Star Wars - Episode VI: Return of the Jedi – The Spence Final Cut

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Star Wars - Episode VI: Return of the Jedi – The Spence Final Cut
Faneditor Name:
Franchise:
Fanedit Type:
Original Release Date:
1983
Original Running Time:
129
Fanedit Release Date:
Fanedit Running Time:
93
Time Cut:
36
Brief Synopsis:
An attempt to make Episode VI a worthy conclusion to the Star Wars saga by improving the storytelling and narrative structure throughout.
Intention:
To improve the structure and storytelling of the movie to make it more compelling, emotional and involving. The existence of the prequels has also been taken into account.
Special Thanks:
L8wrtr
Rogue-theX
Bobgarcia74
Stankpac
Hebrides
Release Information:
DVD
Special Features
- Full length commentary track
- Clips of ideas I abandoned and a little discussion about them and why they were not used.
- A Basic Fan Editing Tutorial, basically a video version of ADM’s tutorial. Great for noobs!
- Rogue-theX Easter Egg
Editing Details:
Return of the Jedi is my least favorite star wars movie. 4 and 5 are great as is, and there’s prequel edits that make them work. Jedi has really never been right for me. I’ve tried to edit it twice, and neither of those satisfy me. Apparently, they didn’t satisfy much of anyone . By the way, I’m aware of the bad quality of my version 1, and it will not repeat here. Also, that’s why I did a version 2, so leave the poor first guy alone, will you?!

My quest has always been to figure out what that element of the film is that keeps it from succeeding. I assumed it was the ewoks, as I really dislike them, but its not. The biggest problem with the movie is the lack of tension.

During the entire battle on endor, there’s not a single moment where it feels as of Han and Leia will not succeed. The humor of the sequence, the cuteness of the ewoks, its just really hard to think the empire will kill all the Teddy bears and capture our heroes.

Their success is what Lando and the fleet are depending on. So if Han seems like he’ll obviously win, this feeling stretches to the fleet as well.

The only tense sequence is between Luke and Vader. Its the core or the story, and there are real moments of darkness and doubt within it. Except, since this whole sequence happens on the Death Star, it’s essentially meaningless, as regardless of what happened, they would’ve all been blown up anyway.

Having seen the new edit of phantom, Shadow of the Sith, I realized how rearranging the ending can really help with the tension. everything has to feel as if our heroes will all fail.

Basic concepts:
- The set up for the movie is totally different, as per the new crawl. Luke’s been training with Yoda since shortly after ESB. Chewy was already captured when he and Lando went to Tattooine at the end of ESB, and Lando has managed to get under-cover inside the palace. Leia grows restless waiting for Luke to return, and goes to rescue Han herself.
- Luke is forced to use a simpler plan, sending the droids in with his lightsaber, then going in himself to break everyone out. It clears up the original completely stupid and illogical plan.
- No Boba Fett. He isn’t at Jabba’s. There’s really no reason for him to be there, and it gets rid of his silly death.
- No Rancor. Our first action scene is Luke being a full on Jedi, and beginning is all build up to that.
- Lots of trims to Han being an idiot. Removed all of his jealousy toward Luke. The love story was resolved in ESB, so his jealousy just makes him seem foolish.
- Lots of trims to the Ewoks. They’re still likeable and kind of cute, but not over the top. you can kind of believe they succeed in their battle now, with the way it is cut.
- The emperor’s throne room is moved to a big Star Destroyer instead of on the Death Star, so Luke’s battle still has meaning. This Star Destroyer does not blow up in the battle. Lots of establishing shots and additions to make this very clear.
- The battle is totally reordered for pacing, making it appear that the rebellion is losing the battle up until after the emperor is killed.
- We get the release of winning the battle, then go to Vader’s death, so the sequence never slows down. Because they were on the Death Star, the emotional beat with Vader had to happen before the Death Star explosion, but it totally ruins the pacing. Now, that doesn’t matter, because they aren’t on it.
- New ending with a little more emotional resonance. The final shot of the movie is now Luke burning Vader’s body, bringing the whole saga full circle.
- Some musical call backs to the prequels.

