, during, and after the film. Everyone loves this movie. I kinda wish one of those news crews had approached me. Can you imagine me saying everything here to one of those guys holding a microphone?

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