Making the Grades
How can I sell thee? Let me count the ways...
Since the theatrical debut in 1977, audiences around the world have not been able to get enough Star Wars. Consequently, the original film and its following two sequels have enjoyed immense popularity in the home video market. Every few years the set is repackaged, and the adoring public buys it again. (With only a quick search on Amazon.com, I counted the late 70's and early 1980's first release to VHS, the 1988 letterbox release, the 1996 THX enhanced sound release, and the 1997 Special Edition release that included the controversial addition of new scenes and special effects.)
But never before have these beloved films been put to disc (other than the now antiquated laserdisc)... so the big news of 2004 is the opportunity to put your money down one more time, and purchase the Star Wars Trilogy on DVD.
What will fans of the franchise get for their bucks? Well, the star attraction of course is the movies themselves. And it is a sure bet you have never seen them look or sound this good-even if you saw them a long time ago, in a theater far, far away. Every scratch and grain of sand on C-3PO's metallic body stands out in amazing clarity. Darth Vader's sinister breathing surrounds you. From the deep black of space to the dazzling white of the snowbound planet Hoth, you can experience all the marvel and wonder of the galaxy, right in the comfort of your own home.
Purist however, will likely be disappointed that the Special Edition version has been used for this latest issue. Nor will they be pleased to know further alterations have occurred, such as super-imposing Hayden Christiansen's head on the body of the actor (Sebastian Shaw) who played Anakin Skywalker in the closing sequences of Return of the Jedi. While many may feel like "it ain't broke', it appears from the included bonus material that George Lucas has always been disappointed by the deficiencies between the final product and his vision. With the many technological advancements in filmmaking over the years, many of which he has helped to pioneer, Lucas simply couldn't resist tinkering.
Each of the movies feature a commentary track by creator George Lucas, sound designer Ben Burtt, effects director of photography Dennis Muren, and actress Carrie Fisher. Their comments will enlighten enthusiasts about story development, audio and video effects, and how much exercise it takes before you wear an iron bikini.
The fourth disc offers Empire of Dreams, which aired on A&E in a 90-minute version. More a biography of George Lucas than a making-of documentary, the two and a half hour long production follows his maverick career. Beginning with his early student days, Lucas shares his feelings about his first project, a political film that nearly ended his future prospects. He also discusses the success of American Graffiti, his squabbles with Fox Studios, his strong desire to hang onto his artistic integrity, any future sequel opinions, and all spin-off marketing possibilities.
As he relates his rise from a humble independent moviemaker who enjoyed bucking big business, to corporate head of many successful large companies, Lucas muses about the similarities between his fate and that of his fictional creation Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader.
The stars, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, are interviewed as well. Although their interesting remarks are not particularly ground breaking, the leading lady's asides about needing to lose weight in order to play her part, reveal a lot about the perfect Hollywood body image.
Other goodies to be found in the Trilogy box are movie trailers, game demos, three featurettes about light sabers, the characters, and the legacy of Star Wars, as well as a sneak peek at the making of Episode III (which really only focuses on the construction of Hayden Christiansen's new Darth Vader costume-didn't anyone from the last crew keep the old one?).
While I have no doubts this long awaited DVD release of the Star Wars Trilogy will net galactic-sized profits, I am just as sure this won't be the last time this universal phenomenon goes on sale... especially with the HDTV revolution just around the corner.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Star Wars Trilogy.
George Lucas is credited here for re-inventing the film industry. How have his contributions to technology and visual effects changed the way movies are made?
Carrie Fisher makes the distinction that it is Princess Leia, not herself, who is famous. Why is it important to remember the difference between characters and actors? Why do fans sometimes forget?