Top 10 Star Wars Changes Lucas SHOULD Have Done


Finally it happened. George Lucas decided to release his beloved Star Wars trilogy (and those three other films) on Bluray. Of course these are the heavily manipulated special editions, and there's no sign that the original versions will be released, despite complaints from a very vocal fan-base.

The fact that Lucas keeps changing these films (every incarnation has been tampered with), and deny the existence of the original versions, is monumentally stupid, but we'll save that for another blog.

Obviously the first order of business should have been to get rid of all the alterations and get back to the original version, but failing that why hasn't Lucas gone all the way?

There's a bunch of things he could have changed, which actually would have improved the films, instead of those silly or annoying changes he did do (I mean, is there anyone out there who seriously had trouble with Anakin Skywalker's eyebrows?! And if so... kill yourself!)

Anyway, here are my suggestions for things Lucas SHOULD have changed, but didn't.



1) The droids and Obi Wan don't recognize each other

When Luke meets up with Obi Wan in Star Wars, the old Jedi shows no sign of recognizing R2-D2 and C-3PO, nor do they recognize him. However, several decades earlier they were running around together and saved the galaxy.

I'm not sure if this is the biggest hole in the story, but it's certainly the most infuriating. The only reason we got into this mess, is because Lucas insisted that the droids were included in the prequel trilogy, despite the fact that it doesn't make any sense. Up to this point no one had assumed that Anakin built C-3PO, so there was no reason to include the robot in the story, and judging by the beating the average Astro droid gets, there's no reason to assume an R2 unit would be in service for more than 30 years, so he shouldn't be there either. If Lucas had bothered re-watch the original trilogy just once, before he wrote the prequels, he would have realized this inconsistency.

Solution: This one is tricky, yet simple. The problem could be solved by deleting the three prequels.

2) The fat Jabba dancer

Look, I like big women as much as the next guy, but this is overdoing it. Besides, the way Jabba drools over Leia, it's reasonable to assume that he likes his woman small and perky. So who IS this woman? Is she someone's drunk aunt? Somebody should have lured her over to the trapdoor and pushed the button.

Solution: Do like the Jedi, and use your powers for good. Just paint her out with CGI.

3) Garbage mattes

With all the technical tinkering Lucas has subjected these films to, it seems odd that he hasn't gotten rid of the so-called "garbage mattes".

To the uninitiated, garbage mattes are a defect of doing blue screen work in the old photochemical effect days. The use of this process can, under certain conditions, result in an almost transparent "box" around some elements. This is almost gone in the new high def versions, but I want it completely gone. Once you notice these boxes, you'll be distracted and pulled out of the films every time you watch them.

Solution: CGI.

4) Other technical flaws

Lucas loves fixing little details, so why didn't he fix some of the additional technical glitches? Take for example the cockpit shots as shuttle Tyderium approaches Endor: The background is visible through the actors. Or what about the weird painted exhaust from Boba Fett's jet-pack? Or all the shots where large doors open really fast, and there's a noticeable jerk in the image? These things can be really distracting, why not get rid of them?

Solution: More CGI.

5) Han Solo can't do math

"I owe you one!" Han Solo claims after Luke has saved him from Jabba, but this is technically not true. Remember how Solo saved Luke from Vader in Star Wars? And then he saved him from freezing to death on Hoth in Empire Strikes Back? In Empire Solo even says: "That's two you owe me, Junior."

So for the slow ones: 2 minus 1 is 1. Even in Star Wars.

Solution: A simple audio-fix. Like they did in Blade Runner, when they needed to get the number of replicants right. Wait a second... Harrison Ford appeared in that movie too! Maybe HE's the one who can't do math!

6) The Three Wise Men help the rebels

A little known fact: After the Three Wise Men had delivered all that gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they traveled to the fourth moon of Yavin to monitor the rebel assault on the Death Star. Bet you never read that part of the story did ya? Seriously, who are these old guys? Wouldn't it make more sense to get some younger, more alert folks in the support staff? I'm just saying.

Solution: Re-cut. Use footage of completely hairless random dudes from THX-1138 and insert them with CGI.

7) The well-endowed nose

I hate to be a stickler for small details, but then again nothing about THIS guy is small. Every time I've seen this movie with an audience, everyone snickers, and it always pulls me out of the film. Can we please get rid of that nose, so we can all focus on the serious issues? Escaping the stormtroopers, saving the galaxy and all that. Damn, would you look at that thing!

