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DVD Reviews

*** Official HTF REVIEW & Discussion Thread: Star Wars Trilogy, pt. 1

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#1 of 2200 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

Michael Osadciw


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  • Real Name:Michael Osadciw

Posted September 11 2004 - 01:19 PM

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Studio: 20th Century Fox

Film Year: 1977
Film Length: 124 minutes
Film Rating: ****

Film Year: 1980
Film Length: 127 minutes
Film Rating: **** RETURN OF THE JEDI
Film Year: 1983
Film Length: 135 minutes
Film Rating: ****
Canadian Rating: PG
Rated For: Mild Sci-Fi Violence
Genre: Science Fiction

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 widescreen enhanced
Colour/B&W: Colour
Audio:[*] English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX[*] English Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround[*] Spanish Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround[*] French Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround
Subtitles: English
Closed Captioned: Yes

SLP: US $69.90


Release Date: September 21, 2004.

It’s been twenty seven years since the world was introduced to that galaxy far far away…and for much of the world that far away galaxy couldn’t be any closer to our hearts. After Star Wars hit the theatres it quickly generated a fan base beyond what anyone imagined. Here we are in 2004; and the fan base still exists more than ever. Star Wars was the film that changed sci-fi fantasy cinematic history. It successfully introduced likable characters living in exotic environments with foreign creatures. All have believable personalities the audience could identify with. For many children, these characters encouraged unrealized dreams and fantasies. For the motion picture industry, Star Wars was the film that inspired many directors to make better films. It also changed the way special effects were seen on screen pushing new technology developments to the extreme to bring the visuals closer to realism. This was the Star Wars legacy.

While other sci-fi films like 2001: A Space Odyssey were regarded as excellent for their time, Star Wars took space fantasy several steps forward. A good script and a special effects house for the film made Star Wars a hit and allowed the continuation of the saga with The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Written by George Lucas, they are a continuing story of good vs. evil influenced by classic and modern mythology and serial dramas. In Lucas’s fantasy world, the Empire rules the galaxy. While it's explained more in the prequels (Episodes I - III), we learn a basic background to the story: the Empire is dominant political and military group who've abandoned peace and democracy in a republic in favour of a ruling elite by bringing fear and terror to the universe. The Old Republic once had Knights called Jedi who helped carry out the peace. They were unique individuals who had a bond with an unseen power in the universe called The Force. The Force is strong with these individuals and they are specially trained by a Jedi master to learn to control and use it. The Force helps them have better mind to body control, see into the future, and move quicker and perform stunts other humans aren’t able to do.

Because the Jedi were gifted and powerful, an evil turn of events called for the elimination of all Jedi from existence to satisfy a Senator’s greed to rule the universe. Now the Empire rules without the Jedi, and has driven out all others who oppose them. Those opposing the new Emperor formed the Rebel Alliance and have since gone into hiding. They’ve tried to live peacefully away from the new oligarchy, but are continually hunted down, and this is where the story of Star Wars - Episode IV begins.

In 1977, Star Wars wooed moviegoers with it’s opening scene: a huge Imperial Star Destroyer spaceship flew over the heads of the audience firing at the rebel spacecraft Tantive IV; and for the first major film, Dolby Surround sound was used in the theatre enhancing the experience. There was such a long period of mono films in the ‘70s surround sound made any movie more exciting. This star ship opening scene was so popular it stayed relatively consistent with all three films.

The crew on the Rebel Alliance spacecraft stole the plans for the Empire’s Death Star, a moon-shaped space station that has enough laser power to blast a planet to bits. Aboard the ship is Princess Leia, a strong young woman leading the rebellion. After being captured by the Imperial ship, she hastily sent off the Death Star plans in a droid named R2-D2. With his droid friend C-3P0, they land on planet Tatooine in search for Obi-Wan Kenobi, an old Jedi Knight in hiding. The hope is to have Kenobi fly to the planet Alderaan and deliver the plans to the rebels. These plans are important because they hide the diagnostics of the Death Star and expose its weak point. The rebels hope to arrange an attack to destroy it before it destroys them.

The droids end up in the hands of the young farmer named Luke Skywalker. They receive the help of Kenobi and make allies with space smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca while trying to avoid the Empire. Soon they find themselves in the impossible position to save the Princess and help fight along with the rebels to save the galaxy.

