Longtime lurker here. I'm sitting down and showing off what I've been working on. I've recently created a Return of the Jedi fanedit, but before releasing it to the world, I want to share the changes list with you and get your feedback. This has been a project I've wanted to do for a long time, and now I've finally been able to sit down and work on it. So allow me to bounce a few ideas off of you, if you don't mind.
To start, I've used two existing fanedits as a basis for this project: Yads' "Dan Edit," and Spence's "Spence Edit (Final Cut)." These are the two most significant ROTJ edits currently out there (Q2's is also very good, but isn't quite as extensive as the "Dan Edit"). That said, I wanted to keep the story canon as much as possible, so that despite the changes, the sequel trilogy (VII-IX) will still make sense should we see the return of any old characters (in other words, sorry folks — Boba Fett is still dead).
That said, here's the change list with a few explanations. Tell me what you think.
- Removed 20th Century Fox logo, and replaced with new Lucasfilm opening. If you've had a chance to view the newly released digital Star Wars collection, the 20th Century Fox logo and fanfare has been removed from all Star Wars films with the exception of A New Hope. I've replaced the intro with the updated version.
- New title crawl. Borrowing extensively from the Spence Edit here. I really liked the idea of Luke already being on Degobah at the beginning of the film to complete his training, so I've updated that information in the crawl. I've also indicated that Lando, Chewie, and Leia have travelled to Tatooine to rescue Han. Finally mention in there that a new Death Star is under construction. Note that I am not totally sold on my verbiage here. If anyone has other suggestions for how it should be written, I'm all ears. Also, technical note: I used the "Far Far Away" title in FCPX to create this, and I cannot for the life of me find a way to NOT have the words in the crawl fade out so soon. They're fading out by the time the third paragraph ends on screen, when in the original movies, the words don't fade out until almost the end of the intro song. If anyone has a technical suggestion here on how to fix it, please let me know. It's not a big deal, but it bugs me.
- Luke's return to Degobah moved to the 2nd scene in the film. One of my gripes with ROTJ is how long it takes to reconnect with Luke. Following the initial scene with Vader and Jerjerrod ("The Emperor is coming here?" / "That is correct commander..."), now instead of a wipe to C-3PO and R2-D2 — it wipes to a shot of Degobah, and we pick up with Luke and Yoda in his hut.
- Added Yoda's deleted line, "Obi-Wan would have told you long ago, had I let him." I first learned about this line with the release of the long-lost Laserdisc footage that was recently recovered. It answers the question as to why Obi-Wan seemingly lied to Luke in A New Hope. My only concern is that the audio quality is... different. I need some help trying to make it "blend" with the rest of Yoda's lines. Maybe some equalizing or audio filters or something.
- Removed Obi-Wan's line, "...from a certain point of view." Man, I hate that line. I hate that whole conversation. It's just a poorly thought out excuse to cover up why Obi-Wan lied to Luke, so now it's gone. I keep the rest of the scene though, including "Anakin was a good friend," etc.
- Removed the line, "Leia... Leia's my sister!" Didn't like this either. Wanted it to be a little more of a mystery (especially now that I've moved this scene so early into the film). Now the scene ends with Obi-Wan saying, "That is the reason why your sister remains safety anonymous."
- Added brief scene of Luke leaving Degobah and flying to Tatooine. I pulled a few of the shots of Luke's X-Wing flying off of the planet from The Empire Strikes Back, flipped them so they look new, and have him take off. During the scene, I included a line from the end of the ESB "Radio Dramatization." (A really great resource for Star Wars fan edits— half of the original cast does the voice work, including Mark Hamill.) Anyway, Luke calls from his X-Wing, "Skywalker to Millennium Falcon..." Lando responds over the comlink saying, "We'll see you on Tatooine, Luke — with Han." I need to work on the lip-syncing here, because anytime Luke talks while in his X-Wing, we see his face. So my lip-syncing needs some work, because it's a little off. I still think the line is a good addition though, and helps guide the transition from Luke leaving Degobah and flying to Tatooine.
- Added the deleted scene of Vader communicating with Luke, and Luke building his new lightsaber. I like this scene, but wasn't entirely sold on it until I was able to add it with the "leaving Degobah" scene I described above. It actually now flows very nicely and I really like having it in there. I didn't actually show Vader during this scene, but rather just fade from black to Luke's face. That said, I really which it was higher quality, because it doesn't look that great with all the film grain and scratches. I wish I knew how to restore film, because it could definitely use it.
- Restored the original Jabba's Palace door. The new front door in the Blu-ray version just looked ridiculously huge, so I restored the shot of the original.
- Several brief cuts between C-3PO and Jabba. Removed a few unnecessary lines to keep up the pace. Removed a line or two between the droid and Bib Fortuna. There's a lot that happens in the Jabba sequence, so I don't want it to at any point become "boring."
