Article: ‘Han Shot First’: An Introduction to 'Fan Edits' & Star Wars Revisited
In recent years the accessibility to professional, affordable video editing equipment has led to a passionate internet community devoted to ‘fan edits’. According to Wikipedia a fan edit is “is a version of a film modified by a viewer that removes, reorders, or adds material in order to create a new interpretation of the source material”.
Many high profile films have been released over the years that have been critically mauled for their poor editing or the erosion of the films intended narrative due to studio intervention or lack of quality control by its creators. In response, film fans and critics have written reams of column inches explaining the pitfalls or errors certain films and their creators have fallen into…
In some cases the vocal backlash has been so loud the studio has caved, given into the fan requests and released a desired edit (see Bladerunner or Brazil). In extreme cases, the final version of a film is so far removed from the initial vision of the director and writer that they have all reference to their contribution removed from the final product (i.e. Alien 3) .
However, the most bitter fan/creator battles have resulted in some taking matters into their own hands and applying the desired changes themselves. Welcome to the ultra-passionate world of the Star Wars fan edit…
First, some background information for the uninitiated:
In 1996, Lucasfilm went back to the original negatives of the trilogy and digitally preserved and restored them before reissuing them in the cinema. In addition, many enhancements were made, including new computer-generated (CG) special-effects, tweaks to existing shots, new scenes inserted, and altered musical pieces.
Never before in the history of cinema has a reissue of a film caused so much debate, discussion and vitriol.
In the intervening 19 years fans have discussed ad nauseum proposed edits in an attempt to improve certain aspects whether it be by adding scenes, altering them or removing them completely.
Among the wealth of fan edits available for the Star Wars saga there are a few standout cuts that have become the version of choice for those that have discovered them. The three versions that garner the most praise are Harmy’s Despecialized Trilogy, Adywan’s Star Wars Revisited and HAL 9000’s Prequel Trilogy re-edits. The synopses for the three aforementioned ‘reissues’ are as follows:
Star Wars: Revisited (by Adywan)
"This edit not only aims to fix errors and technical limitations found in the film that should have been made in the Special Edition (SE), but gives the viewer a whole new vision for the movie, while correcting many of the excesses of the original SE. Shots are re-mastered and restored, special effect shots are re-composited and whole new sequences are created, giving the viewer a taste of what the SE could have been".
Star Wars Despecialized (by Harmy)
"This is a reconstruction of the 1977 theatrical version of STAR WARS. The original shots were painstakingly restored using various sources and the film received an extensive shot by shot colour correction based on a fade free 1977 BI technicolor print".
Prequel Trilogy Reissue (by HAL 9000)
"The goal was to improve the prequels, as films, through conventional 'FanFix' methodology. The pacing is improved, dialogue trimmed, and characters are developed better. The edits should be viable as films on their own. They ought to be functional as replacements for the original versions and avoiding making changes that would betray to the audience that they're watching a fan edit".
While all three projects are worth any fans time, the main focus of this article will be Adywan’s ‘A New Hope Revisited Edition’ as this will appear to many as the bravest and boldest edit of the three.
However, it's worth noting that based purely on 'effectiveness' the revision of the Prequel Trilogy by HAL9000 is the most striking and successful. However, for many there was not really much at stake as the original edits were so maligned by fans and critics alike. That said, an over-view of these versions will be made available online at a later date as the revisions to the films are superb and massively improve their overall pacing and enjoyment factor.
While many fan edits seek to achieve one goal - the preservation of the original cinematic version, or as some call it ‘GOUT’ (George's Original Unaltered Trilogy) – Adywan’s version acknowledges that not all the changes in the Special Editions were superfluous and maligned. While some additions were there to correct continuity errors, special effects and colour correction - these can be referred to as technical changes - others were added in an attempt to enrich the story or experience and these are the changes that caused most of the critical negativity.
On release the Special Edition's attracted a lot of attention due mainly to the addition of several long lost deleted scenes. However, after the initial excitement many of the additions became the focus of much criticism as many fans felt they were unnecessary. Some alterations were/are so hated that they are regularly referenced in popular culture and the ‘Greedo Shooting First’ revision incensed so many some fans that it single handily led to an online petition to release the films in their original unabridged form.
While the Special Edition's are met with a level of derision in many circles, there are still many fans that feel that any additional scenes that add an extra layer of depth, richness or immersion to the universe are acceptable i.e. extending the arrival into Mos Eisley by adding shots that better portray the bustling nature of the space port or the addition of extra TIE fighters and X-Wings during the final assault. However silly, comedic elements (a Jawa falling off a Ronto for example) and things that alter the feel and nature of characters that fans have come to love and cherish (i.e. Greedo shooting first) were a huge misstep.
