well, with much fanfare and expectation, the Star Wars - The Complete Saga 9 disc set has arrived on this somewhat overhyped blu-ray format. it promised hours of unseen footage and material, some of which was unknown to even the most hardcore of fans. the biggest amount of fuss and excitement came from the fact that deleted or discarded scenes would be made available for the first time. as this is the part that moved me to "interested" in moving to this new disc format, i thought it would be worthwhile to have a look and see if this footage in particular is worth the hefty investment one would need to make to see them. this seems safer to do that look at the, to say the least, 'controversial' re-edits George Lucas has made to the original films for this release.
if for some reason you are reading this and have never seen Star Wars, you are advised that a *** BIG MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING *** is applicable from here onwards.
up front it seems those in the business of releasing these things once again have an issue with what "complete" actually means, really. as with the Manic Street Preachers' "complete" singles box set, once again we find things missing. this time it's the deleted scenes which featured on the original, standard and perfectly workable DVD releases of the films. would it really have been all that much of an issue to upgrade and include these to ensure fans who threw money at George Lucas for this set would have had everything in one place? apparently so!
moving on to the scenes we actually get, and here's a few key scenes included in the set. sorry, not doing screen grabs and comments on all of them - some are not worth the effort, some i'd rather leave for you to find yourself!
first up and it's what would have been an early scene in A New Hopem and one that would have given us an earlier, different introduction to the character of Luke Skywalker. as in some 10 minutes earlier in the film!
Luke is watching a "battle in space", i.e. the capture of Princess Leia's ship by Darth Vader and the Imperial fleet. he gets rather excited about this, and rushes off to tell his friends, inviting them to come and watch.
the early introduction of Luke probably wouldn't have been a good idea, really, and this scene is not all that spectacular, expect for the class Reni out of The Stone Roses hat Luke has on.
on the subject of Luke's friends, one of the most significant cuts to the original film was the all but complete erasing of his friend Biggs. all the footage of him that i am aware of surfaces here, and it's rather interesting.
the picture above is from a scene where Biggs tells Luke that he plans to flee the Imperial Academy and join the Rebellion. in the context of the film itself it would have meant next to nothing at this stage to the audience, but it does provide an interesting glimpse of George Lucas' wishes to insert a political angle in to the series of films early on. a lot of criticism was given to The Phantom Menace for the amount of time the political sub-plot took up; here at least is evidence that the creator of the whole thing wanted that aspect in right from the start.
Biggs turns up in another scene later, but he's not quite the point of interest the next time around.
the gent in the middle is telling Luke that he "knew his father" but that he himself was only a young boy at the time. hmn. dropped as a scene presumably because it didn't add anything to the plot at the time, in the context of the whole saga it comes as something of a surprise that this didn't make it back into any of the revised 'Special Editions', really.
moving on to The Empire Strikes Back, included here are the scenes that the fans really, really wanted to see, apparently. they would be the celebrated "Wampa attack" scenes filmed but never used.
for those who don't know, a Wampa is a big, Yeti-like thing which dwells on the planet of Hoth, where the Rebellion has set up camp. all we had previously seen of them was Luke being attacked and captured by one. the intention was to give them a much bigger role, and here we get to see the footage of them hindering, and then oddly helping, the Rebellion's efforts to flee the Imperial Forces.
you would imagine that this footage, which looks like it cost some time and money to make, was dropped purely from a running time perspective. their presence really doesn't add much to the story at all, as cool as it is to see them.
ahem, there's also the fact that they look and act a little bit silly, to be honest. the Wampa's arms in the footage tends to be of a "variable" length, as shown here with the remarkable stretch made by one of them to grab a snowtrooper!
Luke training to be a jedi, more you want mmmh? OK then, you are in for a treat! there are a few scenes of one cut scene featuring Yoda training Luke in the ways of the force. basically it's different angles of Luke trying to elevate a metal bar with the power of the force, then strike it down with his lightsabre.
it's mildly interesting, in particular as his failure here to strike objects moved by the force comes back to haunt Luke later in the film. which leads us rather nicely to an extened scene of Leia applying medical attention to Luke on board the Falcon.
i can only imagine this scene got, if you will excuse the expression mindful of Luke having one hand too few here, because it adds nothing to the plot and is somewhat gratuitous. what makes it worthwhile viewing is the fact that there's scant dialogue in the part we are presented, but we do get to hear the director giving instructions to the cast. as such, then, it's a pretty good insight into how exactly films get made.
moving on to Return Of The Jedi, then, and the scenes which caused the ultra-obsessive fanboy fanatical faction to change underwear many, many times when they were previewed. the original opening, where Darth Vader announces that The Emperor shall soon be arriving to oversee the construction of the new Death Star, is extended to show Vader using the force to call out to Luke....
....and Luke hears him, but he is too busy - brace yourself fans - putting the final touches to his newly built lightsabre!
the scene only lasts a few seconds, but come on, are you a Star Wars fan or not? this is one of the few, if not only, insights into how the weapon of choice for a jedi is actually made! it's brief, but easily has the "wow" factor to it!
in the excitement of the above, however, it seems an awful lot of people may have missed the excellent nature of the remainder of the deleted scene. i was more impressed with this stunning shot of C-3P0 and R2-D2 getting ready to walk to Jabba's palace, with two rather familiar ships in the background!
another scene from Return Of The Jedi which seems to have got the fans excited was the one in which our heroes battle a sandstorm to get to their ships and flee Tatooine.
erm, yeah. it's a bunch of actors barely recognizable under all the protective clothing and it is just about impossible to hear what they are saying. i really don't see what the fuss is with this deleted scene, but there "at last" it is for those who really wanted it.
there is not, for better or worse, too much extra Ewok action from Return Of The Jedi, but there is some footage from an extened battle scene to blow up the shield generator on Endor.
whereas the footage is not bad, it does not suggest that an even better battle or action sequence got lost by this being cut. if you like the idea of Han Solo getting upset about being called "scum", then this scene is a winner for you!
