If you were to string together in a continuous line all the words of wonder, analysis, and obsessive annotation that have been written, printed, E-mailed, and just plain spoken about the STAR WARS TRILOGY (1977-1983, Fox Video, PG), you’d probably have a causeway stretching to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. On the occasion of this heavily promoted video reissue, could there be anything new under the moons of Endor to say about the movies themselves?
There is. Watching Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi again, it’s hard not to contemplate the dark side of director-producer George Lucas’ phenomenal success. He demonstrated to Hollywood that the world has a nearly bottomless appetite for breakneck, dialogue-light action fare. Result? A more serious brand of F/X-free American filmmaking that flourished B.C. (Before Chewbacca) has been cast out to the nether regions of the independents.
End of historical sermon. But there’s plenty more to say about what’s coming next — about the way George Lucas and FoxVideo are using these tapes to prime a new generation for more movies in the series. Before each movie, there’s a fawning, five-minute Leonard Maltin ”interview” with Lucas. (”Well George, as you know, people are just nuts for these movies, and to learn so much about them and what went into them and what inspired you is a real treat.” Silver-haired, sleepy-eyed Lucas nods, ”It’s nice to think of them as being timeless.”)
Actually, for the original Star Wars, time is almost up. Lucas and Maltin are careful to plug not only an upcoming trio of prequels, due around the millennium, but also Star Wars Special Edition, containing added footage, coming to theaters in 1997. The original Star Wars will be withdrawn from distribution in January.
Meantime, the ostensible selling point of the boxed set — spruced-up transfers — is highly debatable. The vastly improved audio sounds great, and the colors are gorgeously goosed up. But through the use of a visual filtering process that disguises dirt and other imperfections in the original negatives, the images often appear grainy and processed. What’s worse, in these cropped copies, the action grows more and more difficult to follow (a letterboxed set, costing $10 more, isn’t due till October).
If the force must be with you, always, you won’t go terribly wrong with this boxed set. But I’m holding out for some future video edition that truly makes the jump to hyperspeed.
Star Wars: A The Empire Strikes Back: A Return of the Jedi: B This package: B-