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Despecialized and Remastered
December 30, 2013 9:11 AM   Subscribe

This featurette will give you a quick look at the various sources used to recreate the original 1977 version of Star Wars in the Star Wars: Despecialized Edition: Remastered.

Fan edits previously, viewing order previously.
posted by Sokka shot first (80 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
And if I might editorialize for a moment, the video is interesting not in service of reviving the long-since-tiresome complaints about blah blah George Lucas, but rather because of the astonishing ingenuity of the people involved in creating this restoration—first in sourcing various digital and film versions of the movie to use as sources of footage, and then in the technical expertise with which those sources are deployed.

The results are, if nothing else, gorgeous to behold.

I mean, come on—using elements from an old 16mm print to repair aliasing in one shot of an X-wing's wing? Wow.
posted by Sokka shot first at 9:14 AM on December 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


The Despecialized Edition is a frigging astounding work of film editing. Even as a big Star Wars nerd I'd probably rather watch this than the actual product of their work because the process is so cool.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:26 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't watched this yet. Did they restore the obvious traveling matte surrounding the fighters moving through space?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:27 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't watched this yet. Did they restore the obvious traveling matte surrounding the fighters moving through space?

Seriously, that was all Lucas had to do. Just that. Leave the rest alone. But noooo...

Oops. Sorry Sokka.
posted by Artw at 9:30 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


How long until Disney realizes how much money it could make by re-releasing the original three movies in their "Han shot first" editions? Lucas wouldn't because he considered the special editions canonical but what do the suits at Disney care? If they can make money off of it, they'll do it.
posted by octothorpe at 9:31 AM on December 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Much as I am sick and tired of all the iterations of Star Wars, which has just been done to death and isn't really all that great a work of cinema to begin with, this is a pretty fascinating project, for a number of reasons.

For one thing, I don't think ANYONE foresaw that the advent of the internet and various other digital technologies would ever have enabled end-users and fans to become de facto film restorationists and conservationists. That's pretty remarkable - this is a highly esoteric field, but it's now much more widely accessible than anyone ever figured.

It's just kind of incredible that "average users" even have terms like "color correction" and "contrast ratios" in their vocabularies, and that they're able to do something about it when they don't like how video distributors have handled them.

The fact that people can now use technology to take the Official Version of something and manipulate it to their liking -- well, that's pretty great. The "reclaiming" of Star Wars -- especially because it's got such an army of fans behind it -- is, to me, so much more compelling a use of combinatorial digital tech than any song mashup will ever be.

There's a possibly apocryphal story that the creator of this pretty funny Star Wars/"Cops" combo was eventually hired by George Lucas. Maybe that's next for this "Harmy" fellow. If so, godspeed.

Also, and I ask this in all seriousness, is the narrator of that video using some sort of assistive vocal device? That was a most unusual speaking voice.
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:31 AM on December 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


Also, Harmy, if you're out there, I still have the original, un-digitally-altered laserdiscs of the original trilogy. Lemme know if you need 'em.
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:33 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was surprised they didn't draw on the Laser Discs for any of the sourcing. Not that I know enough to think they should... I was just hoping they'd mention the relative strengths / weaknesses of that source for comparison.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:37 AM on December 30, 2013


IIRC the "GOUT" DVD release is the laserdisc transfer.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:41 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a possibly apocryphal story that the creator of this pretty funny Star Wars/"Cops" combo yt was eventually hired by George Lucas.

Kevin Rubio. Tag and Bink Are Dead is a great read. And yeah, Troops was hilarious.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:42 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


One thing that goes sort of unmentioned in any discussion on this subject is the notion that the original version is necessarily the BEST version. That is, this whole project is all about recreating the experience of seeing Star Wars in 35mm in 1977. I grant that 35mm is probably the best choice as a visual referent, and I certainly am with the masses here in my belief that Lucas's meddling with the film again and again was both needless and mercenary, but why is that 1977 experience regarded as so Edenic? First is not necessarily best. (But that's a whole big can of worms, I know.)
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:46 AM on December 30, 2013


That homemade film scanner at the 7-minute mark is amazing.
posted by Uncle Ira at 9:46 AM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Finished watching this video and am impressed. They'd done a heck of a lot of work here. I'm pretty sure that your average mumble-core indie feature involves fewer person-hours to produce in total than they seem to have spent on this.
posted by octothorpe at 9:47 AM on December 30, 2013


why is that 1977 experience regarded as so Edenic?

