Only earlier this week there was a rumor circulating that claimed Disney was intending to release unaltered versions of the original Star Wars trilogy on Blu-ray. Quickly debunked, the rumor did however spark interest in the many different versions of the original trilogy and how desperately fans want an official, unaltered release.
The home media releases of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi have seen more alternate versions and updated releases than almost any other film series. There are, of course, the glaringly obvious changes made with 1997’s Special Editions – Greedo firing first, a full bodied wampa, a musical scene in Jabba’s Palace – but all subsequent releases have seen continued tweaking and editing to the films’ audio and visual effects.
The reason for all the alterations lies with George Lucas’ insistence that when he first made the Star Wars films, due to the limitations of the available technology, the movies were only ever “25 to 30 percent” of what he’d envisioned. Yet, fans who fell in love with the version they first saw in theaters often feel slighted that Star Wars‘ creator considers those versions unworthy.
An attempt to appease those fans hungering for a “pure” version of the original Star Wars trilogy was made with the 2006 DVD release which included as a special feature unaltered versions (though not in anamorphic widescreen) of Episodes IV-VI. However, these versions were purposely of a lower quality so as not to compete with the restored and remastered, though altered releases.
This long history of constant tampering with the original Star Wars trilogy has come to this: a fan-led effort to restore the films’ original presentation, removing any of the alterations made over the last decade. It’s called Star Wars: Despecialized Edition, and the above featurette (via Geeks Are Sexy) details the painstaking process.
Not only is Star Wars: Despecialized Edition a true sign of fans’ unyielding devotion, but it’s an impressive effort in film preservation and history. When Star Wars first released in 1977 it won several Academy Awards for art direction, sound editing, and visual effects, and it’s been argued that the constant digital alterations layered over the original films have removed those award winning efforts. Yet now, much of that original work has been unearthed through the work of Star Wars: Despecialized Editions.
It’s also interesting to learn that the 2011 Blu-rays are not really the best versions from a visual standpoint. Sure, the films look crisp, but as this featurette points out the colors and contrasts have been changed and not for the better. The blacks are too black, often hiding intricate backgrounds achieved either through set decoration or matte paintings. And the color palette of the film is off, which is why Princess Leia’s make-up is far too pink, making her look more like a painted doll than a fearless leader of a rebellion.
Will there ever be an official release of an unaltered, remastered and restored original trilogy? Probably not – especially seeing as Fox, not Disney, holds the home media rights to A New Hope from now until the end of time – but we’re thankful there are fans willing to take on the grueling (and possibly illegal) endeavor for themselves.
As for the future – Star Wars: Episode VII arrives in theaters on December 18th, 2015.
Source: Geeks Are Sexy