- Adjusted the droid "torture" scene. To be honest, I never have understood why people have such a problem with the scene, but whatever. I've made some adjustments to the scene, but I keep it in place to progress the story as to the reason why C-3PO becomes a translator, etc. I remove the "No, no, no, nooo!" from whatever droid it is getting their feet sizzled. Now it just looks like it's maintenance or whatever. Disintegrated protocol droid is still there, however.
- Removed "Jedi Rocks" and replaced with the brief song featuring the harmonica-playing turtle. I hate "Jedi Rocks," but I also hate the original 1980s song. Both look terrible. That said, I do actually enjoy the very brief cut of the harmonica-playing, turtle-like thing. It looks and sounds good, so I kept it.
- Had Leia agree to 25,000 credits for Chewbacca. I just wanted to get this scene over with and get to un-freezing Han. I can sort of understand why it's there, but it's really not important on the whole. And in my opinion, it probably actually helps the story, by blowing Leia's cover. Only an amateur would agree to 25,000 credits up-front, which is the reason why she was caught upon un-freezing Han.
- Replaced few Huttese subtitles. Not a whole lot, but little things to escalate the tension between Jabba, Leia, Luke, etc. Most of the subtitles are the same.
- Removed the reunion scene between Han and Chewie. I had a tough time making the decision on this one. While its valuable in that it shows these two characters reconnecting for the first time since ESB, it really slows things down. So it's gone, and I don't think anyone would really notice (or care).
- Added the "Force choke" sound effect when Luke attacks Jabba's guards. Something simple, but it just makes Luke seem more threatening, more willing to turn to the Dark Side, etc.
- Removed the Rancor scene. Entirely. It looks bad. It has always looked bad, and just takes up time. I edited it so that, when Jabba presses the button for the trapdoor beneath Luke's feet, Luke falls into a jail cell. He is then escorted up for sentencing (with Han and Chewie). Edit: I've gotten some flak for having removed this scene, so I may consider re-adding it to the next version of the edit.
- Took out the Bantha herd. The five second scene where a bunch of Banthas are walking through the desert. Didn't really sit well with me. It was a five second shot that didn't really need to happen.
- Removed the "beak" from the sarlacc. I just used Harmy's "Despecialized Editions" for this, placing the original sarlacc shots in its place. It just looks better, in my opinion, but I could be swayed either way.
- Added line to Han Solo; calls Jabba a "son of a bitch." Haha, this change will probably either be loved or hated, I'm not sure. I've always thought that Han sounded childish calling Jabba a "slimy piece of worm-ridden filth." So I took it out and replaced it with something more adult. I mean, we're talking about a guy that is supposed to be suave and daring. He killed Greedo in plain daylight. And what, when Greedo's boss himself is about to kill Han, he's just going to go out calling Jabba "slimy?" No! This is Han Solo. The only 'curse words' in all of Star Wars (that I remember) were in A New Hope, so I've added one here and made Han step up his game. I got the audio from this comedy bit on Jimmy Fallon Live.
- Re-jiggered Luke's X-Wing to follow the Millennium Falcon when leaving Tatooine. Since I moved the Yoda scene to the beginning of the film, Luke's X-Wing needs to actually follow the Millennium Falcon, rather than split as it does in the film. I did some Photoshopping and managed to make it happen. I'm not super pleased with the results, and I had to cut the shot a little short, but it'll do until I can come up with a better looking solution.
- Removed petty dialog throughout (esp. Han Solo). Lots of little, rather dumb one-liners that just don't sound good. A lot of these come from Han, including during the Rebel fleet briefing and on Endor. They're gone, and it makes him seem more competent and less of a jerk (and less jealous of Luke, which I couldn't stand). Took out Chewie's "Tarzan" howl, most of Han's ending conversation with Leia about "I won't get in the way [when Luke comes back]," and other just cheesy lines.
- Moved a couple lines to eliminate the bad matte painting of the Millennium Falcon during the Lando/Han scene. I managed to get it so that the scene still takes place (which I think is important) while still cutting out the bad background image.
- Improved upon Luke/Vader sensing each other in Shuttle Tydirium scene. Just took out a line from Han, added a shot of Vader looking out the window (shot is flipped from The Empire Strikes Back).
- Cut out the Leia meeting Wicket scene. Let's try to cut out the importance of the Ewoks as much as possible here, okay? In this edit, Luke and Han happen to find Leia at the Ewok base. That's the end of it.
- Removed anything that make the Ewoks appear "cute." I wish I could do more here, but I can only work within my means. Literally any shot that someone could say, "Aww, they're so cute," has been cut out. I know that George Lucas was trying to implement them as a major role in the ROTJ story; I am trying to lessen their impact. All of the crazy contraptions and methods they use to attack the Imperial armies on Endor have been stripped out.
- Fixed Leia's line about her mother; removed "I know" when learns Luke is her brother. When asked by Luke about her mother, Leia describes, "Just images really, feelings." She no longer goes into detail about Padme, seeing as she didn't actually know her for more than 30 seconds. Also took out her line, "I know. Somehow, I've always known," when Luke reveals he's her brother. I like that she just has this short of shock on her face. A lot more realistic, in my opinion.
