STAR WARS TRILOGY
Review by Michael Jacobson
Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Peter Mayhew,
David Prowse, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, voice
of James Earl Jones
Directors: George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Richard Marquand
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Lengths: 123 Minutes, 129 Minutes, 136 Minutes
Release Date: September 21, 2004
long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
the summer of 1977, a new phenomenon took over the culture of the world, and
it’s never really released its grip. It
was a science fiction fantasy with an evil empire, brave rebels, a princess, a
farm boy, a space pirate, and the most dysfunctional father-son relationship
since Abraham tried to sacrifice Isaac. It
was called Star Wars, and unless you were a hermit in a cave, you
couldn’t escape it. It was in
movie theatres, in record shops, in toy stores, on T-shirts and lunchboxes and
just about any other inanimate object imaginable.
In fact, I take it back…I could have sworn I saw that hermit wearing a
shirt with Darth Vader’s image on it and sporting the caption, “Who’s your
was a great year to be an eight year old boy and starting my third grade year
fully equipped with my favorite Star Wars characters all over my folders,
notebooks and Thermos bottle. It
was fun to collect the action figures and wage my own battles against the Empire
after classes and on weekends, or re-enacting my favorite scenes with my friends
while shooting those rather insipid official Star Wars laser pistols that
made goofy noises and didn’t do much else.
It was a year when “Hey, how’s it going?” was replaced by “May
the Force be with you.”
was the film that turned a mild mannered young moviemaker from California into
the master of an empire of his own. George
Lucas had earned acclaim for his work on THX 1138 and American
Graffiti, but with Star Wars, he attained a new level of success and
a cult status few artists have ever matched.
fans ate it up, and they wanted seconds…and fortunately for us, Lucas had
always intended to craft a full trilogy to bring his characters and story full
circles. The only thing in my youth
that could have compared to the event of Star Wars was the 1980 release
of The Empire Strikes Back, in which Lucas’ original vision stretched
further and filled even more of our cultural expanse. A new mythology was being created, and we were all getting
rounded out his original concept in 1983 with Return of the Jedi, but he
always spoke of a trilogy of trilogies. The
first movie had been intriguingly subtitled Episode IV, meaning we
hadn’t come in at the beginning of the story, but arrived at one already in
progress. Lucas had hoped to
eventually give the world Episodes I-III and Episodes VII-IX.
The former will reach full completion with next year’s release of Revenge
of the Sith. The latter was summarily abandoned by its creator.
there was always something special and unflappable about that original trilogy.
The greatly hyped new films of recent years have satisfied, but the
experiences of the first ones can’t quite be replicated.
Those of us who were kids at the time have looked back fondly for decades
now and realized it was really a special time to be boys or girls and have our
imaginations opened by what was nothing short of a quantum leap forward in
after years and years of VHS and Beta tapes and laserdiscs, the original trilogy
has made DVD. That’s the good
news. The not-so-good news is that
they’re not quite the movies we remembered from our youths.
Everything we loved about them is still there, but Lucas has never
reached a plateau of satisfaction with those films.
In 1997 he re-issued them for theatres with restored picture and sound,
updated special effects, and even some new footage.
But now, these DVDs have been tinkered with even further.
You’ll notice differences; some subtle, like cleaned-up lightsabers or
a better Jabba in Episode IV, some not-so-subtle, like the fact that Ian
McDiarmid now plays the Emperor in Empire and Hayden Christensen is the
ghost of Anakin in Jedi.
they necessary changes that enhance the experience, or are they artistic
blasphemies akin to rewriting the Bible? That’s
a question that I believe will be kicked around for many years to come, and may
even pass from generation to generation. For
my own part, I wish Lucas had opted to release both the original, untouched
trilogy AND his new revamped ones at the same time.
