Just forget the words and sing along

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All the Times I've Bought Star Wars: Episode III -- Greedo Shoots First

For those just joining us, welcome back to All the Times I've Bought Star Wars, my epic series of blog entries in which I recount all the times I've bought Star Wars.  I'm also trying to figure out why I've bought it so many times.  We continues with Episode III: Greedo Shoots First


The trailers and the TV spots for the Special Editions got it right.  A whole generation had grown up watching it on TV.  They’d never seen it in theatres.  I was a member of that generation.  In my second year at college, all of my friends were in that generation.  All of my friends at college were fellow nerds, and needless to say, this was a huge freakin’ deal to us.  Yeah, Camrose (my college town) had its quaint, old-school movie house, the Bailey Theatre, but screw that noise.  We were organizing road trips into Edmonton to see it in the latest multiplexes the weekend it came out.  Well, most of my friends were.  For some reason, they weren’t inviting me along.  Oh, well.  So, I had to go home for a weekend, and borrow Mom and Dad’s car to run into Edmonton to see it.  And I saw it on the big screen...as it was meant to be seen. 

I remember when we were sitting around debating the Special Editions over lunch in the cafeteria.  For some reason, the whole “Greedo Shooting First” controversy was something that never really dominated our debates.  We were more focused on the things like putting Jabba the Hutt into Star Wars.  We all agreed that the “man in suit” Wampa that attacks Luke in The Empire Strikes Back looked kind of cheesy.  And we all seemed to enjoy the new celebration song at the end of Return of the Jedi.  Those initial months in the spring of 1997, we actually had mostly positive things to say about the Special Editions.  It was only upon multiple viewings and reading ongoing debates online that we started to feel that new additions didn’t make the special editions so special.

And, of course, we could only watch it multiple times, if we bought it on VHS again.

It hit VHS in August of 2007.  I had quit my summer job about halfway through August, so I could still squeeze in a bit of summer vacation before heading back to school.  When the Special Editions first came out, I remember having a very serious debate with myself about whether I should buy it on VHS again or not.  Perhaps it was in this internal dialogue where I first began forming my rules for when to succumb to the double-dip.  After writing out lists, weighing the pros and cons, and leafing through magazines detailing the filming of Episode I, I determined that, yes, the 8 minutes worth of new footage was worth purchasing the films again.  I went down to Music World in West Edmonton Mall while I was doing my back-to-school shopping.  I had begun buying all my VHS tapes at Music World because they had a dedicated “widescreen section,” and I had fully become a widescreen snob.  I got that shiny silver box and spent the last few days of summer watching the Special Editions.

It’s interesting to note that this is the first edition where the widescreen versions were as readily available as the fullscreen versions.  Widescreen came in a silver box, fullscreen came in a gold box.  Me and most of my friends got the widescreen versions, and we all agreed that it was nice that now we didn’t have to wait until the opening crawls were in the middle of the screen in order to read them.

And, once again, for VHS, they were attempting to put bonus features on these tapes.  At the opening of each tape is a featurette that details the making of this Special Edition, where they highlighted the new effects that were put in and how they did them.  Also exclusive to the widescreen editions is that they put on the trailers for the Special Editions – something that 20th Century Fox was starting to do to a lot of their widescreen VHS tapes in the late 1990s.  .  And, just like the last edition, these VHS tapes were fully digitally remastered in THX.

I never regretted buying the Special Editions on VHS.  Granted, for the rest of the 1990s, whenever I felt the urge to watch a Star Wars film again, it was the Special Editions I’d reach for.  Whenever the gang got together, and we’d spend a Sunday watching the whole trilogy in a TV lounge, it was the Special Editions that we’d more than likely watch.  But I’ll never forget, one lazy Sunday, after I’d finished my homework and I was looking to unwind, I reached up for Return of the Jedi, and my hand drifted over to the original theatrical versions.  I had a craving to hear the original Ewok celebration song.  It was nice to have a choice between the Special Editions and the original theatrical versions – a choice George Lucas has since tried to deprive us of by erasing the original version from existence and telling us that the Special editions are the ONLY editions, but that`s a rant for another day. 
I`ll never forget those final halcyon days at Augustana.  In terms of Star Wars, I was satisfied.  I had the movies on VHS.  I could watch the originals or the Special Editions whenever I chose.  And I was secure in the knowledge that I would never, ever have to buy the films again...unless, of course, some new home video format was invented that rendered VHS obsolete. 
It was on one of those final days that I ran into my friend Arlo, as he was carrying around a great big box.  “Whatcha got there, Arlo?”  I asked.

“I just bought myself a DVD player!” Arlo exclaimed.  “Once I get it hooked up, you want to come over and watch Star Trek: First Contact?”

“Hellz, ya!” I said.  Yup.  VHS would NEVER be rendered obsolete.  

Next issue:  The Most Anticipated DVDs of All Time

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