Or “Greedo doesn’t shoot first. Anymore.”
As I hunkered down for my first viewing of the hotly (by me) anticipated Blu-Ray version of the original Star Wars film (Episode IV), I was conscious that my anticipation had grown less warm as the years had gone by. This might have been to do with the fact that I’ve seen the film hundreds (!) of times, starting as a lad in 1977, and followed by TV, audio tape (we did not have a VCR when Star Wars first aired on TV, so I taped it with a cassette next to the TV and listened to it incessantly. This is probably a major reason why you might never defeat me in Star Wars movie knowledge.), VCR, DVD, and Special Most Tinkered DVD release. But I knew it also had to do with Greedo.
My official stance on Greedo shooting first is that it is not that big of a deal. But secretly, deep down inside, it bothered me on an emotional level. Not nearly as insane as those who claim Lucas raped their childhood (!), but enough that I just didn’t want to see that scene again.
Now, examining the original film (where can you do that these days?), note that the angle we take for granted these days, that of the blaster fire exchange, was not included. There was a violent puff of smoke and the sound of a (or two??) blaster shot(s), and then Greedo slumps over. So, we *assume* that, Han just shot Greedo in cold blood. Awesome!
Along comes the much-hated tweaks by Lucas and suddenly that extra angle is inserted that clearly (and clumsily) shows Greedo firing and missing, followed by Han’s shooting Greedo about a half-second later. In self-defense. Great for a lawyer, but tres uncool.
Now, fast forward to the unexpected changes of 2011 Blu Ray. Here comes the scene, and I’m bracing myself for it, when something shocking happens – they changed it again. Yes, I shouldn’t be surprised by this change because Lucas likes to “improve” his films and put it the way he envisioned, but this time they made it so Han and Greedo shoot at the same time.
I am 40, and I admit, I got completely excited and geeked out. Not only did it make it acceptably cool (they tried to kill each other at the same time), but it looked plausible and sounded perfect. It’s no Han killing Greedo in cold blood, but it is a character-restoring improvement, to say the least. I didn’t think Lucas had it in him.
That is… until I used technology to verify.
See, when you use the Blu-Ray crispness to slow it down to frame-by-frame, you can actually see that Greedo fires a split-second before Han does. Here’s my camera shot of the moment above. Now, in real-time, that difference is impossible to see with the naked eye (or ear). Given that the time difference is probably 1/10 of a second at most, fans of Mythbusters know that it is impossible for Han to have fired in self-defense. No human has that reaction time (unless he had latent Jedi powers – don’t want open up that conversation), so for all intents and purposes, they shoot at the same time.
Now, if they are going to fix *that*, why in all these tweaked versions of Star Wars did they not improve the lightsaber effects of Luke’s training aboard the Falcon (the effects are positively 70’s compared to any of the other films – the instant snap edit from off to on was even improved in the original Empire), or Darth Vader’s hanging, gesturing hand after he’s done speaking the line “I told you she would never consciously betray the Rebellion” in Tarkin’s briefing room. Was I the only one who saw that? Or was it like a beloved error to Lucas, like the Stormtrooper who famously bonks his head as he enters the holding bar control room? Who knows. Maybe they’ll fix it in the Blu-Ray deluxe version.
By the way, the film looks and sounds *amazing* on Blu-Ray. Crisp, clear, and fantastic. Even the pause effects are cool looking.
Final note on technology. While I used it above to examine the critical who-shot-first question, I think that it’s not really appropriate to view films in frame-by-frame mode. For instance, immediately following that later blast, you get this frame:
WTF is that? It’s clearly not an actor in costume. The frame was clearly meant to hold your attention for a split-second to establish that (next frame):
Greedo gets shot. Sometimes it’s not good to look under the skirt of your favorite film.
But I’ll sleep better tonight knowing that Han’s mojo is back.