Nostalgia. I was four when I saw Star Wars at the Coronet in San Francisco. It was so mind-blowing that I remember that experience indelibly -- and I was four years old. May not have been the best iteration for some folks, but for me it simply was.
posted by Jubal Kessler at 9:51 AM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dr. Wu, it's a couple of reasons - or at least, the DE crew has a couple of reasons for doing the work, and the viewers' reasons for enjoying it may vary.

One, the technical quality is just better. The colors are truer, images are sharper, dark areas don't lose all detail like they do in the restored versions.

Two, the "special edition" changes are pretty jarring. Hi there, giant CGI dinosaurs in a 1977 practical-effects film. It's a more consistent experience without them.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:56 AM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


why is that 1977 experience regarded as so Edenic?

It wasn't perfect; even as a 13 year old in '77, I remember noticing the matte lines but it was amazing for it's time and it should have been left there. Nothing that subsequent versions changed added to the experience and quite a few of the changes seriously subtracted from it.
posted by octothorpe at 9:57 AM on December 30, 2013


Can somebody please do this for Northern Exposure now?
posted by Songdog at 9:57 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


why is that 1977 experience regarded as so Edenic

It's not that the 1977 experience is Edenic -- I don't think there are many people who insist on seeing Star Wars in its truly original form without the "Episode IV," for example.

Me, I'd prefer a version that left in some of the minor digital background additions that weren't too "kids' movie" or comic relief -- banthas/dewbacks in the background, additional x-wings in formation, etc.

But enough of the changes that Lucas made were so sucktastical that it's simpler to say "Let's just undo all of his fuckery," and to get lots of people to collaborate on the resulting project, than it would have been to individually evaluate every change made for the special editions.

More generally, only the unaltered release is Star Wars. The SE just isn't Star Wars, in the same way that grilled and smoked beef cannot, by definition and by the laws of God and man, be barbecue. This is unlike the Alien universe, where the theatrical release of Aliens and Alien3 aren't the real movies; only the Aliens SE and Alien3 collaborative cut are the actual films.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:58 AM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


One thing that goes sort of unmentioned in any discussion on this subject is the notion that the original version is necessarily the BEST version. That is, this whole project is all about recreating the experience of seeing Star Wars in 35mm in 1977. I grant that 35mm is probably the best choice as a visual referent, and I certainly am with the masses here in my belief that Lucas's meddling with the film again and again was both needless and mercenary, but why is that 1977 experience regarded as so Edenic? First is not necessarily best.

I think a project like this is important just for film-historical reasons, regardless of what you think of the relative merits of the various releases of the films.

I personally liked the special editions and don't really get why people get so angry about them.
posted by empath at 10:05 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can somebody please do this for Northern Exposure now?

Is there a "Joel shot first" controversy?
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:05 AM on December 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


Can't wait to see them remaster the scene where Joel cuts open the moose and crawls inside of the corpse for warmth.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:11 AM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


In some ways, I can totally understand Lucas' motivations. Star Wars was only his third picture and it was many many times more complicated and ambitious than anything he'd done before and it had a horribly troubled post-production; there were times when it was iffy whether the thing was ever going to be releasable. The fact that he managed to release the movie that he did using the technology that was available at the time is close to miraculous but a lot of it looked wobbly even then.

So I understand why he did it and can sympathize but it's how he did it that's the problem. Movies (and all art) exists and should be viewed in the context of the time that they're made. Star Wars was a seventies movie but the special editions grafted a jarring '90s early-CGI aesthetic onto what was then a twenty year old film thereby ripping it out of it's context. The styles just don't work together.
posted by octothorpe at 10:25 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Two, the "special edition" changes are pretty jarring. Hi there, giant CGI dinosaurs in a 1977 practical-effects film. It's a more consistent experience without them.

This is the main reason for me. I didn't even SEE the 1977 theatrical release, and the latest additions jump out at me like duct-tape repairs on a car seat.

It's like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at the Disney Parks - I have no philosophical objection to the new robots they've added over the years. But there are scenes where the original 1960's Marc Davis/Blaine Gibson-designed figures with limited motion and exaggerated facial features are mingled with the latest A-100 models with compliance, independently-moving fingers, and flexion actuators in their super-realistic molded faces. Yeah, it’s still cool, but it just doesn’t hang together like it should, and it diminishes the whole experience.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:29 AM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


but why is that 1977 experience regarded as so Edenic

Because generally once you produce and release a work of art you generally don't go back consistently and try and improve it. It's a movie, not an operating system. You do the best with the materials and processes of the time and let it stand. We don't go back to Harryhausen films and say... "oh this will look so much better in digital!".

