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Anyone else think Empire Strikes Back's Special Edition is actually better than the Theatrical Cut?

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Although I really hate the Special Editions for ANH and ROTJ, ESB’s Special Edition is different to me. It doesn’t really change much from the film other than a few things like Ian playing the Emperor and showing the wampa creature, both of which in my opinion actually improve the film. Only the “Bring my shuttle” line being changed really bothered me.
I especially liked that they opened up Sky City, an idea that actually came from Kirshner himself. Though the matte paintings of the Theatrical Cut hold a special place in my heart, the CGI rendition of the city is still acceptable and thankfully it’s the only time a practical effect was replaced, which is another thing I love: One thing that pissed me off about ANH’s Special Edition was taking practical effect shots and replacing them with CGI, especially because the CGI looks worse than the original shots (Even for the Death Star battle, but for some reason most people actually think the CGI version of that one looks better) but ESB’s Special Edition doesn’t do that and while it still adds some CGI shots: No practical effect was replaced, something I really appreciate.

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The matte painting of Leia in the apartment window was redone.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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My vote no. The suspense of the Wampa scene is reduced by showing it too much, expanding Cloud City is nice but IMO calls too much attention to itself, using Ian would’ve been better if he wasn’t delivering his lines like he’s literally reading from cue cards, recycling footage from ROTJ to show Vader returning to his shuttle was pointless, and, no, getting rid of ‘Bring my shuttle’ for me was a big no no. I will agree though ESB is the more tolerable of the SEs.

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I prefer the original 1980 ESB, although I agree that of the special editions, ESB was the least butchered. Taking the main changes I can recall in turn:

  1. Recompositing and patching up effects. A good change, this. The speeders don’t look pasted onto the background in some shots, making the effects more believable. Fixing some of the speeder cockpit issues and the Wampa arm were also arguably good changes. (Although I must confess I had never noticed either of these until they were pointed out to me afterwards.)

  2. Extra Hoth Wampa scenes. I’m on the fence here. I thought the shots themselves were very well done, despite taking away a little suspense. As for the Wampa not being quite the same as in the other shots, there was already a discrepancy in the fleeting appearances from 1980. Adywan wrote at length about these - and fixed them - when making ESB:Revisited.

  3. New emperor scene (from 2004). While there was a clear lack of continuity between the 1980 emperor and 1983 emperor in both look and voice, the new ESB SE dialogue is an absolute travesty. Overall, I prefer the 1980 version but would have been happy with something akin to ESB:Revisted for this scene. (When I was a kid, I just assumed there had been a change in emperor between the events of ESB and ROTJ and didn’t worry too much about it…)

  4. Boba Fett redub (from 2004). Aarrgghh. No one will ever replace Jason Wingreen for me; his voice was absolutely perfect for the role. 1980/97 all the way.

  5. Bespin. I liked the new fly-by footage in the SE (as I did with Mos Eisley in the Star Wars SE), but preferred the claustrophobic interior shots from 1980.

  6. Luke’s scream. Only used in the 1997 version, and a bizarre addition which was thankfully removed in all future versions. Without this, the 1997 SE would be about neck and neck with the 1980 version for me.

  7. Alert my star destroyer… As many have mentioned before, this new line - together with the new shuttle footage - wrecked the pacing towards the end of the film. The original “Bring my shuttle” was also delivered perfectly, conveying a real feeling of annoyance. Perhaps some of the new footage could have been inserted elsewhere to good effect? I did like seeing Vader’s shuttle with the Tie escorts.

  8. Audio. I don’t have a separate sound system, relying instead on my TV’s inbuilt stereo speakers, so I can’t comment whether or not the audio was generally better or worse in the SE. But two things did strike me as worse. The slight echo from 1980 in the conversation between Luke and Vader in the large chasm is gone, taking away some atmosphere from that iconic scene. And Chewie’s growl while strangling Lando now completely drowns out some of Leia’s dialogue.

Bluto

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It’s definitely the least offensive to me. But overall, nah. Leave the original alone. It’s perfect. I still don’t quite understand the dialogue changes between Vader and the Emperor. Were they trying to drive home the fact that Vader is pretending to not know who Luke is? It feels awkward to me. But that’s me. You enjoy.

It’s all star wars and that’s the problem!

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ESB had some positive audio changes, I’ll give it that.

Well done. I will disengage self-destruct initiative.

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I’m biased because I grew up with the Special Editions but I definitely agree, I prefer the SE cut for Empire. Since the most recent versions don’t include Luke’s '97 scream, none of the changes ruin the experience for me and most of them enhance it.

