20 years after their first appearance on the big screen, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia and the rest of the gang are back. But "Star Wars: Special Edition" isn't a sequel. Rather it is the original film with spruced up special effects, a few extra scenes, and a remastered soundtrack. The difference is enough to warrant a trip to the local multi-plex. Indeed, the crowd at the screening I attended applauded each enhancement and addition.
The by-now familiar story concerns the attempt by the Rebel Alliance to counter the threat posed by the Empire's latest technological achievement, the "death star". With the aid of droids C3PO and R2D2, farmboy Luke (Mark Hamill), smugglers Han (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness) face the Empire's military, the dark lord Darth Vader, and hordes of Imperial Stormtroopers. This simple tale of good vs. evil is a bit on the treacly side, but it makes for rousing adventure.
When it was originally released, "Star Wars" was at the leading edge of state-of- the-art special optical effects. But much has changed in the intervening two decades. Under the microscope of home video, one could easily see the ghostly rectangles surrounding each spaceship as it was matted into the film. Today, such couplings are essentially seamless and it is with no small satisfaction that this sci-fi classic has been brought up to speed. Even details which are small enough to avoid direct examination have been enhanced so that the film, aside from the hairdos, looks clean and fresh.
For a whole generation, the film and its two sequels (which will also hit theatres as special editions in the next few weeks), have only been witnessed via video. Now, once again, they can be experienced the way they were always meant to: in a movie theatre.