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Star Wars Returns to Theaters, with New, Improved Creatures and Explosions
by Gary Johnson

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Now that George Lucas is actively planning the next trilogy of tales in the Star Wars saga, 20th Century Fox is re-releasing the original movies into theaters. Lucas has polished up the first trilogy, adding some new, nifty special effects, as well as incorporating some scenes previously not used.

Star Wars will hit theaters on January 31st, to be followed by The Empire Strikes Back on February 21st and Return of the Jedi on March 7th. Star Wars (Part IV, "A New Hope") contains the most new footage and special effects, approximately 4 to 5 minutes of new material. This material contains some surprises and some disappointments.

First, Lucas has overseen the insertion of several new creatures to liven up Mos Eisely, the trading post where Luke and Ben Kenobi first venture. Whereas before, the streets of Mos Eisley were relatively empty, now the streets are filled with new creatures. When Luke and Ben Kenobi glide into town, they slip through a slew of small creatures that resemble large, mean kangaroo rats. We also get a huge, dinosaur-like creature that rears up on its hind legs and throws its Jawa rider. It's an impressive creation. In addition, a couple dewbacks (the preferred mount of Imperial Stormtroopers) fill the screen. Before, the dewbacks were pushed far away from the camera, but now we can see them as they stomp and snarl.

The most important addition to the Mos Eisley scene involves Jabba the Hutt. Before, Han, Luke, Ben, Chewie, and the droids take off in the Millennium Falcon, Han has a run in with Jabba. Han walks around Jabba as they talk, while Jabba acts like an Italian gangster. It's a good scene and a welcome addition to the movie, although the perspective isn't always worked out correctly between Han and Jabba; at least twice, when Han gestures while talking, his hand seems to move through Jabba. It's easy to see why Jabba was initially cut from Star Wars: he is such a commanding presence that he demands more than simply one little scene. But since we now know that he will reappear in Return of the Jedi, the inclusion of this early scene with Jabba makes sense.

Han and JabbaHan Solo and Jabba the Hutt in a new scene from Star Wars.

The changes in the Mos Eisley episode improve the movie and turn the town into a bustling space port. However, one change creates a major problem. Remember the scene where Greedo, a bounty hunter, corners Han and they sit down at a table to discuss Han's fate? Well, one of the pleasures of this scene originally was Han Solo's point-blank laser blast up through the table, killing Greedo. But this time, Lucas tinkers with the scene to make Han seem not so ruthless. Instead of simply blasting Greedo, Han waits until Greedo squeezes off a shot of his own--missing from only three feet away!--before he blasts Greedo. The rhythm of the scene is completely compromised and the pleasure of seeing Han as a Clint Eastwood-styled gun fighter is destroyed. I can only guess that Lucas was afraid that Han appeared as a cold-blooded killer in the original scene (and not really a hero for kids), so now he lets Greedo force Han into firing.

Dewbacks - Before and AfterYou'll find several additional changes in the new "Special Edition" release of Star Wars, such as a new explosion for the Death Star's final destruction. You'll also see an hilarious addition to Han's fight with Stormtroopers aboard the Death Star. And you'll get a restored scene between Luke and a friend of his named Biggs. This scene helps add some additional drama to the rebel assault on the Death Star, as we see Biggs, one of Luke's fellow fighter pilots, give his life so that Luke can reach the target.

Overall, I enjoyed Lucas's changes to Star Wars, but please, George, please, if you're reading this, restore the original scene between Han and Greedo. The original scene is a classic, and the tinkering here completely destroys the scene. I would gladly trade all the new creatures to get back the original gun-blast-through-the-table scene.

Star Wars returns to theaters on January 31st. The Empire Strikes Back follows on February 21st and Return of the Jedi on March 7th.

Photo Credits: © 1997 Lucas Ltd.

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