Its sequel The Empire Strikes Back was much more of a challenge. Knowing there would be a third instalment, it’s a film that bridges the two stories. It begins with the rebels hiding on the snow planet Hoth. The Empire hunts them down and prepares a snow battle, one that is my favourite movie battle scenes because it’s just too cool! Luke is separated from the rest of his friends as the Empire chases them out, and Luke’s destiny is to find the Jedi master to train him. A disruption in the force lets Luke see his friends in pain and prompts him to save them. Unbeknownst to Luke, the Empire plans a trap to convert him to the dark side of the force, and he learns far more than what he thought he was getting into. It is the ending of this film that’s raised and held steady the popularity of this film over the years. This is one not to miss.

Empire is differently paced, much darker, has no beginning and no end, no climax, and no resolution. It introduces new characters Lando Calrissian and Jedi master Yoda. The film was written by Lucas and directed by Irvin Kershner. It’s a film that is mixed with comic relief and disaster for the rebels, since they are at loss at every moment in the film. The dark side is triumphant here because it’s a reality that good people to get defeated. This was always my favourite film of the trilogy and Lucas’s most hated of his films. I never understood why that was, possibly because it’s the best over all of the films he’s directed? Watching this film on its own for the first time may leave the viewer unsatisfied, but knowing it in the trilogy makes it 100% acceptable and a favourite among most fans.

In the third film Return of the Jedi (directed by Richard Marquand), ties up loose ends back on Tatooine in Jabba’s Palace, and with the final rebel assault on the Empire. This is probably the most light-hearted of the three as Lucas wanted to gear this film towards children more. It’s the last film in the trilogy and the least favourite of mine. If you’ve never seen the film I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, and if you’ve seen it already I’m sure you have your own opinion as well. This film is the showdown between good and evil (rebels and the Empire)and puts the characters in positions of choosing between duty and moral obligation. It’s a film where we see new spaceships and speeder bikes (yeah!) and a wealth of new unseen creatures.

Using relatively unknown actors of the time, creator/director George Lucas did what was thought the impossible by successfully merging the human world with the android and alien world. Now most of the characters in these films are household names: Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3P0, and most importantly “The Force”. Their impact on people has allowed their characters to be parodied and referred to in countless forms of media. People also accepted the Star Wars galaxy in their homes long before video cassette. Massive amounts of merchandising were created for these films: it’s where the real money of the movies is made! From figurines, T-Shirts, lunchboxes, and flamethrowers (just kidding), the logo was put on nearly everything! (and that is true, the parody Spaceballs wasn’t joking).

As many of us know, this has been the most long-awaited DVD collection. It will undoubtedly be the best selling DVD collection despite these not being the films most fans grew up with. I like to consider myself a preservationist as well as a progressive individual. While I don’t mind when artists/directors revisit their work to make new cuts of their films, or to touch up small items they felt were too inferior for the time, I do believe in the preservation of the theatrical release for those fans that supported the film from the start. I think Apocalypse Now is a great film and I also love the Redux edition, but I will never throw away or stop watching the original theatrical cut. It’s too good of a movie in its theatrical edition (I’m sorry George; I don’t think you could have done better with this film than Coppola). And while I appreciate the extended scenes in James Cameron’s Aliens, if the theatrical cut was denied on the recent Quadrilogy release, most fans would be angry again.

The same is true of the Star Wars Trilogy. There are people who enjoy the movie, people who love it, and people (like me) who are obsessed with it (well, I was at one time). It saddens me when I can’t have the choice on DVD to watch the same film I saw when I six years old. Twenty years worth of fans will agree with me. The last time the original trilogy was made available was back in 1995. It had an advertising campaign saying “Last time to own the original trilogy.” Most fans heard Lucas was going to make changes but probably didn’t know the extent of them. Some of the changes were for the good, and others were just wretched. I’m not a fan of how the CGI Jabba looked in Star Wars. I think the new wampa scene in Empire was poorly done. I also didn’t like the new CGI Sy Snootles and the dancing girls in Jedi. So the only way to see the original versions is if you can find any release prior to 1995. These existed on VHS and Beta, and three widescreen editions on Laserdisc.

The first individual Laserdiscs with the original poster art as a cover were grainy looking, too red, full of chroma noise, and had higher black levels. Major efforts took place in 1993 for “The Definitive Collection” on a CAV Laserdisc (max. 30 min per side). This THX release cleaned up the look of the Star Wars Trilogy. At the time, it (seriously) never looked better. In 1995 the same transfer was applied on CLV for separate catalogue releases of the trilogy. They also sported the THX logo (even the VHS did, a first for that format). The difference in image quality between the 1993/5 releases to the previous edition was that they were much more “blue” looking. The snow on Hoth actually looked more white than yellow. I am glad I own these remastered discs from 1995 because who knows, I just may never ever get to see these films in this manner again. I hope with high capacity blue-ray discs, having the theatrical versions and special editions on the same disc (in High Definition of course) will be possible.

