Turn and face the changes

So, I’ve been watching the Star Wars trilogy on DVD and I have a few comments to make. As a person who saw Star Wars as a boy, I feel a certain affinity for the way I first experienced the film. In fact, like many others of my generation, Star Wars was the film that inspired us to get into filmmaking.

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After watching it I was struck with some things. First, it looks pretty good for a film shot in 1976. I know that George and company took a lot of time and effort to clean it up. They did a great job. The annoying audio problems that have plagued the film are also far less noticeable this time around. So kudos to Skywalker Sound for that. The film can now be presented in all of its THX enhanced glory.

As someone who has seen the film over a hundred times (I know, I know) I can say for certain exactly where the changes have been made and the film altered to more closely meet George’s “vision”. For the most part, the changes are subtle and provide a broader experience for the film. Wider shots of the Mos Eisley spaceport, for example, give the film a bigger scope than it previously had.

Plus, George is now able to have the Banthas actually move instead of seeing stromtroopers sitting on cardboard cutouts covered with fur in the distance. So that’s pretty cool as well. And many of the other “enhancements” don’t really hurt the film very much and some actually help it so I will leave them alone.

The one that bothers me is the one that bothers many other fans of the film. Yes, I’m talking about the scene where Greedo shoots at Han Solo first. All I can say is WTF is George thinking? This single act completely alters Han Solo’s character for the rest of the film and in the trilogy as a whole. It changes his entire arc. I don’t understand why that was necessary at all. Why do directors feel compelled the mess with their films and change things many years later? Yes Mr. Spielberg, I am talking about you. Walkie Talkies? Come on.

Although, if you look at how Han Solo evolves over the next two films maybe it isn’t hard to understand. By Return of the Jedi, Han has become a bumbling comic foil and really doesn’t have very much to do. Plus, Harrison Ford pretty much phones it in at that point. I’m sure part of the problem is that Han Solo was supposed to die in The Empire Strikes Back.

Harrison Ford had only signed on for two films so they planned to kill Han Solo which is why he is frozen at the end. This scene, of course, is one of Han and Princess Leia’s best as she finally tells him she loves him and he answers “I know”. Classic.

Did the change in Han Solo’s character ruin the DVD version of Star Wars for me? I guess not. Will I get over it? Sure. Besides, I can always watch the “Definitive” collection on Laserdisc anyway so what the hell.

But in the end, the movie is still fantastic. When the star destroyer flew over my head at the beginning I still got a chill. And for the next 90 minutes, I was that boy again. Changes or no changes, I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Next – The Empire Strikes Back (really, the best of the series, IMHO).

And in other news:

Microsoft announced Monday that it’s going to start charging if you want to use Outlook or Outlook Express to access your Hotmail account. If you’ve ever used Outlook to get your mail you’ll have until spring 2005 to get over it. The rest of you will have to start paying $19.95/year right now. The company says it’s to thwart spammers.

Russians are pirating so many copies of Windows that Microsoft has decided to offer a low cost version to Russians to keep them from piracy, or worse, Linux. Russia is the fifth country to be offered Windows XP Starter Edition, a stripped down version of the operating system. It costs about $36 but the Russkies have to buy it with a new PC – standalone versions are not available. The Business Software Alliance and IDC reported that 97% of all software in the former USSR was stolen.

Virgin is getting into the download music business – choose from any of one million songs for 99¢ – monthly subscriptions are $7.99. Virgin Digital is based on MusicNet but offers a completely rewritten jukebox program. Files are encoded in protected Windows media format.

According to USA Today, a little known branch of the Department of Defense is pointing spy satellites at the US. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is paying particular attention to big events and public gatherings.

May the force be with you.

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