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Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (2004 DVD Edition)

By T. Rob Brown

So, what’s new about the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 2004 DVD version?

I'm writing this article as I watch the new DVD which was just released today: Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2004. So, I may miss some of the differences.

The first thing my brother and I noticed is Lucas has totally redone Jabba the Hutt in the scene outside the Millenium Falcon where Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is confronted by the CGI (Computer Generated Image) Jabba the Hutt. This scene was originally shot for the 1977 classic Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, but was deleted. It originally contained a heavyset gentleman wearing furs and exhibiting a thick Irish accent, in the role of Jabba. When the Special Edition was released, Lucas replaced the heavyset Irish-accented man with the CGI Jabba.

In this new 2004 DVD edition of Star Wars, Lucas replaced the CGI Jabba with an all-new, improved CGI version. This version is more in line with the version of Jabba that was shown in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace at the Boonta Eve Classic pod race in Tattoine’s Mos Espa. By this, I mean the detail level and texture of Jabba is much improved over the CGI version from the Special Edition. Plus, when Han steps on Jabba’s tail, it’s less stupid looking. In the Special Edition, Jabba’s eyes grow in size to near-gigantic proportions as his tail is stepped on. In this new version, Jabba’s expression is noticeable but is more realistic and less cartoony.

Later, I realized the scene on the landspeeder where Luke, Obi-Wan and the droids enter Mos Eisley has been improved with a more realistic-looking C3P0 and a better looking landspeeder. It also enters the frame slightly different.

The words “Tractor Beam 12” were removed from the tractor beam controls and replaced with the Aribesh font (found on most things in the trilogy).

The next thing we noticed is in the climactic lightsaber duel between former Jedi Master Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness) and Darth Vader (David Prowse acting, James Earl Jones’ voice), also known as Anakin Skywalker, has improved lightsabers. I always noticed how skinny and less-impressive the glow of the lightsabers were in the original 1977 classic as compared to the later films. Now, the lightsabers look much closer to the lightsabers we’ve come to love. Upon reviewing the Special Edition version, Vader's lightsaber has almost no glow to it, expanding out from the blade. In this new DVD release, both blades glow and have a reasonable lightsaber thickness. At one point in the Special Edition version (and all previous versions -- THX enhanced and original theatrical), Obi-Wan’s lightsaber tip points toward the camera (the viewers) and is as skinny as a pencil. In the new DVD version, that lightsaber is thicker, glows better, and is more impressive looking.

One thing I would have hoped Lucas would have fixed was the error of having novice bounty hunter Greedo fire at Han Solo first (which didn't happen that way in the theatrical release -- it was changed for the Special Edition) in the Mos Eisley Cantina. Jabba wanted Han ALIVE -- not dead. Why would Greedo fire first? This doesn't make sense. I was hoping Lucas would have repaired that bad choice he made during the making of the Special Edition. Note: There is a slight modification here, though. If you slow it down, Greedo and Han almost fire at the same time now -- but Greedo’s shot is just a fraction of a second faster. When you freeze the frame as Greedo’s blast hits the wall, Han hadn’t yet fired in the Special Edition. In the new DVD Edition, Han’s blast is halfway toward Greedo.

Another thing I would have hoped would have been fixed by now in all these renditions of the movie is the scene between Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and Darth Vader when they’re talking about the Princess, Obi-Wan, and the ship they’ve captured aboard the Death Star. After they’ve both stopped talking, Vader’s hands continue to move in nonverbals as if he is still talking but there are no words. I’m quite surprised this scene was never fixed -- it’s been obvious to me since the THX version hit VHS.

Disappointingly, though, Chewbacca STILL didn’t get a medal at the end of the movie *sigh*. Poor Chewie!

All three DVDs are so much sharper than my Special Edition VHS version, have better color quality, better contrast, better image exposure, better textures and detail, and better sound (5.1 Surround/THX vs. the old Dolby II stereo on VHS).

Hasta la vista,

T. Rob Brown

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