This new DVD collection is based mostly on the 1997 Special Editions. There have been a few new and subtle changes. Some CGI work has been redone in Star Wars such as the scene with Jabba the Hutt. I still think it looks bad, but Jabba looks more textured than before. Greedo still shoots first, but Han’s shot is a fraction of a second after Greedo's and Han’s body moves to the side more smoothly than before. This whole concept of Greedo shooting first is stupid; it takes away from Han’s rough character and how could Han be so relaxed moving from Greedo’s shot? The lightsabers have also been touched up a bit too, as well as the hue of the image (discussed in video quality section of review).

The Empire Strikes Back receives one major change: the addition of Ian McDairmid as the Emperor on the transmission. I think his acting is poor on this addition, plus the look of the image looks too “new” compared to the background and the rest of the film. It doesn’t look integrated very well, and the exchange in dialogue has changed too. Colour has been altered in this movie too.

Return of the Jedi’s changes are few as well, removing the eyebrows from Sebastian Shaw (Darth Vader), adding Naboo as a part of celebrations, and adding Heyden Christensen’s face at the end of the film. Most of these changes do not bother me at all, and the addition of Heyden doesn’t look bad compared to some of the screenshots floating around on the net. I just don't understand why this was done. When Anakin died, he died as Sebastian Shaw and not Christensen. This change is about as absurd as changing Alec Guiness's face (old Obi Wan) to McGregor's (young Obi Wan). The change doesn't make any sense to me.

The four discs are in keep cases and are tucked in a hard cover, which is inserted into another hard cover. These discs will have lots of protection. Disc menus and cover design are like that of Episodes one and two and each movie comes with an insert of an abstract painting of the film. The Bonus Materials disc includes a little insert describing the contents of the disc.

So how does this disc perform?





Looking back at all of the previously released versions of The Star Wars Trilogy, it’s impossible to say that any of them stack up against this new release. This release is the best in terms of picture quality. As in other previous attempts, so much effort has been made to clean up the image. From the title sequence of each film to the end credits, these DVDs deliver image quality that rivals even the best-looking DVDs today.

What first caught my eye was the amount of depth to the image. All three films benefit from this, but I swore that I was watching something short of HD. The amount of detail present in each scene is eye opening! I guarantee you haven’t seen the whole Star Wars universe until you experience these DVDs. There wasn’t a speck of dirt on the film. Just about every tiny speck is gone! It’s absolutely amazing! Looking at the details of the control panels on the Millennium Falcon or in Darth Vader’s Executor, you can see far more than ever; almost every button is distinguished. After all of these years, Carrie Fisher’s face has never looked so smooth to me. For the first time in my life I felt like running the back of my hand down her soft cheek. Until now, I didn’t realize how many moles Mark Hamill had on his face - that's how good these discs are. After seeing some of the better restoration jobs for DVD, including this Star Wars Trilogy, it makes me wish that this much attention could go into every film.

The colours of these films are also very different. There’s been quite a few adjustments since the 1997 Special Edition release. For different scenes of each film I put in my Special Edition laserdiscs and timed the scenes with the DVD. I used a video switcher to see if there was a dramatic difference between them, and for many scenes there was. Also note these are different video formats: laserdisc is a composite video format and DVD is component video, the latter having far more colour resolution.

The most obvious difference is resolution and that can’t be compared. These DVDs are widescreen enhanced compared to laserdisc’s 4:3 letterboxing that deliver only a fraction of the resolution. I can’t believe that I once considered these laserdiscs as a reference for these films. I imagine one day in the not-so-distant future I’ll be saying the same about this DVD box set. The colours are quite different in some scenes and aren’t format related. There have been some adjustments here: I think these films are less warm than the previous release. The previous version looked a little redder, and now these films are bluer. Skin tones are a little paler in direct comparison, and the desert sand on Tatooine in Star Wars doesn’t have that hot desert look it previously had. This all brings up the whites closer to bright white, and that is very apparent on Hoth and Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back. The snow colour was more yellow in the releases prior to 1996, and the last two restorations shifted the hue to blue. That really whitened the video up. This new release does look very good and I am very happy with the results. The walls of Cloud City in Empire look sparkling white, and the sunset colours casting over the city in the halls and on the landing deck have more reds, purple, dark blues. Very sweet!

Black levels are deeper and darker in comparison to the older releases. There is always good contrast in every scene, none look too dim or overly bright, and shadow detail is excellent (except in Return of the Jedi). A correct black level also helps add dimension to the image that, as mentioned before – is stellar.

