No synopsis necessary, I’ll presume. On the eve of commencing work on the new triumvirate that will make up the Star Wars
trilogy’s prequels, wunderkind Lucas and 20th Century Fox have opted to soup up the first three films as part of a simultaneous marketing push and as a means to smooth over some of the rougher spots that made it to theatres 20 years ago. Has it really been that long? It certainly doesn’t seem so, but, yes, here we are in 1997 and the Force is still with us, iconic and pervasive in ways that no one – not even the studio brass – could have predicted two decades back. This “Special Edition” is by no means the director’s cut one might expect from Lucas and company; the total additional footage amounts to a little under five minutes, and most of it is extraneous, there only to highlight and flesh out certain scenes. The Mos Eiseley spaceport on the desert planet Tatooine – where Obi Wan takes Luke and the droids to meet Han Solo – is now the sprawling den of thieves it was originally intended to be, complete with a much-improved landspeeder for Luke and plenty of rearing Dewbacks and assorted CGI critters hamming it up in the background. Previously excised footage of Jabba the Hut conversing with a startlingly youthful Solo is back in, and the rebel fleet is now much, much larger than it first appeared. Most of the changes on this newly refurbished print are purely cosmetic (the film is now in THX, although not, for some reason, at the advance screening I took in), but Lucas’ vision still packs a mighty Saturday-afternoon wallop. I’d forgotten just how viscerally exhilarating the rebel forces’ final run on the death star is. It’s an icy-pure, white-knuckle ride that never lets up until the final ceremony on Endor – masterful editing, pacing, and vision all the way. Whew!
Those of us who were old enough to catch the film as kids the first time around may even find an unexpected lump in their throats as the nostalgia gates bust wide open and Vader gets his, once again, on that giant, silver screen.