Since the original film hit theaters back in 1977, the Star Wars saga has seen more than its fair share of updates and revisions. Often, fans have ranted about George Lucas’ consistent tampering with their childhood classics, with the most famous and egregious change being the “Han shot first” debacle. However, some of the changes made to the films were ultimately wise decisions that added continuity, depth, and new meaning to the story. Here are 10 examples.
1. Yoda goes CGI in The Phantom Menace
When fans caught their first glimpse of The Phantom Menace, one questionable element that stood out was an awkward new puppet version of Jedi Master Yoda. The character had been done brilliantly by Frank Oz in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but this updated incarnation was a drastic departure from the design that fans remembered. Thankfully, the 2011 Blu-ray of the film replaced it with the prequels’ CGI model.
2. Jango’s busted jetpack
Attack of the Clones is perhaps one of the saga’s least popular installments, but one thing it does right is establish bounty hunter Jango Fett as a certified badass. The fact that the elder Fett falls to Mace Windu’s purple lightsaber, however, detracts somewhat from his power. After all, Jango had already stood toe-to-toe with Obi-Wan Kenobi. On the film’s DVD release, Lucas decided to add sparks to Jango’s battle-damaged jetpack in the moments leading up to his death, establishing that the bounty hunter couldn’t escape as he had earlier on Kamino.
3. Luke and Biggs briefly catch up
Two deleted scenes were added to the 1997 special edition of A New Hope: a pointless, repetitive confrontation between Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt and this brief moment in which Luke Skywalker reunites with his friend Biggs Darklighter. The scene, albeit short, nicely pays off Luke’s sunset-gazing dream to join the Rebel Alliance earlier in the film and sets the emotional stakes for Biggs’ death during the subsequent battle against the Death Star.
4. The real Palpatine joins The Empire Strikes Back
Ian McDiarmid played the ultra-creepy Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi and later on served as one of the highlights of the prequel trilogy. Still, Lucas didn’t replace the original character in The Empire Strikes Back — played by Elaine Baker with super-imposed chimpanzee eyes and voiced by Clive Revill — with a proper appearance by McDiarmid until the 2004 DVD release. Even more intriguing is the revised dialogue between Palpatine and Vader, which implies that both men are less than honest with each other regarding their intentions for Luke. Shifty Sith.
5. Temuera Morrison takes over for Boba Fett
Boba Fett was a fan-favorite for decades before he was revealed to actually be a clone. So when it came time for the original trilogy’s 2004 DVD release, it made sense for actor Temuera Morrison — who played Jango Fett and various clones in the prequels — to return to the franchise as the new voice of Boba Fett, the cloned version of his original character. Luckily, Morrison has a fitting voice, allowing the continuity fix to help rather than hinder the classic films.
6. Farewell to Anakin’s eyebrows
Much like Jango’s jetpack, this is a small detail that casual viewers would likely never notice. However, in recent versions of Return of the Jedi, Lucas and his team have digitally removed the dying Anakin’s eyebrows to match the damage he endures in Revenge of the Sith. Of course, the update also involved altering actor Sebastian Shaw’s eye color and face to more closely match Hayden Christensen, a move that proved far more divisive among fans.
7. Star Wars celebration
The demise of Emperor Palpatine and the destruction of the second Death Star marked the culmination of a story that had been brewing throughout six movies. So in the 1997 special edition of Return of the Jedi, Lucas and company made sure to include glimpses at celebrations on the planets featured most prominently in the prequels. Some fans may prefer that locales like Naboo and Coruscant stay out of the original trilogy, but the footage conveys the weight of the Rebel Alliance’s victory, demonstrating that the entire galaxy rejoiced in its new-found freedom.
8. Booting the old Expanded Universe novels from the canon
Listen, we get it. The old Expanded Universe novels were packed with amazing stories that added incredible depth to the Star Wars saga. But with dozens upon dozens of books set in the years following Return of the Jedi, there was simply no way for Disney to feasibly make a new trilogy of films if the EU was still canon. This led to Lucasfilm rebranding the old books as “Legends,” ushering in a new, canonical series of complementary novels and comics. Ultimately, while it was a bummer to have the EU leave the main Star Wars timeline, it was also a necessary move for the future of the franchise.
9. Bringing Darth Maul back from the dead
In the proud Star Wars tradition of popular and cool-looking characters getting unceremoniously killed off, Darth Maul didn’t last long in the prequel trilogy. The horned Sith apprentice was widely marketed in the lead-up to The Phantom Menace as the latest big bad to grace the saga, before getting cut in half and thrown down a hole in the closing moments of the film. Thankfully, that was far from the end for Maul, as he resurfaced again in The Clone Wars, having survived his injuries at the cost of his sanity. He’s since popped up again in Star Wars Rebels, as his character arc continues to get filled in the way we’d originally hoped for in the prequels.
10. Anakin’s fall to the dark side gets some much-needed context in The Clone Wars
One of the most glaring problems with the prequel trilogy involves the jarring time jumps between films, that have us skipping important formative years in Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi training. How were we supposed to fully understand his fall to the Dark Side if we’re not seeing key moments in his life? Past some awkwardly placed exposition and a good deal of creepy flirting with Padmé, the Hayden Christensen version of Anakin is paper thin as a character.
Enter the animated Clone Wars series three years after Revenge of the Sith, which filled the gaps in Anakin’s character development in a huge way. We see him take on an apprentice of his own, fight for the Jedi Order as a military leader, and at one point, even discover his tragic destiny. It’s a portrayal that lent more weight to his eventual conversion into Darth Vader than the prequels ever could, telling some of the most nuanced and compelling stories of the entire prequel era of Star Wars.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
Additional reporting by Nick Cannata-Bowman.
Check out Entertainment Cheat Sheet on Facebook!