Repost Star Wars Episode 7 Spoilers, Rumors: Revisiting Original Trilogy Controversies From Special Editions

young Anakin BS

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“Star Wars” has the largest fanbase in the world. No other franchise or brand can boast the numbers that the galaxy far, far away has.

Yet with all of its numbers, there has been a great deal of division within the “Star Wars” ranks. The prequels have been a source of animosity. However, the special editions have prompted equal or greater levels of vitriol against the creator George Lucas.

Lucas is no longer at the helm of the franchise and, starting on Dec. 18, fans will see a new cinematic galaxy owned by Disney.

With the first major step about to be taking, some have sought ways to bring fans to peace with the current versions of all the films in existence, including the Special Editions. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the changes (and some, such as the rocks hiding R2-D2 in “Episode IV,” fall into the category of overthinking details), Lucas most did most changes with some level of intent and major alterations usually had some rationale behind them.

With that in mind, let us look at some of the controversial changes to the original films and examine their impact and how they fit into Lucas’ overall vision. One must realize that in changing the special editions, Lucas sought to blend them better with his new vision for the series that was altered by the prequel films. As a result, the films could not simply work on their own, but had to fit a larger perspective and expanded universe.

Darth Vader’s “No!”

At the end of “Return of the Jedi,” Darth Vader is faced with watching his son die at the hands of his master or save him. In a series of closeups, the audience sees Vader’s plight and eventually watches in awe as he grabs the emperor and hauls him down a nearby precipice. The action plays without any dialogue, a moment of sheer cinematic beauty that has captivated for years since.

For the 2011 Blu-Ray release of the films, Lucas did some tinkering and added some dialogue to the scene. When Vader finally makes up his mind to throw away the emperor he utters the cry of “No,” taken out of “Revenge of the Sith.”

The moment in Episode III is one of the most parodied and defiled by fans and detractors, many noting that it turns the formerly dominant villain into a pathetic character.

However, Lucas himself confirmed those very intentions during an interview with the Rolling Stone back in 2005.

“He’s done a lot of horrible things in his life that he isn’t particularly proud of. Ultimately, he’s just a pathetic guy who’s had a very sad life,” said Lucas.

At the point in time when he shouts out the “No” in “Revenge of the Sith,” Vader has just found out that he has lost his beloved Padme. In fact, based on the emperor’s own words, Vader has killed the very thing he sought save. His shout is one of powerlessness.

By reminding viewers of that very moment in “Return of the Jedi,” Lucas hints at Vader’s own realization of his powerlessness to save Padme and thus his pathetic “No” turns into a rejection of his futile nature and thus seeks to compound his sense of strength and power in that moment using this very counterpoint.

He has finally done for his son what he failed to do for his wife and mother. It might not be the most subtle of ways to go about expressing the idea, but it certainly brings “Episode III” to consciousness right away, thus linking the ideas, themes and the overall arc of Vader’s transformation from a pathetic and helpless man to one in control of his destiny, no longer powerless to save his loved ones.

Hayden Christensen’s Force Ghost

Another controversial choice and undeniably misguided one for most fans (this writer included). Luke has just seen his father unmasked, so when he sees the force ghost he would likely recognize the face he has just seen. Why would he recognize the face of a man younger than him? How would he know that this is his father?

There have been a number of ideas regarding this change. The most obvious is that when watched in order of episodes, audiences grow to know Hayden Christensen as Anakin and seeing him at the end links the two trilogies together.

Another idea comes from Obi-Wan Kenobi’s speech to Luke early in the film where he states that once Anakin turned to the dark side and became Darth Vader, he ceased to exist as Anakin. Henceforth, by returning to the light, Anakin retains the physical form of his light side self; since he was last in the light as Hayden Christensen, then that would be the form that appears as a force ghost.

Han Shoots First

The Han and Greedo debate is at the forefront of most complaints regarding the special editions. In 1977, there was no doubt that Han Solo shot Greedo in cold blood, establishing himself as a selfish rogue that would not allow anyone to get the best out of him. That he eventually heads back to save Luke in the Death Star trench run represented a shift from the selfish murdering smuggler to a selfless team player.

In 1997, Lucas tinkered with the moment, having Han shoot after being shot at by Greedo. It has haunted fans since. Lucas has made changes in subsequent releases, bringing the shots closer together as if to appease fans, but the reality is that the late versions still have Greedo shooting first with Han retaliating.

So what does this all accomplish? By having Han retaliate, it softens him as a character. He still murders Greedo, but now he is only doing it because he was assaulted first. He thus becomes slightly less of a menace.

One interesting way to view this change would be from one of the major themes in Lucas’ saga — the aggressor ultimately falling on his or her sword. This theme was championed by David Begor in his “Defense of the Clones,” published by Bright Lights Film Journal.

The cycle of violence is a major theme in all six movies, coming to an end only when Luke Skywalker drops his weapon, realizing that his aggression will only beget more aggression; as noted, only when Luke does drop his weapon does the tide turn for the rebels and do they finally manage to defeat the empire. Prior to Luke’s action, audiences bear witness to characters on the attack repeatedly seeing that violence turn against them. We see it in the Jedi’s decision to start the Clone Wars. We see it in Obi-Wan’s impetuous attack on Darth Maul, pushing him to his near death. We see it from the Separatists and their multiple murder attempts on Padme. We see it from Anakin in his own misguided moments of violence, such as his aggressive assault on Count Dooku at the end of Episode II.

We see it in the subversion of bounty hunters going from the hunters to becoming the hunted.

In the original films, the Empire’s aggressive use of the Death Star in “Episode IV” and its seeking out Yavin winds up being its doom. At the end of that same film, Lucas includes visual allusions to Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” during the medal ceremony that celebrates the rebel victory, thus linking it to the Nazi regime. This suggests an empty victory, a fact confirmed at the start of “The Empire Strikes Back.”

On a smaller level, having Han shoot second thus perpetuates the theme, making Greedo a victim of his own violence. Of course, Greedo was already holding Han at gunpoint prior to the shots being fired and this in and of itself is a form of violence. However, in the “Star Wars” universe, where every character constantly shows off his or her weapon in broad daylight, it seems that a more overt sign of aggression is required for it to be complete violence.

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