I like the first Star Wars films, but I agree they are perhaps a bit too over-hyped as being better than they are, they are good, but the story line is pretty basic (which is what, among many things, is what makes the other three films sucktastic, too complex for what they are).

However, you make a film you commit, you release, you leave it alone (unless you need to conserve it). The only exceptions to this I can think of that may be acceptable exceptions is if 1) the director is compromised into releasing something different then what they wanted (say, Brazil, or perhaps Blade Runner), or 2) releasing extended versions of films that where perhaps too long for the cinema, but where shot and edited at the same time as the original movie.

Lucas just seems to enjoy tinkering with it for very little good reason, and each tinker means the viewing of the film is different. the whole Han shot first is only the most egregious of the changes, but all the others are a series of papers cuts that add up to something that gradually becomes more and more different. Until what you saw in 1977 becomes very very different then what you see today.

Somehow Lucas got lucky with SW, and he's been working hard ever since to undo that luck.
posted by edgeways at 10:31 AM on December 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


(The Northern Exposure DVD releases had the carefully selected music of the broadcast versions replaced for licensing and cost reasons. In principle the clean DVD video could be resynced with audio from VHS or cable versions.)
posted by Songdog at 10:39 AM on December 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


See also: The impossible dream of a faithful WKRP release.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:41 AM on December 30, 2013 [24 favorites]


That part near the end about creating new mattes from still images was particularly fascinating.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:43 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I understand why he did it and can sympathize but it's how he did it that's the problem. Movies (and all art) exists and should be viewed in the context of the time that they're made.
"People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society....

These current defacements are just the beginning. Today, engineers with their computers can add color to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder. Tomorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with "fresher faces," or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor's lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new "original" negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires. The copyright holders, so far, have not been completely diligent in preserving the original negatives of films they control. In order to reconstruct old negatives, many archivists have had to go to Eastern bloc countries where American films have been better preserved.
In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be "replaced" by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten."

--George Lucas
posted by entropicamericana at 10:44 AM on December 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


See also: The impossible dream of a faithful WKRP release.

This is something that has bothered me for a long time (the general problem, not just specifically WKRP). I'm curious -- are production companies getting better at avoiding this? I'm mainly wondering if contemporary shows that have really great music choices (let's say, Breaking Bad) are going to run into the same problems, or if now people get rights for future use up front.

It sucks that it happened to shows from the '70's/'80's/'90's, but it would suck even more if more such ticking licensing timebombs were being created today.
posted by tocts at 10:45 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is something that has bothered me for a long time (the general problem, not just specifically WKRP). I'm curious -- are production companies getting better at avoiding this? I'm mainly wondering if contemporary shows that have really great music choices (let's say, Breaking Bad) are going to run into the same problems, or if now people get rights for future use up front.


tocts, as I understand it, no one has gotten better at avoiding it, but certain companies are beginning to realize that, for certain shows, the effort is worthwhile because, frankly, there's profit in it. SHOUT! Factory's release of "Freaks and Geeks" is the main example here, I think. Here's a brief press release about it.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:48 AM on December 30, 2013


"...the latest additions jump out at me like duct-tape repairs on a car seat.

This. There were a lot of things Lucas could have done in the remaster that wouldn't have bothered me, but they'd have been minor issues - retouching the worst of the special effects flaws and maybe redoing things like the bit where all the X-wings approach the Death Star in perfect single file because that was easy to do with Dykstraflex and they were on a deadline. Instead, he tried to add a bunch of stuff that wasn't in the original and made no sense at all. I remember all the howling when the colorized "Casablanca" (on preview, apparently George does to). But he went much further than that - he created a "Casablanca where Herman Goering and Joseph Goebbels show up and order drinks.

The Han shot first bit is the worst of it because it takes Han Solo from "a guy who will try to avoid a direct confrontation but will cheerfully use any means necessary to finish it" to "a guy who was lucky enough that he was dealing with an incompetent assassin who couldn't hit from three foot away."
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:54 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


The impossible dream of a faithful WKRP release.

I'll never understand why they made the turkey shoot first in the
re-release.
posted by empath at 11:05 AM on December 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'll never understand why they made the turkey shoot first in the
re-release.