I would have bought both…and I bet I wouldn’t have been alone.
as my sister always reminds me when I gripe and grumble, sometimes the glass IS
half full. I’m very happy to
finally own the trilogy on DVD, especially considering they’ve never looked or
sounded so good on home video before. Spotting
the changes added a bit of fun and made it a little like seeing the movies for
the first time all over again. Yes…life
about the individual films is kind of a challenge, considering there can’t be
many who haven’t seen them (and probably plenty like me who know them by
heart). But the release of the
trilogy is arguably the biggest event in the brief history of DVD, so I have to
not; do or do not. There is no try.
moon…it’s a space station…”
Star Wars saga begins with a galaxy in turmoil.
An evil empire has all but quashed freedom from star system to star
system. The only hope is a ragtag
rebellion led by Princess Leia Organa (Fisher), but she falls prisoner to the
dark lord Darth Vader (Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones).
Her only hope is two droids, C-3PO (Daniels) and R2-D2 (Baker), who carry
her message of distress and top secret plans to an aged Jedi Knight named
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Guinness). But the
droids first fall into the possession of a moisture farmer on the arid planet of
Tatooine, and his restless nephew Luke Skywalker (Hamill).
and Obi-Wan meet up with a renegade pilot and smuggler called Han Solo (Ford)
and his furry Wookie companion Chewbacca (Mayhew) and pay him for transport, but
the heroes soon stumble upon the Empire’s greatest secret:
the Death Star, a gigantic space station with weaponry that can destroy
entire planets. They find
themselves prisoners of the Death Star, but Luke has other ideas…namely
rescuing the Princess, escaping, and returning with the station’s plans to the
rebel base so they can do battle against the Empire.
But first, Obi-Wan has unfinished business with his one-time apprentice,
was the movie spectacle that defined a decade.
The climactic battle in and around the Death Star took audiences faster
and more into the action than anything they had seen before.
The visual and audio effects marked the beginning of a new era in cinema
technology. And John Williams’
Wagner-esque score would become one of the most recognizable themes in movie
picture not only set worldwide box office records and raked in millions more in
merchandising cash, it earned critical praise as well, and even scored an
impressive seven wins on Oscar night.
But the death knell of the Death Star wasn’t the ending of the
story…not by a long shot.
don’t believe it.”
is why you fail.”
The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas stepped back from the director’s
chair in favor of Irvin Kershner while still maintaining a strong sense of
control over his vision. And he
ended up accomplishing the unthinkable…he made a sequel even better than an
already great original.
Darth Vader and the Empire more determined than ever to crush the rebellion,
they take the fight to the secret rebel base on the ice planet Hoth (a
spectacular battle with giant walkers). The
survivors take flight after a crushing defeat.
Luke, following the advice of the apparition of Obi-Wan, travels to the
Dagobah system to seek the legendary Jedi Master Yoda (voiced and puppeted by
Frank Oz). Meanwhile, Han, Leia,
Chewbacca and the droids risk a dangerous getaway through an asteroid belt to
meet up with Han’s old companion Lando Calrissian (Williams).
all is not well. The Empire wants
Luke, and have rigged a trap for him using his friends as bait.
Luke abandons his Jedi training to finally confront Vader face to face,
only to find Vader holding a card over him that he could have never imagined.
I can still remember the chills in my spine, my hairs standing on end, my
eyes widening and the color draining from my face when I heard those immortal
words for the first time:
AM YOUR FATHER.”
for Star Wars fans, it became the most pivotal moment of all the movies
is the best
of the lot easily…true, there’s still one picture left to come out, but
I’m wagering it won’t dethrone the movie that fans universally claim as
their favorite. It was an honest
second installment of a trilogy: it
took the story forward with a darker sense of purpose, and it left fans
wondering just what would be the outcome of it all.
It would again be a three year wait to learn the answer.
leave you…I’ve got to save you!”
of the Jedi, under
the direction of Richard Marquand, brought Lucas’ original trilogy to a
mostly satisfying conclusion. Story
threads that had been woven since A New Hope were finally completing
their picture. Luke and Vader would
finally square off not as merely enemies, but as father and son.
