Star Wars: Special Editions – Disneycember

Those controversial “improvements” to the Star Wars trilogy. Do they truly make it better? Doug takes a look at the Special Editions of the Star Wars Trilogy.

About Doug Walker

Creator of 5 Second Movies, Nostalgia Critic, Bum Reviews and more.

61 comments

  1. I’ve heard that change to the Han and Greedo scene was because these days the scene would bump the rating up from what George Lucas wanted, so it was changed to keep the rating for the special edition the same as the original version.

  2. Here’s my view on some of the changes:
    *Greedo shot first: Honestly…this one is take it or leave it for me. I don’t care either way. I get why people care, but I just don’t. The result is always the same.

    *The Jabba the Hutt scene: I actually liked this one the first few times I got it. It made some sense; we see the person Han is so scared of. But then, I saw another youtuber talk about it; the scene is ruined because of the payoff. We don’t know who…or what… Jabba is at this point in time. He’s only mentioned and alluded to. So that, when he’s introduced in Jedi it blows away the audience’s expectations. But again, for me, it’s take it or leave it. But, I do agree, with the Greedo scene, it is somewhat repetitive.

    *Showing more of the Wampa. This was another one I didn’t mind. But, after watching a youtuber (the same one who explained his views on the Jabba scene), I started to not like it. The reason the Wampa was scary in the originals was because of the “Jaws effect.” Like the shark in Jaws, the Wampa was scary because of what you DID NOT SEE, not what you see.

    *Redubbing the Emperor scene with Ian McDiaramid. I actually like this one. It works. For continuity, it works. But, I hate hate HATE the changed dialogue in the 2004 DVD re-release (“I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker” GOD That line makes me cringe).

    *Redubbing Boba with Temuera Morrison. Again, it works for continuity. And, I’m not getting into the Stormtrooper thing (THEY’RE NOT CLONES).

    *The dance scene in Jabba’s Palace. I’m sorry…but “Jedi Rocks” (the song that plays with the CG creatures) just sounds horrible! “Lapti Nek” was much better.

    *The Hayden Christensen ghost. I don’t like it… I don’t hate it, but I can accept it. For continuity, this one makes a lot of sense. After Vader Redeemed himself, he died as Anakin Skywalker, the jedi he once was. And, Anakin never became Sebastian Shaw (the actor who originally played him). Obi-Wan and Yoda, likewise, died as the jedi they were.

    *The last one came out when the saga was released on Blu-Ray. The Phantom Menace. Re-dubbing the puppet Yoda with a CG Yoda. I liked this one. Because, let’s admit it, that puppet was horrible. The eyes were all wrong and it looked somewhat misshapen.

    • Honestly the only one I hated was the Jabba dance scene. It just stuck out as too elaborate a dance number, didn’t match the sleazy gangster’s hideout feel of Jabba’s Palace and the CGI creatures were atrociously done.

    • Yeah, but how would Luke recognize Hayden as Anakin? Luke was still calling Obi Wan “Ben”. If they re-edited the Jedi ghost scenes, would it make sense for Luke to recognize studly young Ewan MacGregor? That was strictly for the audience, not Luke Skywalker.

  3. FWIW manufacturing two versions of the same film on VHS back in the day would likely have been required an overly expensive amount extra manufacturing equipment and vehicles. Let alone trying to explain to retailers (and parents) why Star Wars needs twice the shelf space.

    On the other hand I would imagine making it available for streaming could be profitable. Transferring it all from film to digital could prove to be somewhat expensive but once that is done the price of keeping it online would be quite low.

  4. Haven’t started watching the video, and I have this to say:
    “I have no problem with a DisneyCember being spent on this.”

    Just finished watching the video, and I have this to say:
    “I’m surprised this wasn’t done as a Nostalgia Critic editorial instead.”

