For the 20th anniversary theatrical rerelease of the outer-space epic that formed a generation of movie buffs, George Lucas and the effects whizzes at Industrial Light & Magic have unveiled a special edition of STAR WARS. The epic that opened with the title, "A long time ago, in a
galaxy far far away," has been cleaned, restored and spruced up for audiences of the here and now. Savvy viewers of the new version will enjoy state-of-the-art enhancements of special effects, a fully remixed digital soundtrack, and even a bit of new footage, including a scene in which Harrison
Ford's Han Solo meets a computer-generated Jabba the Hut.
After the original STAR WARS, American films changed -- for better or worse -- as did audience expectations. STAR WARS left viewers craving more: "Bigger and better" spectacles became all the rage, though much that followed paled in comparison. It soon became common to hear casual fans conversing
about previously arcane special effects in a critical and knowledgeable manner. Now Lucas hopes that the special edition will return STAR WARS to the lead position it occupied 20 years ago.
There's no denying the appeal of this once and future blockbuster. What's fascinating from a cinematic point of view is the magnificently derivative nature of the film. It's an enormous summary of characters, styles, and plot points that surveys 40 years of film history. There's probably not a
frame in it that doesn't have some cinematic antecedent -- Lucas quotes with such enthusiastic abandon that he doesn't even balk at referencing THE TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. This is not necessarily a criticism. STAR WARS brought back for a new generation many of the most attractive elements of
studio-era moviemaking, and it did so in breathless anthology form. For some young filmgoers this film acted as a doorway to the glory of the movies. STAR WARS presents a cast of characters who have become part of our collective consciousness: Mark Hamill is the callow youth Luke Skywalker;
Harrison Ford is the rugged, roguish adventurer Han Solo; and Carrie Fisher is the lovely, spunky Princess Leia. Also along for the ride are a pair of adorable 'droids, R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels); Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), the fierce, towering bear-like Wookie navigator who's
really a softie at heart; and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), the wise old hermit who is actually a great Jedi Master.
Luke is an "orphan" (see THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK) living with his aunt and uncle on their farm on a dusty remote planet called Tatooine. He yearns for a life of high adventure. He wants to go off-world to join the academy like his friends, but his uncle needs help with the coming harvest.
Meanwhile the Imperial Senate has been disbanded and the galaxy has been taken over by the evil Emperor. The Empire's greatest weapon, the dreaded Death Star, is a huge globe-like craft able to disintegrate entire planets. This fearsome device is commanded by the sinister Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter
Cushing) and his feared masked aide, Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by the uncredited James Earl Jones).
Princess Leia acquires the plans for the craft and hides them in R2-D2, who is jettisoned in an escape pod with the fussy translator 'droid C-3P0. R2-D2 has been programmed to find Obi-Wan Kenobi but first he ends up on the Skywalker farm. The little 'droid wanders off one night to fulfill his
mission; Luke follows and meets old Ben Kenobi who offers to teach him the mysterious ways of the Force. The rest is movie history.
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: PG
- Review: For the 20th anniversary theatrical rerelease of the outer-space epic that formed a generation of movie buffs, George Lucas and the effects whizzes at Industrial Light & Magic have unveiled a special edition of STAR WARS. The epic that opened with the titl… (more)