Solution: CGI. Who wouldn't want that credit? "CGI schlong nose removal"!

8) The continuity errors

All movies have continuity errors. It's simply unavoidable. I won't bore you with the details, just look up the IMDb goof pages, there are hundreds of mistakes in each film. But why, in the midst of all his tinkering, didn't Lucas fix a few of those? No-no, instead he got his CGI guys to paint some new rocks into a shot, thus creating NEW continuity errors!

Solution: Fire up those computers and get to work. Again.

9) Get Chewie a medal

One of the greatest injustices in the galaxy! Poor Chewbacca! He's been Han Solo's faithful companion from the word go, he's put in the time, he's paid his dues, doesn't he deserve some recognition as well? I think so. Look at him standing there during the final ceremony in Star Wars, completely medal-less. Outrageous.

Solution: Bit of the old CGI should clear that right up.

10) Luke's hair

Most people will probably want to get rid of Leia's giant headphone-hair in Star Wars, but honestly that never bothered me all that much. What does bother me is Luke's 70's haircut in all three movies. Even when he becomes a commander or general (or what the hell he is), he's still sticking with the stupid haircut. Don't they have ANY standards in the rebel army? No wonder they have to cheat to win.

Solution: Massive re-shoots. Everything must be redone. No amount of CGI tinkering can save this one.



I trust the less-than-serious nature of this blog post is obvious. It sprung from a genuine frustration with Lucas and the way he treats the Star Wars fans. I doubt he will ever listen to the fans and bring back the original versions of the films, and that saddens me. A fellow blogger suggested that the Academy took back all the Oscars the Star Wars movies won - 10 in total. The reason being that the work they won for no longer exists! So naturally it would be completely justifiable to ask for Lucas and his crew to return the statuettes.

Maybe we should do that. Maybe then Lucas would think twice about tampering with our movies. Yes, I said OUR movies. Star Wars belongs to us, the fans. George Lucas just works here.



Manhunter (1986)


A serial killer nicknamed The Tooth Fairy is targeting families and the police have nothing. They know he kills at full moon, and with the next full moon only three weeks away, lead investigator Jack Crawford reaches out to criminal profiler Will Graham, who's currently on leave, licking his wounds after a particular nasty run-in with another serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecktor.

Graham must leave his family behind and once again risk his sanity, by reconnecting with the part of his brain that enables him to think like a psychopathic killer. He must think like the killer, so he can catch the killer, and he must do it fast. The full moon is approaching and time is running out.


A tortured cop lured back for one last job is hardly an original concept, and if that was all Manhunter was, we wouldn't still be talking about it today. Needless to say, this movie is so much more than it's pulp novel tagline would suggest.

These days police procedurals are a dime a dozen. Detectives who think like killers show up on TV on a daily basis, and the whole concept now seems gimmicky and fake, but back in the day, in 1986, this must have seemed like a fresh idea.

Manhunter opens with shaky video footage, shot by the killer as he enters the house of his latest target. He moves into the family bedroom. He waits as the wife slowly wakes up. She looks at him, and the clip ends. There's no question about the tone from this point on.

Manhunter is fascinating, because it combines the traditional methodical police investigation with Graham's obsessive approach to profiling, and while these two elements clash and fuel each other's fire, there's the constant reminder of Graham's family hovering in the background. They're not just pawns to be moved into place in the third act, caught between killer and cop in the final showdown, their happiness is on the line even if the killer never gets near them. They're a constant weakness for Graham, but they're his armor as well. The one thing that truly separates him from the man he's chasing.

The stakes couldn't be any higher.

The driving force behind Manhunter is, of course, writer/director Michael Mann. Once upon a time he made great films. Heat (1995) and The Insider (1999) are among my favorites, not just because they are good stories and technically well-done, what I love about these films is the way Mann creates mood.

Remember the scene in Heat, where Al Pacino chases down Robert De Niro in a helicopter, just before their famous diner-scene? Or that scene in The Insider, when they drive to the courthouse, so that Russell Crowe can get his testimony on the record? Mann is (or rather, was) a master at creating this type of sequence, where the visuals, the music and the underlying theme blend together in a visually dense, emotional exhausting knot. There are more than a few scenes in Manhunter that demonstrate the same cinematic dexterity.

While there are lives at stake in Heat's search for justice, and interesting ethical questions buried in the politics of The Insider, Manhunter allows Mann to focus on a much more simple, raw premise: Catch the killer, before you lose your mind.

