Will The Original Unaltered Theatrical Star Wars Trilogy Officially Be Released Again?
If there’s one thing that some Star Wars fans want more than anything is the chance to see the unaltered versions of the original trilogy without the infamous Special Edition enhancements. Right now, the only versions available on home video is some form of these altered versions. With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on the horizon, could there be a glimmer of hope that we may see remastered the original theatrical versions some time in the future? Some hope that might be the case!
Last year, I had the honor of hanging with hundreds of wonderful fans for over 20 hours watching all seven Star Wars films for the AMC movie marathon. It was the first time I had seen ‘Star Wars’ on the big screen since the “Special Edition’ release back in 1997′. Before that, I had only seen ‘Star Wars’ (after Young Frankenstein played) on the big screen in 1978′ inside an old yellow Mustang at the now demolished 100 Twin Drive-In in Minnesota. Naturally, as with most Star Wars fans at various events, a few fans in the cinema gathered together to discuss “all things Star Wars”. Of course, the main topic on the table was “are we seeing the original theatrical versions of the Star Wars Trilogy tonight”. Soon, ‘Star Wars: A New Hope” began, and we found out the answer as we all watched the 2011 Blu-ray version play out on the big screen.
Don’t get me wrong, the AMC movie marathon event was a wonderful fan experience that I will never forget and talk about for years to come. However, it seemed like something was missing and an incredible missed opportunity was lost for a company that paid millions to screen it. Imagine the media attention that AMC could have had if they had shown the original versions over the 2011 Blu-ray’s. Did AMC even ask for the original version? Who knows…
Fast forward to last week, TNT television aired all six Star Wars films that included the original Star Wars trilogy. Once again, and opportunity for the original versions to be played on some sort of official medium was missed. The simple fact that TNT had paid out a reported 250 million dollars in order to play the Blu-ray version is something that is unreal, at least in my opinion.
So, the big question remains, will we ever see the original Star Wars Trilogy officially released again?
For those unfamiliar, George had been slightly tinkering with the original Star Wars Trilogy since shortly after the first film hit cinemas in 1977. In fact, one of the earliest changes made to Star Wars was within weeks into its theatrical run that included the “more-widely distributed 35mm release had a 2-track Dolby Stereo matrixed 4-channel optical soundtrack rather than the original mono mix that was released in June 1977 for exhibition in cinemas”. Later, on came the famous 1981 “A New Hope” title change that will forever be remembered, and even more tinkering to the audio track was done for the 1993 Definitive Laserdisc Collection.
However, it didn’t end there, the biggest changes were made in 1997 with the release of “The Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition’. This time, Director George Lucas‘ pointlessly altered several things that were in the original Star Wars Trilogy and made the film feel jarring and very awkward. Some of these changes included the replacement of special-effects shots with brand-new CGI shots, replacement of musical pieces, addition of new and previously deleted scenes including the Jabba the Hutt scene and the highly controversial among Star Wars fans, “Han shot first” addition.
Over the years, Lucasfilm has made it very clear that his original versions of the first ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy really didn’t exist to him any longer and that the “Special Editions are the “Definitive Versions”. Lucas told The Today Show back in 2004 that:
“The special edition, that’s the one I wanted out there.” He said. “it doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s like this is the movie I wanted it to be, and I’m sorry you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it.”
Also, sometime before the recent sale to Disney, Lucas had refused to release the remastered versions of the unaltered originals in any form and stuck to the idea that his Special Editions are the most accurate representation of his vision. In fact, Lucas had this to say around the time the SE’s were released (via Wikipedia.org):
“There will only be one [version of the films]. And it won’t be what I would call the “rough cut”, it’ll be the “final cut”. The other one will be some sort of interesting artifact that people will look at and say, “There was an earlier draft of this.” The same thing happens with plays and earlier drafts of books. In essence, films never get finished, they get abandoned. At some point, you’re dragged off the picture kicking and screaming while somebody says, “Okay, it’s done.” That isn’t really the way it should work. Occasionally, [you can] go back and get your cut of the video out there, which I did on both American Graffiti and THX 1138; that’s the place where it will live forever. So what ends up being important in my mind is what the DVD version is going to look like, because that’s what everybody is going to remember. The other versions will disappear. Even the 35 million tapes of Star Wars out there won’t last more than 30 or 40 years. A hundred years from now, the only version of the movie that anyone will remember will be the DVD version [of the Special Edition], and you’ll be able to project it on a 20-foot-by-40-foot screen with perfect quality. I think it’s the director’s prerogative, not the studio’s, to go back and reinvent a movie.”
As of now, the only way to officially view the unaltered versions is through DVDs that sell for hundreds of dollars on the secondhand market or by breaking out the old Laserdisc and VHS player to watch inferior copies. Unofficially, some dedicated and resourceful fans have “over the years” created their own restorations, with Harmy’s Despecialized Edition release being the most famous and widely (though illegally) distributed online.
Is there a NEW hope?
Back in 2014, the Internet went abuzz with rumors that Disney intended to re-release the original, unaltered Star Wars trilogy in a remastered Blu-Ray set. At the time, Comicbook.com claimed to have it on good authority (“two independent reliable sources”) that the plan was to re-release the unaltered trilogy in some form. They had this to say:
According to our sources, 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.
Well, sadly there’s been no movement or official truth on the matter. At least, not officially, not yet.
More Recently, Movie Mezzanine caught up with the anonymous team member who calls himself Mr. Black and he spoke about his unofficial and basically illegal newly restored scan of the original negative of the original cut of Star Wars that he tracked down on eBay. So, the only logical thought is that if a fan can track down and original negative and restore it why couldn’t Lucas or even Disney. Was George and other Lucasfilm associates really telling the truth that they used the only “far gone” (Rick McCallum) negative in existence to create the Special Edition of Star Wars? Looks like it wasn’t the only one!
Anyhow, with the success of the blockbuster smash hit ‘The Force Awakens’ it seems that there might be some hope on the horizon that Disney and Lucasfilm might release the ‘unaltered’ theatrical versions on some form in the future. Could the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story cause Disney to think twice about releasing the original versions?
Time will tell.
“Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future..”
Perhaps, one day I might be able to see a version that was really close to the “true” theatrical cut that played in a few cinema’s in 1977. The version I seen in 1978′ was most likely the “A New Hope” titled version as friends have told me over the years, even though I have always thought differently.
I will never forget going down this long road with my TARGET store purchased Luke Skywalker and C-3PO figures in hand to watch ‘Star Wars’ as it was meant to be seen (at lest IMHO!).
Hopefully, one day Disney and Lucasfilm will bring back something close to the original version for all of us to enjoy!
May the Force be with you….