Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Star Wars Episodes 4-6 Boxed Set

Star Wars Episodes 4-6 Boxed Set

By Dennis D. McDonald

In Episode 4, "A New Hope," Alec Guinness, playing Obi Wan Kenobi, says to Luke Skywalker when giving him his father's lightsaber, " elegant weapon for a more civilized age."

Watching these three films for the first time in many years brought to my mind a similar statement, "...simpler films for a simpler age."

That's not intended to be negative. It reflects that these films, directed by three different directors, reflect artists working at a time when a playful sense of adventure and wonder could still be translated onto the big screen without appearing too naive or simplistic. The fact that Lucas and his crew were "inventing things as they went along" makes these films stand out in the history of the cinema, but that's not really the point.

In fact, I care only somewhat that Lucas and Star Wars radically changed how films were produced and financed, a theme that appears constantly throughout the commentary and documentaries in this 4-DVD set (the 4th DVD contains documentaries and galleries). 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY and PLANET OF THE APES had already shown us what high quality sets, special effects, and costumes could do technically, but the sheer bravado and scope of Lucas' storytelling vision was what sent things off the charts. The changes in technology and financing would have meant little if the final product had tanked at the box office, or if the adventures themselves had been humdrum or lackluster. As with many endeavors, "nothing succeeds like success."

These three films are, I think, significantly more successful as entertaining adventure stories than the two follow-on Star War films, PHANTOM MENACE and ATTACK OF THE CLONES. Part of the explanation seems obvious when watching these three initial episodes back to back; George Lucas didn't direct the second two, he wisely assigned responsibility to others, who brought their own artistic sensibilities to the endeavor. In his maturity Lucas has become more of a creative executive than an artistic inspiration, which might explain why the characters in the last two films have been so disappointing when compared with Luke, Han, and Leia.

But I digress. There are a host of enjoyments in these three films and the ability to experience them in cleaned up digital images with extraordinary surround sound is a delight. Just the subwoofer effects are astounding (I had to turn mine down). I am a bit disappointed that so much editing of images has been done, but I understand the benefits of removing matte outlines and I can't get too upset that Tatooine and Cloud City look a lot more digitally enhanced than they did originally.

But no matter. The original spirit comes through, and that's why I still enjoy these films.

Sidney Lumet's FAIL-SAFE

Kaneto Shindo's ONIBABA

Kaneto Shindo's ONIBABA