All three films are outstanding compared to what we’ve seen before. Of the three films, Return of the Jedi is the least impressive looking of the three, not to say that it isn’t amazing on its own. While Star Wars has some soft looking shots, Return of the Jedi isn’t consistent at all. The scenes on Tatooine are gritty looking and have a low-contrast appearance. This makes it difficult to see into the shadows because blacks are crushed into one dark spot. I expected the scenes on Endor to blow me out of the water, but the reverse happened; detail was poor in long shots, there was little detail leaves and trees, and it looked consistently a little out of focus. For a forest, it didn’t look “alive”. It is brown looking and lacking a visual comfortableness. Please note this isn't a problem with the film's "transfer to DVD" - it's more of an issue with the original photogragraphy.

Compression artefacts are minimal for all three films but more apparent on Star Wars and Jedi. Empire is almost pristine in every way you’ll feel more involved in the Star Wars Universe. Thankfully, there isn’t a touch of edge enhancement visible on any of these discs.





This appears to be to be almost the same 5.1 soundtrack that appeared on the 1997 Special Edition laserdiscs. This time the Dolby Digital 5.1 encoding offers an EX flag for center surround decoding of mono surround information. When activating the center surround, there are a few instances of its use that stand out. Most appear in the battle sequences in all three films. Flybys with Tie-Fighters and X-Wings, Stormtroopers blasting holes in the walls behind you all benefit from center surround decoding. Because of the center surround matrix decoding technology used by Dolby Digital, I had to increase my surround levels almost 3dB to compensate for the volume drop in the rear because of adding that center surround decoding. Depending on your receiver/pre-amp, you may need to do the same too. Note that this is not a problem with the Star Wars DVDs but a hardware issue. This doesn’t happen with DTS-ES discrete (unfortunately not included on these DVDs).

All three films are front-heavy in their soundtracks. All ambiences are generated from the front three channels and use the discrete surrounds to support integral scenes. My feelings are the same with this release as they were with the 1997 Special Editions. Seemingly taken from the same remix with the exception of a few additional effects, the surrounds do heighten the experience of these films, but they sound rough when applied. What I mean by this is that sound effects such as those from spaceships don’t sound spatially integrated or timed properly. The sounds that appear in the surrounds seem slightly exaggerated as if the 5.1 remix was trying to hard to let the viewer know these films were remixed for 5.1. I hope you can understand what I mean. These sounds come across as too quick and obnoxious for what’s happening on screen. That is the feeling I get when experiencing the soundtrack. Still, these movies are now more enjoyable compared to the Dolby Surround soundtracks most of you have been listening to all of these years.

None of these films need to be re-equalized, as they aren’t aggressive on the top end. There is plenty of bass to go around in each episode, the LFE benefits from the remixing done a few years back to give each film that extra punch. Years back, everyone’s favourite subwoofer demo was the AT-AT snow walker attack on Hoth. I’ve never agreed with that when listening to it in 5.1. While impressive especially with surround usage, I find it to be bass shy compared to what my mind expects. Maybe that’s all it is – my own expectations of this scene. Bass from the LFE is ample, but there isn’t a lot in the main channels. The surround channels are completely absent of bass despite the sounds of the walker’s footsteps coming heavily down.

On the positive side, the sound effects in the Star Wars Trilogy haven’t changed much. While some sounds received some enhancement in 1997, a few were made for this 2004 release. The effects sound dated in battle scenes compared to new movies - but that is perfectly fine to me to preserve the sound of the original release. Blasters still make the same noise and the Tie Fighters still wiirrr the same too. Star Wars seems to be the most restrained sounding of the three but that’s excusable given the age and the situations existing at the time the film was made.

There have been some changes in dialogue: additional Stormtrooper dialogue has been added, a change of words exist between Vader and the Emperor in Empire, and Boba Fett’s original voice has been replaced with Episode II’s Temuera Morrison’s. Morrison played Boba’s father Jango Fett, and since we know now that Boba is a clone of Jango his voice has been changed to reflect that. To dispel a rumour, the Stormtrooper’s voices in each film are the original voices. They have not been cloned with Morrison’s voice since it’s now known that imperial troopers are all clones of Jango too. Thankfully, the voice of Luke screaming as he jumps down the center of cloud city has been removed. Since I don't have the time or space to examine and explain a change in audio for every moment, you will undoubtedly notice when something is different. I sure did, so I'll let you have some fun for yourselves to see what you find.

For the dialogue that exists in the movie, it is intelligible and spatially integrated. All three films have been de-hissed to provide maximum clarity of words, sound effects, and music.

