Could the Holy Grail for Star Wars fans finally be in reach?
For literally decades, with one brief exception, the original versions of the first Star Wars trilogy -- A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi -- have been unseen by the public in any official capacity, replaced first in 1997 by the special editions, which were themselves superseded by the variations issued on Blu-ray in 2011.
The last time the unaltered editions of the film were formally available to the public were as bonus content in a long out-of-print 2008 DVD box set; those transfers, however, were not anamorphic (i.e. not enhanced for widescreen TV viewing) and simply taken from 1993 laserdisc editions that were by that point far below contemporary quality standards.
The effective burial of the original films by George Lucas -- whose basic argument was that he always wanted to "improve" the films and since they're his, he could damn well do what he pleased -- was seen as a rather prominent middle finger to fans who simply wanted to own and watch the movies they initially saw on the big screen (you can find them online through legally dubious means, but you didn't hear that from us).
In the intervening eight years, there have been rumors of the unaltered original trilogy making its way to Blu-ray at last, and most of those stories have led nowhere. But now MakingStarwars.net -- one of the more reputable Star Wars news sites on the Web -- claims that multiple sources are hinting that the three original films may see the light of day again at last.
The site itself acknowledges the pervasiveness of the rumors over the years and even starts its report by stating that it has stayed away from reporting many of them. This time, however, the editor says he has credible intel, although he doesn't delve into much detail.
Here's what we do know: Lucasfilm recently did a 4K restoration of A New Hope that Rogue One director Gareth Edwards saw, although he did not say whether it was the original film or a later version; and this year -- May 25, to be exact -- marks the 40th anniversary of the release of A New Hope. It's a certainty that Lucasfilm and its corporate parent Disney would like to promote that for all it's worth. Frankly, I can't think of a better way to do that than reissuing the original trilogy in their unaltered form.
To quote a great character from a different sci-fi franchise: it's the logical thing to do. Millions of fans have dutifully gone out and purchased each iteration of Star Wars on home video, and nevertheless still clamor to have the original un-altered trilogy back in their hands. Lucas himself has tinkered with the movies presumably to his satisfaction, gotten his preferred versions out there, and has now retired -- why at this point would he want to deny giving the fans the one thing they want more than anything?
As for the distribution rights -- remember, 20th Century Fox owns the distribution rights to A New Hope in perpetuity, with the rest belonging to Disney -- if they could hammer out a deal for the Blu-ray set in 2011, they could do it again for this one. Otherwise, it's just leaving lots and lots of money on the table for all concerned parties. Star Wars Celebration is happening in Orlando, Florida this April, and if this is really happening, there couldn't be a better event to unveil it at.
I'm a guy who likes to watch Star Trek: The Original Series without the modernized special effects, so honestly I would go out and buy the original unaltered Star Wars trilogy in a hot minute. I would love to see Han shoot first, to not glimpse Jabba at all in A New Hope, to not hear Darth Vader scream "No!" as his son is tortured by the Emperor, and to see Sebastian Shaw as Anakin Skywalker's Force ghost once again. What about you?