Programs used:
DVD Decrypter
VirtualDubMod
Hypercube Transcoder
Womble Mpeg Video Wizard
Sony Vegas 10
Adobe After Effects
Cuts and Additions:
- ADDED new opening crawl. Title is still RETURN OF THE JEDI. (thanks to L8wrtr)
- MOVED Dagobah sequence to right after the first Death Star scene.
- CUT Yoda confirming Vader is Luke’s father.
- CUT Obi-Wan’s ghost visiting Luke on Dagobah.
- CUT Lapti Nek/ Musical sequence.
- CUT Boba Fett from every scene of the movie.
- CUT frog guy eating a rodent in in the Jabba’s palace wide shot.
- CUT Leia as Boussh handing Chewy over to Jabba.
- MOVED Liea freeing Han from carbonite to after Dagobah.
- ADDED Luke sensing his friends are in trouble when they get caught by Jabba, using shots from him feeling Kenobi’s presence on Dagobah.
- REPLACED all of Jabba’s subtitles, to give him more personality and help with my cuts.
- RECOLORED 3PO when Jabba catches Han/Leia, so he appears to be a different droid. In this chronology, he hasn’t arrived yet.
- CROPPED 3PO out of many shots in this sequence.
- ADDED shots of Luke flying away from Dagobah from ESB, making it appear that he is headed for Tattooine.
- MOVED Han and Chewy in the prison cell to after Luke leaves Dagobah.
- CUT Han being filled in by Chewy on what’s going on.
- MOVED Droids arrival to after prison cell scene.
- CUT 3PO’s dialogue about Lando and Chewy never returning.
- CUT Eye droid (IDroid?) At Jabba’s gate. 3PO knocks, begins to walk away, and the door opens.
- ADDED Leia chained up with Jabba during the scene with the droids.
- CUT/CROPPED any shots that show Leia not being there.
- CUT much of Luke’s message to get to point faster.
- CUT 3PO not knowing about Luke’s plan to give them to Jabba.
- CUT the end of the droid scene, ending it now with 3PO’s “We’re Doomed!”
- MOVED Emperor’s arrival at the Death Star to after the Droids in Jabba’s Palace.
- MOVED Luke’s arrival to right after Emperor Death Star scene.
- ADDED Day time establishing shot of Jabba’s before Luke arrives.
- CUT Luke choking the pig guards. That would get him at least 2 dark side points.
- CUT all of Bib Fortuna’s dialogue with Luke. We don’t know he’s doing the mind trick until he repates things to Jabba.
- CUT much of Luke’s dialogue with Jabba. The only lines kept are “I must be allowed to speak” “You will bring Captain Solo and the Wookiee to me” and “You can either profit from this, or be destroyed. It’s your choice, but I warn you not to underestimate my powers.”
- CUT Rancor sequence. Moved some shots and dialogue from Jabba to make this transition work.
- CUT the droids interacting on the sail barge.
- CUT Luke and Han dialogue scene on the skiff.
- REPLACED original Sarlaac and sounds in every shot (sourced from the GOUT DVD.)
- CUT “3PO, tell that slimey piece of…” Now Han just says “He’ll get no such pleasure from us!”
- CUT a few shots of everyone looking at each other before Luke walks the plank.
- CUT Threepio on the barge from action sequence.
- CUT some of Han’s dialogue.
- CUT many little things in the Skiff fight for pacing.
- MOVED 3PO and R2 falling off the barge to after Luke fires the canon at the deck. Now it looks like they jump off just as the explosion occurs.
- MOVED Rebel briefing to after they leave Tattooine.
- CUT Han’s dialogue with Lando. “Well look at you, a general…” etc.
- CUT some of the dialogue after Han is announced as leading the Endor away team to remove some cheese.
- CUT the beginning of Han and Lando talking about the Falcon, so it feels like we come into the middle of their conversation.
- MOVED the shuttle arrival at Endor to right after they leave the Fleet.
- ADDED Death Star establishing shot to smooth transition between these scenes.
- CUT some of Han’s shenanigans and other dialogue from the Faking the Code scene. Now the focus is mainly on Luke and Vader sensing each other.
- CUT “Hey, it’s me!” sequence.
- ADDED music to Speeder Bike chase. (thanks to Rogue-theX)
- CUT various shots from Speeder chase for pacing.
- CUT Leia/Luke dialogue in this scene other than “Jam their comms!)