Darth Vader does not feature in too much of the deleted footage, but there is one excellent scene from the end of Return Of The Jedi that was cut. in it we see Vader trying to go and see his master, The Emperor, only to be somewhat bravely denied by an officer.
did i say somewhat bravely? whoops, that should be rather stupidly, unless he was for some reason unaware of Vader's most excellent, practical and useful ability to "force choke" people by simply cocking his finger.
interesting to see the Imperial Guards in the background actually do something, too - in the as-is film version they only stand there. it is only when they raise their staffs at Vader that he stops choking the unfortunate general (or whatever rank he is), which makes one wonder exactly how powerful they are if Vader is a little wary of them?
the final deleted scene from Return Of The Jedi is a bit patchy, but interesting all the same. it shows the unnamed crew members on board the Falcon, doing what needs to be done to try and defeat the Empire and blow up the armed and fully operational Death Star.
interesting but, as with the majority of deleted scenes in Star Wars and other films, hardly relevant to the final movie.
moving on to the fan-dividing 'prequel' trilogy, then, and there really is not much footage on offer here. the majority of deleted scenes featured in the DVD releases of the films, thus what you get here are mostly of little interest in nature. there are some good bits, though!
from The Phantom Menace, the only scene of consequence included here was a different take on the battle between Qui-Gon and Darth Maul on Tatooine.
in this incomplete state it's hard to tell if it would have been a better or worse scene than what we ended up with in the film, really. as one of the biggest complaints about the film was that there was nowhere near enough of the excellent Darth Maul in it, no doubt many shall sieze this and say that "it could have looked better".
on to Attack Of The Clones, then, and some dull footage and some excellent footage. and, indeed, some inbetween those two footage, like the bit where Obi-Wan ponders a statue of Count Dooku.
you get some brief biographical information on Dooku here, as well as getting to look at a statue of him that doesn't quite look as much like Christopher Lee as it perhaps could have.
moving on to dull footage, and there are a couple of brief scenes that really make you wonder why they bothered to film them in the first place.
that above, ladies and gentlemen, is Padme's father and Anakin discussing how they would not want Padme to die. seriously? unless you want to see every moment of footage ever to feature Hayden Christensen, this scene is lucky if it gets watched once.
ah, now then. a big complaint about Attack Of The Clones was that the battle of Geonosis came in too late and was far too short. it's a bit frustrating, then, to find that the deleted scenes reveal that this could have been one of the most awesome moments in the whole of the Star Wars saga.
the battle was apparently intended to be bigger and better, showing off the jedis fighting (which is what the fans wished to see) and an interesting plot around deactivating the Trade Federation's droid army.
althugh clearly incomplete, this footage is well worth seeing, even if it makes one a little angry about how a quaity sequence was ditched in favour of how it appeared in the finished film.
moving on to Revenge Of The Sith, then, and one of the most truly awful scenes ever made for any film. Anakin's communicator, apparently, has a text screen on it. this is not working, and thus you get treated to a "comedy" scene in which Anakin and Obi-Wan debate what it is that R2-D2 might be saying. complete with Anakin making strange, R2 like whistle sounds.
Ewan McGregor is clearly uncomfortable in the scene, and we can all be thankful that this got ditched.
there is, oddly, a downside to the above being cut. the whole sequence featured Anakin and Obi-Wan taking out two droid soldiers in the elevator. they are quite proud of this, until the elevator stops and opens.
that looks like it could have been an excellent battle sequence!
one of the longest "deleted scenes" to feature is an early version of the final battle between Obi-Wan and General Grevious. calling it a "deleted scene" is a bit much, for it is all a computer animated sequence. and what a sequence! the original duel featured all sorts of insane moments as they chased each other around, none more so than the ending of it.
in the released version, Obi-Wan finishes off Grevious with a blaster. in the initial version, however, you get a quite frankly insane different demise, which features Obi-Wan opening up Grievous' body armour, pulling out a vital organ and then destroying it!
there's next to no way that this version would ever have made it in to the final film, Lucas wishing to keep it "suitable for all ages" as it were, but it's fascinating to see that they considered a "more mature" audience at first for this scene.
finally from Revenge Of The Sith, then, all that exists of a scene, it seems, that fans wish existed and one that some of the more obsessive types believe does exist. that would be Qui-Gon, now at one with the force, making contact with Yoda.
clearly and obviously they toyed with the idea of such a scene, but there's no involvement from Liam Neeson in it, going on what is presented here. some fans claim that Liam did film a part for this sequence, but it's not included here and there is nothing to suggest that it ever existed.
for those of you who have the box set, i know i have not included all the deleted scenes, but as i said earlier i just wanted to give an overview. it's not nice, after all, to take all of the surprises away!
so, are these deleted scenes justification for spending big money on the blu-ray equipment and the box set? erm, no, alas, not really no. they are interesting enough, but not something you are going to watch again and again.
with the deleted scenes being at best mildly interesting and the edits to the original films being somewhat 'controversial' (some changes actually weaken the power of the films), there's a temptation to say "avoid this set". that, however, is not fair. for a start, one of the discs features an excellent, almost two hour long, look at the parodies and spoofs of Star Wars over the years, and these will bear up to repeated viewings. i have not had a look at the documentaries yet, either, so i can't say one way or another if this is a must buy or must avoid.
that said, who am i trying to kid? nothing i or anyone else says will make a jot of difference; Star Wars fans tend to buy absolutely everything released!
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!