  5. Honestly it is quite refreshing to hear something positive to say about the special editions. Are they the best? No, as I still prefer the originals. Are they god awful? Oh hell no the rabid fans of the fanbase just blew everything out of proportion to hell and high water. Doug said it perfectly at the end that it’s like an artist going back to an old sketch and then making something new from that old sketch. Honestly a lot of the scenes I did not mind at all, and when comparing them are actually pretty cool. The cityscapes, the background shots that expand the set, things like that are great because they make the world seem bigger than the small sets they were originally filmed on. So yeah, the special editions are not the best but they don’t deserve all the crapton of hate forced onto it from the fanbase. Hell, it’s the special editions that got me into Star Wars to begin with, so there’s the good side in there.

  6. Lot of changes that were made to originals were pointless and it feels like those were made just because Lucas could do those changes.

    Oh and to me it feels wrong to say that Han shot first because he was only one who shot. Greedo didn’t even have a chance because he talked too much.

  7. I saw all these when they were re-released in theaters in 1997 and my biggest gripe even more than Greedo shooting first is the music changes in Return of the Jedi with that TERRIBLE CGI singing whatever lipped monstrosity and the changing of the ewok song I used to hum as a kid all the time. It almost felt like Jedi was a completely different movie.

  8. I hated it when they made vader say NOOO in return of the jedi. That ruined a really great moment.

    • Wasn’t that in Revenge of the Sith?

      • When they re-released the entire Star Wars saga on blu-ray, they added further changes. For example, the puppet Yoda they used in Phantom Menace was dubbed with a CG Yoda. And during the Force Lightning scene in Return of the Jedi, they added in Vader yelling “NOOOOO” as he picked up the Emperor and threw him into the pit.

        …and I’m with SupermanXYZ. It was completely atrocious

      • The Blu-ray version of RotJ adds the NOOO from RotS when Vader decides to save Luke. I’ve hated that change since it’s come out and it’s the reason I still don’t have the Blu-rays, since that’s my favorite scene in the whole series. But I did have the thought this morning actually that in a way it works. When Vader comes off the table it’s the moment when he completely belongs to the emperor. Upon hearing that Padme is dead, he’s lost everything, particularly the person he loves, which was the whole point of doing what he did. So to have him shout that again when he breaks free, when the love for his son triumphs over his loyalty to the emperor, actually kind of makes sense.
        But it still sounds stupid and awkward so I don’t know. I might break my boycott or I might not, since what I really want is Blu-rays of the DVD version. I like the pre-special edition versions too, but I like enough of the changes and can tolerate the rest so my preference is actually the DVD version. Though if I could make my perfect edition it would take out Jedi Rocks and put in the soundtrack version of Lapti Nek. The original is just kind of boring in comparison

      • In one of the latest incarnations, Vader yells “NO” while throwing the Emperor to his death… twice, I think. It doesn’t even sound like James Earl Jones.

        • Not to mention Lucas literally inserted one of the things people hated the most about RotS into RotJ. The only thing that could have been worse is if he found a way to insert Jar Jar…

          (Listens closely during the montage at the end of RotJ)

          Oh wait, he did. :/

  9. The original versions can actually be seen.
    In the 2 DVD 2006 limited edition of A New Hope, you can watch the first version in the extras. I haven’t yet the V and VI, but I believe they have the same type of extras. After I’m French, and I don’t how it is in the States, but why should it be different ?

  10. The only special edition alteration I have a problem with is Return of the Jedi on Blu-Rays addition of Darth Vader declaring “No” before turning on the emperor, The reason behind my hatred of this is change is simple: As I was watching the sequence I clearly thought to myself “this scene is so great, even with that expressionless mask Vader’s emotions are so clear, and the music is so dramatic, there’s no need for dialogue” and then suddenly out of nowhere “no” “NOOOOOOOOOOOO”

  11. Going off what NC said, I wish Lucas would take a cue from Spielberg. Remember that ET re-cut from 2002 that there was so much argle-barble about? First of all Spielberg DID include the theatrical cut on the DVD. So technically no harm no fowl. NC has a point – if you don’t like it, just watch the original.
    However, Spielberg has gone the opposite direction of Lucas. Not only has he openly admitted to regretting the changes, but he seems to have buried the “walkie-talkie” version of ET.

