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Star Wars

By Ken Clary

A Long Time Ago In a Galaxy Far, Far, Away This year is the 20th anniversary of the release of Star Wars. To mark the event, George Lucas and Lucasfilms are re-releasing, as special editions all three of the original Star Wars trilogy. Star Wars: A New Hope will be released Jan. 31, The Empire Strikes Back will return on Feb. 21, and Return of the Jedi will come back on March 7.

The special edition trilogy will feature mostly redone and retouched special effects, remastered THX digital sound, scenes originally cut, and some new scenes. Besides updated visual effects, Star Wars will have about four and a half minutes of "new" footage (the most of the three films). George Lucas has made extensive use of computer rendering to update the old footage and create new shots. The special editions will have an entirely new film print, since the originals have begun to degrade after 20 years.

After the release of the trilogy of special editions, Lucas will begin work on the next three films of the series, which will be prequels. Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi were episodes IV, V, and VI of the saga, respectively, and the new films, which will center around Obi-wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, will be episodes I, II, and III. Lucas has even stated that II and III will practically run as one film. The first movie, which will probably involve the "Clone Wars," should be released in 1999.

Prior to Star Wars, science fiction films were mostly limited to cheesy drive-in fare and rare black-and-white classics like Forbidden Planet. Besides being nominated for numerous special effects Oscars (which all three films won), Star Wars was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Director. It paved the way for both the Alien films and the Star Trek films. Gene Rodenberry actually canceled the proposed second Star Trek series and instead used the two-hour pilot as Star Trek: The Motion Picture because of the success of Star Wars. Such an influential movie deserves a second release and a face-lift.