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For, Friday, Dec. 27, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because I wrote my first professional movie review for the Deseret News in 1978 I was a bit late for ‘Star Wars,’ which opened the year before. Ditto ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ in 1980, which was released before I became the full-time critic; my predecessor reviewed that one. I did get a crack at ‘Return of the Jedi’ in 1983, however, and in early 1997 I reviewed all three when they returned to theaters in their first ‘Special Edition’ form. Now, Disney/LucasFilm has reissued the trilogy on Blu-ray, so let’s look back at them. This week, my Jan. 31, 1997, review of ‘Star Wars,’ these days subtitled ‘A New Hope’; the other two will follow over the next couple of weeks.

There's no doubt about it — audiences will get quite a rush seeing "Star Wars" on the big screen again.

All the familiar characters and memorable moments are here, in gleaming color thanks to a lavish restoration project, which also provided an enhanced stereo soundtrack.

It should be noted at the outset, however, that despite all the changes and improvements ("improvements" being an arguable point, of course), there is nothing in this "Special Edition" reissue that alters the film substantially. The Rebel Alliance still wins the day; Darth Vader still gets away.

So, the real question in this updated review has little to do with the film itself — was all this tweaking necessary?

Well, no. But it is pretty cool.


Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), left, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and Harrison Ford as Han Solo in 'Star Wars' (1977), before the subtitle 'A New Hope' was added.

The special effects are smoother, the creatures are more elaborate, the story is filled out a bit and a couple of new moments — including the much-anticipated moment when Han Solo confronts Jabba the Hutt — are seamlessly incorporated into the fabric of the film.

In other words, this ain't Steven Spielberg's "Special Edition" of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

But it must also be said that there are places in this upgraded "Star Wars" where the screen seems overly cluttered, as all kinds of little creatures move around in the background (and in the foreground, for that matter), which proves distracting from the focal point of certain scenes.

In fact, one wonders if Lucas would have allowed that the first time around even if he had the technology to do it.

Still, the computer-generated cleanup job does well by the explosions and dogfights, and the new material is often visually stunning — there are things here that definitely shift the "wow" factor up to razzle-dazzle levels.


And let's face it, with all the high-tech, special-effects-driven pictures that have come along since "Star Wars," Lucas probably did need to do some of this if he wanted to get a young generation of moviegoers into theater seats.

With the notable exception of Mark Hamill's performance (which was even too whiny in 1977) the film holds up quite well, with a great old-fashioned story and clearly defined heroes and villains.

In other words, "Star Wars" remains the wild ride that helped change the face of modern moviegoing and is every bit as entertaining today as it was 20 years ago.

You can't ask much more than that.

"Star Wars" is rated PG for violence and profanity.