Never finished, only abandoned...
Fans like to hate on the Star Wars prequels, but arguably a bigger disaster is the fate that has befallen the original trilogy over the last two decades.
Clearly a fan of the idea that art is never finished, just abandoned, George Lucas has tinkered repeatedly with the movies that made his name. What follows is certainly not a definitive list of everything that has changed in the saga, but it's 20 of the biggest alterations, and we start right at the beginning...
What's all this A New Hope nonsense?
When you think of George Lucas tinkering with Star Wars, you probably think primarily of the Special Editions. But he was already changing things up in 1980, with Star Wars' opening crawl amended to read Episode IV: A New Hope. The prequels were still decades away, but the seeds for them are sown here.
Hit or miss? Most fans won't be able to remember a pre-New Hope time anyway, so it's begrudging to complain about this. It's neither a change for the better or the worse. It just is.
One of the most famous missing scenes from the original movie was finally incorporated into the 1999 A New Hope Special Edition. An early scene where a squad of Stormtroopers scour the desert for the droids is presented in all its glory, complete with Dewback-riding Stormtroopers.
Hit or miss? Well, you know, it's fine. Pointless but innocuous. The dewbacks themselves are slow and cumbersome, but let's face it, the Empire isn't exactly known for its practicality.
Whatever happened to the wretched hive of scum and villainy that we all used to know? Well, what was originally a reasonably convincing port was replaced for the Special Editions with a much busier city, complete with comedy aliens and giant reptiles.
Hit or miss? While it's fine in theory, it's execution is a real miss. We understand Lucas' desire to make Mos Eisley seem more vibrant than he could in 1977, but the scene itself is messy, jarring and looks horrible.
Han meets Jabba
This was originally filmed with Declan Mulholland acting opposite Harrison Ford, with the intention being that he would be replaced by a puppet. When the money ran out, the scene was shelved. When the Special Editions came around, however, it was reintroduced, this time with a CGI Jabba that looked ropey even at the time.
Hit or miss? It's a dreadful scene that should have stayed buried. It looks terrible, and having Han stand on Jabba's tail is just baffling. Why, George, why?
The Special Edition added a 'shockwave' effect to the destruction of Alderaan. Now, a fiery ring rolls away from the exploding planet, in a moment that's very reminiscent of Star Trek VI.
Hit or miss? It doesn't make a lot of sense why would the explosion have a blast ring, rather than expanding outwards in all directions? But on the plus side, the exploding planet debris is now more realistic.
Greedo shoots first...
The most controversial of all the changes. In the original cut of A New Hope, Han kills the gangster Greedo before he can draw his weapon. It's a moment of cool-headed common sense that proves that, while he's on the side of the angels, Solo is not to be taken on lightly.
In the Special Edition, it was altered so that Greedo shoots first and misses, despite being about two feet away from his target. Aware that this was a big bone of contention, the scene was later altered again so that now the two shoot simultaneously.
Hit or miss? No explanation needed: a total miss that actively takes away from Han's character, and makes Greedo look like a laughably poor would-be assassin.
The matte paintings that made up a lot of the backgrounds in the original trilogy were replaced in the Special Editions with new, more realistic computer generated backgrounds.
Hit or miss? It makes sense to update these and bring them more in line with the new films, but there was a charm to those matte paintings that are now absent. People who have grown up with the DVDs would likely find the older versions jarring, but it's a slight shame.
One of the odder decisions made in the prequels was that Boba Fett was revealed to be a clone of his father. And so, when it came to the 2004 DVD release of the original trilogy, rather than hearing the gravelly tones of Jason Wingreen who originally voiced the character we got Temuera Morrison's New Zealand tones instead.
Hit or miss? Ah, whatever. It's a shame for Wingreen, but, to be honest, it would be weird at this point if Lucas hadn't changed it, with all his other meddling.
Too many Stormtroopers
In A New Hope, Han hurtles down a corridor after some Stormtroopers, only to stumble upon a gang of them. In the Special Edition this has been enhanced so he effectively runs into an entire platoon
Hit or miss? It's a miss. In the original, it's a funny, quick gag. In the Special Edition you just wonder how that many Stormtroopers can be so slow to kill him.
It's a funny one this. Ian McDiarmid is unquestionably the best thing about the prequel trilogy. He's wonderfully avuncular as Palpatine in The Phantom Menace but quickly switches to scenery-chewing menace as he begins to reveal his true nature. And yet having him surgically implanted into the original trilogy (replacing Elaine Baker in The Empire Strikes Back's hologram scene) doesn't sit well. His gigantic noggin hovering above Vader is also a jarring effect.