- CUT Leia passing out after she falls off of her speeder bike.
- CUT most of Wicket’s first scene. We just see him walk up to Leia with his spear.
- CUT Luke finding Leia’s helmet.
- CUT some of everyones stupidity standing around looking at the Ewok’s trap. Chewy now goes straight for the meat.
- CUT Han and 3PO’s exchange about “proper”
- CUT some of the end of the Levitation scene. I don’t really need to see the heroes happily reunited yet again.
- MOVED Luke walking outside to earlier in 3PO’s story.
- CUT 3PO’s story after “Yes, R2, I was getting to that.” Removed rest of that scene.
- CUT some of Leia’s dialogue about her mother. She didn’t really shouldn’t know anything about her.
- CUT Han coming outside at the end of this scene.
- CUT Vader’s dialogue about it being “Too late for me now”
- CUT some of the Ewok on the Speeder bike.
- CUT Han tapping the guard on the shoulder. It’s now implied that they all followed the Ewok on the bike and we cut straight to the door opening.
- ADDED shots from ESB of Vader’s shuttle flying to The Executor and landing, which moves Luke/Vader/Emperor scenes to a Star Destroyer rather than the Death Star.
- CUT “Bring those two down here!” When 3PO distracts the Imperials. It makes no sense, they only saw 3PO.
- CUT many Ewok scenes. Anything involving traps or over-cutesy stuff is gone.
- ADDED Death Star to many window shots in the Throne Room (Thanks to Bobgarcia74.)
- CUT “Witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!”
- ADDED Reversal of the shot where Luke/Vader clash sabers in front of the Emperor, so it looks like they lift them up again.
- MOVED all of the Vader/Luke fight to immediately after they clash sabers.
- ADDED Duel of the Fates to the lighsaber battle.
- CUT Emperor’s dialogue during the scene.
- CUT Luke kicking Vader down the stairs and him walking back up.
- CUT all dialogue from Luke jumping to the rafters to Vader throwing his saber. Now he throws it at him immediately after he jumps out of the way.
- CUT some of Vader walking down the stairs.
- CUT Luke responding to Vader while he’s hiding.
- DARKENED Luke standing in the shadows.
- MOVED some of the fleet battle to after “So be it, Jedi.”
- MOVED Leia and Han trying to open the door to after “we’ve gotta give him more time!”
- MOVED Chewy and Ewoks taking the ATST to after the extra blast doors close.
- CUT some bits of the ATST takeover to make it less silly.
- MOVED Leia being shot to after ATST sequence.
- MOVED Vader’s redemption to after Han’s “I’ve got an idea.”
- MOVED Han taking the bunker to right after Emperor’s death.
- MOVED Han running from the bunker and the explosion to right after they set the charges.
- CUT Han’s reaction to the explosion.
- MOVED “The shield is down, commence attack!” to right after explosion.
- CUT the Executor being destroyed. The Rebels still attack it.
- ADDED Anakin’s Theme from TPM over his death.
- CUT Leia and Han’s dialogue about Luke. Now they look up at the explosion and kiss.
- CUT Wicket interrupting their kiss.
- MOVED Celebrations around the galaxy to after Leia and Han kiss.
- CUT Endor Celebration, other than one shot that pans down from the fireworks.
- MOVED the funeral pyre scene to the end, custom new music added (thanks to Rogue-theX)
- ADDED Iris transition to credits after the camera pans up from Luke to the fireworks.
- ADDED a couple of extra credits at the end for me and everyone who has helped me with the edit.
Cover art by Rogue_theX (DOWNLOAD HERE)
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As a kid Return Of The Jedi was my favourite film in the trilogy however as an an adult It became clear to me that it had some structural and characterisation problems at least once I was able to remove those super glued rose tinted nostalgia goggles of mine, however I can definitely say that this is a huge improvement over the theoretical edition starting with the altered opening crawl which fits well with your established vision and execution of those narrative alterations in this edit followed by Luke and Yoda’s final conversation within the original trilogy.