- Cut out Han's line, "Could you tell Luke, is that who you could tell?!" That scene was lame, as was all of Han's jealous issues. They're all gone in this edit.
- Added a few small sound effects, musical cues throughout. Nothing major. Added a music cue of the "Force theme" when Vader prepares Luke for the Emperor. It makes it more obvious that Vader is affected by Luke's words to "Come with me [back to the good side]." Also made the Death Star firing sound a little more powerful. Used alternate take of Darth Vader funeral pyre score (more info in #34 below).
- Reinserted the "Jerjerrod's Conflict" deleted scene. I had to cut the scene into three parts to have it flow properly: (1) The Emperor calls Moff Jerjerrod from the Throne Room and tells him that if the shield generator is destroyed to destroy Endor. (2) A fellow officer tells him the shield generator has been destroyed. And (3), finally making the decision to blow up the moon. It's neat to see the thought process behind Jerjerrod making the decision to destroy his own troops, but I can understand why they took it out to begin with. I have always really liked this scene and would love to keep it, but I can understand why Lucas removed it in the first place, as it may hurt the pacing. So if it needs to go, I'll take it out, but want to get feedback on it first. That said, again I wish I knew how to restore footage, because there are many scratches and hairs on the film that make it look out of place when compared to the pristine Blu-ray footage just a scene beforehand. Note: the audio in the deleted scene just had some guy off-camera reading the Emperor's lines; I was about to scrap it because of that, but I found that there is actually a recording of Ian McDiarmid saying the lines! I found a higher quality version and incorporated that into the edit.
- Removed "I love you; I know" re-hash. Yeah, it's a cool line that everyone knows, but it just is kind of cheesy being re-used in ROTJ, so I've dropped it.
- Added Anakin's body disappearing upon his death. This is something I think should have been done a long time ago. It is officially Star Wars canon that Anakin did, in fact, become one with the Force following his death — and that, in the funeral pyre scene, it is only Vader's armor that Luke burns. I've rigged it up so that, following Anakin's last words, his body (just his head is visible) fades away, leaving only the armor. Luke looks down and weeps.
- Cut most of the lines in the Leia/Han ending scene. I laugh everytime Han says, "Alright... when Luke gets back, I won't get in the way." I suppose it's supposed to be humorous (?), but it just takes away from the excitement of the ending. Now, Leia just reveals to Han that Luke is her brother. They kiss. Yay.
- Replaced the Darth Vader funeral pyre music. Yes, yes — I love that music, as does everyone. But you know what I love even more? The alternate take of that music. Just listen to how awesome this is — it is the classic "Force" theme, played more grand and beautiful than ever played in the entire saga. I just had to get it in there.
- Replaced "celebration" music with the ending of the "Luke and Leia" theme. I actually really like the new celebration music included with the Special Edition, but based on how I wanted to change the final shot of the film, it didn't really work. So instead I stripped out the celebration music, and replaced it with more John Williams. I used the "Luke and Leia" theme here, which is a generally happy song, with a few melancholy tones. I replaced all the sound effects (fireworks, cheering, etc.) to try and keep most of it in place. I've left the actual Rebel reunion scene in silence however, which I think is actually a little more powerful.
- Changed final shot of film to a view of the stars. This turned out pretty neat. I didn't really like the "family photo" feel for the final shot of ROTJ, so I replaced it. I took the pan up from the Vader funeral pyre scene, and Photoshopped it to remove the fireworks and blend the sky with the stars found in the end credits. This way, the film (and saga) concludes with just a view of everyone dancing, followed by having the camera slowly pan up and into the trees... above the trees, the view looks up at the stars, for which the credits then roll over those same stars. The music that accompanies it serves as a beautiful close to the series.
Formats: I don't know much about formats. It'll be 1080p HD, so I think they call that BD-25. I don't plan to make any fancy interactive menus or anything though.
Phew. So that are a lot of the biggest changes. There are other, smaller changes. Certain shots I took out that didn't really enhance the story. Small shots I put in. There are also some controversial things that I didn't do — I didn't take out Darth Vader's added "Nooo!" at the end of ROTJ, because I actually think that it adds to the scene. (I think I'll get a lot of flak for that, so I might create a second version that doesn't have it.) I also kept Boba Fett dead; sorry folks — I want to keep this as canon as possible.
Anyway, so I'm looking for feedback. Is there anything else you think should see changed? Any scenes in particular that don't sit right for you? Or what do you think about the alterations I've proposed? I'll be happy to answer any questions.
Thanks for your feedback.
Update: 30 May 2015
I now have a "preview" version available. It's a low-res DVD version (as opposed to the final version, which will be Blu-ray quality). Note that this preview version is NOT final; it is just edited using my own personal likes/dislikes, and is the project as is. So I haven't yet added/removed anything that's been suggested. Please feel free to provide any feedback below, and I'll see what the community thinks about altering it. PM me for more details.
Putting “The Jedi Steps” into The Last Jedi