The Emperor’s (McDiarmid) evil design would be realized.
Oh yes, and the Star Wars universe would also be overrun by
gibbering teddy bears.
cuddly rascals called Ewoks were always a little too precious to be in a Star
Wars movie to my way of thinking, but in hindsight, I’d rather Lucas had
brought them back in Episode I in place of Jar-Jar Binks.
They were furry and primitive, yet managed to help our intrepid heroes in
their efforts to knock out the Empire’s shield generator on the forest planet
of Endor so that the rebels could try to destroy the Empire’s new in-progress
cutesy-cutesy factor notwithstanding, the real meat of the final installment was
Luke having to face down the evil and powerful Emperor and his plans to turn the
son to the Dark Side of the Force just as he had done the father.
Not only did the future of the rebellion hang in the balance, but so did
Luke’s last chance to redeem his father, who had fallen a long way from the
once promising Jedi Anakin Skywalker into the villainous machine-like Darth
good things must come to an end, but of course, the genius of Lucas was that it
didn’t really…he left room to go back to the beginning and start all over
again, which he would do some 16 years after the fact.
The new Star Wars entries have been welcomed by fans, but I
don’t think anything will replace the experience of the original Star Wars
Trilogy. They were the films
that created the new myths and advanced the scientific art of motion picture
making to a new level, and as such, they will always serve as distinct bookmarks
in the history of cinema.
With these sets, DVD has made the jump to hyperspace. If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen every home video incarnation of these movies, from tape to tape, laserdisc and so on. But you’ve never seen anything like this. These anamorphic transfers are spectacular. I used to think movies with scenes in space were some of the most problematic to render correctly in a digital format, but I was quite wrong. Images are crisp, clear, and well defined, objects against black starry backgrounds look lifelike and vibrant, and the colors are so bright and beautiful, you’d swear these movies were only a few years old (well, okay, some parts of them ARE).
pan & scan versions are available, PLEASE, for the love of Boba Fett, opt
for the widescreen ones, or you may as well watch them with one eye closed.
is quite as thrilling as to hear the opening strains of the Star Wars main
title theme in glorious, full digital 5.1.
As soon as it strikes up, you smile, knowing you’re in for a heckuva
listening experience. The Oscar
winning sound is better than ever, with all channels opened up fully to keep you
in the center of the action. Dialogue
is clean and clear, and dynamic range is so full, it’s like millions of voices
suddenly cried out in terror and suddenly silenced.
Or at least close. It took a
while to get these movies rolled out on DVD, but friends, it was worth the wait.
disc has an audio commentary with George Lucas, sound designer Ben Burtt, visual
effects supervisor Dennis Muran and actress Carrie Fisher (Irvin Kershner also
appears on Empire), which are all enjoyable listens.
Can you believe we finally get to see the trilogy with Lucas commentary?
fourth disc has the remainder of the bonus materials. “Empire of Dreams” is one of the best and most
comprehensive (2 ˝ hours) documentaries ever made for DVD.
It chronicles all of the trilogy with plenty of archival footage and new
interviews with cast and crew. Three
additional featurettes showcase “The Birth of the Lightsaber”, “The
Characters of Star Wars” and the legacy.
A third featurette looks at the upcoming Episode III, focusing on
the return of Darth Vader. You’ll
see stars Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen practicing for their big duel,
plus Christensen donning the legendary mask!
are three bits focusing on the Battlefront video games, plus teaser, trailer and
re-launch trailers for each episode, and loads of TV spots.
The 1997 Special Edition trailer is included as well.
Most interesting of the lot is the teaser for Episode VI, which
still showed it as Revenge of the Jedi!
out are some cool animated menus on all discs.
George Lucas always manages to get his fans to wait for the goods, but when he delivers, he always makes it worthwhile. Having the Star Wars Trilogy on DVD just makes any good movie library seem more complete, and these reference quality discs are just what the doctor ordered.