The Star Wars franchise is known for having its home video releases constantly edited, and that's happened again in the Disney+ release of the Skywalker saga, with Obi-Wan's iconic duel against Darth Vader in A New Hope having revamped the lightsaber effects. While the franchise is no stranger to nit-pick edits and adjustments, the space opera is on a long list of other Disney products that were manipulated before partaking in the first wave of the streaming service's launch.
The extent to which this purifying process affects a film can only be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. While the company has been adamant about flagging productions that may have racist content and, in the more severe cases – such as the 1946 Oscar-winner Song of the South – completely barring a feature's digital publishing, Disney has also technically enhanced some of its older offerings, Star Wars included. So far, the one alteration that has caught the public's interest has been yet another amendment to Han Solo shooting Greedo. But the final lightsaber battle between Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader was also touched up by some pixie dust, and now, the considerably less choreographed duel at least has the digital makeup of the modern age.
Small alterations were added to the Obi-Wan vs Darth Vader duel to make it more engrossing and consistent. For example, Kenobi's iconic blue saber has, in previous versions, had the tendency to switch shades throughout the battle. Starting off as a lighter, paler blue, fans with a keen eye can notice that by the time Ben morphs into a Force ghost, the weapon itself has morphed as well, into a crisper, almost royal blue color. Now, Disney has brushed up the battle to make sure that Obi-Wan's lightsaber remains at that pale blue stage throughout the entire duel.
Another interesting adjustment, enhanced by the film's HD presentation, takes place as Obi-Wan and Darth Vader's lightsabers clash. As the Jedi Master fends off Vader, a quick spray of mist appears to fling from their sabers after they come together. Of course, this minuscule detail will not entirely redeem A New Hope of some of its weirder technical misgivings. But it's a neat improvement considering that Star Wars' lightsaber duels were meant to evoke medieval battles, and those swords would spark when making contact.
With this latest update, who knows if George Lucas - or Disney, for that matter - will finally be satisfied with Star Wars. The filmmaker may not fully understand what he's got on his hands. Lucas has constructed a universe – perhaps the first cinematic universe – that has redefined the way films are made, watched, and exhibited. Its scale and mark can be felt with every new Star Wars release, and its unhinged power is demonstrated every time another chapter is created. But instead of fixing things that were fine to begin with, the latest change is something that actually benefits the film's quality.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019