Scene Of The Crime: Star Wars Special Edition

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The Jabba scene, Mos Eisley

When George Lucas first clapped eyes on what CGI could do for his mate Steven Spielberg’s dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, he probably rubbed his hands with glee and thought: “Great. Now I can improve some of those things that bugged me back in the ’70s!” Fair enough; replacing the wolfman in the cantina scene (a mask from a wolfman B-grade horror movie) with what looks like a duck billed platypus probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

But Lucas went too far. He dusted off old unused footage of rotund Northern Ireland actor Declan Mulholland as the prototype Jabba The Hutt, fearsome ganglord and Han Solo’s underworld employer, narked with him for losing a shipment of Spice. Lucas had his ILM minions work for the best part of a year prior to the 1997 Special Edition re-release, to basically rotoscope a crappy looking approximation of the memorable Jabba puppet from Return Of The Jedi over Mulholland’s frame. Then he stuck it back into the film.

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The scene fails on a number of levels. Harrison Ford, as Solo, walks closely all around Mulholland, going behind him, stopping just beside and right in front of him. To accomodate the CGI alien Jabba, ILM had Han clumsily lift up as if stepping on jabba’s tail to get around him. Apart from looking plain awful, this just doesn’t square with Jabba’s fearsome reputation, especially in front of his hired goons. Compare Han’s cockiness here to his wary bargaining when he is released from the carbonite in Jabba’s palace on Return Of The Jedi.

Also, the CGI just wasn’t good enough. Jabba looks like a six-year-old slapped a bunch of play dough together: he’s the wrong colour and texture, he changes size according to the camera angle he is viewed from, he is just a mess. The scene also rehashes dialogue from Han’s encounter with Greedo in the Cantina. it is completely extraneous, inserted purely to impress. I wasn’t clamouring to see this scene. If Lucas wanted to insert missing scenes I would far rather have had Luke’s conversation with Biggs at Anchorhead station before his old friend leaves to join the rebellion, even if it does slow the pace of the film a little. The Jabba scene failed and Lucas must have listened to the fans. But not too closely. He merely improved the quality of the CGI slug for the DVD release. It still jolts the viewer out of the film because it simply looks fake, it is obvious the actor and the creature aren’t occupying the same reality.

There is also room to doubt Lucas’ claims that Jabba was always intended to be a large, slug-like creature of some sort. Mulholland’s so called “fuzzy vest” as Lucas described it (as if a stand in visual motif for the creature), is a fully fledged costume, in keeping with the underworld style of Mos Eisley’s “hive of scum and villainy.” Also, Mulholland wasn’t just a stand-in; ok, he wasn’t a big name on the world stage, but he had a body of work behind him. There is no indication in contemporary records that the scene was being shot with consideration towards adding effects shots later, as the actors interaction together also indicates.

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It is possible Lucas intended Jabba to be humanoid, at least. When he dropped the scene, dialogue between Han and Greedo was extended to incorporate elements from the Han / Jabba encounter. Han’s line to Jabba (“You’re a wonderful human being”) is now meant to be a humourous reference to his alien appearance, when in fact it could have been a sarcastic reference to his human personality.

The final insult is adding Boba Fett to the encounter, as a Jabba hanger on. He’s supposed to be a cool bounty hunter, who just happened to stay on at Jabba’s palace to party on after capturing Solo. Just because fans like him, he doesn’t have to pop up everywhere!  He even turns and mugs toward the camera towards the scene’s close. And now he’s even rumoured to be getting his own stand-alone film under Disney’s new stewardship of the continuing series. For more fascinating detail on this Jabba scene, see The Secret History of Star Wars – Jabba The Hutt:  wonderful human being.  

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Originally posted 2013-02-20 18:49:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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