Said alteration of the final conversation makes both master and apprentice much more wiser and empathetic ultimately giving credit to the force itself and displaying there ability to understand the force and what each of them is feeling through said force, as such the whole last request and passing of the torch scene now has a lot more emotional weight to it. The manner in which the music passes on into Tatooine via the circle wipe maintains the emotional tone of the previous scene with the fact that it transitions to Tatooine perfectly symbolising how the death’s of those important to Luke ultimately ended up moving his life forward.

It also serves as a great way to foreshadow the young Jedi’s return to the place where his journey began along with how the sons of Tatooine will fall with one sooner than the other as represented by the twin suns along with the whole thing making for a neat little transition to the whole Jabba The Hut subplot, the pacing for that is vastly improved due to some clever use of J&R cuts and the utilisation of the non linear narrative which also helped in increasing the brain cells of the protagonists making the whole rescue mission much more logical in the process.

Naturally the pacing of the sail barge battle was a huge improvement as nothing felt dragged out or played for forceful unnecessary comedy and the removal of Boba Fett thankfully spares one of science fictions coolest bounty hunters from his rather undignified loss, his removal from Jabba’s Palace was a welcome change as it never made sense within the Star Wars Film Universe why he was there and while it was nice to see the old Sarlacc Pit again without that accursed immersion breaking beak the differences between the old footage and the special edition footage were quite noticeable.

While enjoyed the speeder chase on Endor involving the protagonists and the Stormtroopers I did feel that there was a void left unfilled however this edit naturally fills that void with some sharp authentic cuts and exciting music that increases in tempo as the chase progresses as such the sequence is now a lot more exciting and intense than it was in the theoretical version, while I am mostly indifferent to the Ewoks I still would have preferred Lucas original idea of incorporating the Wookies into the story as it would have made for some great character development for Chewbacca though the various trims and removals of the Ewok related scenes do however greatly improve the pacing of the overall edit and make the downfall of the empire a little more believable.

One thing I found a bit odd is how Luke knows that Vader was once called Anakin Skywalker since the conversation he has with Obi Wan’s Force Ghost regarding Vader’s past and former name never occurs in this edit though I am guessing the intended implication here is that Luke learned of Vader’s former name through the force, though it still feels weird to me otherwise the removal of Vader’s dialogue pertaining to it being to late for him to return to the light was a wise choice as his body language within the whole scene is a far better and more subtle indication that he is fighting his own battle deep within.

Speaking of internal and external conflicts the decision to have Luke & Vader’s final duel take place on a Star Destroyer rather than the second Death Star is genius as it not only makes the Emperor a little more cautious and theoretically would give him an easier way to escape the conflict and rebuild the empire anew had the conflict played out a little differently, but there’s no longer that artificial sense of tension looming over the duel which allows said duel to actually have more of a point to it with the pacing of said duel being vastly improved due to an effective reverse shot and some clever cutting especially the use of that one J&R cut.

Considering how the three way battle is a war for the fate of the galaxy and the duel between father and son ultimately leads to a huge paradigm shift the use of Duel Of Fates is quite thematically appropriate for such a battle as for the war itself it’s progress, tone and pacing for the three respective fights now perfectly aligns with the success to failure and failure to success ratio of the overarching conflict and the various shots of the rotoscoped Death Star outside the Emperors window make for some very ominous and cinematic shots ultimately strengthening the non linear continuity you created.

At 53:18 the two Crimson Guards are standing dutifully by the elevator but at 53:58 they’ve completely disappeared leading to the plothole of why they would vanish from there masters throne room unannounced and without his consent as such I believe the part where he orders the Crimson Guards to leave should have been kept in not only for the sake of avoiding said plothole but it would also align better with Luke’s ‘’Your overconfidence is your weakness’’ though considering he has a juggernaut like Vader as his apprentice and can shoot lightning from his fingertips I’ve often wondered why he even needs the Crimson Guards at least as far as the Star Wars Film Universe is concerned though that point is a problem with the theoretical versions of the film and not the edit itself.

