Whenever I read a story on “April 1st,” I take it with a huge grain of salt because the majority are just April Fool’s jokes. This year on April 1st, Yakface.com ran with a story that all six movies from the “Star Wars” saga were going to be released this month on VUDU. Turns out, that story was no April Fool’s joke and all six movies will be released on April 10th on VUDU.
For a few days there was speculation that we might finally see for the first time the unaltered versions Original Trilogy in HD. Well, that’s not going to happen. We will be getting the “Special Editions” ….again.
*Update #1 – Disney, Lucasfilm and Fox have officially announced that the Star Wars Saga will be available on Digital HD on April 10th. This includes multiple platforms, not just VUDU. Is it me or does it seem strange that they make an official announcement just 4 days before the release? You would think they would have been marketing then hell out of this for months.
“Since the debut of the first film nearly 40 years ago, Star Wars has become a worldwide phenomenon with legions of fans from every generation,” said Alan Bergman, President, The Walt Disney Studios. “It’s only fitting that audiences enjoy this legendary Saga and its many fascinating behind-the-scenes stories on a wide variety of platforms, and we’re very excited to finally bring all six films to Digital HD for the first time.”
“We’re thrilled that fans will be able to enjoy the Star Wars Saga on their digital devices wherever they go,” commented Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. “These films broke new ground in technology, design, sound, and visual effects, and we’ve created some very special bonus material which delves into the Saga’s rich history, including new and never-before-released conversations between legendary Star Wars artists – the masters who helped George bring his iconic universe to life.”
With Star Wars: Episodes I-VI available for purchase as a complete digital movie collection and individually, viewers will have the Rebel forces at their beck and call across their favorite devices anywhere – sunbathing at the beach, relaxing in their living room with friends, or waiting to board a flight to Endor (or elsewhere).
Enhancing the movie collection are a host of never-before-seen special features including Star Wars: Discoveries from Inside and insightful Conversations between key contributors from across this celebrated film franchise, plus a curated collection of classic Star Wars extras from each film.
*Update #2 – I mention in my comments below that Fox will forever own the movie rights to “A New Hope.” Fox has made this perfectly clear by not allowing consumers to buy or access “A New Hope” as part of the 6 movie set, or individually, through Disney’s own digital movie streaming service, Disney Movies Anywhere. This could be the reason why this was just announced only 4 days before release. This is purely speculation on my part, but maybe Disney was trying to work something out with Fox and it failed.
Recently I had worked on a story regarding a rumor in which it appeared Disney might be preparing to release the unaltered versions of the “Star Wars” Original Trilogy on Blu-ray just prior to the release of the theatrical release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Unfortunately the rumor was debunked before I finished the article and decided to just scrap it for the time being.
I’m glad I decided not to delete it and just save it for another day because it’s probably a good time now to readdress:
Why We Need The Unaltered Versions Of “The Original Star Wars Trilogy”
A long time ago, in this galaxy, we were able to watch the “Original Star Wars Trilogy” without Hayden Christensen in it. What happened? Where is it? Will we ever see it again?
Yes, I know that Fox still owns the distribution rights to “Empire” and “Jedi” until 2020 and Fox will “never” lose the rights to “A New Hope.” But there is a lot of demand out there from the fans of the Original Trilogy and Disney knows it. And from what I have heard and seen, Disney is not a fan of the Prequels and they have been pushing the Original Trilogy since they first purchased Star Wars and Lucasfilm in 2013.
The Special Editions added a lot of CGI special effects, corrected the color and contrast, cleaned up the prints and some scenes are very nice improvements from the original versions. Probably the most welcome change was that The Emperor was no longer played by a woman in “Empire” (not kidding here). So why do so many people want to see the Original Trilogy instead of the Special Editions? I’ll just name a few reasons off the top of my head.
“A New Hope”
- Greedo Shoots first – In the 1977 version of “Star Wars,” Han Solo shoots Greedo in the Mos Eisley Cantina. In fact, there is no Greedo shooting at all. Through the years it has bothered George Lucas that Han shot first because he felt Han is a hero and it wasn’t very heroic to shoot Greedo the way he did. Lucas tried to convince everyone in interviews that Han was never meant to shoot first and that it was just a bad camera angle. George’s Jedi Mind trick didn’t work on anyone. George altered the film to show Greedo shooting first at point blank range and missing and then Han ducking out of the way and shooting back at Greedo. The very first Special Edition version of this scene looked ridiculous. The most recent version is the least offensive, where they actually shoot at each other at the same time, except Greedo’s aim still sucks.
- Adding Jabba The Hutt – I really dont like this scene because it was never needed in the first place. First of all, the CGI version of Jabba The Hutt looks horrible. They show a goofy scene where Han walks over Jabba because the original actor to play Jabba was a human and Han walks behind him. That scene was cut from the original film. They also show the Millennium Falcon in the background. This scene completely ruins the scene when we first originally saw the Millennium Falcon and Luke looks at it and says, “What a piece of junk!” For some reason, Lucas felt it was a good idea to place this new scene before the original.