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Out of all the OT blu-ray editions, Empire has the least amount of problems. My kids always ask why Empire has the better bigger picture than the bonus disks VI and IV that we watch. I tell them that the “movie makers” are still getting the other two films just right. Which is true… from a certain point of view. 😉

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Bluto said:

  1. Luke’s scream. Only used in the 1997 version, and a bizarre addition which was thankfully removed in all future versions. Without this, the 1997 SE would be about neck and neck with the 1980 version for me.

Unfortunately that scream is burned into my brain. So, even though it’s not on the Bluray, I still hear it in my head. Every. Single. Time.

YouTubers!
Attack of the Clones | Alternate Timeline Edit
https://originaltrilogy.com/topic/SSWRs-Attack-of-the-Clones-Alternate-Timeline-Edit/id/66888
My OLD Return of the Jedi thread. Be gentle.
https://originaltrilogy.com/topic/ROTJ-Fan-O-Matic-3-new-clips/id/7919

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I feel your pain.

Well done. I will disengage self-destruct initiative.

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No.

The ESB changes are detractive but in more subtle ways than the other two films. The worst is the change in Vader’s line reading but worst of all is the wrecking of the climax’s pacing in order to shove in the new shots of Vader’s shuttle and then a shameless recycle of a ROTJ shuttle shot.

The Wampa addition is fine but the limitation of the original has more suspense and plays better.

The effect cleanups were one thing but many were recomposites if you check 005’s exhaustive thread. I really wish they would have left it alone despite fixing inherent issues like the see through snowspeeder cockpits. It should be as it was just like the rods/armatures left in King Kong. And NONE of us noticed the Wampa arm rod until a couple of years ago.

The 2004 DVD Emperor scene and Jango redubs were yet another twist of the knife and wholly unnecessary. I could understand the logic in each but neither is effective at anything other than taking you out of the film.

The Bespin flythrough is needed but doesn’t do all that much. It also sticks out as a new shot and in comparison the simplistic landing of the original is a better choice in terms of direct pacing.
The interior and Leia viewport shot are better in the original because they are intrinsic to the original composition whereas the new additions do not always mesh perfectly with the original photography.

I grew up in the years of renting various tapes so at times it was SE and not SE. The scream is fine until you realize it’s Palpy’s scream and that the fall does work better in silence.

Mostly the SE 1997 mix actually adds some things from the mono mix and is both bombastic and respectful to the original 1980 mix intentions. It does revert back to the scripted “lucky to get out of there” but that’s fine. In the SE track there are some nice alternate effects in the Bespin duel from the mono I prefer and still think of: chiefly Vader’s exclamation when knocked off the platform by Luke. In the 1980 mix it’s a simple :“Aarh!”. whereas the SE mix had a much more impressive: “Oooohhhhhh!”-this came from the mono and is one of the things the SE pulled in.
The stupid choice was the “alert my Star Destroyer” line from an ANH outtake that is emotionally out of place in that scene.

In ESB it shows yet again unimportant and incessant tweaking for tweakings sake. Each of the ESB changes are undoing pieces of the original film and it really should have been left alone.

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.
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It certainly had the potential to improve on the original cut, but the constant continuity errors with the windows in Cloud City absolutely ruin it for me. Atrocious.

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Back in 1980 I didn’t notice transparent Speeders or repeated set corridors - nor did I care that I never saw the shuttle Vader referred to. All I saw was total awesomeness.

Now of course I can see the rough edges. I can see the genius of how the Hoth battle was achieved, or how the sets were cleverly designed to give the impression of greater scope and distance. Lucas calls them ‘faults’ - I call them craft.

I’m a conservative on this point. I think the films should have been left alone. They are (as Gary Kurtz said) a product of their time, and no amount of tinkering will make them otherwise. The SE were a cute novelty in 1997 and should have remained such - a bonus disc to compliment a stunning remaster of the theatrical OT in whatever format.

If Paul McCartney decided to remix the Beatles’ catalogue with all-new digital sounds, tweaks to the songs, Katy Perry on a couple of tracks etc etc, and then try to bury the originals, he would probably have to go into hiding - and with good reason. This is how I see the Star Wars issue. The sight of Lucas banging on about ‘mythological motifs’ at a 40th anniversary celebration of a film he won’t let us see anymore made my blood boil.

So no, I’m in the unaltered TESB camp.

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As far as 1997 SE goes, yes. I’ve always loved the enhanced modern Cloud City look/colors and enjoyed that little scene where Lando is talking to the entire city on the mic. The only change I didn’t like was the awkward insertion of the Vader arriving on his Star Destroyer scene. But I’ll deal.

Anything 04 and after with Fett’s new voice sounding like he’s robotic or the Emperor looking like a giant Halloween mask from Revenge of the Sith, you can throw directly in the trash.

