The purest of Star Wars fans have, for years, been clamoring for the holy trinity – A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of The Jedi – to be released on DVD/BluRay in their original unaltered format. For those that have forgotten, and those too young to know, there was a time when Han shot first and force ghost Anakin Skywalker was not Hayden Christensen (amongst many other mostly unneeded changes). The all father of Star Wars, its creator, George Lucas has denied fans time and time again to release the films as they first appeared in theaters, insisting the remastered special editions are absolute. Or rather, as Lucas believes, there is basically one version of Star Wars that just keeps getting improved as technology moves forward.
The People vs George Lucas is a debate (as well as must watch documentary) that shall not be discussed today. What’s up for consideration, however, is the possibility, that after all these years, the original untouched trilogy might finally be getting unleashed from the vault (I assume it’s been in the same warehouse that Indiana Jones had the ark of the covenant stored) and being dusted off for home release. Could it be, is it true?
According to ComicBook.com, Disney and Lucasfilm are looking to re-release the original, unaltered versions of George Lucas’ Star Wars trilogy. The site says that they’ve confirmed this news with two independent reliable sources that plans are underway. Stating:
“Disney has plans to release the original cut of the Star Wars trilogy on Blu-ray. Our sources indicate that the project has been under way for quite some time, but it’s been challenging because of some damage to the original negatives they are utilizing. The goal is to release A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of Jedi in their complete, unaltered, original form without the redone special edition SFX.”
Sources at ComicBook.com don’t have an exact date as to when the original cut of the Star Wars Trilogy might be released on Blu-ray, due to some technical challenges. They do say though that the goal is to have them ready and released before Star Wars: Episode VII comes out in 2015.
Judging by the amount of money the franchise has made for George Lucas and the fact that Episode 4: A New Hope launched one of the biggest film empires in the world, I’m thinking there might be one or two people who really want (and would pay handsomely) to own unaltered versions of the original trilogy on modern format (cleaned up, anamorphic, in 1080p of course), myself included.
I don’t begrudge Lucas for not wanting to put the paintbrush down, but culture surrounding Star Wars belongs just as much to the fans as it does to him (well now Disney). It’s a piece of film history that should not disappear or be forgotten.
Is an untouched version of Star Wars even possible, or is this just a nerd pipe dream? George Lucas would make us believe the original film print is gone, with sections too damaged to work with.
That would crush all hopes right there, wouldn’t it? Well, I’m no expert on the subject, but I did a little research and found an article dating back to 2010 on Ars Technica. Rather dated, I know, but the article features the author of The Secret History of Star Wars Michael Kaminski being interviewed and discussing at great lengths at how many prints exist and how an untouched release is possible.
“We asked Kaminksi about the master copy of the original Star Wars. What does it look like now? “The term ‘master copy’ is slightly vague, because there are various kinds of print masters of different generations,” he told Ars. The original negative is conformed to the 1997 Special Edition, meaning the physical copy has been cut and edited with CGI “improvements.” With sections of the film being too damaged to work with, parts of that print were taken from other sources. “You never throw away your original negative, so I must assume that any pieces or shots that were removed are in storage somewhere at Lucasfilm or Fox,” he explained.
Kaminski points out that a duplication of the original negative—commonly printed for the sake of protection—doesn’t seem to exist for Star Wars. Something better was created, though: separation masters. “These are special silver-based copies that do not fade, and in theory should be almost identical in quality to the original negative itself, so even if the negative was destroyed you still have a perfect copy (which is the point of making the separation master).” Duplicates from these prints were used to replace damaged sections of the negative during the restoration before the release of the Special Edition
That’s not all, however. “There are also Interpositives and master prints. Interpositives (and Internegatives) are the color-corrected masters that theatrical prints are duplicated from, and were used in the past to make the home video telecines from 1985-1995.” Another common practice is keeping print masters, which are high-quality, fine-grain prints kept in the eventuality that no other higher-quality copies or masters are available.
What this tells us is that Lucas wasn’t lying—the original copy of Star Wars is, in fact, gone. What exists in its place is a composite film that has been restored and spliced together with Special Edition scenes and sections from other, later prints. There exist enough film copies and back-ups to re-create the film, however, so nothing is impossible in terms of a more classical high-definition re-release.
Admittedly, a lot of that went over my head like a greased up Star Fighter, but the point is, releasing an original cut of the film is possible. However, here’s another (insidious) hang up.
While Disney can create new Star Wars under their purchase of LucasFilm, they don’t own the rights to the original film trilogy. You may shudder upon hearing this, but *ahem* FOX owns home video and distribution rights for all six Star Wars movies until 2020, and they own A New Hope in perpetuity. (Source: TheHollywoodReporter).
FOX has no reason to work with Disney right now when they have six years of pure profit coming to them. Though, it all comes down to money, if they can agree on a price share of the profits anything can happen.
Ultimately, it seems the Goyte music parody “You’ll never get a bluRay of the Star Wars that you used to know” will be ever relevant: