Friday, November 21, 2008

The Star Wars Decision

Our poll results are in, and the overwhelming sentiment is that Alex should watch the original 1977 version of Star Wars.

So, unless Alex seriously wants to see the re-releases, we will follow the will of the masses and watch the original versions of Episodes V and IV.

...However...

I'm going to make a case for the 2004 DVD release of Episode IV, and I welcome any cogent and constructive counter-comments defending the original.

Before I go any further, let me provide two links that might aid your counterarguments. The first is a Wikipedia entry of some of the more notable changes between the original and the 2004 release. The second is a bit more nitpicky comparison, but with pictures.

Here's the scoop: Alex has tried to watch Star Wars before. He never made it past the first 15 minutes. Space just isn't his favorite place to be.

If this were my child we were talking about, seeing Star Wars at an early age before really knowing anything about it, I would show him or her the original version without question.

But Alex already knows all the big important stuff. The major plot twists. Characters like Jabba the Hutt. That element of surprise, and the thrill of discovering the Star Wars universe for the first time are absent, or else he wouldn't have gone so long without watching any of the movies all the way through.

If the plot, the characters, and the concepts of Star Wars didn't hook him, then Alex will need all the whiz-bangery George Lucas can muster to maximize whatever fleeting enjoyment he'll get out of this movie.

On a strictly visual level, the quality of the 2004 DVD release is top notch. Compare the first image from the 1977 film with the second image from the 2004 restoration:

Original Star Wars film quality sampleStar Wars Special Edition film quality sampleAnd that's just a landscape.

Purists argue that some or all of the CGI introduced in the 1997 Special Edition hurt the film. The 2004 version cleaned up everything, including the CGI, and changed things here and there that were sticking points for those disappointed or outraged by the '97 release.

However, I acknowledge that not everything in the Special Edition that caused a stir among fans was corrected in 2004, and in a few cases some things were made worse. You know Han shot first. I know Han shot first. We all know Greedo didn't shoot at all.

Does Alex really care? I doubt it. If anything, it'll be entertaining to see his reaction to how the 2004 version attempted to fix this problem without really fixing it.

Are some of the additional scenes unneccesary? Perhaps, sure. But unlike the additions in Empire and Jedi that made significant changes to the film in order to establish a better continuity with the prequels, the additional scenes in A New Hope will be, at worst, just another scene for Alex to complain about when he determines that the best part of the movie was when I shut it off.

I'm not hosting a "Classic American Cinema" course. I'm not trying to lure Alex into being a Star Wars fan or a Star Wars purist. I'm just trying to show him a film that is significant to American culture and an incalcuable portion of the population in the format that I believe he will find most palatable.

I don't forsee him ever watching Star Wars again or even liking the franchise at all, though it is possible--however unlikely--that I might find a weakness and exploit it to help him discover some small shred of enjoyment in it.

I'm banking on that weakness being pretty colors and beefed-up explosions.

The 2004 DVD release might not be perfect. But I would rather show Alex a less-than-perfect version that he sorta almost likes and has a minute appreciation for than a perfect or practically perfect version that he can't stand and doesn't appreciate.

I welcome your counterarguments.


[Images from www.dvdactive.com]

2 comments:

tarepanda said...

Go for the DVD version.

I'd start from Episode I, just to see what he thinks as someone who's never actually seen the movies... apparently people in that situation who watch from Episode I (bad as the first trilogy may be) usually come out of it with a different perspective, which could be neat.

Flashman85 said...

An interesting thought about starting from Episode I; I'll take it under consideration, but my girlfriend has made an interesting case for him to still start with Episode IV, which I may or may not write about at a later date.

Most of it involves her trying to beat me up if I don't listen to her.

We'll see.