Star Wars, remastered – (A New Hope – IV 1977, The Empire Strikes Back – V 1980, Return of the Jedi – VI 1983), Blu-ray (2011)

by | Jan 7, 2017 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

The first three Star Wars films in their improved digital versions, and on Blu-ray.

Star Wars, remastered – (A New Hope – IV 1977, The Empire Strikes Back – V 1980, Return of the Jedi – VI 1983), Blu-ray (2011)

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fischer, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse
Directors: George Lucas – IV, Irvin Kershner – V, Richard Marquand – VI
Music: John Williams
Studio: Lucasfilm/ 20th Century Fox (3 discs) (9/16/11)
Video: 2.35:1 for 16:9 screens, HD color
Audio: English and made-up languages, DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
Dubbed: English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Commentary tracks (2) incl. actual interviews with the cast and crew
Length: TT: 387 min.
Rating: *****

It was a  more than worthwhile thing to experience the epic story of Star Wars with high definition, re-done cgi digital effects, and pure digital surround sound. (Even though I am much more of a Star Trek fan.) Lucas transformed his films into “special editions” with new scenes and special effects, which were greeted with shrugs by most fans. Lucas also made the new remastered versions the only ones available. So you must be happy with his many changes to begin with. I viewed all three films with the commentary track extra of George Lucas, his cast (including Carrie Fisher) and crew. There is also a never-before-released commentary track extra for each movie created from archival interviews with the cast and crew. This is not the nine-Blu-ray collection (which is also available remastered) but the original three.

One of the fascinating things about the original commentary track were the comments by Ben Burtt, the head sound man.  He and his staff used many ordinary sounds around the house and around work recorded in unusual ways.  One, for example, had two mics in which one went into a vacuum cleaner while the other went into the hose which was pointed out the window at heavy LA traffic. The resultant roar was used for many of the starships and other things on the screen. Many of the sound staff carried a quality portable recorder along with them and when they heard something unusual, they often recorded it to add to their library. Burtt mentioned while in London hearing an unusual sound outdoors. It turned out workmen were using some sort of suction hose and a rock was stuck in it, causing a strange sound. He immediately went out and recorded it for their library. I recall when visiting a sewage treatment plant in Marin that they said Lucasfilm had just been there recording various sounds around the plant for use in Star Wars.

Another item that was discussed on the commentary track was the use of many junk pieces picked up from used car lots and old airplane lots. These were fastened to the exterior and interior of the Millennium Falcon to make it look like an appropriate beat-up old spaceship used by the smugglers.

Nearly everyone knows the basic story of the original film by now. Luke Skywalker gets to live every farm boy’s dream – give up the farm and rescue the princess. He is aided by roguish Han Solo and trained by Jedi maser Obi-Wan Kenobi. In the second, darker film, the war against the Empire and the awful Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) is fought by the small rebellion forces on the ice planet of Hoth. The training by Yoda (actually a Jim Henson hand puppet), the fantastic cloud city, and the bit of romance make it an excellent sequel. (Luke eventually finds out that Darth Vader is really his father and the princess is really his sister.) The third film is rather uneven (although it has a lot of cgi which was impossible in the first two films), mixing serious themes with the cuddly teddy bears – the Ewoks. But it has the terrific speeder chases thru the huge Sequoias. There is also the destruction of a bigger Death Star created by the enemy (because Lucas’ original story only had one Death Star). There are many humorous references in the films, which the various directors hoped viewers caught onto – such as Solo banging with his fist on the Millennium Falcon controls to get them to come on.

The series quickly became a cultural phenomenon for its generation. It was based on the many different movie serials which were once popular, and introduced millions to the Force, the Jedi Knights, and the two lovable droids. I didn’t recall Lucas’ changes in the digital remastering and enjoyed this re-do immensely. Sorry I let it sit around for so long.

—John Sunier

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