Posts Tagged ‘yet another Star Wars post’

Childhood, Changes and Choices

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

There’s more changes to the Star Wars movies on Blu Ray and certain parts of the internet are blowing up with outrage. Most of these tweaks are pretty inconsequential (as ever), aside from one, namely at the end of Return Of The Jedi when Darth Vader finally turns and pitches The Emperor down one of the Star Wars Universe’s many bottomless shafts, he bellows “NOOOOO!!!”, seemingly a cut and paste of the audio from the heavily memed and much hated ending of Revenge of The Sith. If you’re going to do a callback to something in a movie series that’s mostly awesome, why go for something so risible? It’s exactly the same as Chewbacca in Sith reprising his Tarzan roar from Jedi. Yeah, like that was anyone’s favourite bit.

A tense scene on Cloud City

I'm not sure about some of these changes to the Star Wars movies on Blu Ray

It’s a pretty ridiculous change, and undercuts the epic nature of the scene, where the music tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Vader’s head. And I got a little depressed about it when I first heard about it. This just seemed so baffling a choice that it sent my tiny nerd brain into a tailspin. I’ve never really had a problem with the changes in these movies, and ultimately, none of them change the movies or make them worse, but none of them were necessary. Adding extra stuff in is just gilding the lily, or as I believe it’s called in modern parlance “Vajazzling”.

After reading a ton of tiresome “Lucas raped my childhood by changing the movies again even though I hated every version of them for the last decade” style invective, I came across this measured and thoughtful article on GeekPlanet, and it got me thinking about choice. We have become so accustomed to having every possible choice presented to us, when limited choices come up, we tend to lose our shit. People want the original versions of those movies, and it’s a pretty reasonable and understandable point of view.

Leaving aside what you consider to be the original version (even back in 1977 there were two different sound mixes of Star Wars in circulation), or which version you grew up with (for me it was a recording of the first showing on ITV in 1981 or 82, complete with ads for Bisto and Allied Carpets, not to mention a different voice for Aunt Beru and the presence of the line “Close the blast doors”), I think people forget that we live in a privileged age of unlimited on demand entertainment. Listen carefully younglings, because this crazy old man’s gonna teach you a few things about the past.

A long time ago, in the 1970s to be precise, there was one Star Wars movie and it was called Star Wars. Darth Vader was some asthmatic dude who killed Skywalker senior, The Emperor was just some politician who got lucky and people didn’t allow droids in drinking establishments. Luke still never really had a chance with Princess Leia though, even though we thought he did. There was no video version. The only way to own a part of that movie was to get reels of “selected scenes” on super 8 film. They were silent and in black and white, but if you were willing to fork out the price of a small house you could get them with sound and in colour. I dread to think what the quality was like, but the very idea of it was so far out of my reach, it seemed an impossible fantasy.

Years later (many years later) the films were available on video. I won The Empire Strikes Back on Betamax in some competition or other. It had trailers for The Cannonball Run and All The Right Moves (featuring a pre Scientology Tom Cruise), and in the actual film you could clearly see the plains of hoth through the snowspeeders. That tape withstood several hundred plays, and that suggests to me that audio visual nerds are right when they say Beta was the superior format. Incidentally, why did they name it “Betamax”? Isn’t that automatically dooming it to runner up status in the format wars? They should have called it “Alphamax” at least.

I remember reading about the Laserdisc collection in the early 90s. Not only did it have the movies in a digital format that would never degrade (like a CD!), it had – gasp! – bonus material like documentaries, photo galleries and audio interviews on something called “alternate layers”. The very idea blew my fucking mind! But again, this was something I could only dream of, surely only millionaires owned such a thing as a laserdisc player. With actual LASERS!

I am not sure how this fits into Return of the Jedi but it looks awesome!

