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10 Changes George Lucas Should Make to Star Wars: A New Hope
Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Star Wars is like no other movie franchise. When Episode IV: A New Hope was released in May 1977, it ushered in a new age of summer blockbuster: the space opera. Without the huge box office that the original Star Wars earned, there likely wouldn’t have been many of the sci-fi/fantasy mega-franchises that we know of today.
Star Wars is also unique among other franchises in two important ways: it’s controlled by its creator, George Lucas, and he’s not afraid to make alterations with his films. A technological innovator, Lucas rewrote the book on special effects by creating Industrial Light + Magic, revolutionizing the method of creating special effects for movies. He’s also been an advocate of improving the cinematic and home theater experience with audio advances (his THX sound system) and pushing the edge on digital animation (through his Lucas Animation division.)
The problem is, Lucas may not know when a change made to Star Wars is a good thing or not.
Take for example the now infamous “Han Shoots First” moment in Star Wars: A New Hope Special Edition. In the original film Han Solo is the one that blasts Jabba’s henchman Greedo before the green-skilled alien can shoot first. In the Special Edition version of the movie, Greedo is the one that fires first and somehow manages to miss smoking Han even though he’s sitting right across the table from him.
Not only does the scene tone down the rogue, almost anti-hero characterization that Han Solo had when he first appeared, having Greedo miss shatters believability. What was Lucas thinking?
I’m not here to get into the mind of the creator of Star Wars. Instead, with the latest wave of new alterations made to the films in their Blu-ray releases, I’m here to forward 10 recommendations for George Lucas to consider making to improve the original, the first and still the best Star Wars movie experience, Episode IV: A New Hope. Sure, George owns the movies and he can damn well do what he wants with them – but as a lifelong fan of Star Wars (and whose parents spent part of the family paycheck on getting me as many of those action figures and playsets as they could afford), I’ve got my own two cents to toss into the mayhem.
Listen up George, because it all comes from the heart!
1. Luke’s trip into Anchorhead
Of all the original deleted material this is the biggest remaining piece of material yet to be inserted back into Star Wars. It shows Luke watching the space battle between the Rebel Blockade Runner and Star Destroyer before he meets up with his friend Biggs Darklighter. Biggs is about to leave for the Academy, but plans to jump ship and join up with the Rebellion. Also seen are Luke’s friends, Fixer and Camie.
Why Include It?: Because it gives us an unseen side of Luke as a moisture farm boy. Marcia Lucas, the editor of A New Hope, was right to trim the scene from the final cut but now, with Star Wars grown well beyond being an unproven 1977 sci-fi film, the scenes showing Biggs, Camie and Fixer in Anchorhead give Luke a chance to be seen as something else than a farmhand or Ben Kenobi’s new Jedi in training. It also boosts the emotion of Luke’s reunion with Biggs and his friend’s eventual death above the Death Star during the X-Wing attack.
How to Improve It: Digital tricks can be used to show the inside of the Tosche Station hangout to give it more technology, like monitors showing news or sporting events from around the galaxy. As an easter egg, it would be cool to see sports coverage of pod racing events or a news report from Coruscant about rumors that the senate is about to be dissolved.
The first part of the deleted Anchorhead scene:
2. Graves of Shmi Skywalker and Cliegg Lars
Attack of the Clones established that there are gravestones on the Lars’ moisture farm, presumably of other Lars kinfolk. This is where the body of Shmi Skywalker was laid to rest by Anakin. When Lucas filmed A New Hope, he had no idea that he would return to the Lars moisture farm and that we would know more about Luke’s other family members. So why not connect the prequel trilogy to the original trilogy by inserting the gravestones in the background ?
Why Include It?: Because it connects the two trilogies together, and it would show us that Luke and the Lars family had a history on their farm.
How to Improve Upon It: Why not show a new gravestone for Cliegg besides Shmi’s, with the obvious inference being that Luke knew these two people were his grandparents? It doesn’t mess up the story that Owen Lars told his nephew that his dad was a space pilot, and it doesn’t disturb the hidden story about how much Luke knew of the fate of his mother, Padme.
3. The Bad Motivator Explained
When the Jawas come to the Lars homestead, Owen picks Threepio and a red R5 unit as his new purchases. Artoo tries to waddle after his friend but is restrained when a Jawa activates the droid’s restraining bolt. However, shortly after the R5 droid is bought, it blows a “motivator” and is essentially broken and useless, thus opening the door for Artoo to go along with Threepio.
This is one of those moments in Star Wars where the fate of the entire galaxy could have changed if it wasn’t for a faulty droid part. Do you really believe that the R5 droid’s motivator waited until that precise moment to go bad and die, or was there some bigger force (perhaps with a capital “F”) at work manipulating things this way?
Why Include It?: Random events do change the direction of history but with all of the digital technology Lucas has at his disposal now, here’s an opportunity to make a small change and show events in a different perspective. Plus, it does seem awfully coincidental that the R5 droid bought the farm like that, doesn’t it?
How to Improve Upon It: What if the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn was involved in some way?
