Like someone polishing the family jewels, Lucas has pulled the triptych off the
shelf for a refurbishing, to give the new generation a gander and the older one
a chance to exhale a nostalgic sigh. Looking better than ever, Star Wars
seems to have survived the test of time.
More than that, it seems to have
enhanced itself as well as having been enhanced by its new additions. That is
to say, many of the elements which were either applauded or rejected by
viewers twenty years ago, have become part and parcel of the contemporary
science fiction film viewer's diet (e.g. funny creatures walking and talking like
humans, humorous robots, and all the razzmatazz we've grown used to). This
is not only fascinating in retrospect, but also a testament to the amazing
foresight and abilities of Mr. Lucas, who has proven his propensities in various
areas of direction, conception, production, and marketing. Let us not forget,
as well, that he was the man who first demanded tie-in merchandising rights.
Everyone at Fox laughed at the time when he gave up his option of an
additional five-hundred-thousand-dollar fee for those as well as the sequel
rights, but look who's laughing now. (Forbes magazine has estimated that
Lucas' companies are presently worth five billion dollars and that Lucas
himself is worth two billion). With a rocky road behind him in the early
seventies, he rocketed forth into new horizons. Only Coppola realized the
creativity of American Graffiti in the early stages of Lucas' career; many of
the crew involved with Star Wars had no real grasp of what they were creating
during the filming; THX-1138, his first feature length work, was disregarded by
many and found to be "too white" (it still remains, IMHO, a masterpiece and
will probably be recognized as such someday by a much wider audience).
The owners of the rights to Flash Gordon missed an opportunity when they
were originally approached by Lucas. It seems they just didn't see his concept
turning into anything interesting. Whoops!
On the other hand, even Lucas' close friends and associates, invited for the
first screening so many years ago, thought that the film was headed for
disaster (including Brian DePalma, who asked why Princess Leia was wearing
Danish pastry on her ears),the only exception being Steven Spielberg who
thought it would make "a hundred million dollars". On the opening night, the
25th of May in 1977, the world discovered a new phenomenon.
Now, with twenty years gone by and the man himself in a position to bring the
films closer to his original vision,
he has released the new edition with the help of today's state-of-the-art
technology pioneered by Industrial Light & Magic. "There were various thing
with which I was never satisfied: special effects shots that were never really
finished, and scenes I was unable to include due to lack of money and time."
The time was ripe.
Although the original negative was carefully stored in a subterranean vault in
Kansas (temperature 50-53 degrees), the colors of a now discontinued stock
had badly faded and necessitated extensive restoration. A team of 30 people
cleaning the negative with a sponge, frame by frame, over a period of three
years before further work could commence. Sections needed for "special
edition" work were sent to ILM visual effects producer Tom Kennedy who saw
to it that the footage was digitally scanned into a computer and matched to
new footage from which, after several other processes, a final negative and
print were made.
Other, even more complicated processes, had to be utilized
for sections of the film that were beyond this system of restoration due to very
extensive color fading. Luckily, Lucas had a three-strip Technicolor copy
made of the film for himself which he has safely kept tucked away for the past
twenty years and which proved of immense assistance for the "color timing" of
the new version. Of course, it would be possible to go on for hours explaining
the methods used and the results achieved in the making of the "new edition"
which would fascinate those of you with a deeper interest in filmmaking, but
believe it wiser, for the general audience, to leave it at this: it looks damn
good! Among the many added extras are the scenes with the entrance to the
bustling spaceport city of Mos Eisley, and Han Solo's confrontation with Jabba
Star Wars Trilogy
LucasFilm ltd. ®TM &
© 1997 Lucasfilm ltd.
The success of the first Star Wars film twenty years ago allowed Lucas "to
control the means of production" (as he likes to say) on the second and third
films. The Ranch on which he edited these films and began work on the
Young Indiana Jones Chronicles television series (that he conceived and
produced) kept growing and became the full-digital studio it is today, where
directors can write, edit, and mix their films. Industrial Light & Magic, the
home to so many of those special effects we have come to know and love,
also came into being, down in San Rafael.
Lucas himself explains his departure from directing as a result of stepping
back to see the whole picture. Once he took the first step back, deeper into
production, he drifted further and further away. Then his company became
big business and when the CD-ROM market and digital filmmaking techniques
took off he discovered he had to spend considerable time paying attention to
It's already been said that Lucas (Luke S.) has great toys and now he do all
sorts of things with them. "The only dangerous side of having this money is
that I will make movies that aren't commercial. But, of course, Star Wars was
not considered commercial when I did it."
A don't miss. See also under The Empire Strikes Back &
Return of the Jedi.
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett