Many a Star Wars geek has been screaming in Internet chat rooms, refusing to pony up for this long-awaited DVD release of the original trilogy, because of all the alleged changes George Lucas has made. For purists, this edition of the films is pretty much a nightmare, consisting of major visual and even performance alterations that "massacre" the original.
I consider myself a hardcore Star Wars geek, and while some of the changes might irk me, some of them, including the controversial insertion of Hayden Christensen as a spirit ghost alongside Yoda and Obi Wan at the end of Return of the Jedi, make sense and are perfectly acceptable.
Right now, seeing Christensen's smirk next to a smiling Alec Guinness is a bit shocking, but when the current trilogy completes with next May's Revenge of the Sith, it might actually be quite heartwarming and welcome. Still, to truly make the change work, you would have to have a more aghast reaction from Mark Hamill, who is seeing a vision of his young and charmingly handsome pop for the first time (as it is, the original and somewhat bemused reaction shot of Hamill remains). The jury is out on this change until next year.
Lucas has publicly refused to release the original untouched trilogy on DVD, and fans (for now) will have to settle for the 1997 special editions, which include enhanced visuals during some of the space fights, a scene in Star Wars between Han Solo and Jabba the Hut, and Solo no longer shooting Greedo first. (In a further update to the '97 version, Han and Greedo now shoot at the same time. Still lame.) My argument with Star Wars remains this: The films, including Jedi, are so good that their flaws are inconsequential. Even with the tinkering, they remain classic.
I accept the goofy Ewoks in Jedi, because the film has what remains the most rousing space battle sequence ever put to screen (not to mention the Princess Leia bikini). Lucas hasn't screwed with the films enough to truly hurt them, even if some of the changes don't better the experience. Someday down the road, Lucas might oblige the fanbase and release the original works unscathed. Until then, keep good care of those VHS copies, and don't deprive yourself the joy of seeing these movies in full DVD glory. As a purist, you might hate yourself for indulging, but as soon as that Star Wars logo gets sucked back into space, you stand a good chance of being hooked.
Special Features: Like the Indiana Jones Trilogy, special features are included on a fourth disc, and they are ecstatically good. Empire of Dreams, a documentary that reveals many secrets behind the trilogy's production, is a must-have. In fact, purists who can't handle the idea of watching the "altered" films would be advised to get hold of this set just for Dreams. Among the delights: the sight of Kurt Russell and William Katt (the Greatest American Hero) trying out for Han and Luke respectively, and Cindy Williams reading for Leia. Somewhat patchy yet informative commentaries by Lucas and company for each of the films are worth ingesting, although Lucas shies away from explaining some of his major changes. Most amazing is a preview of Sith which shows Hayden Christensen getting into his Darth Vader costume. Oh boy.
In the '80s, one of my favorite Stephen King novels was Christine, and John Carpenter happened to be a hero of mine. So when it was announced that Carpenter would handle the big-screen adaptation of King's work, I became very excited. When I saw the film, I was disappointed. In the novel, Christine, the '58 Plymouth Fury, was piloted on its murderous spree by the ghost of its former owner. In the film, Carpenter scrapped the possession idea entirely and simply made Christine a jealous monster car. That seemed like a copout to me, so I've always disliked the movie. If you didn't read the novel, you might be a little less jaded when it comes to Carpenter's big change.
Special Features: Carpenter and Gordon are on hand for a commentary, and there's a bunch of deleted and altered scenes.
Fans of the Jerky Boys will have fun with this assortment of real-life crank phone calls acted out with shoddy puppets. The voices of Jimmy Kimmel, Super Dave Osborne and the great Sarah Silverman provide profane rudeness that is often hysterically funny. Of course, Special Ed (voice of Jim Florentine) steals every episode he's in.
Special Features: A couple of unaired calls and a decent documentary will please fans.