  12. Positive Changes from the Special Editions (1997)
    – Opening up the worlds: Whether it be seeing things such as more of Cloud City to even seeing a shot of Ben Kenobi’s home, it helps to provide more detail to the world.
    – New shots involving the ships. Shots such as seeing a close-up of Slave 1 in pursuit of the Falcon in Empire was nice to see.
    – Changing the language displayed around such as scene when Ben disables the tractor beam.
    – The 1997 Celebration showing the impact across the galaxy. The music I could take or leave (it is a nice piece that I enjoy listening to,) but I could understand people preferring to hear Yub Nub.
    – Added explosion effects to both Death Star destructions
    Worst changes
    – Han shooting first. As NC said, the shot itself looks awful while the scene being changed just seemed very unnecessary.
    – Jabba scene in A New Hope. I felt it ruined the illusion created by Jabba in the theatrical trilogy. The scene also looked very awkward. Main two takeaways from it are “Jabba, you’re a wonderful human being,” and getting to see Boba Fett make another appearance. The scene overall slows down the pacing though without creating anything new really.
    – Showing the Wampa. Obviously if you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan, you’ll know what a Wampa looks like but for the purpose of the film, it takes away from the overall tone of the scene by being able to see the Wampa.
    – Luke’s scream in Empire when dropping off on the inside of Bespin. Not only is it the exact same scream as Palpatine from ROTJ, but it makes Luke’s sacrifice look worse.
    – “Bring my shuttle.” The way that line was delivered was very menacing. Should have stayed.
    – Jedi Rocks
    – Sarlacc change

    The 2004 ones have a lot more annoying changes than these ones. I personally am not a fan of Palpatine’s scene in that while Boba Fett’s voice is also bad. Both of these fall on the delivery more than the change itself (I think Palpatine looks very lame in the 2004 scene as if he were just thrown together, not to mention the dialogue change.) I could rant for a while on a number of other ones in those. The CU of Palpatine with the lightsabers going through each other in ROTJ was flat out embarrassing. No idea how that made it into the final version for the DVD.

    I really have an appreciation for a number of the 1997 changes that help overall expand the world of Star Wars while I am more bothered by ones that attempt to alter the presentation of the story and the dialogue.

    • The Palpatine was is a mixed bad. Continuity wise, I like it because it works. But (because it wasn’t changed until the 2004 DVD release), I hated the dialogue change. That one line, “I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.” GOD! It makes me cringe so much!

      Redubbing Boba also worked for me. Because of the same thing, continuity. He’s literally a clone of his father (the last of the clones as a matter of fact)

  13. I enjoy the special editions… mostly… at least when it comes to correcting some minor mistakes and adding just a smidge to scenes that could have used it some fluffing out. I really like the ending of “Return of the Jedi” showing the different worlds celebrating the death of the Emperor. Yes, even Jar Jar’s “weesa free!” =Þ

    With that in mind I can’t stand Jabba in “A New Hope” (just looks horrible), Jabba’s band playing the new song in “Return of the Jedi” (just looks AND sounds horrible), and… yeah, I’m in the “Han shot first” camp:

    Han was a smuggler, a scoundrel. Not good. Not evil. Just the kind of guy who looked out for number one (and Chewie, of course). He doesn’t want anything to do with the Empire or the Rebels, just live a (relatively) quiet life the only way he knows how.

    …but when he DOES get caught up it changes him, making him ever more heroic, giving him something to live for besides money, till the very end of the film when he helps out Luke in tackling the Death Star, even at the risk of his own life.

    Character arc! Growth! In my head I was making similar comparisons to Piccolo and Vegeta from “Dragon Ball.”