The John Williams score, whose main theme is recognized by almost everyone, is crystal clear and dynamic. The orchestral recording is spread out among the front main channels. The surrounds also work as a subtle enhancement of the score’s frontal soundstage. Influenced heavily from Holst’s: The Planets, every trumpet and delicate note from string instruments sounds as clear as Dolby Digital will allow. I guarantee that you’ll enjoy every effect and appreciate all that’s been done to remix this soundtrack to the current 5.1 format.


Most of the special features are featured on the fourth disc of the set. I was hoping for a lot more even though the press release told us what was coming. When watching the assembled footage for the main feature and the featurettes, I can only imagine how much more material is available. I think its safe to say that most of us wouldn’t consider any additional behind the scenes footage boring…after all, it is Star Wars! I voted for deleted scenes as being the best addition to this set, unfortunately we don’t see any of them directly. Yet, there is still a lot of entertaining (and very enlightening) features on this disc.

There are newly recorded audio commentaries on the movie discs and feature participation from writer/director George Lucas, sound designer Ben Burtt, effects/director of photography Dennis Muren, and actress Carrie Fisher. They are featured on all three films and director Irvin Kershner also puts in a very joyful sounding commentary on The Empire Strikes Back. Unfortunately Richard Marquand cannot be present for commentary since he passed away from a heart attack in 1987 at the age of only 49 years old.

The five commentaries were recorded separately and assembled together on a single commentary track. It would have been nice to have a Lucas commentary, a crew commentary (Burtt & Muren), and a talent commentary (Fisher) as three selectable commentaries rather than piecing them all together and discarding more than half of their comments. I know disc space is an issue because of all the language tracks on the disc (Dolby Surround English, French & Spanish), but still, I can wish, can’t I?

The commentaries are very good, so much so, I found myself unable to tear myself away from the screen listening to them. Aside from the wealth of new information presented to the fans, I found that Lucas was a little of a flip-flop when it came to stance of his original story plans. As far as I remember, I don’t ever recall from the many previous Star Wars features/interviews, Lucas ever speaking about taking the first half of his story and shelving it only to focus on the fourth act. He says that a lot today but remember over 15 years back, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the same story. Lucas also seems to defend his usage of CGI in these special editions as well as the new films. He mentions too much about how technology was limiting his vision at the time. It seems he’s forever trying to justify his actions of CGI to his fans because of how they reacted negatively.

Fisher and Muren have the least amount of attention in this commentary than Lucas and Burtt. Kershner is the most entertaining; he sounds like a jolly old man enjoying speaking about every moment on Empire and emphasizing how character and comic relief were two major priorities in this darker film.

On the Bonus Material disc, there are several features, all of which are widescreen enhanced. The first documentary is titled Empire of Dreams: The Making of the Star Wars Trilogy (2.30.36). Assembled by Kevin Burns, a producer/director of over fifty television series’ and documentaries, he was given access to the Lucasfilm archives to put together a comprehensive look into the making of the Star Wars Saga. Much of the emphasis is on the first film and the last hour is combined with information of episodes five and six.

The first twenty minutes of this documentary explains the relationship between Lucas and the studios with his past work and the future of Star Wars. The next fifteen minutes goes on explaining his founding and the development of Industrial Light and Magic for the film’s special effects, and the casting of Star Wars. You will get to see video tryouts of other actors and actresses reading the parts for Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker.

The feature continues on to tell the events of shooting in Tunisia and London, and following that the first bad cuts of the film. Studio pressure was high and Star Wars wasn’t completed and the film was over budget. What was to be done to cover the costs? Merchandising: where the real money of the movie is made! Toys, lunchboxes (and flamethrowers) couldn’t be kept in stock in retail outlets. Basically every material thing possible was sold with a Star Wars logo on it. With all new interviews of Lucas, he explained how he as in independent filmmaker wanted to get away from corporate studios and in irony he became one himself with Lucasfilm/LucasArts, with ILM and Skywalker Ranch under the umbrella.

What does become more apparent while watching this documentary is how stressed Lucas seemed to be during the making of this movie. It seemed almost everything was going wrong and he was pushing the envelope each day. It really makes me see Star Wars in a whole other light. I think the biggest realization of all after watching this documentary is that Star Wars was just another movie – but an important movie too. Like many of you, I grew up with this movie, I first saw them at six years old and the Star Wars universe has always been somewhat of a reality for me. I knew the characters, I wanted to be them. I wanted to fly a tie fighter and have my own stormtrooper outfit. This documentary kind of broke down that fantasy reality for me. I felt like I was watching the film being dissected apart from this imaginary fantasy to a movie with its own problems beyond of what was shown on screen. Kind of a bummer, really. But still, after twenty five years I want to see all of these things anyway. Now, not only has my respect for George Lucas increased (after completely disagreeing him for not letting us have the original films), but I realise that he has made a huge effect on the film industry with ILM, Skywalker Ranch, and his pioneering efforts with the company (he sold) now known as Pixar.

