Rumors have been circulating for awhile now that Disney is planning on re-releasing the theatrical cuts of the original Star Wars trilogy, which as far as pretty much every Star Wars fan ever is concerned, are the true definitive editions; no matter what George Lucas would have us believe. Until that fateful day comes to pass, most fans who didn’t hold onto their old VHS tapes or LaserDiscs, or those who don’t mind downloading poor quality torrents, are stuck with the “tainted” remasters that Lucas has somehow made worse with each subsequent update.
While there are some ways in which the remasters improve upon the theatrical cuts (mostly in the effects department — the lightsabers in particular look much better), most of the changes that Lucas has made ever since he released his first updates in 1997 have made the films worse. While nothing in these films quite reach the lows of the prequel trilogy, Star Wars as a whole isn’t as special as it used to be and balance won’t be restored until the theatrical cuts are made available to everyone again.
12. No More ‘Yub Nub’
To say that music plays an important role in Star Wars would be a vast understatement (if you find a film score more iconic than John Williams’, please let us know). While George Lucas thankfully never tampered with the more significant parts of the score with his multiple updates to the original trilogy, he still found a way to tamper with music in largely pointless ways. While cutting the Ewok’s ‘Yub Nub’ song at the end of Return of the Jedi isn’t as egregious a change as addition of the abysmal ‘Jedi Rocks’ (which we’ll get to later in this list), it’s still one of those changes that leaves you scratching your head. ‘Yub Nub’ isn’t a particularly great song but for those who grew up with the trilogy, it holds significant nostaligic weight, thanks in large part to its sickeningly upbeat melody (seriously, try not to get it stuck in your head). Sure, replacing the song with a more generic “triumphant” score and scenes of various planets celebrating a Rebel victory is a good way of tying together the two trilogies, but was it really worth cutting out such a cherished song for? You be the judge:
11. The Sarlacc’s “Upgrade”
Ah, who doesn’t remember the Sarlacc Pit scene from Return of the Jedi? The detestable creature that almost killed Boba Fett (digesting in a stomach for a thousand years is no way to go for someone as cool as this guy) was such a standout because it was so understated; it was just a hole filled with razor sharp teeth, chilling in the desert waiting to fed. It also had the benefit of looking uncannily like female genitalia, like any good alien creature with a large opening should. Unfortunately, not only did Lucas decide to add a bunch of unnecessary tentacles in the 2011 remasters, he went in the complete opposite direction in the suggestive design department by giving it a big phallic head. We understand the desire behind wanting to use modern special effects to enhance the Sarlacc’s original design, but it just looks even sillier now.
10. R2-D2 Hiding Behind CGI Rocks
If you ever watched the scene from A New Hope where R2-D2 hides in a cave from a group of Jawas and thought to yourself, “That cave needs more rocks!” then congratulations, your name is probably George Lucas. In a prime example of fixing a problem that never existed in the first place, Lucas edited this scene for the 2011 Blu-ray release by adding more rocks to R2-D2’s hiding spot, in an apparent effort to better explain why the droid would hide there. Unfortunately, the CGI rocks actually create an even worse plothole than they fix, as one glance at the frame makes it clear that R2 wouldn’t have been able to even get in the cave with all those rocks in the way. Making matters worse, Lucas couldn’t even be bothered to maintain continuity, as the very next shot shows R2 in the cave…and the rocks are gone, which draws even more attention to the fact that R2 picked a dumb hiding spot.
9. Giant Ronto in Mos Eisley
If there’s one thing George Lucas loves using CGI for, it’s crowding a pre-existing scene with alien creatures that weren’t there before. No scene better illustrates this than the one in A New Hope where Luke, Obi-Wan, and the droids are being interrogated by a group of stormtroopers. In the theatrical cut, a few droids pass in front of the frame, which is a clever cinematography technique that helps with the film’s worldbuilding. For some inexplicable reason that probably boiled down to a simple “Because I can,” Lucas inserted a giant creature called a Ronto into his 1997 remaster. The Ronto not only fills the screen with some (now) dated CGI, but because it’s so large, it actually obscures the entire shot. This is a negligible complaint to be sure, but it’s the kind of pointless addition that shows how off the mark Lucas was with some of his “improvements.”