It only winged him.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:10 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's just fowl.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:27 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


A poultry excuse for humor.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:27 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Married With Children was also a victim of song licensing. By the sound of it, Fox basically gave a musicologist the sheet music to "Love & Marriage" and told them to take out just enough notes to prevent a lawsuit.
posted by dr_dank at 11:32 AM on December 30, 2013


Married With Children was also a victim of song licensing. By the sound of it, Fox basically gave a musicologist the sheet music to "Love & Marriage" and told them to take out just enough notes to prevent a lawsuit.

Oh wow, that's awful. It sounds more like they asked a 14 year old with a cheap keyboard to write "something that sounds sort of like" the original theme.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:37 AM on December 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is incredible. Wow. I'm blown away. I'm not a huge SW fan anymore, but it was the first movie I ever saw, and I saw it in the theater when I was six years old in 1977. The theater is long gone, but I can still remember what it looked like inside.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:45 AM on December 30, 2013


Oh wow, that's awful. It sounds more like they asked a 14 year old with a cheap keyboard someone with a copy of Microsoft Songsmith to write "something that sounds sort of like" the original theme A Life On The Ocean Wave.
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:02 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


why is that 1977 experience regarded as so Edenic?

Nostalgia. I was four when I saw Star Wars at the Coronet in San Francisco. It was so mind-blowing that


This, I suspect, more than anything else. Because I first saw it when it was brand new and I was eighteen, and though I found it enjoyable in a comic book sort of way, I was hardly blown away. The FX and such were cool, of course, but the overall experience felt a little too aimed-at-nine-year-olds for me to get way excited about.

Which to this day has come to form my overall take on all manner of pop "masterpieces". If you first experienced them at a certain pre-critical age and they genuinely transported you, then I suspect you're never going to be much interested in taking them on critically.

If anything, my Star Wars was the original Jonny Quest, first encountered when I was maybe seven years old and never to be questioned as to its goddamned magnificence (or its dubious politics, racial and otherwise).
posted by philip-random at 12:21 PM on December 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Which to this day has come to form my overall take on all manner of pop "masterpieces". If you first experienced them at a certain pre-critical age and they genuinely transported you, then I suspect you're never going to be much interested in taking them on critically.

See, for me taking a critical eye towards the entertainment I put up on a pedestal in my youth was really key to enjoying more things, because it highlighted that everything, even and especially the things I once held up as untouchably great, is a bit daft or flawed in some way and being too firmly entrenched in any appraisal of a piece of entertainment just sucks the joy right out of it. Even if you're too entrenched in loving something, because there's a point where just loving it so much and not letting yourself see the flaws and laugh at it a bit becomes a full-time job.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:51 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Star Wars was a seventies movie but the special editions grafted a jarring '90s early-CGI aesthetic onto what was then a twenty year old film thereby ripping it out of it's context. The styles just don't work together.

Just wanted to call back to this statement from octothorpe / highlight how important it is. I think my reason for preferring the original is that technology matters. The style mismatch that happens when you layer late-90s CG dinosaurs on top of a 1970s movie is about more than just style — the effects you use to portray the story help to shape the story itself. There are stories you can tell using 1970s technology that are simply much harder to tell with 90s tech1; in the original Star Wars, the improvised-seeming effects lend themselves quite well to the "ragtag rebels against a heavily mechanized evil empire" storyline, and moreover help provide a sense of fun to the whole endeavor. CG, though, especially early CG, looks meticulously planned and totally under the control of the creator. It looks like an empire without a rebellion.

I don't think Lucas thinks technology is important to storytelling. Which is sort of perverse, given how technology-obsessed he is. The thing is, Lucas thinks of special effects as being primarily valuable for being cutting-edge. The physical effects in Star Wars were cutting-edge in the 1970s, and so therefore they were good then. By 1998, those effects were no longer cutting-edge, and so for Lucas they were expired. He "fixed" this problem by slapping in new, non-expired special effects, thereby "restoring" the movie to its original status as spectacular technical showpiece. By doing this, he's wrecked the visual storytelling altogether — but because he thinks of the special effects as a spectacular adjunct to the story, rather than as actually part of the story, he doesn't even notice.