Three featurettes are also in this disc. The Characters of Star Wars (18.55) explains the development of each as well as their transformations through various versions of the script. The Birth of the Lightsaber (15.34) explains about the ancient and honorary weapon used by the Jedi before blasters became the norm. Both of these featurettes explain what influences helped form these ideas. Lastly, The Force is with Them: The Legacy of Star Wars is a collection of interviews from high profile writers and directors such as Stephen Spielberg, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, and Peter Jackson. The speak about the effects Star Wars had on them and how this film helped them and the movie industry move forward with bigger and better projects.

Other features on this disc that I’m not so crazy about are a bunch of video game advertisements. For this, I’m not going to call them features. You can view the X-Box Star Wars Battlefront Trailer, Star Wars Battlefront Xbox Game Demo that you can put in your X-Box if you have one, and then Star Wars Episode III: The Making of the Game.

On of the fun things about watching Trailers and TV Spots is looking for scenes not used in the final film. Most of the time teasers or trailers are compiled before the film’s final edit and sometimes we can sneak a peek of a deleted scene. Original teasers, theatrical trailers, and re-release trailers are included on this disc. In Empire you can catch an image of Leia and Luke about to intimately kiss(!), another has C-3PO ripping a wampa warning tag off a door on Hoth, and in Jedi you can see a snip of the sandstorm sequence.

As if to tease us even more, in the Never Before Seen Production Photo Gallery there is a multitude of photos from deleted scenes from Star Wars. Look for those of Luke and Biggs, Camie and Fixer, more of the wampa subplot, plus many of the other excellent 200 behind the scenes photos. Lucas mentions the deleted scenes in Star Wars didn’t work for cut of the film. That’s fine with me, but I still want to see them. At the request of others on the project, they were filmed because some felt Lucas’s decision to follow the story of droids at the beginning of the film was a gamble, and the emphasis should be placed on the hero instead. Thus, these opening scenes with Luke were shot and cut in between the battles up above in space. It didn’t work. The wampa subplot in Empire was cut because the creature effects weren’t so great. Given that Lucas can add CGI and reshoot scenes, why not modify the wampa scenes? That’s my input on that subject.

Lastly, be sure to check out the exclusive DVD-ROM content by accessing the internet and also watch the Exclusive Episode III Preview. This should be and exciting film. This preview shows a little behind the scenes but no finished work is included.


After a long wait the Star Wars Trilogy has finally made it to DVD. Has it been worth the fuss? I think so. These films have never looked better in their lifetime and I’m very satisfied with the quality of this release. I am disappointed that more special features weren’t included given the huge library of information available. While Kevin Burns’ documentary is fabulous, more could be included on this disc. If comparing this set to any of the Lord of the Rings: Extended Editions, this Star Wars Trilogy will leave the die-hard fans wanting. …and I think the majority of people interested in this box set are die hard fans. Maybe in the years to come we can see more elaborate special editions once Episodes I - III are complete. Given that higher capacity optical discs are on the horizon, the possibilities should be endless. Even though I wish this set had the original versions of the films as well, I will tell you this set is worth it. The image quality is too good to pass up, and 5.1EX audio makes the Star Wars experience so much better. So enjoy watching these films again, you’ll be happy they are available on DVD. And while you watch it, may the force be with you. Always.

Michael Osadciw

P.S.: What is your favourite film of the trilogy?

Michael Osadciw

THX/ISF Professional Video Calibrator

Video Contributor

CANADA HiFi Magazine

#2 of 2200 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted September 11 2004 - 01:57 PM

This thread is designated as the Official HTF Review and Discussion Thread. Discussion about the Star Wars DVDS should take place in this thread. Also, another thread has been established in Software for any reported glitches with these dvds. The link to that thread is here.

Furthermore, an Official HTF Star Wars Film Discussion Thread has been established in Movies.

A word of caution, any member and we mean "any member" that crosses the line of civility and violates HTF Posting Guidelines will have his posting privileges immediately removed without any further warnings.

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#3 of 2200 OFFLINE   Dave Mack

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Posted September 11 2004 - 02:14 PM

Nice, thorough review!!!
And Empire is my fave artistically but ANH brings the most nostalgia...

