The other day, Disney floated the idea that sometime soon the original versions of the original Star Wars trilogy might be released, unmolested by special edition tinkering, would be issued in the high-def Blu-ray format. Now fans are not often known for their patience, and considering that George Lucas spent years saying that those first cuts of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are gone, and that they weren’t coming back, it should come as no surprise that many weren’t holding their breath for Lucas to change his mind. So one group of techie savvy and dedicated fans said “F**k It! We’ll do our own original version release! With Black Jack! And hookers! (Okay, maybe not those last two.)
Let’s rewind. As I’m sure you’re all aware, in 1997, Lucas authorized the re-release of the original trilogy for a theatrical run to celebrate Star Wars’ 20th birthday., the caveat being that the films would include new footage, and special effects, and a re-edited musical score. These became known as the “Special Editions,” and led to a continuous trend of nipping and tucking sometimes bizarre new additions to the first three Star Wars films, including the replacement of Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christianson as Anakin Skywalker’s Force ghost in Return of the Jedi (on the DVD release), and a pathetic “Noooooo!” shouted by Darth Vader during the final showdown in the Emperor’s throne room (on the Blu-ray release).
With each change, and each subsequent release, Star Wars fans and film purists pushed Lucas to re-release the original edits of the first three films. Lucas resisted, but a re-issue of the DVDs in 2006 came with a bonus disc that included the original cuts of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Problem solved, right? Not actually since the the transfer was from a decade old Laserdisc release, was not anamorphic, and re-issued without up-to-date digital transfer and restoration technology. The people wanting those original cuts felt, and were probably justified in doing so, that Lucas was flipping the bird at them.
Which brings us to Star Wars: Despecialized Edition, an independent project to use all the elements of various Star Wars releases to create a Blu-ray quality copy of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It’s an intriguing project, and intriguing to consider that a group of techies on home computers now have the film restorative power of Lucasfilm. Interested? Here’s a documentary that details the perilous and complex journey to return Star Wars to its former glory:
Impressive. Most impressive. The “Despecialized Edition” is only available through torrent-sharing, carefully tiptoeing around potential charges of piracy, and the makers ask that only those who have already purchased the official Blu-ray release of Star Wars enjoy their efforts, lest they all end up incurring the wrath of Lucas.
But if I can play devil’s advocate for the minute, how much of wanting the original trilogy as it was originally released is about sticking it to Lucas, and how much of it is about film preservation? Clearly, sales of the home video release of Star Wars have not been hurt by Lucas’ tinkering, and I wonder how many still bought the Blu-ray despite grumbling about getting further bastardized versions of the films. I am one of those people come to think of it. I recently purchased the 2006 original cut DVDs from a resaler and although I enjoyed the novelty of seeing the films I remember from my childhood, now owning them I don’t feel like I need to buy Star Wars ever again. The purists, however just in their opinion that some version of the movies that were released in 1977, 1980, and 1983 should be available, make up a minority of the movie-buying public, and not even Disney, who right now is FLUSH, is going to do a massive re-release to curry favor with a few hardcore Wars nerds. Sorry.
And while I appreciate the time, effort and artistry involved in creating a high-def original Star Wars, might I suggest one risks following Lucas’ example, as in chasing one’s tail in search of an idea of perfection that is constantly elusive and definitely unobtainable. Lucas has been under the impression that he’s been making Star Wars better, but by chasing the idea that he can make one movie perfect, he’s missed out on numerous chances to tell different types of stories, and direct other movies not called Star Wars. Maybe we can all do with a little less obsession when it comes to chasing what’s passed.
But what do I know! Bastards, sound off with your thoughts on all things Star Wars below.
Source: Geeks Are Sexy