Star Wars: Revisited: reviewed

At the end of my analysis of the benefits and drawback of the Star Wars blurays, I mused that perhaps Star Wars: Revisited would be my only hope for a decent version of my favourite movies. This fan edit of A New Hope was a massive endeavour, undertaken by “Adywan”. While the end result is very impressive, it probably still isn’t the right version for me either.

The edit isn’t the easiest thing to obtain. For obvious reasons, it’s all a bit clandestine. Being somewhat inexperienced with downloading bootlegged movies, it took a bit of stumbling around before I could figure out how to get a copy of the edit. Eventually I had it sorted and let it download. Getting it burnt to a DVD was another challenge but I got that figured out too. If anyone needs some help in that area just drop me a message and I’ll see what I can do.

I had read through the long list of changes so I knew what to expect. I was aware from the start that while Adywan had in some instances been extremely faithful to the original edit, in others he was just as bad as George Lucas.

All of the clean-ups were extremely welcome. In particular the edits to fix up the broken music cues were a nice touch that few would notice. The smoothing of the conspicuous jump cuts were also a great change, and it is certainly a mystery why Lucasfilm hasn’t tweaked these already. Blackening Darth Vader’s and R2-D2’s lenses works well too; Lucasfilm seems more interested in making Ewok eyes more realistic than central characters’ eyes. One of the more impressive changes, although probably unnoticable to most, is an entire colour correction for the whole movie. Adywan has also cleaned up a lot of the lightsaber effects better than Lucasfilm managed.

The reversal of many of the Special Edition changes is also noteworthy. Han shoots first and Greedo not at all. CGI Mos Eisley extras no longer provide awkward comic relief or walk through the middle of otherwise nicely composed frames. The run in with Jabba no longer occurs. There’s still a bit of Special Edition in there, though for the most part it’s not offensive.

What does stray into the offensive side is some of Adywan’s additions. He’s added extra music to scenes that worked far better without them. Silence is often a conscious musical choice on John Williams’ part, and to go against that seems against the spirit of the edit. For the most part, musical additions consist of pieces composed for other movies, and even other scenes with their own very different pace. The Death Star is first introduced in an extended scene, featuring more Star Destroyers and a planet for the space station to orbit. However, the element that really irks me in this scene is the addition to this scene of the Imperial March, music which ordinarily does not feature in A New Hope at all. There’s also the Emperor’s Theme that plays in the Death Star meeting room, and later on during the lightsaber duel we hear Battle of the Heroes, a piece of music from the prequels! To be fair, Adywan also offers an edit called the “Purist” edit, which does not feature these musical changes.

Unfortunately, some of the other “enhancements” still exist in the Purist edit, though thankfully all the music changes are gone. It seems little, but adding sparkly electrics to the torture droid’s needle is only a short step from what George Lucas does. And giving Chewbacca a medal, as much as he deserves one, is completely in Lucas territory. It seems quite odd that Chewbacca still gets a medal in the Purist version. I guess our definitions of “purist” differ. Not that I think Chewbacca shouldn’t have received a medal, but giving him one is decidely not “pure” Star Wars.

In addition to the questionable musical accompaniment, Adywan has also recut the lightsaber duel to give it a bit more pace. In some ways it works really well: the quicker cuts make you believe the duel between the cripple and the old man is a lot more intense. But he’s also made some other odd choices, like fiddling with the lightsaber ignitions. Overall though, the new edit looks really good, but the music doesn’t fit well and ruins the scene.

On the other hand, some of the additions work really well. All the computer displays in the Rebel Base have been given a Lucasesque CGI makeover, and although I was dubious at first, it actually works pretty well. For starters, Adywan has fixed the Death Star superlaser position on the schematic that Artoo displays. To me, this was always far more noticable than the English lettering on the Death Star tractor beam switch that Lucasfilm did fix. The schematic itself now closely resembles the plans the Geonosians gave to Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones, so it’s also a far more palatable link to the prequels than, say, replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen. The briefing room scene has also had a CGI makeover, as has the Rebel command room during the battle itself. The new CGI displays in the latter work really well: they’re similar to the Rebel briefing before the Battle of Endor, and they give Leia and Threepio something to watch that actually conveys the drama of the battle.

And the battle itself? It’s definitely the highlight of the re-edit. Adywan has edited a lot more energy into the battle, as well as adding a lot more fighters. When the TIE Fighters first approach, there is a overwhelming swarm of them. It looks great. Throughout the battle, Adywan has also added the planet Yavin to a lot of the shots. I thought this would be distracting, but it actually works quite well as a reminder of the battle’s stakes. Adywan has also extended the battle itself with more fighting shots. These aren’t in the Purist edit, which is understandable, but I think they fit a lot better than some of the other things I mentioned above that he left it. In another nice little touch, we see the beams of the Death Star laser start to fire just before the space station explodes. I felt the changes gave the whole battle a lot more tension, and I really enjoyed them.

So overall, Star Wars: Revisited is pretty impressive. I’m certain I’d prefer the Purist edit, despite it losing the extended Battle of Yavin. But in the end, even the Purist edit isn’t the perfect solution to the problem of a “correct” version of Star Wars. Adywan has done an amazing job, but he’s crossed the line in some places and messed with things that shouldn’t have been touched, just like George Lucas. Star Wars: Revisited still isn’t the version of Star Wars I want to introduce to my kids… but it is a version I’d be excited to show them one day.