First, to nitpick about the original Star Wars: Carrie Fisher's English accent is ridiculous and intermittent; Peter Cushing chews scenery with the best of them; Ben Kenobi's light saber can be seen going dim in the big battle with Darth Vader; and Luke Skywalker is, at least in the early going, the biggest whiner in the cosmos.
Now, to nitpick about the special edition of Star Wars: The computer-animated Jabba the Hutt seems a bit off, lacking the right reflection in the eye that the puppet in Return of the Jedi had; having Greedo shoot at Han Solo in the cantina is all wrong, because it softens Solo's character too much; and the restored scene with Luke and Biggs is only interesting for a diehard fan.
Having said all that, let me now express my opinion about Star Wars, old and new:
It's great to see Luke, Leia, Han, Ben, Chewie, Threepio and Artoo back on a movie screen. Hell, I'm even glad to see Darth Vader restored to the menacing dimensions that made me boo him when I was 12. (How evil can Darth Vader be when he's only 14 inches tall on your TV screen?)
The new special effects and restored scenes don't do much harm to the story (except for that bit with Greedo). Mostly, they add some texture to the surroundings, from the Mos Eisley spaceport to the Death Star corridors. (If you don't know what's been added, just listen for the sound of the diehard Star Wars fans having orgasms.) The Jabba the Hutt scene, in which a computer-generated Jabba is edited onto 20-year-old footage of Harrison Ford, is worth a good laugh -- if only because Jabba talks and looks remarkably like Don Corleone.
But Star Wars remains what it always was: A dynamic entertainment, efficiently and exuberantly setting up its mythic tale of heroes and villains, rebels and rogues, princesses and monsters, good and evil. Ben Kenobi was right: The Force will be with us always.
By Sean Means
The common misconception of Lucas' career is that he is predominantly a director. In fact, the last movie he directed was the original Star Wars back in 1977. His real talent lies as a writer and producer, and his desire to be involved with all aspects of his project from its inception to the finale.
There's a certain, uncomplicated purity to many of Lucas films. The characters tend to be very one-dimensional, focused merely on the task in hand, rather than in power-plays with personal demons. They come through as innoffensive, either loved or hated by the audience. It's very clear who's good and who's bad and, as long as the odds are stacked against them, the good guys always triumph.
And it's with the straight-forwardness of his good-vs-evil stories that Lucas has had the most impact. Star Wars has been likened to cowboys and indians in space, while the gung-ho boys-own antics of Indiana Jones has proved a winner every time. Set those against his other works, such as THX-1138 (which bombed on release) and Howard The Duck, it's clear where Lucas's real skill - and passion - lies, something which will doubtless be proved again with the arrival of the new Star Wars films.
Lucas started making home movies while he was in college, and the original, student project version of THX 1138 won him a prize at the National Student Film Festival. But it was Lucas' friendship with Francis Ford Coppola which boosted his career. He was initially allowed to attend the filming of Finians Rainbow and work on promotional shorts of The Rain People and Mackenna's Gold - before Coppola helped fund the feature-length version of THX 1138.
Although the film flopped - it's still Lucas' only commercial failure - Coppola helped him get backing for American Graffiti which, despite a surprising lack of guts for a teen movie, grossed a huge amount. Then came one of the biggest cinema events in history - Star Wars. From that moment on, Lucas' destiny was sealed.