8. Boba Fett Voice Change
Of all the changes highlighted on this list, this one is probably the least offensive…but it still doesn’t make it right. It goes without saying that Boba Fett is one of the most popular Star Wars characters ever, even if The Empire Strikes Back remains the only film that didn’t tarnish his cool factor. In an effort to make the original trilogy more in line with the prequels, Lucas decided to give Boba Fett the voice of his father Jango (played by Temuera Morrison). While this change definitely aligns the two trilogies better in terms of continuity, it’s still unnecessary because there was nothing wrong with original voice actor Jason Wingreen’s performance in the first place. Even worse, it completely wipes Wingreen from the films, which is its own kind of insult. Lucas may have had the right intention here — and it’s actually not an objectively bad change like almost everything else on this list — but he still should have just let Boba Fett alone. The guy’s had enough problems.
7. Obi-Wan’s Kryat Dragon Call
While this audio change may not be as significant as the Boba Fett one, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s introduction is such a significant moment that Lucas’s tampering with it stands out as the worse transgression. Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan enters A New Hope as a mysterious hooded figure who manages to scare away the troublesome Tusken Raiders before they are able to kill Luke Skywalker. Part of the reason why this scene becomes more important later on is that his Kryat Dragon call isn’t just a old man’s trick; deception is very much a component of his Jedi powers. The theatrical version’s audio reflects Obi-Wan’s mysterious nature, which makes the switch to the ear-splitting wail that replaces it on the Blu ray edition especially jarring. While whatever that sound is definitely sounds more terrifying than what came before it, it’s like hearing Tarzan being trampled by an elephant while a spider lays eggs in his eyes. It’s not pleasant to listen to, basically, and it completely takes you out of the scene — something that never happened with the original audio track. Somehow, that’s an improvement in George Lucas’s book.
6. Jabba The Hutt’s Additional Scene
The inclusion of a previously-deleted scene featuring Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt into the 1997 remaster of A New Hope sounds like it would be a great addition, since it focuses on two characters with a storied past, but one that we barely get to see played out on-screen in the original trilogy. Unfotunately, as neat as it is to see Han banter with the notoriously-rotund gangster, this is one scene that should have stayed on the cutting room floor. The scene was originally cut because of budgetary and technology limitations, but Lucas felt that advancements in CGI finally opened the door for its insertion into the film. What he didn’t seem to count on was the fact that CGI ages pretty quickly and computer-animated Jabba actually looks worse than the puppet used in 1983 for Return of the Jedi. While it’s a rather inoffensive scene otherwise, neither adding or taking away from the film in any meaningful way, it’s hard not to be thrown for a loop by the Greedo-lookalike standing beside the Millenium Falcon. Didn’t Han just shoot him (first) like two scenes earlier?
5. “Jedi Rocks” Song in Jabba’s Palace
Return of the Jedi has some incredible sequences, but it’s scenes like this abomination that help make it the worst film in the trilogy. The 1983 theatrical cut of RotJ featured the terrible song “Lapti Nek” (it’s hard to believe John Williams wrote something this bad), but at least the scene established that Jabba threw some pretty awful parties, which in its own way kind of makes his death later in the film just a bit more satisfying. Rather than do the sensible thing and delete this dated reminder of 80s cheese, Lucas not only replaced it with a different (marginally more tolerable) song called “Jedi Rocks,” but changed the song’s singer, Sy Snootles, into a CGI monstrosity. As if that wasn’t distracting enough, he also threw in a repugnant bearded gopher backup singer for good measure. As miserable an experience as it is to watch this scene, the real tragedy is that people — real, honest-to-goodness people — had to put work into making it…and that George Lucas thought it was good idea.
