Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Dreaded "Special Editions" 

I bought George Lucas' THX 1138 Special Edition on DVD this weekend, and it started me thinking about Directors making "Special Editions" of their movies. We all know the horrid examples of a bad "Special Edition;" Greedo shooting first in the Cantina scene in the Star Wars - Special Edition, The CGI version of Jabba the Hutt in SW-SE. The CGI Sly Snoodles Band in SW-RotJ:SE. These are all examples of what directors should avoid when creating a "Special Edition" - huge overwealming changes.

Now, back to THX 1138. This movie is an example of a "Special Edition" done right. The key? SUBTLETY! Essentially in this movie, only backgrounds and minor special effects were replaced with the newest CGI. No CGI characters, no reworks of entire scenes, the movie was just made prettier. (Granted, there were some CGI "Shell Dwellers", but they were brief.)There are a couple other "Special Edition" movies that pulled this off, Star Wars : The Empire Strikes Back, is a good example. You hardly notice that anything as changed. Just like THX, SW-TESB, the cheesy background matte paintings were replaced with "prettier" CGI environements. (Instead of a matte painting of a builing in the background, you may see a nicer looking CG builing in the background with a couple ships flying past.)

So basically, directors, if you just want to upgrade your special effects a little, that's fine. With the crispness of DVDs I can undestand it. You don't want your matte lines ruining your special effects shots. Just don't change whole scenes, or characters! Like I stated before the key here is SUBTLETY. Any special effects artist will tell you that the best special effect is one that the viewer doesn't notice. I don't think a CGI Jabba the Hutt walking around Harrison Ford circa 1977 is unnoticeable.

To sum up, Special Editions can be evil, but if they are done right like THX 1138 or Star Wars : Empire Strikes Back, they can also be damn entertaining.