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Mark Hamill Is on the Right Side of History on the Worst Star Wars Special Edition Change

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker as Darth Vader reveals he's Luke's father in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Much has been made of Mark Hamill’s Star Wars opinions lately, what with the fan unrest about Star Wars: The Last Jedi and his comments about his initial uneasiness with how Luke Skywalker had changed. But Hamill having strong opinions on his character isn’t new, and with all the meddling George Lucas has done in the original movies over the years, the actor naturally has some thoughts on what’s been done to his performance.

But what do I mean by the worst change to those movies, out of all the questionable decisions, up to and including replacing old Anakin Skywalker’s Force ghost with Hayden Christensen? No, it’s not that (honestly, that’s one of the less obtrusive ones), and it’s one that was so poorly conceived that it was later reverted in a subsequent release. While changes with Han Solo and Greedo’s interaction in A New Hope may be more famous—and more awkwardly edited—Luke got his own character-altering edit when The Empire Strikes Back came back to theaters in 1997.

In case you’ve blocked it out by this point, I’m talking about the moment when Luke refuses to join Vader and, instead, drops himself down a shaft leading to the bottom of Cloud City and possibly his death, for all he knows at the time. It’s a defiant moment of bravery for Luke even in retreat, marked by his calm in execution—that is, until the 1997 version added in a scream during his fall. And honestly, I’d forgotten how bad it really was until I went back and watched video of the edit, with the unnecessary, protracted wail:

It’s been common knowledge among Star Wars fans for years that this change completely clashed with a key character moment for Luke, and it was removed in the 2004 DVD release. But as Mark Hamill tells it in a conversation with Entertainment Weekly, it took him a while to even find out about it because it wasn’t even him screaming (it was recycled from the Emperor in Return of the Jedi), though when he did, he had the same reaction as everyone else:

“That’s really going in and interfering with the performance. And I guess he got enough negative feedback that he took it out. But it makes no sense. Irvin Kershner and I discussed it. That was the director, and he says, ‘You have that choice. He’s holding out his hand. He’s going to rescue you, but you make that choice. He’s stressed and then all of a sudden he becomes very calm and closes his eyes and just lets go.”

It’s not quite an entire sequence where Han strolls around Jabba the Hutt and casually jerks his entire body upward a foot or two in the most “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should” bit of special effects ever, but it’s a change that has more of a negative impact than just being an unconvincing effect. Hamill also went on to say that, like the rest of us, he’d like to see a release of the original versions of the movies—something we may actually have a chance at now that Disney has reunited the rights to all the movies in their deal with Fox.

(via Entertainment Weekly, image: Lucasfilm)

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Dan is many things, including a game developer, animator, martial artist, and at least semi-professional pancake chef. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (his dog), both of whom are the best, and he will never stop reminding The Last Jedi's detractors that Luke Skywalker's pivotal moment in Return of the Jedi was literally throwing his lightsaber away and refusing to fight.