1: And vice versa, of course; I'm not just fetishizing older ways of doing things here. I figure it would be pretty much impossible to tell, say, The Matrix using pre-digital effects. Like, you could try, but...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:10 PM on December 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


Having watched many of these projects develop over time on Original Trilogy for years and years, it's pretty fascinating and exciting to watch them all come together like this. I'll enjoy the fruit of their labors as well, but I've probably gotten way more enjoyment out of watching such a massive underground DIY effort happen in real-time than I will out of watching the final product.

I'm willing to bet that at least a handful of slightly-too-Star-Wars-obsessed kids got their break in the industry thanks to the skills they picked up on these projects along the way.

edit: For anyone wanting to see a similar effort (oftentimes a much larger effort, such as seeking out original pencil sketches from artists who had worked on the original), seek out the Thief and the Cobbler Recobbled Cut. That one turned into a bit of an ego-fueled disaster when the guy at the center decided it was all about him, though.
posted by gregoryg at 1:25 PM on December 30, 2013


Honestly I do kind of believe him when he says that the banthas and grand vistas and suchlike were things he actually wanted to put in the movie when he made it, but couldn't because the technology wasn't there. But the fact remains that they're not in the movie he made, and stapling them to the film later on is just jarring, and going on 20 years from the Special Editions they're dated anyway so they don't even have "oooh, shiny!" going for them.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:26 PM on December 30, 2013


Honestly I do kind of believe him when he says that the banthas and grand vistas and suchlike were things he actually wanted to put in the movie when he made it, but couldn't because the technology wasn't there.

I can see why he thinks that, but in a certain sense that argument only makes sense if he's thinking that newer technology allows him to more transparently portray Tattooine — as if CG were a better window on a place that actually exists, rather than a type of tool used to build images of things that don't exist.

Maybe the original Star Wars looked good because the rebellion won — by which I mean, the recalcitrant physical properties of the effects technology kept Lucas-the-emperor from realizing his dreams of total control.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:34 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Walt Whitman continually rewrote and re-edited his masterwork, Leaves of Grass. But as far as I know, he never tried to eliminate previous editions. You can easily get a facsimile of the first edition and compare it to his final edit. Both are legitimate works of art. Star Wars is not the same level of artistic ambition, but it certainly has the eyeballs. There should be room for both versions to coexist.
posted by rikschell at 1:37 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Calling the original Star Wars "edenic" is apt, since a single truly authoritative original Star Wars never existed. However, Harmy's Despecialized Edition in its latest release basically has all of the different sound mixes mentioned at the link (and more) and most people probably experienced the mono mix. I kind of love that multiplicity and I think that it would provide a useful example to play around with when introducing a certain demographic to, say, historical and textual criticism. There are also visual differences, which are outlined somewhere at originaltrilogy.com.

My great sadness in this thread is that I excitedly downloaded the despecialized edition a few months ago, all 18 or so gigs of it, and discovered that my computer, which is capable of playing back 1080p, could not play an 18GB 1080p file without choppiness. I'll have to see if any changes to my system since then have mitigated the situation.
posted by Gnatcho at 2:06 PM on December 30, 2013


This is unlike the Alien universe, where the theatrical release of Aliens and Alien3 aren't the real movies; only the Aliens SE and Alien3 collaborative cut are the actual films.

Wait, original Aliens was much better than Aliens SE ... seeing the colonists before they get podded takes away all the tension in the original.
posted by memebake at 2:16 PM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is something that has bothered me for a long time (the general problem, not just specifically WKRP). I'm curious -- are production companies getting better at avoiding this? I'm mainly wondering if contemporary shows that have really great music choices (let's say, Breaking Bad) are going to run into the same problems, or if now people get rights for future use up front.

My limited understanding of this from researching Northern Exposure, is that these shows (Nothern Exposure, WKRP, and Quantum Leap, mainly) did not originally negotiate the rights to use the music in question for release on DVDs. This was because DVDs weren't invented yet. Current shows don't have this problem, because they just add the DVD/streaming/etc clause to the contract. But for earlier shows, they would have to go to each copyright holder, and negotiate DVD royalties for every single song. The logistics are a bit mind-numbing.

Regarding the OP, I am nothing but pleased. I saw Star Wars when I was five, and it has never not been important to me. I own at least six versions of the original, non-special edition of A New Hope on four different formats (nine versions in six formats if you count print media). Wow, now that I'm writing that, it seems a bit extreme. Not that this new version won't bump me up to ten. (It will.)
posted by LEGO Damashii at 2:16 PM on December 30, 2013


I personally liked the special editions and don't really get why people get so angry about them.