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I’d say that overall the positive changes are countered by the negative changes. I hate the dialog changes and the wampa scenes were not needed. I like Ian as Emperor, but they shouldn’t have changed the dialog. Vader already knows that Luke is his son and he has already mentioned Skywalker by name earlier in the film so Palpatine pointing it out is rather stupid. Some of the extra windows in Bespin are cool, some are stupid, and some are inconsistently applied. I did love the extension of the ending and thought it built more tension and was an improvement. But overall the SE is no better or worse. It is mostly because the core of the film is unchanged and it is mostly just corrected or enhanced FX.

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Adaman Kenobi said:

This editor uses Markdown syntax, which makes it easy to add formatting like italics, bold, and lists:

Now that’s a post I’ve not seen in a long time… a long time.

Army of Darkness: The Medieval Deadit | The Terminator - Color Regrade | The Wrong Trousers - Audio Preservation
SONIC RACES THROUGH THE GREEN FIELDS.
THE SUN RACES THROUGH A BLUE SKY FILLED WITH WHITE CLOUDS.
THE WAYS OF HIS HEART ARE MUCH LIKE THE SUN. SONIC RUNS AND RESTS; THE SUN RISES AND SETS.
DON’T GIVE UP ON THE SUN. DON’T MAKE THE SUN LAUGH AT YOU.

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Amongst the ESB Changes, I’m caught in the middle:

The Wampa Cave: I like the original suspense of not seeing the monster, but it just comes out of nowhere once Luke is freed, which is a bit of a continuity issue for me. In my personal cut, the scene starts with the original shot and edits over to the SE showing the Monsters arm as it approaches Luke as he falls to the ground, and we briefly see the monster scream when it’s arm is cut off.

Luke’s Dagobah Quip: “You’re lucky you don’t tase very good” has more life to it than the change.

The Emperor scene: Sure there’s alack of continuity between the original and ROTJ, and he looks weird, but I still prefer the original Emperor, both visually and dialogue than the 2004 change. Palpatine looks very different in ROTJ than he did in ROTS, but this change has him look exactly as he did in III, over 20 yrs later, which is nitpick, but I just don’t like it. It just takes me out of the movie. And the original dialogue is more ominous.

Boba Fett redub: Original. Nuff said

Bespin: The SE cityscapes improve it for me. I like the SE additions

Alert my star destroyer/ Shuttle: I edited “Bring my shuttle” back into my copy, but I kept the quick shots of Vaders Shuttle approaching his Star Destroyer, and landing, because I think it adds to the suspense of the situation at hand than without it.

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To the OP - nope, theatrical all the way for me.

Shopping Maul said:

Back in 1980 I didn’t notice transparent Speeders or repeated set corridors - nor did I care that I never saw the shuttle Vader referred to. All I saw was total awesomeness.

Now of course I can see the rough edges. I can see the genius of how the Hoth battle was achieved, or how the sets were cleverly designed to give the impression of greater scope and distance. Lucas calls them ‘faults’ - I call them craft.

I’m a conservative on this point. I think the films should have been left alone. They are (as Gary Kurtz said) a product of their time, and no amount of tinkering will make them otherwise. The SE were a cute novelty in 1997 and should have remained such - a bonus disc to compliment a stunning remaster of the theatrical OT in whatever format.

If Paul McCartney decided to remix the Beatles’ catalogue with all-new digital sounds, tweaks to the songs, Katy Perry on a couple of tracks etc etc, and then try to bury the originals, he would probably have to go into hiding - and with good reason. This is how I see the Star Wars issue. The sight of Lucas banging on about ‘mythological motifs’ at a 40th anniversary celebration of a film he won’t let us see anymore made my blood boil.

So no, I’m in the unaltered TESB camp.

+1

Great post.

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If the CGI was better integrated, didn’t have Luke’s scream, and had the original Falcon escape sequence with “bring my shuttle” intact, then the 97 cut is absolutely better. But because of these issues, I prefer the original cut.

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Adaman Kenobi said:

Amongst the ESB Changes, I’m caught in the middle:

The Wampa Cave: I like the original suspense of not seeing the monster, but it just comes out of nowhere once Luke is freed, which is a bit of a continuity issue for me.

Luke is struggling to free himself in time. He’s woken by the creatures roar & it’s clear that it’s on it’s way. It doesn’t “come out of nowhere.” The scene makes sense.

Ray’s Lounge
Biggs in ANH edit idea
ROTJ opening edit idea

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The biggest change in ESB was the color grading. Where Hoth was originally white, in the SE it is blue. I am torn on the change, because I grew up with the SE color grade and I never hated it.

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I’ve also noticed that the whole movie was filmed darker. Where as the 1997 and even the 2004 release was enhanced to look brighter. I don’t know if this was because the Empire Strikes Back was considered to be a darker movie or was it just the technology?

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