I would say I was practically raised by the Star Wars VHS box set, but that’s a complete lie, and I do love my parents. That doesn’t mean I didn’t watch Star Wars a lot as a young pup, and it definitely doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of fond memories of that original trilogy. In particular, Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope, which, being the first movie in the series, would set the tone not only for a globally successful franchise, but also become the standard for special effects in a singular movie. Through George Lucas’s company, Industrial Lights & Magic, Star Wars was an industry-defining series when it came to special effects. (Fun fact: part of Industrial Lights & Magic would later go on to become Pixar.)
However, even in the face of outstanding popularity, that’s not to say one can’t be influenced by the dreaded rose-tinted glasses. So after admittedly several years of not watching Star Wars, I decided to go back to its beginning and see how the movie stands today.
The first thing I look at when re-watching this movie is typically its special effects. It’s easy to forget, but Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope was first released in 1977. This is crazy to realize, because the ships and the effects all still stand up really well. The props, the costumes, the sets — everything looks very good. Even when looking as carefully as I could, it was very difficult to find any cracks in the movie’s visage; such as a hovering landspeeder actually being suspended by string, or the plating on a Storm Trooper’s glove perhaps being made of Styrofoam. Industrial Lights and Magic (also founded by George Lucas) did an incredible job with its practical effects, still presenting an immersive and thrilling adventure despite being 38-years-old.
Of course, the movie has its bumps in the road. I opted for the infamous “remastered” DVD edition which enhances the visual and audio quality — both of which are welcome — and the movie looks great this way. But it also edits in a few extra scenes that make use of new, more modern special effects. These scenes feel wholly unnecessary and take away from the experience. From the jarring quality the poor CGI presents when juxtaposed with the terrific practical effects, to the overall lack of precedent for these extra scenes, the added content does nothing but take away from the movie.
Probably my biggest gripe with the extra scenes is that they make the tone of the movie very confusing. The original Star Wars: Episode IV is an adventurous movie; it combines thrilling action scenes with some rather intense encounters, yet still makes room for some fairly amusing scenes as well. The remastered edition feels as if Lucas was attempting to retroactively rebrand the movie as primarily for kids by adding more quirky comic-relief scenes involving goofy aliens or droids.
Despite all this, the movie was still enjoyable. It had its hiccups — such as questionable editing choices in some scenes — yet those hiccups added to the charm and adventure of the film. However, the remastered edition is anything but, and if you wish to see the film, I would strongly encourage you to find versions that are as close to the original as possible.