Well, my review of the Star Wars: Special Edition caused quite the stir a few weeks ago when I gave it a fairly negative review. Let me recap for a moment, if the original Star Wars (’77) is an “A+”, then the Star Wars Special Edition (’97) is just a “B”. I felt that the “improvements” didn’t quite match the spirit of the original footage and in many cases, either distracted viewers from the classic magic or ruined scenes altogether. But that’s just my opinion.
Well, I hate to rain on your parade because I know there are a bunch of rabid Star Wars fans who want to take up the debate once again with the rerelease of Empire. Guess what? I liked it! A lot. It was incredible to see what is arguably the best of the Star Wars films, on the big screen again. However, I do not believe that any of the minor changes make the film any better.
What is refreshing is that the new footage in Empire seemed to integrate well with the old, unlike Star Wars. The extra cloud city shots open the city up so that it feels like a real city bustling with activity rather than a matte painting of what looks like a martini glass floating in the clouds.
The wampa scene is made only slightly more tense with a few quick shots of the snow creature munching on some meat. If Lucas wanted to REALLY make that scene scary he would have added an entire troop of frightened rebel troops hanging upside down screaming, “Luke, you gotta save us!” And then like red shirts in Star Trek, the wampa kills them off one by one. The beast rips open the chest of one of the rebels and the bright white snow is turned blood red. Then the wampa tears an arm right off one of the rebels whose agonizing cries echo throughout the ice cave. Then, uh… sorry, got carried away. But THAT would have been scary.
I have only one minor problem with Empire and that is that Lucas reuses a shot from Return of the Jedi in Empire. No lie! Did anyone else notice it? The Death Star commander from Jedi is in the film for a brief moment as Vader exits his shuttle after the battle with Luke in cloud city. Huh? I wasn’t the only one who noticed this blatant recycling of footage which is commonly done in television. It just seemed cheap to do it in Empire. But honestly, that was the only really bad thing.
The last time I noticed such blatant recycling was on the Sci-Fi Channel watching reruns of Battlestar Galactica. Heck, I think that show only had about five original shots of spaceships that were used over and over and over throughout the series.