    (It’s funny looking at the Hayden insert now ’cause when I was a kid I actually had a Barbie-sized, “Old Man” Anakin figure that, I believe, came with a decent book detailing Vader’s overall history up to that point.)

  14. Doug has a very ignorant point of view on the subject. It’s not like fans could just go back and watch the version they cherish. Lucas wasn’t releasing “another version”, as Doug put. He was tainting the only version that would be redistributed.

  15. Critic, in reference to whether or not Han shot first, it doesn’t have to be a long scene and changing it to where Greedo shot first didn’t totally destroy Han’s character but it did take away from his arc. Han starts out as a sort of out for himself first kinda guy who grows and matures over the trilogy to not just think of himself. He goes from someone who would kill someone else to get out of a tight spot to someone who was willing to sacrifice themself for others. Changing it so that Greedo shot first is a huge deal when you consider those things. The best heroes have bumpy arcs, don’t start out necessarily so squeaky clean. There moral gray areas is how we relate and root for them. If George was as genius a story teller as myth has made him out to be, he would know this and would never have made that change. Do the changes totally destroy the original trilogy and make them unwatchable? Of course not. Some of the changes were improvements, some, not so much. But changing the scene to have Greedo shoot first, was a significant shift in Han’s arc and did take away some of the victory over his more selfish side later on. Do people make too big a deal over this, yes, but Critic, you are smarter than not to recognize the importance of this scene.

  16. George Lucas is a very creative individual but he lacks self control/discipline and should never have free reign. Imagine if every film maker went back to revisit their previous films just because technology had advanced. At some point a true artist know when it’s time to move on and appreciate a piece for what it is and what it meant at the time and where they were as an artist at the time. And yeah, we should have the opportunity to still enjoy the original trilogy in it’s unaltered state if we wanted to. Different directors have released a Director’s Cut without trying to erase the theatrical version. They tend to have more confidence that each can stand on its own.

  17. How did R2 get inside those rocks when there wasn’t any room for him to get through?

  18. The changes in the special editions are definitely a mixed bag. I can’t stand Hayden at the end of RotJ.

    • That’s one of the worst for me for three reasons:

      As pointed out earlier, it doesn’t make any goddamn sense that he’d be young and the others would still be old.

      Reminding us that the prequels exist is NEVER a good idea.

      The old one looked just like my Dad. Don’t kick my Dad out of Star Wars, you asshole!

  19. I didn’t mind the special editions at first but as time went on they began to rub me the wrong way. I honestly hate the Hayden Christensen ghost edit the most, not only dose it raise to many questions that never needed to be ask but its also disrespectful to the original actor.

  20. When I was a little kid, my family went to Blockbuster to rent the Star Wars trilogy to finally show my brother and I. Instead of simply renting it, however, I found the very last box set of the original, unedited trilogy on sale – guess what we got instead? Having seen the unedited cuts… I actually like many of the tweaks made to the Special Editions. Yeah, I think the “Han vs Greedo” edit is silly (though not as silly as the sheer outcry on the matter), and I prefer the original ewok celebration music, but otherwise, the initial few edits don’t bother me at all. I haven’t seen the Bluray edits, so I can’t comment on those, but the “standard” special edition tweaks are fine in my eyes.

  21. The Special Editions are just atrocious and the reason why is they do nothing to improve the film instead they have made them worse plus it all feels so cynical that it was only done for profit and not because it was George Lucas real vision.
    For example

    1. The obvious CGI scenes that stick out like a sore thumb.
    2. Ruining Hans redemption arc by having him a ‘good’ guy at the start plus he is living on the edge of the law so why would he not shoot first?
    3. That Jabba scene is terrible and Han even calls Jabba a ‘Human’ and that cheesy scene where he ‘steps’ on his tail looks so bad.
    4. Making Mos Isly look more busy seems silly to me because its suppose to be a backwater space port not Atlanta airport.
    5. THAT DANCE SCENE!
    6. Luke screaming as he falls totally making his sacrifice seem less heroic.
    7. Replacing Yub Nub a scene that i cherished as a kid.
    8. Replacing Sebastian Shaw with that cardboard cut out Christen Haydensen which makes no sense cause Luke never saw his father as a teen plus if the other Jedis appeared as elderly Ghosts why not Anakin plus he turned back and redeemed himself before he died.