A-fucking-men.
posted by George Lucas at 2:29 PM on December 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


The thing about the original Special Editions was that they were released broadly in movie theaters. The first movie I ever saw in a theater was Return of the Jedi, but I was two and don't remember it. I watched the original trilogy dozens of times by the time the Special Editions came out in 1997, and being able to see the opening crawl the way it was supposed to be, on a movie screen filling the field in front of you, was worth Greedo shooting first and the stupid music video in Jabba's palace. Maybe it should've been a warning sign but we didn't know yet. And besides, we got to see Coruscant at the end of Jedi - that seemed to make up for so much.

After Attack of the Clones, I hunted down widescreen VHS copies of the original trilogy, and bought the 2004 DVDs with the laserdisc transfers. For me, the badness of the prequels was a big part of what made getting the originals back so important.

I would really like Lucas to give each film of the original trilogy a comprehensive release, including high quality transfers of the original, 1997, 2004 and Blu Ray editions of each film.
posted by graymouser at 2:41 PM on December 30, 2013


I personally liked the special editions and don't really get why people get so angry about them.

I have a colorized version of Citizen Kane here for you.

Seriously, to a lot of people around my age Star Wars really is the Citizen Kane or Casablanca of their time. One can basically divide SF film into two eras: Pre Star Wars (slow, serious, pessimistic), and Post Star Wars (high special effects, action oriented, fun). Without Star Wars, modern Hollywood, both the good and the bad, wouldn't exist. So really tinkering with StarWars is taking a defining masterpiece and adding stuff to it to make it better. I mean, adding stuff to say, Monet's haystacks is fine, but leave the originals out there where they can be appreciated.
posted by happyroach at 2:48 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Few people would begrudge the Special Editions if they were done well (like the Star Trek: TOS discs were) and (most importantly) the originals were still available to them (again, like the TOS discs).

I actually like some of the stuff in the special editions--the Falcon creekily lifting off out of Docking Bay 94 and blasting off, the improved Battle of Yavin, and uhhh... It's been a while, I'm sure there's other stuff. It's just not worth all the dreadfully bad stuff he added/changed too.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:51 PM on December 30, 2013


This is incredible in so many ways: Well done Harmy, et al!
posted by blueberry at 3:23 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


RedLetterMedia said it best - the original Star Wars was a good film precisely because Lucas did not get to do whatever he wanted on it. He was just a rookie director then and was overruled on lots of things and that made it a better film. He didn't direct V or VI and was only one of several screenwriters on those films. The special editions and the prequels show what happens when Lucas gets to do whatever he wants.

Therein lies the rationale for stripping out all the special edition crap.
posted by memebake at 3:37 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


1) the director is compromised into releasing something different then what they wanted (say, Brazil, or perhaps Blade Runner)

In Blade Runner's case, the Final Cut was released in 2007, but it's easy to watch five (out of seven) versions of the film, because they were ALL released together on the Ultimate DVD collection.

It's just fascinating to see the evolutionary paths of Blade Runner and Star Wars, both of which were sci-fi movies made at about the same time and had Harrison Ford in them.
posted by FJT at 3:44 PM on December 30, 2013


Gnatcho: My great sadness in this thread is that I excitedly downloaded the despecialized edition a few months ago, all 18 or so gigs of it, and discovered that my computer, which is capable of playing back 1080p, could not play an 18GB 1080p file without choppiness. I'll have to see if any changes to my system since then have mitigated the situation.

If you have windows, get this(pay CLOSE attention in the installer, it tries to install stupid adware but you just click no) and this. If you have a mac, this. My wheezing old 2007 imac can play a file like that fine. And pretty much any windows machine newer than 2006 should be able to handle it fine too.

As for this remaster though, i think it's great. I simultaneously think it's kinda sad it has to exist though. I mean yea, not all blu-ray transfers are amazing, but if the biggest complaint people could make was "crushed black levels and a magenta twinge" i think only the most comic book guy neckbeards online would go "HEH, INFERIOR VERSION FOR PLEBS". No one is going and CGIing new rocks into walls in them. Seriously, watch this, this, and this. I should warn you they contain the bad kind of nerd humor, and lots of unnecessary pointless 14 year old style swearing... but they really present the worst of the changes.

Honestly to me, worse than the CGI jabba that looks like this, is that they actually SHOW the wampa. The point that he makes about the shark in jaws being what makes it suspenseful and good is soooo spot on.

