In the 1970’s, writer/director George Lucas created a magnum opus of science fiction and fantasy and religion, complete with innovative visual and sound effects that has changed how we experience movies.  That great work is “Star Wars,” later to be named “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.”  Lucas, not being satisfied with the production quality of his movie (mostly due to budgetary constraints), decided to fiddle with “Star Wars IV,” modifying some scenes and adding in completely new scenes.  So, in 1997, he released the Special Edition of “Star Wars IV.”

In another time, in a place very far away, an evil, galactic empire has constructed a Death Star, a space station that can destroy a planet with one blast.  Sowing fear and terror to subdue the empire’s territories are its primary purposes; total destruction of planets not falling in with the program will be its task should the rebellion against the empire not cease.  The main players in this story are Mark Hamill (who plays a young farmer who will soon be thrust into the heart of the rebellion against the empire); Carrie Fisher (who plays a Princess, rebellion sympathizer and prisoner of the empire); Harrison Ford (playing a cocky pilot/smuggler who reluctantly joins the rebels in rescuing Fisher); Alec Guinness (as a mysterious, old man who guides Hamill to his destiny); and David Prowse/James Earl Jones (as Darth Vader, terror of the empire, right hand man of the Emperor, wearing an all black outfit with a fully enclosed helmet, with a very intimidating breathing sound).

Now that I’ve gotten the synopsis (which most movie fans already know) out of the way, let’s talk about the more fun stuff about this movie.  First, I’ll talk about the major changes.  The greatest change is an all new scene between Ford and crime lord Jabba The Hutt.  Originally shot with a human playing Jabba, the scene ended up on the cutting room floor as it was redundant and it didn’t look good.  But with 1990s technology, Lucas had the human actor replaced with a computer generated image of Jabba (based on “Return of The Jedi”).  The result?  A redundant scene (due to most of the dialogue being repeated from an earlier scene) that looks cool the first few times you watch it.  After that, the fallacy of adding this scene becomes very obvious.  What’s more, we see Boba Fett hanging back with Jabba’s other henchman!  The super-cool factor of seeing Fett was destroyed when, at the end of the scene, Fett stops walking, looks at the camera, and then moves on.  It’s like Lucas screaming, “Hey, guys, did you notice Boba Fett!”  Yeah, dude, we saw him.  I guess we have to count our blessings that Lucas didn’t put a name tag on Boba Fett in day-glo colors to make certain that everybody notices him.  This scene, by the way, is one of my most memorable, movie moments of this Special Edition.

Another big change to the original is the addition of dozens, if not hundreds, of characters moving about the Mos Eisley Spaceport.  Lucas wanted a busier spaceport than he originally created, and now he has it.  Speaking of the Spaceport, there is a Spaceport scene that Lucas modified much to the horror of “Star Wars” fans.  That scene is the one where Greedo has a gun on Harrison Ford, talking all kinds of trash and obviously intending to kill Ford right then and there.  So what does Lucas do?  He has Greedo shoot first — and miss horribly — and then have Ford shoot back and fry Greedo with one shot.  Lucas, dude, WTF!  There was absolutely no need to modify that scene!  Oh, man, I think Lucas thought Ford came off as a bad guy because he shot first.  If that’s the case, Lucas’ fears were unfounded, as Ford shooting first was clearly an act of self defense — Ford’s life was in imminent danger of serious injury or death.  This controversial scene is my most memorable, movie moment of “Star Wars IV” Special Edition.

The last major change in the Special Edition of Episode IV that I will talk about is the addition of a scene between Mark Hamill and the character Biggs Darklighter.  Both are friends, going way back to their hometown planet of Tatooine, and now they reunite on a secret, rebel base, getting ready to launch an assault against the Death Star.  What’s important about this scene is it reinforces Hamill’s great ability to fly a ship, as mentioned by Biggs to the flight leader who asks Hamill if he is sure he can handle the X-Wing fighter.  Yeah, I know, there’s a bit of shenanigans going on here.  Hamill is going from low-tech, farm spaceships to a high-tech, fighter ship…with virtually no training!  At least none that the movie shows.  There are more shenanigans in this movie, of course, but this movie is so cool that I don’t want to harp on them much.  I’ll talk about some trivia instead.

Did you notice the stormtrooper hitting his head at the top of the doorway during the scene when the stormtroopers went into the command center where C-3PO and R2-D2 were hiding? Interesting that Lucas kept that in the movie.

Did you notice that Darth Vader’s light saber was white in the shot where he was walking toward the Millennium Falcon after he finished his duel with Alec Guinness?

Did you know Carrie Fisher thought she wasn’t going to get the role of Leia because she thought she was too short and chubby?

Did you know that when Lucas previewed this movie to his filmmaker friends, many of them basically said, “better luck next time, George”?

Have you noticed that many of the helmets in this movie are shaped like d@*$heads?  That Fisher’s spaceship in the opening sequence is shaped like a dildo?

And this part is really funny: the first time Hamill sees Fisher’s ­image, he is clearly enamored with her.  Hey, bud, put away the lightsaber; Hamill’s Luke has more in common with Fisher’s Leia ­­­­­­­than he knows.

I have seen “Star Wars Episode IV” over 50 times in its various iterations and will see it many more times before my time is up in this world.  It not only provides great entertainment, it also teaches about having faith, that there is a greater force in the universe that we can tap into to help us in our daily lives.  It tells the importance of friendship, courage and sacrifice.

Now, “Star Wars” fans, go watch this movie again.  You know you want to.  From the first movie to the last, so that you’ll be ready for the next “Star Wars” movie next year.  May the force be with you…unless you’re a jackass, in which case may Jabba sit on your face until you asphyxiate.

— M

Laserdisc set of "Star Wars" Episodes IV, V, VI Special Editions.  $102.99 from Tower Records!

Laserdisc set of “Star Wars” Episodes IV, V, VI Special Editions. $102.99 from Tower Records!