Some of the most heated debates within the Star Wars fan community have centered on the many changes that George Lucas and his team have made to the saga over the years. While a few of them actually made sense for the story and continuity of the films, others are just so head-scratchingly unnecessary that adding them dampens the films’ impact and artistry.
Here are seven of the most notorious examples of changes to the Star Wars series, including some of the ones that angered fans the most.
1. Who shot first?
The most famous of the changes to the saga, this one forever altered the confrontation between Han Solo and Greedo in the Mos Eisley cantina. Originally, Han took out the Rodian bounty hunter just moments before he had the chance to blast him or deliver him to Jabba the Hutt. However, Lucas presumably felt that the scene made Han — one of the heroes — appear too bloodthirsty. So, in the 1997 special edition, Han was made to digitally duck a shot fired by Greedo just a moment before he fires his own blaster (see above). The result looked ridiculous, and while further tinkering now has Han and Greedo shoot at roughly the same time (still with Han ducking), the damage has been done.
2. Introducing Jabba the Hutt
Poor Han Solo appears in another alteration to A New Hope. Just moments after taking out Greedo to prevent facing Jabba, Han has a face-to-face conversation with the Hutt gangster in a deleted scene that was added to the film’s special edition. In addition to its repetitive dialogue from the Greedo scene, the fact that Jabba had not yet been designed when the scene was first shot meant that Han was forced to step around (or, in this case, on) the slug-like character’s tail. The CGI used for that moment (as well as Jabba as a whole) looked false when compared with his appearance in Return of the Jedi. Again, the visuals were ultimately fixed (see above), but the scene really should have ended up on the cutting room floor anyway.
3. Rings of fire
Apparently, Lucas felt that Luke’s destruction of the Death Star wasn’t epic or satisfying enough for audiences as it was. For the special edition of the trilogy, rings of fire were added to the Death Star explosions at the end of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi (not to mention Alderaan’s fate). Although the image could arguably be seen as more cinematic, it creates a repetitive visual effect that ultimately adds little more than a flourish to an already dramatic moment. Perhaps Lucas just wanted to borrow the idea from another well-known sci-fi property, as that explosion ring has become known as the Praxis effect for its use in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
4. Luke’s scream
Following the shocking reveal that Darth Vader is his father, Luke chooses to escape the only way he knows how: by allowing himself to tumble away from Vader’s clutches. The special edition added in a scream while Luke’s body falls, reusing the same audio that viewers hear when Palpatine meets his demise. The sound certainly didn’t fit the moment or the character, least of all because Luke likely wouldn’t scream during his intentional fall. In that moment, he is channeling the Force (as evidenced by how his body is guided to safety). Plus, adding in such a jarring sound effect takes away from the weight of his decision and, frankly, just sounds bizarre, given the context. Luckily, Luke’s scream was removed in all subsequent releases.
5. “Jedi Rocks”
Early on in Return of the Jedi, viewers are taken to Jabba’s palace, where a carbonite-clad Han is being held. Before Luke arrives and the action kicks in, lead singer Sy Snootles performs a song called “Lapti Nek,” but the special edition replaces this with an extended musical number titled “Jedi Rocks,” in which Sy Snootles is rendered via CGI and engages in a brief duet. Both Snootles and the Yuzzum with whom she performs even break the fourth wall at one point. While the new scene features smoother visuals, the over-the-top sequence is a strange tonal shift from its predecessor, distracting from the dark atmosphere of Jabba’s palace and the grisly death of the Twi’lek dancer it is intercut with.
6. Vader says “no” (again)
Fans bristled when, upon learning of Padmé’s death in Revenge of the Sith, Vader bellowed out a resounding “no,” crushing the various droids and medical equipment nearby in the process. Regardless, Lucas echoed that moment when Vader watches his son suffer at the hands of Emperor Palpatine and subsequently thrusts his master down the reactor shaft in Return of the Jedi. Likely, Lucas intended for the callback to possess a certain symmetrical poetry, as he often compares the saga to a musical composition full of parallels and connections. Still, the added dialogue ruins what was initially a quiet moment of reflection and decisive action, as Vader cannot stand by and allow his son to die.
7. Young Anakin as a Force ghost
Return of the Jedi’s ending is meant to be the culmination of a six-part saga that sees Anakin finally achieve redemption and become one with the Force. The question of how he manages to do this is never answered, but recent editions of the film have replaced actor Sebastian Shaw — who plays Anakin moments before his death aboard the Death Star — with the prequels’ Hayden Christensen. If the elder version of the character is the one who helped bring balance, why does his Force ghost appear as his younger self? Why isn’t Obi-Wan young then? Also, would Luke even recognize a 20-something version of his father? This change brings up far too many unnecessary questions when the original was perfectly effective.
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