Revisited: Star Wars

Star Wars is one of the most iconic films in the history of cinema and one of the most recognisable brands in the world today. Since its release 1977, legions of fans all over the world have been enamoured with the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia as they fight the oppression of the evil Galactic Empire. It has inspired generations and brought families together. It has shaped pop culture and revolutionised cinema and in 2020 it was estimated to be worth around $70 billion.

Released in a decade when Hollywood was dominated with dark and gritty thrillers like Taxi Driver, Shaft, Death Wish and The French Connection, not to mention the Dirty Harry series, it’s a miracle the film ever seen the light of day at al.

The sci-fi genre was all but dead at the time and the old TV serials of the 1930’s which inspired Lucas to write Star Wars in the first place had all been long forgotten. In reality, if it wasn’t for the determination of George Lucas and a leap of faith by Alan Ladd, Jnr at 20th Century Fox, the film would have never gotten off the ground.

However, if you didn’t see Star Wars before the release of the 20th Anniversary Special Edition in 1997, you’ve likely never actually seen the original version of film.

Now, while I have no intention of getting into the semantics as what the original version is (I realise the messy history of the film) this article looks to discuss the original version of the film that exists prior to the inclusion of any additional scenes and effects originally found in the 1997 re-release. I grew up with the original trilogy on VHS and have seen them countless times and while I enjoyed seeing the Special Edition versions of them at the time, I miss being able to readily access the films I grew up with and the same goes for thousands of other fans all over the world.

For years the online community have been clamouring for the original, unedited versions of the original trilogy to be released but I’m more likely to admit that Attack of the Clones is a good film before that ever happens. I fail to understand though is the unwillingness of Lucasfilm to release the original versions in the first place. You don’t have to spend too much time online to realise there’s a massive demand for it.

Star Wars doesn’t need all the fancy new additions that keep getting layered on and added with every new release and by no means do I think the re-released versions shouldn’t exist. I understand to millions of people, those versions are their Star Wars much like the original version is my version but surely there’s room in the world for both before theatrical cut of the film is lost to history entirely.

Even looking at Star Wars through a modern lens, the film still holds up amazingly well. I’m sure at this point I don’t need to revisit the plot but I would like to draw attention to some of the other aspects of Star Wars that make it a timeless classic.

For starters, the opening crawl was something that had never been seen before at the time and who will ever forget that opening shot of the Star Destroyer chasing down the Leia’s ship above Tatooine? From start to finish the special effects are nothing short of spectacular and while there’s no real mystery to how some visual effects are achieved these days, I’m amazed some of the effects in Star Wars were even possible at the time.

As for the sound design, the world “inspired” doesn’t even begin to cover it and add into that the iconic musical score by John Williams that’s lived rent free in your head since you it for the very first time what you have is one of the best sounding films of the decade.

I think sometimes it’s easy to forget that in 1978, Star Wars landed Oscar wins for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound and Best Original Score, as well as a host of other wins and nominations. In order for George Lucas to achieve his vision he had to push movie making technology forward and with that came Industrial Light & Magic, THX, the Pixar Image Computer and the introduction of digital editing. No doubt Hollywood would have developed similar technology themselves eventually, but to what degree and what would Hollywood even look like if it was someone else was the driving force behind it.

Regardless if you’re a fan of the film or not, Star Wars is responsible for modern cinema which is why I feel it such a shame that so many people have never had the chance to appreciate the original version of the film, or the work of those who helped make it a reality. Without the film we may not ever have gotten the likes of Jurassic Park or Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Star Trek probably just be a faded memory and the Marvel Cinematic Universe probably wouldn’t exist at all. As a result and historically speaking, Star Wars is one of the most important films ever made and as such, everyone deserves a chance to see it the way it originally released. The impact of Star Wars cannot be overstated.

by Edward Laing