Really happy you managed to remove Vader’s big ‘’NOOOOOOOO’’ as I felt that really cheapened his Heel Face Turn when the Special Edition was released and took me right out of the film but in this edit said Heel Face Turn now has that same impact and power that it did back when the VHS of this film was easier to track down and obtain, using Anakin’s theme from The Phantom Menace over his final moments was a great way to symbolically show that he had returned and passed on as a Jedi strengthening the emotional resonance and the films title.

Speaking of music the piece that you used throughout the celebration montage is much more fitting and appropriate, additionally I am so glad that ‘’Weesa Freeeee’’ is gone and the burning of Vader being the final scene makes the conclusion to the Skywalker’s respective character arcs much more impactful, some aspects of this edit are definitely rough around the edges which other reviewers have already pointed out though one thing I haven’t seen addressed in the reviews that came before this one is that the disclaimer has a line spacing problem where some of the words are overlapping each other just ever so slightly.

It’s to bad that Spence (as far as I know) has no desire to return to and fine tune the edit because this has the potential to ascend from an excellent edit to a phenomenal edit though I am unsure as to what the context behind Absolutely No thanks to lordsidi is about, I am guessing it’s either an inside joke or the editor or non editor did something to dishonour or hinder the production of said edit in some way or another though I will say that little bit after the credits ended had me bursting out laughing so hard my stomach hurt truly Spence has a great sense of humour.

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A truly revelatory edit. I watched this with the commentary on to enjoy Spence's opining about the rampant pacing and structural problems with the movie. As someone who has been trying for, well, my entire life and has had countless conversations with people about why this entry doesn't work as well as it should, this was an eye-opener. It's easy to just take ROTJ for granted and look at it uncritically if you grew up with them, but Spence picks out pacing, dialogue, scene-order problems, almost all of which are 100% on the money.

Not to say I completely agree with all of the choices, I think the excision of Boba Fett and the Rancor is more distracting than anything, for whatever gains are made in terms of pacing, the movie feels a bit smaller as a result and the resultant cuts feel inorganic. Also, with the deleted scenes readily available (nowadays, if not when the edit was originally made, not sure) some of the well-intentioned but clunky cuts of Luke sensing the dire situation on Tatooine from Dagobah could have been smoothed over a bit, as could have the post-rescue moments between the heroes.

Aside from those quibbles, the masterful tweaks, especially to the latter half of the movie, are extraordinary. The removal of force ghosts, the trimming of the Ewok scenes, the adding of stakes by moving Luke and Vader's confrontation to the Death Star are all tremendous. For the first time, the final scene of Luke staring up at the sky after redeeming his errant father's soul sent chills down my spine, something that watching Ewoks cavort around a bonfire never did. For the first time, Return of the Jedi felt like the powerful end of a truly epic saga.

While I've read that he has no intentions to do so, I would love to see Spence take another pass at this. It's already most certainly a shelf-replacer for me, but another version using all the available footage to smooth over a few other cracks would knock it out of the park, imho. After all, third time's the charm -- mostly.
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(Updated: March 10, 2021)
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The edit is not always seamless and *sometimes* I have to do a few logical jumps, but most of the time it's pretty sound. Spence crafted a very unique take on the film which is surely very influential in ROTJ edits, and many of his cuts here should honestly become standard for all ROTJ edits going forward. Not really my go-to but a worthy and very necessary step in ROTJ fan editing.

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*BEWARE SPOILERS THROUGHOUT*

I was originally going to compare it to your original edit, but as I have not required that yet (someone feel free to help) then I will have to review this first. This is a positive review and I believe this will be my "come-to-edit" whenever I decide to watch Return Of The Jedi, so here we go with the review...

First off, the editor does move scenes around in this final cut and I think it's for the better. From memory, the Luke and Yoda scenes appear very early on in the edit and it's much better placed for me personally. There isn't a long death scene for Yoda and the viewer can learn about Leia from the beginning, which I think benefits the pacing too. Obi-Wan is completely gone - for me that's a positive, as whenever the supposedly "wise" Obi-Wan opens his mouth in RotJ you just wish he had kept it shut. No force ghosts appear in this film whatsoever....I didn't miss them.