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#4 of 2200 OFFLINE   Mike_G



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Posted September 11 2004 - 02:24 PM

Michael, The films are most definitely NOT like the '97 SE's in terms of audio, and there are a LOT of new sound effects. Too many to list. Mike

#5 of 2200 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted September 11 2004 - 02:28 PM

Great review Michael. I've only seen each once, the 1997 SEs so I doubt I would notice any of the things changed up. I'm still on the fence about buying the set. If the price is right then I might pick them up for a second viewing.

#6 of 2200 OFFLINE   Mike_G



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Posted September 11 2004 - 02:32 PM

The audio is so much better, it's like watching the movie for the first time again. There are some problems with the dialog loops as stated in the other thread. The only other goof is that they spell "Imperial" with a lower-case 'i' in the subtitles TWICE. Mike

#7 of 2200 OFFLINE   Brent M

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Posted September 11 2004 - 02:35 PM

Great review, Michael. Can you address the ongoing debate about the lightsaber problems(or lack thereof) in these releases?
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#8 of 2200 OFFLINE   Jeremy Stockwell

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Posted September 11 2004 - 02:35 PM

Best review of these DVDs that I've read yet, Michael. Nicely done. Can't wait until the 21st! JKS
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#9 of 2200 OFFLINE   Richard Kim

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Posted September 11 2004 - 02:41 PM

Great review, Michael. I just finished viewing ANH. I noticed that there were several changes in the audio department: Darth Vader's voice has been altered to match his voice in ESB and ROTJ. Originally, Vader's ANH voice was more tinny and less robust than in the other 2 films. This is a good change IMO. Just before the Jawa sandcrawler stops at the Lars homestead, 3P0 says "We've stopped" just before he wakes up R2. This was not in the original or the SE. Just before the 2 stormtroopers leave the Falcon and Luke, Han et al pop up from the floor, one of them says "there's nobody here." Again, this was not in the original or the SE. When the stormtrooper hits his head on the door, there's a louder "thunk" sound effect than the original or the SE. That's it. ANH looks and sounds great. Now I'm off to watch the special features.

#10 of 2200 OFFLINE   Jesse Skeen

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Posted September 11 2004 - 03:11 PM

Well, I won't comment any further on the changes to the movies (needless to say I won't be buying this set- they really missed the boat as they could have included 3 versions of each movie like T2 does.) I'm curious though as to how the French and Spanish dubs are though?
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#11 of 2200 OFFLINE   Heinz W

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Posted September 11 2004 - 03:21 PM

Nice review Michael.

I was 11 when Star Wars came out and saw it numerous times that year, at least ten. That was great time at the movies, people cheered and hollered and I've never quite experienced that same type of crowd reaction at the movies since. Same for the sequels, though to a lesser degree. I've loved them all my life, especially Star Wars and Empire which are two of the best movies ever made IMHO.

In 1977 I had the double LP soundtrack album that I practically wore out. I had the toys, and I still have a two-piece Darth Vader mask from Don Post Studios that I got in 1977. Star Wars is, rather predictably Posted Image, among my top favorite movies ever. It wasn't just a movie, it was a cultural event.

As far as the SE vs. Originals, I'd like to have the originals as much as everyone else but if I had both versions to choose from (on DVD) I'd quite honestly watch the SE's more. I like most of the changes, and that's from a 27 year fan of the film(s). My least favorite change to the trilogy is the awful editing fiasco at the end of Empire. That sequence was damn near perfect in both image and score but now screeches to a halt to actually show Vader returning to his Star Destroyer. Just terrible, it really hurts the ending IMO. Regardless, I don't trouble endlessly over minute changes or differences.

I've dearly loved these movies since I was 11 and know them virtually by heart, but the SE changes/updates are really not that big a deal to me in the end. I'd prefer the the originals to be available digitally as well, but the lack thereof will not preclude me in any way from buying this set.

After six years of waiting (for me) we finally get Star Wars on DVD. Now that the moment is almost upon us it almost seems anti-climatic to all the eager speculation, internet frenzy, and general anticipation. I can hardly believe I'm reading reviews such as this after a seemingly interminable wait. I cannot wait to see these flicks in their crisp digital glory for the first time. It's been WAYYYY too long in coming, but the incredible job by Lowry and the remarkable transfers make it appear that the wait was well worth it. The colors look much better as well. Surely this set will tide us over until the eventual HD release where hopefully the originals as well as more thorough extras will be available???

But for now, I'm ecstatic to finally see this day arrive and I can't wait to pick them up. Posted Image

#12 of 2200 OFFLINE   Richard Kim

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Posted September 11 2004 - 03:29 PM

Another sound change in ANH: During the DS chasm firefight, in the 1997 SE, Leia's blaster sounded like Dirty Harry's Magnum handgun for some reason. This sound effect has been removed in the DVD.