Furthermore there were some additions, that while in principle were acceptable, were so poorly executed/shot that the resulting sequences are simply horrible. In particular the infamous Jabba scene, while piquing the interest of many diehard fans, was not only redundant (as Jabba seemingly reiterates Greedo’s dialogue) but executed with sub-par CG models and woeful manipulation of the original negative.
Therefore for the reasons stated above Adywan decided to compile the ‘ultimate’ version of Episode IV by combining elements of all the existing prints in addition to the inclusion of new effect shots created specifically for this version.
The official website for A New Hope Revisited states that this edit contains a total of 250 changes. A quick scan shows that most of the changes are small revisions and amendments made to correct continuity errors, colour inaccuracies and minor visual and audio issues. While most of these alterations will go unnoticed by a majority of viewers, there combined effect adds a layer of polish missing from all the earlier prints.
The uniqueness of this particular print is the acceptance and inclusion of several of the amendments contained within the original Special Edition. As mentioned above, many fan edits adopt a ‘purist’ approach and wh
itewash all of the additional content integrated into the 1996 release of the film. This ideology is instantly apparent from early Tatooine sequences where additional shots of the Sandcrawler and Storm troopers riding Dewbacks have survived the cut. The approach is therefore to develop a Special Edition ‘2.0’ with the goal to improve on the cinematic release rather than to ignore the reissues completely.
To avoid simply regurgitating the aforementioned change log, it would be best to highlight the most effective and satisfying changes and discuss their importance within this print.
The first major alteration is the streamlining of the Mos Eisley sequence as it was presented in the Special Edition. As mentioned previously, this particular edit retains the technical amendments and scope but omits the unnecessary comedic additions. The arrival of Luke and Ben into this sprawling 'hive of scum and villainy' is no longer overshadowed by ill-advised visual gags and superfluous shots. Gone are the Jawas falling off Rontos or robots bickering and the scene is way better for it.
The Mos Eisley sequence concludes with the two most hated additions in the whole of the Special Edition reissues; Jabba and Greedo Shooting First. In this print the Jabba scene has been excised completely. As mentioned above this scene was aesthetically ugly and narratively redundant seeing as Jabba essentially just repeats Greedo. Furthermore, the original Greedo/Han scene had been reinstated with authentic hard coded looking subs. HAN SHOOTS FIRST. End of...
The next major revision is to the encounter between Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi. In a post 'Darth Maul vs Obi vs Qui Gon' Star Wars cinematic universe the original lightsaber fight at the end of A New Hope looks pedestrian. Therefore to inject more pace into the scene and convince the viewer these characters are two of the greatest combatants to ever hold a sabre the sequence has been re-edited with less pauses and more energy. It’s easy to understand people’s apprehension towards such a change but the amendments certainly make the scene considerably more energetic. While Adywan’s decision to accompany his vision with music (‘Battle of Heroes’) may not be to everyone's liking it does add a nice symmetry to the two Vader/Kenobi duels.
The final (most) noticeable revisions are during the Rebel Alliances assault on the Death Star. The original Special Edition had already made several additions to this scene that included extra fighters, various cockpit shots and additional aerial combat footage. This edit looks to improve on this further by upping the ante and increasing the number of fighters and therefore in turn increasing the scope of the fight. This is a positive step as the original conflict, in places, felt a little underwhelming. It never really felt that the Empire had unleashed the full power of the military to protect its greatest asset and this goes someway to rectifying that. Furthermore this scene contains a slew (44 in fact) of minor corrections to fix audio and visual flaws present in the previous version. A few example corrections are:
Added star fields to shots that previously contained none.
Re-edited all Rebel command centre shots to fix issues where the image has been flipped.
Re-inserted the fanfare lost in the DVD mix when the X-Wings begin their dive to the Death Star.
Added dialog from the radio drama of Luke yelling for Biggs after he dies.
Fixed Vader’s TIE getting darker as it flies away from camera following destruction of the Death Star.
Replaced several blank backgrounds seen out of the cockpit windows.
Overall, this version/edit of A New Hope feels closer to a ‘definitive’ cut than the official Special Edition. The additions add scope and additional depth without detracting from the source film or adding painful comedic elements. Furthermore, the technical amendments – colour corrections, fixing continuity irregularities, SFX tweaks etc – mean the film has never looked so good or been so ‘perfect’. The amount of time and effort that Adywan has spent compiling this edit is commendable and the fact that is done purely for ‘love’ is astonishing – the examples listed above are just small indication of Adywan’s attention to detail and desire to release the best possible cut. Therefore, this edit truly is the ultimate and defining version and is worthy of any fan's time and attention.