Films recently watched:
Star Wars (1977) dir. by George Lucas
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) dir. by Irvin Kershner
Return of the Jedi (1983) dir. by Richard Marquand
Well, I watched them yesterday. It was great to watch these films again. I saw each of these films in their Special Edition Theatrical releases in 1997, but that's really been the last time until yesterday. First, about the changes to these films on DVD...if I didn't follow the production and recent reviews of these films, I honestly don't think that there are many scenes where I would have noticed changes from the originals. The one definite exception is Hayden Christiansen in the end of Jedi, and that really doesn't bother me too much. I agree with the internet community who believe that the original films in their original forms (as opposed to these SE DVDs) should be made available on DVD, but even if both were available, I would probably choose this set. Overall, the changes either improve on the originals, expand the universe, and/or help these films line up with the prequels. There are still those changes (Han/Greedo - which is improved on this set over the SEs; Han/Jabba in ANH - which is also improved over the SEs; etc.) which are unnecessary, but I guess I'm just over it (which is something many fanboys just can't say).
I was like, 9 when Return of the Jedi was released. I enjoyed watching these films again yesterday, but it's nearly impossible to recapture the awe and wonder of a nine-year-old boy watching a Star Wars film for the first time on the big screen. I've grown up (a little, at least), moved on. Star Wars is timeless, but unfortunately, I am not.
On DVD, these films couldn't be much better. They look incredible! The clean-up that went into these films was extensive, but it was worth it. Even on our 25" TV, there is detail and color on these films that just hasn't been seen before. They sound great, too. The 5.1 surround remix works on these. There are other films that have been updated from their monaural original elements that just don't sound right. Of course, if ever there was a movie that needed surround sound, it is Star Wars (though, I understand that in some theaters, an early prototype of surround sound was used). The opening fly-by of the Star Destroyer, the laser blast in the trash compacter, the music, the explosions...these films have never sounded better!
I am listening now to the commentaries. So far, the comments by Irvin Kershner on the Empire commentary are more interesting than most of the commentary on A New Hope. I've looked a little bit at the special features, but have yet to watch the main documentary, Empire of Dreams.
Possibly more comments to come on other elements...