Digital revision - a relentless search for perfection

George Bell discusses the usefulness of digital revision of films.

George Bell
1st May 2020
No film is perfect. And no matter how many changes and edits you do; it will have a few problems or ways you could have improved the end product. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s the small imperfections that help make your favourite films shine. But if given the chance, would you let studios take cult classics that mean the world to you and “put them under the knife” in order to help perfect them? Then again, how can you perfect that which is already perfect?

Some changes can be well-intentioned as the message that the film is trying to get across is outdated or contains content that may influence people in a harmful way. A great example of this is in the version of Lilo & Stitch (2002) available to stream on Disney + (don’t worry we will be talking about our corporate overlord Mickey again in a bit). In the original version Lilo hides from her sister in a washing machine, which isn’t the safest, but in the updated version they replace the washing machine with a pizza box.  It’s a tiny change that doesn’t change the plot or anything of real significance (I bet you didn’t even know they did it) so keeps the same experience but just makes it a tad bit safer for younger audiences. I feel changes like that which are subtle are great as they won’t ruin a nostalgic viewing experience but make things more appropriate for current generations.

But sometimes this can go too far and changes to make a film more age-appropriate can be jarring and ruin a film that otherwise would have been perfect. A film that was in no need of any changes but got some anyway was ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Steven Spielberg re-released the alien friendly film on its 20th anniversary and while most of the changes were to improve the quality of shots and other really small things, there was one change that should have stayed the same. Near the climax of the film, the kids are trying to evade the authorities on their bikes with ET in the basket. In the original, the kids race past some cops holding guns while in the anniversary version Spielberg changed the guns to walky-talkies. It’s clear that he was just trying to keep the tone of the film as friendly as possible but the change actually did more of a negative than a positive as it made the scene less intense and made the cops look dumb. Spielberg later went on to regret this change and actually reverted it so at least there was no permanent damage.

In order to try and keep things as child friendly as humanly possible, Disney decided to whip out photoshop on some of our favourite cult classics.

Disney + is a great streaming service with all your favourite shows and movies from your childhood. The only issue is that Mickey swore by the bible when stating he would keep the service as friendly as possible. In order to try and keep things as child friendly as humanly possible, they decided to whip out photoshop on some of our favourite cult classics. The results are horrific. In 1984 a film called Splash came out and starred Tom Hanks who falls in love with a mermaid, kind of like reverse The Shape of Water (2017). In a particular scene, the mermaid lover runs into the ocean and the audience is able to see part of her butt below her hair (scandalous I know). Disney was having none of that however and quickly tried to get to the bottom of the issue by covering it. By using what looked like Microsoft Paint, Disney did successfully cover her butt but left it with horrifying fur graphics instead. The butt wasn’t even a big issue, to begin with, but they tried to fix it anyway and failed spectacularly.  The sheer cheek of it.

George Lucas made Star Wars and for that, I will always love him. But then again, he has done damage to his own creation as for whatever reason he kept going back to try and improve the original trilogy. Some were great as certain visuals from the original didn’t hold up well like holograms and lightsabers but others felt meaningful and caused massive discord within the Star Wars fandom. The biggest of which is the age-old question: did Han shoot first? In the first Star Wars film when we are introduced to Han Solo he shoots and kills bounty hunter Greedo. But due to George revising certain parts of the film it is unsure if it was Greedo or Han who actually took the first shot. Was it cold-blooded murder or simply self-defence? Fans have been at each other’s throat forever over this and likely wouldn’t be if George had just let things be. Sometimes changes to a film can ruin a fan base or make a film change entirely meaning a cinema experience could differ significantly. Such things should be sorted out before the premiere of the film and not years after as otherwise, it confused everyone.

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AUTHOR: George Bell
One half film addict, one part computer nerd. All parts Croc lover

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