“The Empire Strikes Back”
- New Wampa – In Empire, they added a news scene showing a guy in a new Wampa costume eating Luke’s Tauntaun. The costume is an improvement but it looks nothing like the original Wampa, which they decided to not take out in the Special Edition. It looks like two different Wampas, but it’s not meant to be.
- Luke “screams” as he falls after Vader reveals that he is his father – In the original unaltered version, Luke doesn’t scream. He just lets go and falls. It made Luke look very brave, valiant and heroic. The Special Edition version has Luke screaming all the way down. When Luke screams in the Special Edition, it makes it seems like he is thinking, “Maybe this wasn’t the best idea! Somebody save me!” Plus he sounds like Kermit The Frog. Thankfully though, Lucas came to his senses and removed it when the Blu-Ray version was released.
“Return Of The Jedi”
(These are the most offensive changes)
- A new musical number added to Jabba’s palace – I have no idea what Lucas was thinking. If that scene was not long enough, Lucas decides it was a good idea to throw in an absolutely horrible musical number and he actually had his son write the lyrics to the song. The CGI is horrible and it shouldn’t be there.
- Vader’s “No” from “Revenge Of The Sith” – There is a scene in “Revenge Of The Sith” where Darth Vader is first revealed in costume on a Frankenstein table and he yells, “Nooooooo!” I would say that most of the audience in my theater laughed because it sounded so funny and it was just so uncharacteristic of Vader to do. Lucas finally releases “Jedi” on Blu-ray and what does he do? He ruins the best scene in the movie where Vader is torn as to whether to obey his master or save his son. Lucas actually had his people copy over the audio clip from “Sith” and just paste it in the middle of that scene so we can see Vader scream like an idiot as he lifts the Emperor up and throws him to his death. Originally, that scene never failed to deliver chills to me when Vader just stood their silently, contemplating and thinking back and forth. And the audience was still not sure if he was going to save Luke or not. My audience back in 1983 all stood up, literally yelling at the screen, “Come on Darth! Do It!” And then when he finally turned away from the dark side, the place exploded with applause and not one person was sitting down. Now that scene has been turned into a joke. We never needed to know what he was thinking. We knew! I would much rather watch a VHS copy with black bars on the sides then to have to see the HD remaster of this scene with his abysmal “Noooooo!” again. This scene is the most offensive change to me without a doubt and really ruins the movie for me.
- Jar Jar is still alive – Lucas was never happy to know that Jar Jar was mostly universally hated. He had to cut his part in the sequels because of so much Jar Jar hate. But Lucas had the last laugh. In one of the most recent changes to the Special Editions, Jar Jar can be seen and heard celebrating on Naboo yelling, “Weesa free!” That whole scene of different planets celebrating the fall of the Empire was never needed at all and shockingly John Williams added depressing music where before we had uplifting music.
- Hayden Christensen replaces Sebastian Shaw as Anakin’s Force Ghost – This is definitely the second worst. You have an old Obi-Wan ghost, you have an old Yoda ghost and now you have a young Anakin ghost with them? This was just Lucas’ way of pushing the fact that all of these movies were tied together. There are a lot of Prequel haters, including myself, and we are OK with the Prequel’s existing. But I like to think of “Star Wars” as though the Prequels just never existed. We cant do that now because we have whiny, annoying, arrogant Anakin as a force ghost as opposed to an older looking Jedi that Luke knew was his father. How would Luke know that Hayden Christensen, who is younger than Luke, was his father? Another scene where I used to get chills, now I just get pissed off.
For years, fans were pushing Lucas to release the unaltered version of the Original Trilogy on DVD because many fans did not liked his changes with the Special Editions. Lucas finally caved in but in the end he basically screwed the fans. Those DVD versions of the unaltered versions of the Original Trilogy were just copies of the old Laser Disc versions. They were also non anamorphic, meaning that there were not only black bars on the top and bottom, but also on the left and right. Nobody bought them because they looked horrible and Lucas basically said, I thought you guys wanted the unaltered version of the Original Trilogy? Guess not.
When Lucas made all of the changes to the Special Editions, he wasn’t thinking of the fans, he was think of himself. Kind of like, this is my world, you either like what I give you or you get nothing at all. He even has come out and said that he used the original negatives to make the Special Editions and that some parts of the original are gone forever because he destroyed them while making the Special Editions. So even if he wanted to release the unaltered versions, he couldn’t. Who does that? I have seen fan man versions of the unaltered versions of the Original Trilogy online and they look beautiful. So I dont buy Lucas’ excuse that the original negatives no longer exist so it cant be done. Also, I am pretty sure that the Smithsonian has a decent copy if it is needed.
Don’t get me wrong. I am very, very grateful that George Lucas exists and that he gave us “Star Wars.” Just stop touching it, George. Leave it alone and go play with something else. There is this movie that Steven Spielberg and he did called “Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull” that if he really, really tried, he might be able to make it better. Go play with that one.
Now that Lucas is sitting on his rocking chair at Skywalker Ranch and enjoying his retirement (and he probably isn’t looking), please Disney and Fox, do the right thing. At least give fans a choice. That’s all we are asking for.