What did they change?By David Rodriguez
A big deal has been made about the changes made to Star Wars, but you're not likely to notice half of them. A large part of the time was spent improving the sound and image quality, but this was only to get the 20-year-old movie up to today's standards.
More noticeable are the many small changes that will leave you wondering. ("Were there that many fighters before?" Answer: No.) The re-release was also Lucas's chance to fix small problems, like digitally removing strings visible in the original.
The most noticeable change is the addition of Jabba the Hutt. Early in the film Han Solo is confronted by an alien trying to collect money from him, and although the name likely didn't stick at the time, the money owed is to Jabba. Han then goes to meet Luke and Ben at the Millennium Falcon's docking bay, and in the new version Jabba is there waiting for him.
It's said that the scene was cut from the original version because the Jabba costume was too poor to include - Star Wars was on a tight filming schedule and didn't have the time to create a suitable Jabba. Lucas had the footage of Solo talking to a human stand-in, and for the re-release Jabba was overlayed using a computer. (They also added the sound of Jabba slithering around, simulated by a garbage can full of wet towels.)
Digital effects were used seamlessly in other movies like ID4, but it's clear that Jabba is a computer image - his movement is jerky and the lighting on him is wrong. He's interesting to see, but it wouldn't be surprising if Jabba is redone again some time.
Other additions include a host of new creatures milling around on the background. When storm troopers land on Luke's home planet to find C-3PO and R2-D2, some are riding around on the backs of giant lizard-like creatures. And when Ben and Luke go into the city to find a pilot, there seems to be an unusual creature sitting next to every building.
Seeing Star Wars on the big screen also reveals some of the original weaknesses that Lucas didn't or couldn't fix. The panel on Darth Vader's stomach still looks like something taken off an old microwave. And the sound quality in parts is bad - even though Lucas remastered the entire soundtrack, there are times the characters sound like they're talking though a telephone.
Even with all this said, the new Stars Wars is definitely worth seeing. Most of the changes are minor or gratuitous, but the real benefit of the re-release is being able to see Star Wars again on the big screen, restored or not.