As i remember, disney makes some of the absolute highest quality blu-ray transfers of their oldest movies. They absolutely have the muscle and expertise to likely even outdo these guys. Here's to hoping for an even better 4K "star wars definitive edition" dual layer blu-ray.
posted by emptythought at 3:48 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's funny you mentioned Blade Runner as the parts where Harmy shows putting the original version back together through the means of collage reminded of the scene where Deckard's looking at that photo.
posted by blueberry at 3:54 PM on December 30, 2013


RedLetterMedia said it best - the original Star Wars was a good film precisely because Lucas did not get to do whatever he wanted on it.

It's my belief, formed from a lifetime of observation, that many, if not most, creative people do their best work when they have limitations placed on them. The obstacles placed in their way force their brains to think in new ways. There are stages of a project where it's great to let the imagination run completely wild, but a really wild imagination easily gets caught up in itself and responds well to barriers. I've been that person before, frustrated that circumstances wouldn't let me have MY VISION, DAMMIT, but in hindsight, it always worked out better than if I'd been indulged.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:55 PM on December 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's my belief, formed from a lifetime of observation, that many, if not most, creative people do their best work when they have limitations placed on them.

Certainly my best work is severely limited.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:01 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's to hoping for an even better 4K "star wars definitive edition" dual layer blu-ray.

Prediction: 40th anniversary edition in 2017.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:07 PM on December 30, 2013


So.... How is this different from the second disk of this DVD release?
posted by hippybear at 5:14 PM on December 30, 2013


My understanding is that Fox owns the rights to home movie of ANH forever and ESB and RTJ until 2020. So any Disney total restoration release would either be some weird combo or Disney has to separately buy the rights from Fox--not just what they have bought from Lucas.
posted by skynxnex at 5:15 PM on December 30, 2013


The second disc is a badly done non-anamorphic (which matters a lot for wide-screen movies on DVD) transfer of the laserdisc. So low resolution, bad contrast, and other defects.
posted by skynxnex at 5:19 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So.... How is this different from the second disk of this DVD release?

There's exactly one link in this post above the fold and it explains it in detail.
posted by empath at 7:34 PM on December 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...."

All those editions and no one thought to replace that with a proper ellipsis?
posted by eric1halfb at 7:55 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's my belief, formed from a lifetime of observation, that many, if not most, creative people do their best work when they have limitations placed on them.

Currently watching The Terminator on cable and your observation holds for those movies too. It's remarkable how low tech and minimalist it is compared to later editions. The camera work and especially the editing are just so good but the special effects until the end are mostly just lots and lots of squibs. Unless you count Arnold himself as a special effect.
posted by octothorpe at 8:02 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's my belief, formed from a lifetime of observation, that many, if not most, creative people do their best work when they have limitations placed on them.

This. The magic of so many movies from the pre-digital era was that there was a level of feeling astounded at what I was seeing on screen. Knowing that they had to use all sorts of trickery to create the illusion they were presenting, and loving knowing I was being tricked and having a sense of wonder at the accomplishment.

The best illustration of this, for me, is to look at The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, and then to look at The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus. As soon as Terry Gilliam starts using digital technology to fulfill his vision, all the magic disappears from the viewing experience.
posted by hippybear at 8:15 PM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can think of a bunch of other directors who started brilliantly with analog effects in the seventies and eighties and who's later movies got worse and worse as the technology got better. Off the top of my head: Cameron, Tim Burton, Ridley Scott, Sam Raimi, Spielberg.
posted by octothorpe at 8:47 PM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think also having something to prove has a lot to do with it. See Peter Jackson's LOTR vs Hobbit, doing LOTR he seemed to go out of his way to prove that he could do it justice, and for The Hobbit he seems to be comfortable enough from the reception he got from LOTR that he's playing a lot looser with the adaptation, to its detriment. Or both Moffat's and RTD's Doctor Who pre- and post-accolades. Or Alien compared to Prometheus. Or, yeah, Lucas, who might be the poster child for buying into your own myth. Just being forced out of your comfort zone in general leads to better art, I think. Spielberg's a good example, because that guy's absolutely on his game still when he's trying something new, but what happened when he (and Lucas) went back to the easy comfort of Indiana Jones all feeling like they've got that shit on lockdown? Yeah.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:13 PM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is pretty cool work.
And for the record, Han shoots first.

(Well, Han shoots "only", but that doesn't make a good t-shirt)
posted by madajb at 2:19 AM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Unless you count Arnold himself as a special effect.