    I could go on and what i have said has been said to death by other people. I understand what you are saying critic but you can understand why people get so upset about this.

  22. I JUST realized that I grew up with the Special Editions. O.O

  23. flamethrower-guitar

    I completely agree. I personally don’t give a crap about most of the changes, but I completely agree that the originals should be available for people to see. It’s part of film history!

    I grew up with the special editions, so maybe that’s why I don’t care that much. But I do have a copy of the original versions on VHS and I treasure being able to see the other version.

    Yeah some of the effects look stupid and yeah I think that Greedo shooting first is a bit weird, but mostly I’m indifferent. However, there is one change I really like, and that is having Hayden Christensen as the ghost. I think it makes much more sense and ties the movies together better than having some random old dude. And as for why Yoda and Obi-Wan don’t look younger, I think it’s because their ghost form looks like how they did when they died, but Anakin “died” when he became Darth Vader, therefore he looks younger.

    Anyways, neat that you reviewed these. I really hope they release the originals on Blu-Ray too! Or even a blu-ray with both versions. I think it’s something everyone should see and compare.

  24. The Vader getting from Cloud City to the Star Destroyer is annoying because it’s so obviously pulled from Return of the Jedi. It frankly never bothered me that he got to his ship so quickly.

    Most of the changes are harmless, but don’t really make it any better either. Cleaning up the artifacts is good. The bigger cities and explosions don’t affect things either way. The needless slapstick is stupid.

    The thing about Greedo shooting is that it was unnecessary and actually diminishes the scene. From the dialog, it’s clear Greedo plans to kill Han, so it’s still self defense. I was 9 years old in 1977, and it never occurred to me that Han didn’t do what he had to. Having Greedo shoot and miss from that range makes him completely a non-threat,

    The Jabba scene doesn’t work because he seems a buffoon. First, the CGI Jabba is smaller and far less intimidating the the puppet in RotJ. Han walking on his tail seems like the sort of disrespect a real gangster would kill you for. Boba Fett shouldn’t seem like some sort of bodyguard.

  25. I’m actually rather fond of the special edition of The Empire Strikes Back. I don’t like that they changed Boba Fett’s voice to match the prequels because as far as I’m concerned, the prequels never happened and I don’t want any reminder of them, and I don’t like that they changed the hologram of the Emperor because I think the old one looked creepier and more mysterious, but the new shots of Cloud City are great and really make it feel more atmospheric and alive. I don’t think showing the wampa was needed, but I don’t feel like it detracts from the scene either.

  26. I think it was the special editions that I first saw. For what it’s worth, I liked them a good deal, they were pretty fun and didn’t feel too removed from what I was used to from the Star Wars movies at the time (Prequels, I liked them, that’s that). That said, it does seem ridiculous to not have the original versions available. Everyone should have the past available to them, especially if you have multiple versions to compare between. But anyway, I can’t wait to see VII! I haven’t seen it yet, so I’m probably going to scroll past as many comments as I can for the next few weeks. X3″

  27. There where a lot of good added in the Special Editions. Such as improved looks at the cities and such. There was also a lot bad. Especially in the first one, most glaring you talked about blocking the scene with CGI. As far as the Han shot first thing goes. While I don’t think it is as big a deal as some make it out to be. I do think it weakened his Character Arc. He was not a Hero at the beginning he was someone who would shoot someone in cold blood if he felt that if he didn’t he would be killed. He was a man who would have abandoned Luke and ran off with the money…but he grew into the man who came back. Does it destroy the arc…no far from it…but like I said it does weaken it. Personally, if Lucas didn’t like that Han Shot first and his original intent was the Jabba Scene…which it was being that while Han Shot Greedo he apparently didn’t die…cause there he is in the background. Then Lucas should have just cut out the Greedo scene all together.

