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Star Wars strikes back

New on the DVD scene

Luke Skywalker faces Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.
  • Luke Skywalker faces Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.

Hayden Christensen has replaced Sebastian Shaw at the end of Return of the Jedi, standing hip to shoulder to hip with Yoda and Alec Guinness on the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment release, Star Wars Trilogy (Catalog number 2222341, $70). The boxed set, which contains four platters in individual jackets, is otherwise a presentation of the 1997 revision and rerelease of Star Wars (now known as A New Hope), The Empire Strikes Back and Jedi. The fourth platter contains a lengthy documentary about the series and its creator, George Lucas.

There are several promotions for next summer's entry in Lucas' saga, and, on the commentary tracks for the films, Lucas talks quite a bit about the six-episode story arc and how it morphed from the original screen treatment he created for the first movie. If marketing was the motivation for getting the films out on DVD, however, so be it. All three movies remain joyfully exuberant masterpieces in the art of motion picture entertainment, and the boxed set belongs under every family Christmas tree, if you can wait that long to tear open the shrink wrap and revisit their magic.

Originally produced in 1977, 1980 and 1983, the films have survived their digital nips and tucks to remain youthfully invigorating and exciting fantasy adventures that really define how movies can materialize the human imagination. The picture transfers are imperfect but spectacular. For the most part, the colors are incredibly rich and crisp, with vivid details and captivatingly nuanced lighting.

Each film is accompanied by a commentary track featuring separately recorded reflections by Lucas, Carrie Fisher, sound designer Ben Burtt and effects supervisor Dennis Muren.

Burtt has many fascinating things to say about creating the sounds for each film. He traveled around the world to get different animal sounds for the aliens and yet obtained another key sound from a dumpster parked in front of his house. "We actually went out and bought just a door from an old Cadillac El Dorado, which had the motors in the door which operate the window up and down, and it was that window motor that we used for 3PO walking."

There is enough fresh material in the documentary to make it worthwhile for fans, and a few intriguing points of interest. The conflict Lucas had with his initial cinematographer is delineated and there are lots of shots of props not working like they should. There is also a comparison clip of the sequence Lucas copied from the 1943 Air Force for one of the dogfight scenes.

Also featured on the platter is an excellent collection of captioned still photos, including shots from a deleted scene in the first movie that shows the hero hanging out with other kids on his home planet; a still frame collection of posters from all over the world; a great collection of teasers and trailers for all three movies (including a Revenge of the Jedi teaser); a dozen or so TV commercials; and a nine-minute non-special effects promo for the forthcoming Episode III.

-- Douglas Pratt


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