A new version of the Star Wars original trilogy can now be found on Disney+, and it’s the best one yet as it fixes some of George Lucas’s previous changes. As the Star Wars universe keeps expanding with the final installment in the Skywalker saga (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), future trilogies, and TV series such as The Mandalorian, the original trilogy can’t catch a break and keeps going through various changes – some subtle, some necessary, and others not so much.
The original Star Wars trilogy has an interesting (though not exactly good) history with remasters and special editions, and it all began months after the release of Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. The trilogy was re-released in 1997 for the 20th anniversary of A New Hope and all three movies got their dose of edits. Then came the infamous 2004 version, which has been widely criticized for its multiple mistakes and for adding Hayden Christensen as Anakin’s Force Ghost at the end of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
The trilogy went through another re-mastering process for the Blu-ray release in 2011, which included even more changes and didn’t do much to fix the mistakes left by the 2004 special edition. Just when fans thought the era of Lucas’ changes was over, Disney+ surprised its users with yet another version of Star Wars movies, and even more surprising is that they are actually better than the previous ones, mostly because they finally fixed Lucas’ mistakes.
Which Versions Of Star Wars Are On Disney+?
Disney+’s versions of Star Wars are not the original theatrical cuts (sadly), but they aren’t the 1997, 2004, or 2011 versions either (thankfully). Instead, the platform has the 4k version George Lucas began working on in 2010 as part of a 3D edition intended to be released on DVD. Following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, the 4k project was left aside and has now been picked up by Disney+. This version is an extension of the 2011 Blu-ray edition that used the original prints and took some extra time to work on some of the changes from previous editions and add other things as well – such as Greedo’s final word “maclunkey”.
As mentioned above, the original trilogy hasn’t had the best luck when it comes to remasters, but the 4k/Disney+ version actually paid attention and worked on fixing many of the issues that were ignored in the 2011 edition and later in the 2015 Digital Collection, and brought back the quality of the original source thanks to its scanning process.
Star Wars On Disney+ Fixes Many Color Issues
The original trilogy has been accumulating many issues with each special edition. The 1997 version has a yellow-ish tint, while the 2004 edition was over-saturated and gave the movies a magenta look. This one also has various lightsaber mistakes, with these changing color or not having any at all. The 2011 release fixed some lightsaber issues but not all, and the overall color was corrected so it looked more like the original version, but it still wasn’t the best.
The 4k version brought “maclunkey” but also other changes that actually improved the movies. Lucas and company finally got color correction right, Luke’s lightsaber in A New Hope (specifically in the scene inside the Millennium Falcon, which featured a green lightsaber) has been changed to its rightful blue color, and most lightsaber color issues have now been fixed. As noted by Star Wars Visual Comparisons, color correction has also brought out more details in some shots, and it’s all thanks to Lucasfilm going back to the original prints.
Star Wars Visual Comparisons points out that the 4k version required scanning the negatives from the 1997 special editions (the closest there is to the 1977 prints), which allowed Lucas to redo (and finally fix) every change since 1997. Of course, some “recent” changes stayed, such as Hayden Christensen as Anakin’s Force Ghost and Darth Vader yelling “no!” before throwing the Emperor down the pit. It’s not a perfect world, but the Disney+ version fixed a lot of mistakes and is now the most complete version of the original trilogy available.
Star Wars On Disney+ Returns The Fox Fanfare
There’s a lot of talk about the 2011 Blu-ray version of the Star Wars original trilogy, so much that the 2015 digital release is often forgotten. This version didn’t change or add anything to the actual movie, but it did remove the 20th Century Fox fanfare from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. A New Hope was able to keep the fanfare as Fox owns permanent distribution to the film – but now that Disney also owns Fox, the fanfare has been restored. The movies now have the 1994 20th Century Fox logo minus the “A News Corporation Company” byline, and the 1997 Lucasfilm logo was replaced by the 2015 one. It might seem like a minor detail, but for some fans seeing the fanfare back evoked many memories, as that’s how the movies were released.
Star Wars On Disney+ Still Isn’t Perfect
The 4k version on Disney+ is the most complete one you can get, only because the original, unaltered theatrical versions are not available. A few months back, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had a double-screening of A New Hope and Rogue One, and the version of A New Hope was a 1981 70mm print that, even though it had “A New Hope” on the crawl, it was unaltered. This gave fans hope for a release of the original theatrical version of the trilogy, as Lucas has always been quite insistent on the special editions being the real versions because he got to make the changes he wanted to, even saying that the 2004 edition was how he wanted the movies to be.
Lucas has even said that restoring the original cut would be very expensive and he wasn’t interested in going through the process. Versions of the theatrical cut exist, but they are not legal and are only available in low quality, taking away the Star Wars experience. Now that Disney has full control of Lucasfilm, money shouldn’t be an issue when talking about the theatrical versions, and unless there’s some agreement between Disney and Lucas when it comes to those mythical negatives of the original trilogy, it seems strange that the Mouse House has no plans to release them in glorious high quality.
Hope dies last, but until the theatrical versions finally go through the restoration process they deserve, the 4k/Disney+ version is the best one fans can get. Although this version of the Star Wars movies kept some changes from the previous special editions that are not exactly favorites among fans, it finally got many mistakes fixed, and that truly outweighs details like Anakin’s ghost and the ever-changing Han/Greedo scene.