Star Wars is such an amorphous, constantly shifting thing that it’s incredible to think that it’s been a cultural institution for so long. You could ask 100 people what Star Wars is and you’d probably hear 100 different responses.
Although everyone is in agreement that the Holiday Special is an atrocity.
For some, it’s George Lucas’s gift to the world. To others, it’s the thing that he ruined. One group holds it as a childhood hallmark, while others see it as a corporate juggernaut. And the thing is they’re all right.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some alternative takes on the original Star Wars films.
Released in 2001 by Dark Horse Comics, Star Wars Infinities is a series that retold the original trilogy by examining what would happen if a single, pivotal moment in each movie was different.
Issue One picks up with the familiar final sequence of A New Hope. Luke Skywalker fires into the Death Star, and the Rebel pilots speed off to escape the imminent explosion of the space station. Only it never comes.
Failing to destroy the Death Star, Luke and Han flee, while Princess Leia is captured by Imperial forces. From here, Luke manages to complete his Jedi training with Yoda, and Leia is groomed by Darth Vader to become the future leader of the Empire.
Infinities is split into three four-issue arcs that cover the original Star Wars trilogy. The second arc looks at what would have happened in The Empire Strikes Back if Luke had died on Hoth. The third gives us a glimpse of the ramifications of a botched rescue of Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi.
The quality of the storytelling varies from book to book, but it is interesting to take a What If? look at the original films. Also, you get to see Yoda commandeer the Death Star and crash it into the Emperor’s headquarters on Coruscant, which makes it all worth it.
The Film Novelizations
These might be a bit more difficult to track down, but the original novelizations of the films can give you an interesting look into how movies change during the filmmaking process.
Back in the day, these novel-length versions of films were often based on drafts of the scripts that were tweaked during production. Couple that with actors opting to improvise key moments, and you can see how these book versions can differ.
Take for instance the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back, released in May 1980. Notably missing is the film’s famous exchange between Leia and Han Solo as the two confess their love for one another before Solo is frozen in carbonite. In the film, Leia says, “I love you” to which Solo very characteristically replies, “I know.”
It’s such a perfect moment that fits the characters so well. It’s also not what’s in the book.
Instead you get this:
“I love you, she said softly. “I couldn’t tell you before, but it’s true.”
He smiled his familiar cocky smile. “Just remember that, because I’ll be back.”
See, that’s not as good. Unless Arnold Schwarzenegger is playing Han Solo.
Also Yoda is blue in the novel. Just a weird, blue little swamp man.
Star Wars Minus Williams
Speaking of missing things, we all know that Star Wars wouldn’t be the same without John Williams’s iconic score. The music just makes everything in these movies bigger. That’s why the video series Star Wars Minus Williams is so startling.
YouTuber channel Auralnauts strips away the score from key scenes in Star Wars films, leaving us only with only awkward murmurs and shuffling of our characters to break the silence. Also, Chewbacca screams out in the uncomfortable silence, which is good.
Both a funny bit of cinematic cringe humor and a thoughtful ode to the incredible work of one of film’s greatest artists, Star Wars Minus Williams is a look at what happens when you strip away much of these films’ true heart.
The Navajo Dub
Released in 2013 and recently added to Disney+ as a special feature, this version of the A New Hope features a complete redubbing, with all the original dialogue spoken in the Navajo language.
The dub is the result of a collaboration between Lucasfilm and the Navajo Nation arranged by Manuelito Wheeler, then-director of the Navajo Nation Museum. While the redubbed version of the film never received a wide release when it premiered in 2013, its arrival on Disney’s streaming platform allows a wider audience to appreciate this unique production.
It’s also probably your best way to learn how to pronounce “droid” and “Death Star” in the Navajo language. It’s the perfect response for when Trekkers get in your face performing that version of Hamlet written “in the original Klingon.” Oh yeah? Well, I can talk about Star Wars in a REAL language.
With recent entries into the Star Wars franchise being criticized for both the inclusion and lack thereof of true representation of its wider audience, the Navajo Dub represents a great example of Star Wars’ fandom at its most pure.