    The other 2 changes I think where dumb where the Dance Scene at Jabba’s Palace…the should have used the original song and just animated the scene to that. The other was removing the “Ewok Song” at the end of the movie. What they should have done is started with the Ewok Song and then faded to the other song as he “panned around the galaxy” then faded back to the Ewok Song when they came back to Endor.

    Lastly, I think adding Hayden Christensen in at the end as the Force Ghost was smart…BUT I think they should have aged him up 20 years or so, either with make-up or CGI effects.

  28. oh and lastly there was a way you could have gotten the Laser Disk version of the Movies in the same tin as the SEs if you bought the Collector’s Edition(I think that was what they where called) versions. Though even those had some things added to them…though they where the most like the Theatrical Release.

  29. Leif Roar Moldskred

    Here’s how I feel about the whole “Han shot first” thing.

    Remember Dad’s old Cadillac convertible? The one we drove to Disney World in, and then Six Flags the year after and then Cedar Point the year after that. Mom and dad in the front seats, us kids in the back seat, squabbling and laughing. Man, we loved that car. Remember the sound of it as dad shifted down to overtake a Sunday driver? Remember the wind in our hair when dad took down the top? Remember how we’d get food at drive-in restaurants and we’d curl up with milkshakes in the backseat, dad tuning the radio to a sports station so we could follow the game while we ate?

    Well, now that Dad’s retired he’s got a lot of free time so he’s been restoring it. You know it was showing its age. The paint had dulled, there were some dents here and there, that old radio is sounding really tinny compared to modern ones and you know those two point seat belts aren’t really considered road safe these days. So dad’s been holed up in the garage lately. He’s degunked the engine, put in a new, expensive radio system with DAB and bluetooth and new speakers and everything, he’s fixed the transmission, he’s replaced the catalysator, he’s carefully hammered out the dents, fixed the wiring, reupholstered the interior and given it a whole new paintjob and then spent a week polishing it.

    Nobody has been allowed into the garage while dad’s been working, but now the day is finally here. Dad opens the garage door and there it is, the car of your childhood. He backs it out into the driveway, and the sunlight just dances over the new, shiny paint job, making the whole thing glow. Dad turns on the radio and old rock and roll tunes you remember fills the yard, and it sounds _amazing_. Okay, so you’re not sure about the go-faster stripes he’s added along the sides, and maybe you’d have selected a slightly different colour for the upholstery, but that’s just nitpicking.

    Dad looks at you and grins, “Want to go for a ride?” So of course you agree and go to get into the back seat like always before and then you reach for the door handle and notice that not only are the door handles different and completely wrong — they look like they come off tiny Japanese car — but they’ve been badly fitted. There’s a couple of rivets showing where an extra piece of sheet metal has been put to cover the old, larger mounting and the paint job around the door handles is just bad, not even the same shade as the rest of the body work.

    So you pause for a bit and look bemusedly at your father, “Uh, what’s with the door handles?”

    “Oh, I changed them. Never liked the old ones. They never really looked good on the car.”

    You don’t know what to say so you just get in, and dad takes down the top and you go for a ride on the highway and it’s good. It’s almost like when you were a kid again. The engine is purring, the new radio is great (even if it has an annoying beep when you change the channel) and the newly upholstered seats feel a little different. Not bad, just a little different. All in all, you have a great time.

    But there is still that little niggle. All that great work, and he did such a sloppy job on the door handles? There was nothing wrong with the old door handles — they looked good on the car. Even ignoring the bad patch job, the new handles just look out of place. Sure, it’s not a big deal. It’s just the door handles. It’s not going to destroy the ride … but you _are_ going to notice them every time you get in the car and wince to yourself.

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