Yet more changes to the Star Wars movies on Blu Ray

When it comes down to it, if I want to watch Jedi without that weird outburst from Vader, I can just watch the DVD. And if I want to watch Jedi without creepy old Hayden Christensen’s head pasted over avuncular old Sebastian Shaw’s (Star Wars FACT: Sebastian Shaw had a long term relationship with John Peel’s mother), I can watch my bootleg versions of the original trilogy (dubs of the laserdisc versions). If only I’d waited a couple of years I could’ve bought them legitimately as Lucasfilm went ahead and released pretty much the same thing in 2007, although I think mine were put together by someone whose love of those movies is a little more casual than mine, as the case of the first movie reads “The New Hope”. I have the choice to watch whichever version I choose.

Those bootlegs aren’t perfect of course – a source of fan rage is that they want HD remastered versions of the original versions of the movies, presumably unaware that once you remaster anything it can’t be considered to be “original” anything. They are however, perfectly watchable  – better than the video versions I had growing up (when the shield generator on Endor blew up in Jedi, the tracking always went mental), but the DVDs aren’t perfect, and guess what, the Blu Rays won’t be either. In a few years we’ll be watching everything in Super High Definition that will make HD look like dogshit  (or, more probably, it will be ever so slightly better if you look closely).

People will continue to bitch, loudly proclaim that they’re not buying it, and make fan edits. Fair play to them if they want to painstakingly piece together their preference as to what those movies should be (a bit like one G. Lucas seems to do every few years – everyone’s gotta have a hobby), but I have no interest in watching some ridiculous version of The Phantom Menace with both Jar Jar Binks and Jake Lloyd edited out. I bet that makes sense, and after all the original is ridiculous enough (HEYOOO!)

Being surprised about Lucas changing his movies after the fact is like being surprised about all the porn on the internet. He’s being doing it ever since the first movie, and will keep on until he becomes a force ghost. The biggest change he ever made was making Darth Vader Luke’s father. It’s pretty clear they were unrelated in the first movie and by including that plot twist in the second (and the full explanation in the third), it changed the meaning of the first movie and the whole shape of the saga. And yet I don’t recall anyone ever complaining about that.


It’s not easy being green

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

When Dark Horse started publishing Star Wars comics in the early 90s, it seemed to be editorial policy to bash the earlier Marvel run as an embarrassment. Their comics, they assured us, would be more in the spirit of the movies. That didn’t quite pan out, as anyone who ever read The Hunger of Princess Nampi would attest.

The attitude towards the Marvel run was one I never quite understood as I had really enjoyed them, and took them pretty seriously, when I was growing up. I recently reread the entire run and they’re as I remember: (mostly) good, (occasionally) bad and (in one or two cases), brilliant. In addition I’ve been listening to the commentary for the series on the excellent Two True Freaks podcast, so it’s fair to say I’m a little bit obsessed with them at the moment.

It seems that the only reason the Marvel comics were ever considered to be to be “goofy” and “camp” was the fact that a couple of the early issues featured a six foot tall green rabbit mercenary called Jaxxon.

OK maybe a gun toting, sarcastic bunny wouldn’t have worked in the movies, but comics are resolutely a different medium. Those early issues were a little crazy, but that was their charm. To an entire generation of Star Wars fans Jaxxon is not only the saga’s weirdest denizen, but also the symbol of a more innocent time. Hats off to you Jaxxon, and May The Holy Hutch Be With You.


West End Girls

Thursday, February 6th, 2014


Tatooine Manhunt was the first of West End Games’ Star Wars Role Playing modules, and I have many fond memories of it. It notably featured the first appearance of Jodo Kast, who was the ersatz Boba Fett figure, even to the point where he wore the exact same armour and carried the same equipment. The difference being that your characters could eventually kill him without stuffing up continuity. Kast’s accomplice was a sadistic human female bounty hunter called Zardra. I liked the idea of a character with absolutely no redeeming features, pretty much evil for the sake of it, but she was depicted with some fairly basic, unimaginative artwork (I’ll sum it up for you: “woman with long hair”).

My version isn’t that much more creative, I’ll grant you. I basically used the design of the mysterious Ria Paschelle from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, but, I figured that character deserved a bit of recognition as an electric blue proto cyberpunk.