Jabba's Palace begins with Leia rescuing Han and that's how it should have been in the original as there's no dawdling 3PO and R2 and all the unnecessary padding is cut. I think the only cuts that did catch my eye was with Luke sensing that Leia and Han was in trouble whilst still on Dagobah. Did they need to be in the edit? I don't know. I'll be honest and say that for myself, they felt slightly out of place, but I think the editor may have wanted Luke's presence to be more announced to the audience, perhaps....

I personally loved there being no songs or dancers at Jabba's Palace. It somehow makes the palace look less trashy. But most importantly (or controversially I should say) is that the Rancor is completely gone. That may divide Star Wars fans somewhat, but I couldn't care less about the Rancor or his obese crying owner either. I think the absence works and quickens the pace as we are quickly led straight into the original (yes - the original!) Sarlacc Pit, which is personally my favourite part of the film. I think what was most creative about this scene edit in particular was that the editor made 3PO and R2 fall off the deck due to the explosion that Luke caused. I liked that very much. But best of all - there is NO Boba Fett - and it's a big plus, as his supposed "death" is bloody awful and still annoys me to this day. You'd think Lucas with his "brilliant remasters" would have done something with the much loved Boba Fett character? Ah well. One day....


Other scenes that I will say a few words on are:

- The removal of the Wicket scenes. I believe you edited most of the Ewoks stuff on the original edit, so I'm yet to watch and comment on that. I personally cannot stand the bloody sight of them, so naturally I thought they were in this too much! I personally think the whole Battle of Endor goes on way too long and is just a bit boring (even Death Star II could be cut further down).

- The Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader fight scenes were stunning and the editing work you did was stunning. They worked so well together! Somehow you made it join together flawlessly. The music was a surprise and managed to find a few more inches of suspense in those fight scenes!

- Having "Anakin's Theme" for Anakin's death was possibly the greatest thing you did with this entire edit. It simply worked. It's so much better than the original dull "Darth Vader's Death" score, which frankly makes the scene cold and an oddity. Instead you created the right tone and this tone should have been made originally when I repeatedly watched that particular bit again and again. You actually improved Return Of The Jedi as a whole with that.

- I didn't miss the original cheesy ending. I think you made the sensible choice with your edit.

- Nice credits notes! ;)

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First off, a big hand must be given to musiced921 for supplying me with this edit. I was actually looking for the one without the Ewoks in it, but obviously it didn't satisfy Spence at the time, hence why he re-did it, and this is the edit I ended up receiving. Nevertheless, it was an interesting edit, running rather leanly at just one hour and thirty three minutes, it rearranges scenes, creating a more meaningful first scene for Luke that establishes his path.

In the original cut, he kind of acts a bit high and mighty already, almost as if he didn't need to go to Dagobah and complete his training, but here the crawl and the scene on Dagobah is structured to follow on from Vader's arrival, and we follow Luke on his journey to Tatoonie, not entirely sure of himself as Yoda says he must confront Vader to be fully realised. It's a very well woven scene, and gives both Luke and the audience less detachment from what Luke had been up to in between Empire and this.

The idea of placing the Emperor on the Star Destroyer is another great touch. After all, why would the Emperor risk making himself a sitting duck on the Death Star when chances are his plan could go tits up? Being on a Star Destroyer at least gives him the chance to take off as soon as things do.

The restructuring of the battle of Endor rattles along, there is more urgency, you feel this is a costly battle as good men die and Luke feels more entrapped with the walls closing in, his fateful duel with Vader is even accompanied by familiar cues such as duel of the fates!

I've seen a few edits that have utilised the ending with Luke burning Anakin's body as the fireworks rage on, but it's still powerful imagery to end the original trilogy on. I'd still somewhat like to see the Ewok party as it gives us all a chance to see the group of friends, now very much a family, a chance to be together one last time. Luke can always bury Vader after seeing the ghosts. Maybe the ghosts could have been watching Luke burn Anakin, there's an idea. Ah well.

And lastly the additional end credits are a hoot...though I do wonder who 'lordsidi' is and what he did to warrant an "absolutely no thanks to..." credit. Feels a bit weird to promote the DVD version of this in the credits when all I have of this is the MP4, but ah well...if someone could track the DVD version down, let me know what I'm missing, because it doesn't tell you anything here.
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