Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
Another update to a story from earlier in the week, this one regarding the supposed changes in the print that had been made when (take a deep breath) STAR WARS EPISODE IV A NEW HOPE THE SPECIAL EDITION showed in LA last Sunday. As it happens, my co-writer took the day off work to go to that screening. There is no bigger STAR WARS freak that I know. And I’m one of the hosts of the Jedi Council, a group of people who tend to take the films very seriously. So when I heard about these changes, I went straight to the man himself, asking him in e-mail what he had noticed about the print. He took the time to read the original article, and this is what he had to say in response:
Hey, Moriarty… Obi-Swan here…
I just wanted to put my two cents in regarding the article I read here about the recent screening of STAR WARS at the Director’s Guild.
In the piece penned by “Darklighter,” it was reported that there have been some big changes in the print. I was at the screening. If I hadn’t gone, based on that report, I’d be kicking myself for missing all the great new stuff. If you didn’t go, take my word for it: you didn’t miss anything.
In fact, I have no idea how Darklighter arrived at some of these startling conclusions.
Darklighter: “This was not the Special Edition print that is on VHS.”
Obi-Swan: This is true. But the changes are far less dramatic than we’re lead to believe.
Darklighter: “There were changes in this print - specifically, the lightsabers in the Obi/Vader duel were enhanced. This has been a nitpicky thing since the SEs were released: why didn't they fix the rotoscoping on the lightsabers? Well, in this print (which, strangely, was not a new looking print) the sabers WERE fixed.”
Obi-Swan: Enhanced? I suppose, if a slight variance in color timing counts. Fixed? I strongly disagree. The color timing appeared to be slightly different, making the color of the sabers more intense, but that’s it. The original rotoscoping work was still in this print. I say this without reservation because there wasn’t a steaming load of crap in my shorts when I left the theater. If the sabers had been “fixed” and all the old rotoscoping had been removed, I most assuredly would have shit myself. If Mr. Lucas is in fact working on the final versions of these original films, I’m certain the revamped lightsaber effects will be on par with the lightsaber effects in the prequel trilogy, complete with the removal of jump cuts when the swords are ignited and switched off.
Darklighter: “Obi-Wan's saber was brilliant blue and Vader's saber was bright red (not white) in every shot - even in the shot as the blast doors are closing.”
Obi-Swan: I can get behind this part. The saber colors did appear more striking, as I mentioned above, and Vader’s saber IS indeed red as the blast doors are closing. The color on Vader’s saber in this particular shot is the only big difference I spotted.
Darklighter: “In the shot where Ben's saber is pointed at the camera (where it suddenly looks like a stick) it was correctly filled in and had a glorious blue glow.”
Obi-Swan: Nope. Still looks like a stick to me. Honestly, I have no idea why Lucas didn’t fix this back in ’97. Oh, that’s right... he was too busy de-fanging Mos Eisley. Okay, never mind.
Darklighter: I wasn't imagining things because the guy next to me immediately whispered, "Did you see that?!"
Obi-Swan: I attended the screening with a fellow STAR WARS geek. Afterwards we talked about the slight (I repeat, SLIGHT) variances we observed. So, I’m confident I wasn’t imagining that I wasn’t seeing all this new stuff.
Darklighter: “There was one other minor change as well. In the first binary sunset shot as Luke is walking out of the homestead, the lower right sun had CG clouds passing in front of it. I came home and checked my VHS copy -- no clouds.”
Obi-Swan: If you watch even the original letterboxed version on laserdisc (which I just finished doing), you’ll see that clouds have always passed in front of the lower right sun. They’re not CG and they’re not new.
Darklighter: “It seems a few changes were slipped into this print since the initial release.”
Obi-Swan: I don’t think this print represents Lucas’ current version of the film one bit, and I don’t think these changes have been “slipped in” at all. This is probably just another case of slightly different versions of a STAR WARS movie floating around. When the original was in theaters during the initial release, there were slight differences in many of the prints sent out. I’ve even read that in one print, Aunt Beru wasn’t dubbed. Also there’s that dreadful C-3PO line about the tractor beam that’s been dubbed into the recent home video versions. My original VHS from the early 80’s didn’t have the line, nor did it have the line “He’s on your tail!” during the Dearth Star battle or the line “Close the blast doors!” when the Stormtroopers are chasing Han and Chewbacca.
Darklighter: “Perhaps this seems like minor stuff, but the lightsabers have bothered me for years. I'm happy to report they HAVE been fixed. Hopefully soon, everyone else will get a chance to see it on DVD.”
Obi-Swan: The print we saw the other day seems to be the oddity, so I won’t be holding my breath. Next year, when they put these on DVD Indiana Jones-style, I hope they do include these minor differences. The film did look better with the more vibrant sabers.
I hope I’ve been able to clear up a few misconceptions about the print. It was great seeing it again on the big screen.
Thanks, man. I know that initial report caused all sorts of hubbub in fandom, and I wanted to make sure we offered another perspective from someone who was there.