#13 of 2200 OFFLINE   Joshua Clinard

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Posted September 11 2004 - 03:32 PM

Great review, Michael. My favorite of the films is of course ANH. It's the only one I've seen in the theater and that was when I saw the re-release in 97. I saw all three on video when I was much younger, but I never was a fan of Star Wars until I saw it on the Big Screen. Then I purchased the Special Edition Widescreen VHS. I have been a major fan ever since. I likely will not notice the changes, since the few times I saw the orignal versions I was young, and not paying much attention.

#14 of 2200 OFFLINE   Jaxon's Dad

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Posted September 11 2004 - 03:37 PM

Thanx for a great review Michael. Even though "The Empire Strikes Back" is the best film of the trilogy, my personal favorite is "A New Hope." It's the one that started it all and always makes me smile.
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#15 of 2200 OFFLINE   Kain_C



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Posted September 11 2004 - 03:46 PM


Another sound change in ANH:

During the DS chasm firefight, in the 1997 SE, Leia's blaster sounded like Dirty Harry's Magnum handgun for some reason. This sound effect has been removed in the DVD.

THANK GOD!! I thought I was the only one that noticed that. It made me laugh and infuriated me at the same time. I guess they did the old 'lion's roar' sound effect technique to spice it up but instead totally obliterated the sound effect.

#16 of 2200 OFFLINE   CraigL



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Posted September 11 2004 - 03:47 PM

Make sure you watch all of "Empire of Dreams" right through to the end of the credits. images/smilies/smile.gif

Oh and one other think...watch out with taking the cardboard advertisement off of the box. The glue on it is disgusting and part of the paint on the box came off with the glue. And yes, I was very careful. Posted Image

#17 of 2200 OFFLINE   Grant H

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Posted September 11 2004 - 03:53 PM

Regarding the alleged ANH Vader voice change: Does Vader now correctly inflect: "There will be no one to stop us THIS time" or does he still say "There will be no one to stop us this TIME."? It's still being debated whether his voice has been changed, but I'm for it if he sounds more ESB-like now. JEJ performance and the processing weren't nearly as good in ANH. I swear that in the first '97 SE trailer, the take used for the above line had the proper inflection, and I was excited that the poor delivery had at last been fixed. Then, in the theater it was the same wrong inflection it had always been. Upset if Burtt buried the score in the mix as some are saying. Another reason to hold on to my OOT LD's. (Although there are moments in the THX discs, especially the Yavin battle where the score is buried a lot more than you would think. Would be interesting to go back to the original LD releases for a tinny listen.) Sounds like there are some nice fixes/changes, but still many oversights. Sounds like they really got rushed with Jedi which might explain some of the visual flaws. I wish the re-releases of these films weren't constant rush-jobs. The '97 SE's and now these. Looks like they SHOULD HAVE had until after Episode III to complete them properly. After reading that snippet about Lowry and the lightsabers it seems pretty clear that in their haste to keep the brightness and contrast levels of the entire picture consistent throughout the scene, the lightsabers got screwed up since the Lowry alterations necessitated the sabers be re-rotoscoped or at least tweaked separately from the rest of the frame. The same thing likely happened with ESB at Cloud City. Can't believe Luke has a green saber on the Falcon either. Really, Lucasfilm. What's the deal? That was one of the most obvious things to fix. The only thing I can think of is the fact that that scene has somewhat yellow lighting on Luke. Did they WANT the yellow light and Luke's blue saber to make green? Hopefully we can all pick up the set at bargain prices, and the next release will be far superior since we'll be infinitely dipping on Star Wars in years to come. This whole "we'll fix that for the next release" business is getting old. The sad part is they know we'll keep buying no matter what. I guess we shouldn't expect perfection, but glaring errors after the long wait for these films is tough to stoumach. Had these coume out in 1999...
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#18 of 2200 OFFLINE   Jeff Jacobson

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Posted September 11 2004 - 04:11 PM


At the request of others on the project, they were filmed because some felt Lucas’s decision to follow the story of druids at the beginning of the film was a gamble, and the emphasis should be placed on the hero instead.

What's this about druids?

#19 of 2200 OFFLINE   Ricardo C

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Posted September 11 2004 - 04:21 PM

Man, an hour wasted on this sig! Thanks, Toshiba! :P

#20 of 2200 OFFLINE   Brent M

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Posted September 11 2004 - 04:22 PM

Aren't druids in Spaceballs? images/smilies/biggrin.gif
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