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Seeing Stars

Star Wars
Is This All There Is?: Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill starred in one of the biggest hits ever and never got a decent part again.

'Star Wars' trilogy strikes back

By Richard von Busack

My family will think I'm a swine if they read this, but I've always considered the Star Wars trilogy to be in that category with other overrated pleasures like the New Abstinence, tapas and Madonna's amazing ability to reinvent herself. The Star Wars trilogy has never killed me that dead. R2D2, C3PO and the space tavern full of refugees from the Planet of Sid and Marty Kroft were all far too cute for me.

My imagination was captured more by the somewhat smarter Superman movies that came out at about the same time, although the villain Darth Vadar had my approval rating--that "terrible worm in an iron cocoon," as a medieval writer, whose name I forget, described the knights he'd seen with his own eyes.

In the new reissue of the Star Wars Trilogy, we see a print scrubbed for those who haven't seen it on the large screen. Also new is some technical rejiggering to make the sound effects suitably booming. Included in the new edition are a few moments of a computer-generated Jabba the Hut, who I think looks strange here. He's cuter and chubbier, and he's wearing an uncharacteristic, stuck-pig expression on his face just like the one Caspar the Friendly Ghost used to get when he discovered someone in the act of teasing a bunny. (Ben Burtt, the sound technician, claims to have simulated Jabba's new voice from squishing wet towels around in a trash can.)

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The Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition: The official page.

The New Mythology: An entertaining scholarly thesis about the series.

Bounty Hunter's Palace: An extensive Star Wars fan page.

Star Wars Site of the Week: Selected web sites for the Jedi-obsessed.

Yahoo's Star Wars Links: Enough links to choke a wookie.

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In the perhaps five minutes of brand-new footage throughout the entire series, there aren't even any extra scenes with my favorite character, that robot doctor who has a thorax that looks like a glass cocktail shaker, glimpsed in the second and easily best of the trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back. (Superior to the rest of the trilogy in photography and acting, the reprinted The Empire Strikes Back is the only one I'll line up for. It's more proof, if you really needed it, that writing and not special effects makes the movie. Leigh Brackett, co-writer on Empire, had been around long enough to have cooked up wisecracks for Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep. Note how much more flesh and blood the princess is in The Empire Strikes Back; note how Brackett, or perhaps her co-writer, Lawrence Kasdan, who scripted The Big Chill, was smart enough to have pillaged Jack London's To Build a Fire for the scene of Luke surviving a snowstorm inside the beast of burden.)

Star Wars is a roller-coaster ride so technically precise that it convinced a lot of politicians and defense contractors that its defense system could be built in real life. I don't blame that historical misfortune on Lucas and company, but the press notes suggest that the process that's made Star Wars persist is that it's about "the conflict between technology and humanity."

Being more of a fan of Douglas Fairbanks than Joseph Campbell, I like best--of the many, many old movie steals here--the scene where Luke and Leia swing like Zorro across a canyon of electronic machinery and fluorescent lights inside a space station. The persistent interest, 20 years later, in the characters; the mulling over of Luke and Leia's pasts--even the act of imagining they have a past, despite the underwriting--all is more a tribute to the imaginations of the people that loved Star Wars than what's actually on screen, even in the new edition.

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From the January 30-February 5, 1997 issue of Metro

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