As an instrument in this endeavor The Tooth Fairy is a truly frightening creation. A tortured man, struggling with his own identity, caught in a mental whirlpool, which threatens to tear him apart. He's a monster, but he's a human as well, and his actions sometimes make us question whether he really is beyond salvation. In the garden variety cop thriller, we know that the killer and the cop will end up facing each other in the final reel, and we also know which one of them will prevail. Manhunter makes us doubt all the signature elements of the genre. We can't be sure that the cop will maintain his sanity until the end, we don't know if the police will find the one piece of evidence that will lead them straight to the killer, but most importantly, we can't be sure how far gone the killer is. That shred of humanity he shows, however small in the contest of his previous transgressions, makes us doubt, if only for a second, but that adds an interesting and unusual layer to the story and the character.

So let's turn our attention to the elephant in the room... The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Manhunter is based on the novel Red Dragon, published in 1981, while the The Silence of the Lambs novel was published in 1988. Both were written by Thomas Harris. Seeing how Manhunter was received upon it's initial release (very poorly), it probably surprised even the most optimistic souls when the movie version of The Silence of the Lambs became a runaway hit, and made it all the way to Oscar glory and pop culture immortality.

In many respects Silence is the better of the two films, but it's also the most accessible. That fact alone will award it penalty points from many film-connoisseurs, and I must admit that even though I hold Silence in the highest regard, it's not entirely without flaws. Many of them admittedly enhanced by the countless inferior sequels and prequels.

The most interesting point of deviation is Brian Cox's take on the serial killer Hannibal Lecktor, which makes Anthony Hopkins' version look like a party clown. Cox is, of course, also assisted by superior production design. When we meet him he's dressed in hospital whites, trapped behind white bars in a white prison cell. It's a sharp contrast to the rather silly dungeon set where Hopkins spends most of his time. In Lecktor's shiny white universe there are no shadows to hide in, and the former psychiatrist's penetrating stare is inescapable.

Adding to this dichotomy is the somewhat contrived Beauty and The Beast pairing at the heart of Silence, playing up the sexual tension, at the expense of the intellectual battle. In Manhunter the meeting between cop and killer is purely an intellectual exercise, a mind-game, and frankly more appropriate given the nature of the crisis the detective is trying to avoid.

We're comparing apples to oranges at this point, but it's also tempting to judge William Petersen's Will Graham against Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling, though this hardly makes for any useful conclusions, since they're different characters in different stories. Let's just say, I know who I would pick if I was in charge of a serial killer case.

One can't help but wonder how it would have played out if The Silence of The Lambs had been tackled by the team behind Manhunter, or what if Manhunter had been shot in the same style and with the same cast as The Silence of the Lambs?

What if indeed.


Manhunter is released in a Blu-ray/DVD combo by StudioCanal in England.

First of all, there are two versions of the film included here. The Theatrical Cut and the Director's Cut. Don't mess around with this too much. The two versions are almost identical, however, while the Director's Cut includes a few extra tidbits, it also removes several good moments and ruins the ending by altering the penultimate scene.

As for the image quality, it's certainly not reference quality, but I was pleasantly surprised. The film holds up well, especially considering the many dark scenes. A little more film grain would have been nice, but I won't complain, I remember how awful this looked on VHS. I'll take this ANY day! By the way, the image quality of the Director's Cut is clearly inferior to the Theatrical Cut, another reason to chose this version.

The disc also features a running audio commentary from the director, but I didn't have a chance to check this out.

We also get an Inside Manhunter featurette (17:24), which gives a very brief, but interesting look behind the camera. Equally interesting is the Manhunter Look featurette (10:12), an all too brief interview with cinematographer Dante Spinotti. Fascinating stuff, I could listen to him for hours!


Manhunter is so distinctly a product of the 80's that it's not even funny. You need not look further than the color-scheme or the soundtrack to reach that conclusion. In that sense it's badly dated. Everything else about this film is still fresh and raw. There's a sense of danger here so thick you'll need a chainsaw to cut it, but at the same time it's an intellectually stimulating story. At the end of the day Manhunter is an unmissable companion-piece to The Silence of the Lambs, and here's why:

When Lector calls Starling at the end of The Silence of the Lambs and asks her if the lambs have stopped screaming, we know the answer is yes. Yes, because of Lector. If a similar call had been placed to Graham at the end of Manhunter, the answer the answer would also be yes. Yes, in spite of Lecktor.

Therein lies the difference, and the reason both films are still relevant.

Thanks to StudioCanal and Edith Chappey for making this review possible.