I hate resorting to deus ex machine to resolve story issues but in this case, why not? We’ve seen Ben Kenobi come back from the dead as a Force ghost and interact with Luke and Yoda, so why couldn’t we have a Force ghost version of Qui-Gon appear and lift a finger in the direction of R5, fizzing him out?
The obvious answer is that Qui-Gon is a character that no one should know about if you were watching Star Wars from the original trilogy to the prequel one. However, let’s address the big elephant in the room about the Special Editions: we all know what happens, and these changes are being done because we’re all in on the story and spoilers. We know Darth Vader is Luke’s father, we know Anakin created C-3PO and we know Lando Calrissian’s Dad once knew the Emperor before he was a Naboo senator (to be revealed in Episode VII). So if we accept the Special Editions as just being for fun, why not have a quick flash of Qui-Gon? No one needs to see him (except for maybe a Jawa.) Qui-Gon doesn’t even need to be visible: just have the disembodied voice speak to R2 (“Wait a moment little one and you will be reunited with your friends.”) “Friends” implies that Qui-Gon knows that this is the grown-up Luke too.
Maybe it’s a little controversial to insert Qui-Gon into A New Hope, but it’s not like I’m having Qui-Gon shoot Han first.
4. A Mention of Sandpeople
When Artoo runs away and Luke finds him in the canyon, Threepio mentions that there are several creature approaching. Luke then states that it could be “Sandpeople, or worse.”
Back in the days before the prequel trilogy, wondering what was worse than Sandpeople in the outback Tatooine desert made sense. Today, we know that Luke’s grandmother was killed by Sandpeople – so why not have Luke address this at this moment? Luke should know how bad the Sandpeople can be, and I doubt that Owen Lars would have covered up how his father lost a leg, or how Shmi died.
Why Include It?: It’s a minor thing but again, it supports the events in the prequels and that Luke knows some (but not all) of the truth of his family history.
How to Improve Upon It: Record a line of dialogue from Mark Hamill saying something to the effect of “If it’s the Sandpeople I know how bad things can get. We better find out.”
5. Bring Back Han Shooting First
Listen to me George, do you want to repair all the heartbreak done over the years to your core fanbase? One little thing will do wonders: remove the Special Edition refit of Greedo shooting his gun first and Han dodging the laser blast. Solo’s a pirate in this movie, and we love him for being a rogue. Rogues don’t want for green-skilled bounty hunter wannabes to shoot at them first.
Why Include It?: Because Lucas needs to show that he does care about his fanbase. They’ve suffered through a lot, and by throwing them this one bone, Lucas would show that he’s not uncaring to their pain. And, let’s face it, having Greedo shoot at Han first looks silly in the Special Edition; Han moves to the side to dodge the laser blast like he’s The Flash making the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. Or something like that.
How to Improve Upon It: Just change it back to the way it was when Star Wars came out in ’77. Nuff said.
6. The Death Star in Hyperspace
It seems kind of strange but we don’t see the Death Star ever travelling faster than light. Something that big doesn’t get from the Alderaan system to the Yavin system by clicking its ruby red heels together three times.
Why Include It?: Having the Death Star travel from Alderaan to Yavin via hyperspace actually helps serve the story. If you assume allow the addition of Star Destroyers circling around the Death Star at the Alderaan system, seeing it leap into hyperspace to pursue the Millennium Falcon means that it is travelling alone and doesn’t have any Imperial starship support. From a purely visual point, seeing the battle station make the leap to lightspeed would look cool and give us the only opportunity to see this special effect in either two of the trilogies.
How to Improve Upon It: Shortly after the Falcon escapes there’s a scene where Tarkin and Vader discuss the tracking beacon they put on Han’s ship. Right after that scene is the perfect moment to see the Death Star maneuver away from the Star Destroyers and jump to hyperspace. Nice, neat, and quick.
7. Show the Clones
In the Special Edition of A New Hope, when Han is running down the Stormtroopers to buy Luke and Leia a moment to escape inside the Death Star, he turns a corner and comes face-to-face with a whole hanger filled with ‘troopers. While I liked this new addition when I first saw it, why not take it a step further and change the scene again so that it better connects with the prequel trilogy? Why not show that some, if not all of the Stormtroopers on the Death Star are clones of Jango Fett?
Why Include It?: Now that it’s been established that the Clonetroopers in Episode II and Episode III of Star Wars are in fact clones of Jango Fett, who are the Stormtroopers supposed to be? Fans have always wondered if the faces underneath the Stormtrooper masks were the same, and that off-hand comment Princess Leia makes to Luke when he’s wearing his Stormtrooper armor (“Aren’t you a little short to be a Stormtrooper?”) takes on added weight now after watching the prequel trilogy. Here’s an opportunity to establish that the Stormtroopers are direct clones of the Clonetroopers and bridge the two trilogies together.
How to Improve Upon It: As Han comes racing around the corner, he stumbles into a cafeteria where ‘troopers are sitting down to eat chow. We can see that the Stormtroopers with their helmets off look like Jango Fett. Take it a step further and show that some of the ‘troopers are older versions of their younger counterparts – maybe even have them wearing their old Clonetrooper armor.
