By T. Rob Brown
So, what’s new about the Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi 2004 DVD version?
I'm writing this article as I watch the new DVD which was just released yesterday: Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2004. So, I may miss some of the differences.
The first thing I noticed was the amazing quality difference during the battle between self-proclaimed Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker and the rancor creature in Jabba the Hutt’s dungeon. Even in the Special Edition, the quality of the images showing the rancor left something to be desired. There was a strong contrast difference between the images that showed Luke and those that showed the rancor, making it obvious the creature was done via stop-motion animation techniques. They didn’t revamp those scenes during the Special Edition production.
The new textures, color quality and contrast on the images of the rancor now more closely matches the other characters and surroundings it comes into contact with -- including Luke and the rancor keeper. This scene/battle no longer degrades the quality of the film as it had done in the past. This is one nice improvement for the third installment of the classic Star Wars trilogy, in my opinion.
The second thing I noticed is a lot more detail in Jabba’s sail barge -- part of that might be the difference in detail/quality between VHS and DVD -- but it looks like the sail barge has been re-rendered in CGI to make it look better. This is a subtle, yet positive improvement to the film.
Note: I’m glad to see they didn’t replace Jabba the Hutt (the giant animatronic/Muppett-style creature) from the movie with a CGI version. They might have done some reskinning in places with CGI textures (part of that could just be the sharpness difference between VHS and DVD formats), but he was not completely replaced by a CGI version.
Note 2: The rumor of a scene of Boba Fett in the background flying out of the Sarlac Pit, escaping, as the rebels flee, is not true.
Disapointment? I was hoping the rarely-seen sandstorm scene would at least be made an option to add back into the movie. Neither was it added back in, nor do I see any way to add it into the film.
Note 3: I'm glad Yoda was not replaced with a CGI version, as rumors had indicated he would be.
Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi is done much better as a ghost in his scene with Luke Skywalker on Dagobah just after Yoda dies. Before (even in the Special Edition), Obi-Wan was just a big blue mass -- now, he has some flesh tones and is more ethereal yet more detailed and believable.
The colors on the lightsabers was done better at the beginning of the climactic battle between Luke and Vader. Specifically when they first cross swords in front of Emperor Palpatine.
They digitally shaved off Sebastian Shaw's eyebrows in the scene where Vader’s helmet is removed.
Naboo is now shown among the cheering worlds after the Death Star is destroyed. Scenes on Coruscant, during the celebration, now include the Jedi Temple and the Galactic Senate locations.
And, of course, the final thing...that stood out like a sore thumb...Christian Hayden as the ghost of Anakin Skywalker at the end of the movie? Allegedly, this was done to fix the timeline because Anakin wouldn't have been quite as old as they previously had it in the storyline -- during the events of Return of the Jedi. But, instead of making an older Anakin Skywalker, he looks as he will in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. While Jedi Master Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi look as they did right before death, Anakin looks as he did about 25-30 years prior in the timeline. Does this really help the timeline? At least before, the age of the actor portraying the ghost of Anakin fit in. Who’s to say he wouldn't have aged like that if he hadn't been all mutilated and confined to a mostly-interior life within the dark Vader suit? I really think this change was unnecessary and actually rather silly.
Granted, I'm sure Lucas did this because 25-30 years prior is the last time Anakin was still “good” despite the fact he started down the dark path during Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones when he slaughtered all the Tusken Raiders (Sand People) who killed his mother. “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny” -- Jedi Master Yoda. Yet, also the last time he was “good” was the moment after he killed the Emperor on the second Death Star. “You have already saved me. You were right about me. Tell your sister you were right about me.” -- Anakin Skywalker. So, I'm sure all this change will do is cause a great amount of debate.
Personally, I may not like it -- but they’re George Lucas’ movies and he has every right to remake them (according to his aggreement with Fox) to his heart’s content. Frankly, I doubt this will be the FINAL version of the movies.
On the bright side...you can look at it that the very moment Vader throws the Emperor into the pit and destroys him, he has (as the prophecy foretold) “brought balance to the Force.” Then again, if you think about it -- there were thousands of Jedi and only two Sith, so the Force was very much OUT of balance. When, as Obi-Wan said in A New Hope, Vader hunted down and murdered the Jedi -- he brought the numbers down on the good side until there were only two left on each side: Darth Sidious (Emperor Palpatine) and Darth Vader (Anakin Skywalker) on the Dark Side and Jedi Master Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi on the Light Side. At that point, the Force was in balance, no?
Obi-Wan dies in A New Hope but he begins Luke's training... so there’s a bit of transition, but the next Jedi is on his way up.
When Yoda dies, the Force is again out of balance. When Vader kills the Emperor, the Force is back in balance for a split moment. But then Vader has become Anakin again so there are two Light Siders now. Then Anakin/Vader dies. Luke is all that's left. The Force is no longer in balance. I suppose you get where I’m going with this -- it’s almost a chicken and egg argument -- but for there to be balance there must be equal, but opposite, forces confronting from either side.
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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