The Art of the (Unofficial) Audio Commentary

I appologize in advance for the inside baseball nature of this post, but what can I say, this has been on my mind lately.


As regular readers will know I do a weekly podcast with my special friend Mr. Dennis Rosenfeld (no, not "special" like that). Recently we recorded our third unofficial audio commentary (in English obviously).

(Don't know what an audio commentary is? Check this out)

There's a whole subculture of geeks recording similar tracks and I've begun to listen to them, to get a better idea about what's out there. I quickly discovered that it's quite a mixed bag.

I've listened to official audio commentaries since I got my first LaserDisc player in the early 90's, so I know what constitutes a good commentary track. I also know that an audio commentary is a perfect delivery system for information about a film.

Having listened to other unofficial commentary tracks, it dawned on me that most of the commentators don't realize what an awesome medium they're dealing with.

To help those unfortunate soul, and to guide myself in my upcoming adventures into the world of commentaries, I've compiled this list of guidelines, when recording an unofficial audio commentary.



1) Is a commentary the right thing for you?

Be sure that the information you want to share is even suited for a commentary.

If you plan to talk for hours about the nature of humankind, only occasionally referring to the characters on the screen, then perhaps you should record a podcast with your thoughts instead.

2) Know why you're doing THIS commentary.

Don't just record a commentary for the hell of it. Don't just do it because it's your favorite film, or the film you hate the most. Make sure you actually have something to say. I have favorite films I wouldn't dream of recording a commentary for, because I wouldn't know what to say.

Also, check out what's already our there. Perhaps the world doesn't need yet another audio commentary where a few geeks trash The Phantom Menace? I'm just saying.

3) Do your research.

A commentary track is about delivering information. Whether you're focused on technical details, trivia, personal observations, analysis, or a little bit of everything, research is the key. It's okay to speculate about themes and characters. It's not okay to speculate about facts.

Also, avoid simply describing what happens on the screen (but keep in mind that it's okay to set up certain details, because people will often hear the track separately from the film).

4) Have fun with your friends.

... Just don't record it and call it an audio commentary.

There's nothing worse than those tracks where a few friends sit down with beers and watch a movie. They share inside jokes, talk about what happened last week, a YouTube video they saw, and perhaps they do funny voices or mock the dialogue.

Ask yourself, who would listen to this and why? Even if - by some miracle - you actually find an audience who likes to listen to your nonsense, why limit yourself to the commentary format? Hit record, open the floodgates, publish as a podcast, and be done with it. Don't crowd the unofficial commentary scene.

5) Know your audience and make sure they know you.

Start by introducing yourself properly (give your full name). You can't assume the listener has heard anything you've done before, or know who you are, so tell them. Quickly and efficiently in a way that won't bother those who already know you.

Your audience is here because they want to hear you talk about a certain film. "Film" is the keyword in that sentence. They don't care what you think, unless you explain yourself with decent arguments, and they certainly won't care what you had for breakfast, or what color of socks you're wearing.

6) Sound is important.

An audio commentary is an audio medium. After all, it's right there in the phrase. Be sure you have a good sound quality. Make sure all the commentators speak into the mike, and don't compress the audio file so much that the audio quality suffers.

Commentators in different locations can use Skype to connect with each other, but then they must each record their own voice, to avoid that inferior Skype call quality. Unless Spielberg calls you up to participate avoid Skype quality calls at ALL cost.

Also, regarding the number of hosts... Go for two, or three at the most. One commentator is boring and a larger group is confusing. Your goal is clarity, both regarding the sound quality and content.

7) Don't try to be funny.

Know that you're not funny.

If you were really funny you would be a comedian and you would have no time for this commentary nonsense. If you want to be a comedian, go to an open mike night and practice. Don't record an audio commentary.

I'm not saying you shouldn't have fun and try to entertain your audience, but we're here to listen to you talk about a movie. Period. And as I mentioned earlier, remember that you're not funny anyway.

8) Respect the film.

This is even more important if you hate it.

Anybody can sit down and make fun of a film. Simply recording such a conversation is pathetic and stupid. It's okay to do a commentary for a film you don't like, but then your job is to explain WHY you don't like it, and possibly offer suggestions that could improve the film.



Well, these are my personal recommendations, based on my personal preferences. As I begin my preparation for the fourth audio commentary from Double D's Definitive DVD Podcast I leave you with this thought:

If a listener is ready to spend 2 hours in your company, have the common decency to make sure they don't waste their time.