Oh, so the effects are perfect.
posted by butterstick at 6:41 AM on December 31, 2013


hippybear: The best illustration of this, for me, is to look at The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, and then to look at The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus. As soon as Terry Gilliam starts using digital technology to fulfill his vision, all the magic disappears from the viewing experience.

Sorry, but this treads into "Bad kind of Cinephile" territory for me. Parnassus lacks magic? seriously? This is like saying CGI ruined Hugo or something.

People have been making these arguments since like, the 60s at least. Go watch this and think about what you're saying.

Was there a CGI jabba period in the 90s where it looked bad, awkward, and pulled you out of immersion... and nearly every 80s practical effects based movie looked amazing in comparison? Yea. Is this a really really hard and specious argument to make now when a lot of times you can point at something that's "obviously cgi", and then another example of something that looks good and "isn't" but they both are? Yea as well.
posted by emptythought at 3:44 PM on December 31, 2013


I'm not sure what you're arguing, emptythought. I don't think that CGI is the only factor in the massive drop-off in the quality of most movies in the last decade and a half but it's certainly one of the reasons. And I don't know if CGI ruined Hugo or if it's just Scorcese's declining talent but it was a paper thin movie propped up by a lot of pretty visuals.
posted by octothorpe at 4:09 PM on December 31, 2013


I'd say screenwriting books a million times more than CGI, to be honest...
posted by Artw at 4:11 PM on December 31, 2013


Sorry, but this treads into "Bad kind of Cinephile" territory for me.

*shrug* So I'm the bad kind of cinephile, then. I know what appeals to me, and what makes me yawn with boredom. I enjoyed Parnassus quite a lot, as a story and as a movie, but on some gut level it lacked the "wow" I got when all Gilliam's effects were done in-camera somehow, through whatever means. I'm not saying this is a universal for everyone. Many people are very happy with the movies being made these days. I find I pick and choose much more than I used to, and have focussed my viewing much more on documentaries and non-effect-driven dramas than I used to, 25 years ago. Maybe that's just me growing older, but if that were the case, I'm not sure I'd have this feeling of yearning for what I feel I can't find anymore.

That said, I do acknowledge that 1) Gravity was one of the best movies I have ever seen, and 2) that many movies (and TV shows) which appear to be mundane are using CGI to create environments in ways which I am completely unaware of. I have no quarrel with either of these things.

And, well, I am very much looking forward to Gilliam's newest movie finally finding a US distributor, because it looks like the setting and the themes and the story are perfect for allowing Gilliam to use his unique vision combined with CGI in a way which will allow me to feel amazed once again.

My main fear, however, is that the new JJ Abrams Star Wars movie will degenerate, similar to the latest Star Trek film, boiling down to people having a fistfight on top of a moving truck. Which, of course, won't actually be moving. Was thrilling when James Bond did it 40 years ago, or whatever, because that truck was actually moving.

I guess some may not see the difference. I feel something visceral is different, and can't explain it, but only can say what I feel.

So I'm the bad kind of cinephile. I actually did not know there was a paragon toward which I should be aspiring.
posted by hippybear at 4:22 PM on December 31, 2013


I thought Hugo was a fine film, though I did watch it on Netflix in shortish pieces, so maybe the whole thing was a bit difficult to sit through in a theater. To my mind, Scorcese had a handle on the CGI and did some truly beautiful things with it, because he had a solid story to work with.

As for Gilliam and Dr. Parnassus, I find myself siding with the anti-CGI detractors ... at least as far as Gilliam goes. It's like the last thing that guy needs is a carte-blanche when it comes to his imagination. There's too much. A few boundaries are very good. Look no further than Time Bandits and Brazil (both working miracles with minor budgets).
posted by philip-random at 4:27 PM on December 31, 2013


I thought Hugo was terrible, myself, but for no reasons to do with effects or 3D.
posted by Artw at 4:31 PM on December 31, 2013


Now, if only my torrent wasn't stuck at 77%, I might be able to watch it...
posted by madajb at 10:44 PM on December 31, 2013


You know, I'd really like to see a version that keeps all the special effects enhancements, including the scenes that Lucas shot in 1977 but couldn't use due to budget issues (The meeting with Jabba, for example), but fixes the film up to look modern, use nice mattes, blend in better, as done here, and removes the script changes, such as Greedo shooting first.
posted by Canageek at 11:23 PM on January 4


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