Hit or miss? It's not the worst change, but it's a shame to see one of the original performers thoroughly excised from Star Wars history.
Entering Cloud City
The Empire Strikes Back is by far the most successful of the Special Editions. Lucas claims that it features the most number of changes, but they're largely restricted to cleaning the film up, making effects work better and adding subtle layers. This is very clear from the Cloud City sequence, which has been sensitively reworked and looks a lot better than the mess that was made of Mos Eisley.
Hit or miss? A hit. Was it necessary? No, but the changes look good and the new elements don't jar.
File this one under "laughable". In the Special Edition of Empire, when Luke jumps into the pit on Cloud City after fighting Vader, Lucas dubbed in the Emperor's scream from Jedi. It's incredibly badly done and was thankfully removed from later versions.
Hit or miss? It's a hit in terms of its pure comedy value.
A dug in Jabba's palace
This is another change that was snuck in for the Blu-ray release. Now, in Return Of The Jedi, you can see Sebulba or perhaps it's another Dug lounging around unconvincingly in Jabba's palace. It's almost as if they had a CGI asset left over and just slapped it in for the sake of it
Hit or miss? Miss. It's pointless, sits poorly in the scene and, let's face it, no one really wanted another reminder of the prequels...
How do you make Jedi feel even more juvenile? Throw in a pointless musical number! In the original cut of the film, the Max Rebo band (who, hilariously, are said to play "Jizz music") perform a perfectly fine and innocuous bit of music that feels appropriate for the scene. In the Special Edition, it's been replaced by a grandiose and horrible sequence that feels like it's come out of an entirely different film.
Imagine being one of the CG artists behind this monstrosity. Imagine being the person responsible for Sy Snootles rubbery lips and feeling your enthusiasm for the project draining away with each passing day.
Hit or miss? It's disastrous.
A farewell to eyebrows
A subtle one this. On the 2004 DVD release of Return Of The Jedi, Sebastian Shaw has had his eyebrows digitally removed.
Inversely, on the Blu-ray of Jedi, the Ewoks have had CGI eyelids added.
Hit or miss? It makes sense Anakin's eyebrows were burnt off by the lava on Mustafar.
Oh dear, oh dear. You mess with the classics at your peril. In the original version of Return Of The Jedi, Vader watches on as the Emperor tortures his son before finally having a change of heart, wherupon he picks his boss up and tosses him into one of those big pits the Empire seems so fond of.
In the Blu-ray version the scene plays out as before, except they've now edited in Vader saying nooooooooooo!, because that was such a hit in Revenge Of The Sith.
Hit or miss? We're tempted to say hit, simply because it's so inept, but no. Or rather, nooooooooooo!
Sebastian Shaw? Sebastian no more
The 'Force ghost' scene at the end of Jedi is a cute way to say farewell to Luke's father and two mentors. It's also the first time we saw an un-injured Anakin, played by Sebastian Shaw. For the post-prequel versions of the film, however, poor old Sebastian has been replaced with Hayden Christensen.
Hit of miss? It's awful and Anakin's smirk is seriously creepy.
Sometimes, you suspect that George Lucas knows exactly what he is doing, and that what he is doing is actively trolling the fans
He knows precisely how much you hate Jar Jar Binks. So what does he do? He adds in a Gungan's voice (it's not meant to be Jar Jar, to be fair) right at the very end of Jedi, meaning that it's one of the last lines of dialogue in the entire saga.
Hit or miss? It's an amusing act of revenge.
Changing their tune
For many, the Ewoks triumphant song at the end of Jedi was the perfect finale to the trilogy. When the Special Editions came around, however, that twee-but-endearing tune was replaced by a new piece of music by John Williams.
Hit or miss? It may be controversial to say this, but we much prefer the new tune. There's a lovely hint of melancholy there that chimes with the losses that Luke has endured for his hard-won victory. 'Yub Nub' was cute, but listen to it again and, well, it's just not very good...
Computer animated, Yoda will be
With the Blu-ray release Lucas took the opportunity to further tinker this time making a number of changes to the prequels too. Most obviously, that weird puppet Yoda [pictured] in The Phantom Menace was replaced with a CGI version that brings it in line with the other films.
Hit or miss? The puppet was not great. In fact it was really quite ugly. The CGI version is better and, frankly, less creepy.