8. More Action in the End Space Battle
When Lucas released the first Special Edition film in 1997 he used CG to improve the Death Star attack sequence – but did he really go as far as he should have? I don’t think so and so does Adywan, a fan of Star Wars who has been assembling his own fan edit of the original trilogy since 2007. His fan edit of Episode IV has over 250 improvements to the 2004 version of A New Hope, ranging from color correcting the laser beam effects, lightsabers and spaceship engines to adding quick scenes (including ground shots showing the destruction of Alderaan and the death of Jar-Jar Binks.)
Why Include It?: When Adywan went about improving the attack sequence on the Death Star, he added small things like more ships in the background, more laser beams and the red gas giant Yavin (which is mysteriously absent from the official Lucas versions even though it should be somewhere in the Death Star’s sky.)
This new version heightens the action and makes it feel like it’s truly a battle between several dozen fighters. There’s a moment in the Adywan version when the TIE fighter group soars into the battle that’s amazing to see (and hear because he chooses to include the Imperial March theme music), and perfectly showcases how CG can be used wisely to improve special editions of Star Wars.
How to Improve Upon It: After watching Adywan’s version of the attack sequence I can’t think of a better way to do it. I’m sure that it’s been said by many others but Lucasfilm should be hiring Adywan to help them with future special editions, if these revisions are to keep happening.
See more of Adywan's impressive work on A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back on his YouTube channel.
9. Give Chewie His Medal
If the aliens in the Star Wars universe are supposed to be on the same equal level as Luke, Leia and every other human being, then why didn’t Chewbacca get a medal at the end of A New Hope? Was it because Princess Leia was too short? Did the Rebels not have enough time to make three medals before the rest of the Empire came looking to see what happened to their Death Star? Or did Chewie just say “No thanks” in Wookiee when Leia reached to hand him his medal?
Why Include It?: Well, it’s not like Chewbacca’s missing medal has held up fan interest in Star Wars, but giving the big hairy guy a medal for co-piloting the Millennium Falcon and having an important part in the rescue of the Princess seems like a given. If you’re supposed to let the Wookiee win at that alien chess game, I think that you should also hand him the same medal that Han gets to wear.
How to Improve Upon It: At the end of A New Hope, digitally insert the medal around Chewbacca’s neck. Then for kicks, in the Super Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, have Chewie’s medal hanging from the top of the Falcon’s bridge where the dice used to be. Or, better yet, let’s give the Star Wars Holiday Special a Special Edition makeover and have Chewie taking the medal back to his home planet to show off.
OK George, here’s how it works: you give Chewie his medal and we forget that there ever was a Star Wars Holiday Special. Deal?
10. See the Shot that Destroyed the Death Star
In the version we have now, when Luke fires the torpedoes that enter the thermal exhaust port, we see them zip down the hole. Why not take it a step further and show a POV shot of the torpedoes as they fly down the hole toward the center of the Death Star interspersed between shots of the Rebel ships scattering as fast as they can away from the space station? Fans can compare the innards of Death Star I with the guts of Death Star II we see in Return of the Jedi.
And if Lucasfilm is feeling really generous, let’s see Red Leader’s failed shot and watch his torpedoes strike the surface just short of the port.
Why Include It?: Adding a few extra seconds showing the torpedoes fly down the shaft would stretch the moment out longer. John Williams’ score works well here, and can easily fill the space while we shift between Luke, Han and the other Rebel survivors haul ass away from the Death Star. Plus, this kind of scene is perfect for what the Special Edition versions should do: giving us more Star Wars without taking away from the coolness of the original’s story.
How to Improve Upon It: After listening to the advice of Ben, Luke fires his torpedoes. We see them enter the exhaust port and then we’re inside, descending down the miles toward the energy reactor that powers the Death Star. Maybe we see both of the torpedoes strike an outcropping of pipes and tumble away, leaving one wildly spinning to carry on until it just hits its intended target. Only the audience will know how close Luke’s shot came to not winning victory over the Empire – or maybe it was the will of the Force that helped that torpedo find its mark.
And one last thought to leave you with...
The Special Bonus Part of the Special Edition: There’s one other suggestion that I think would benefit these Special Editions of Star Wars, and that’s to borrow a page from what Pixar is doing and add a short stand-alone film before the beginning of the movie.
What could be done in the space of just a few minutes is to tell a self-contained tale that’s set shortly before the events in A New Hope. Why not show the pursuit of the Rebel Blockage Runner from Captain Antilles’ perspective? Why not show him making a last ditch effort to outrun the Star Destroyer following him by jumping into Tatooine space, which sets in motion the events we see right after the opening crawl of the movie?
Not only does this allow George Lucas to show a new connected piece to each of the movies (because why not do it for all six Star Wars Special Editions), it also gives him an opportunity to let other writers and director and actors a chance to play in his universe, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Imagine what a guy like James Cameron, or David Fincher, or Steven Soderbergh, or Quentin Tarantino, could do in the space of those five minutes.
Why not make the Star Wars Special Editions into truly special editions and make us all excited to see what’s new in that galaxy far, far away?
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