4. Emperor Change in The Empire Strikes Back
Ian McDiarmid’s portrayal of Emperor Palpatine is easily the best thing about the prequel trilogy and his work in Return of the Jedi is just as stellar. Although McDiarmid didn’t portray the character in The Empire Strikes Back, Clive Revill’s vocal performance and Elaine Baker’s portrayal were a fantastic introduction to the character (despite the bizarre chimpanzee eyes used on Baker’s face). Lucas definitely had his heart in the right place when he decided to redo the scene with McDiarmid to maintain continuity. Unfortunately, doing so not only erases the work of Revill and Baker from the franchise, but also that of screenwriters Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan. For some inexplicable reason, Lucas tinkered with the script when there was absolutely no reason to (the dialogue was fine as is). The worst part about it is that Brackett had been battling cancer while writing the script, which means Lucas’ actions, while surely unintentional, are a pretty significant insult to her hard work.
3. Darth Vader’s “Noooooo!”
If the Blu-ray remasters taught us anything, it’s that George Lucas seems to think his audience doesn’t understand subtext in the slightest. Darth Vader’s silent sacrifice near the end of Return of the Jedi is one of the most affecting scenes in the film, primarily because so much emotion is conveyed without words. For all of the film’s faults, this scene has always stood out as one of Star Wars‘s best and helps complete Vader’s arc pretty much perfectly. Of course, nothing is sacred to George Lucas, who (and we’re paraphrasing here) took one look at this scene when it came time for the Blu-ray remasters and said to himself, “Wow, this scene is perfect. It’s so raw and emotional and perfectly convey’s Vader’s inner struggle with absolutely zero dialogue…I wonder if I could ruin it somehow.” And he did, laying down a cringe-worthy vocal track of Vader exclaiming two back-to-back “Nooo’s!” to make his change of heart as obvious as possible. Clearly, “subtlety” is a term Lucas forgot the meaning of a long time ago.
2. Hayden Christensen in Return of the Jedi
Look, we get that Lucas clearly wanted to align his two trilogies as much as possible with his later remasters, but there are some things that are just unforgivable; such as putting Hayden Christensen in any frame of the original trilogy. Many fans have fond memories of Return of the Jedi‘s closing scene, where Luke observes the spirits of the deceased Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and most importantly, his father. This is a powerful scene because it shows that Anakin, AKA Darth Vader, was able to turn himself back to the Light Side of the Force before he died and leaves viewers with the comforting knowledge that Luke will always have his father with him. Unfortunately, much of the scene’s effectiveness is ruined by the replacement of original Anakin actor Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen in the 2004 DVD remaster. It not only erases Shaw from the film (Lucas really is fond of doing this, isn’t he?), but doesn’t even make sense from a continuity standpoint. The new Hayden ghost shows Anakin as he appeared in Revenge of the Sith, which is a problem because the character was actually much older when he died. Now, we not only have to look at Christensen’s smirking face at the end of RotJ, we get a poorly-thought out edit as well. Thanks George!
1. Greedo Shoots First
Of all the awful changes George Lucas has made to Star Wars, this one stands out as the absolute worst. In fact, “Han Shot First” has become such an iconic rallying cry for disgruntled fans, that even people who have never watched Star Wars are likely aware of it. While it’s self-evident at this point why this change to A New Hope was a terrible decision, it’s still worth highlighting because it explains so much of what’s wrong with George Lucas’ frame of mind. In the theatrical version, Han Solo shoots Greedo first, establishing that he’s a no-nonsense rogue who plays by his own rules. It’s a great character moment and a fine introduction to the smuggler. For some unfathomable reason, Lucas decided to reverse how the encounter plays out and made it so Greedo shoots at Han first. This not only makes Han a less interesting character, but actually makes no logical sense. Greedo is a bounty hunter and shouldn’t have missed that shot. Now, instead of a cool Han Solo who shoots first and asks questions later, we’re left with a more hesitant Han Solo and completely incompetent bounty hunter that got the drop on him We don’t care what this scene looks like now; Han shot first and George Lucas can never take that away from us.