star wars 4k restoration

There is one reason and one reason only for why I have not bought Star Wars on Blu-ray: I simply have no interest in watching the special editions, with the new visual effects that were added in the late ’90s. I understand why they exist. I understand that some fans prefer them. I understand that everyone already has an opinion on this matter and that my saying this will inspire as many irritated sighs as it does agreeable nods.

So when I hear the news that Lucasfilm has created a new 4K restoration of the original 1977 Star Wars, I have to pause before celebrating. Which version of the film are we talking about here?

The news comes from Little White Lies‘ interview with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story director Gareth Edwards, who says that he watched the new print with ILM’s John Knoll, the visual effects supervisor and story writer on Rogue One. Here’s the full story:

On day one, we were in Lucasfilm in San Francisco with Industrial Light and Magic and John [Knoll], our supervisor, he said that they’ve got a brand new 4K restoration print of A New Hope – it had literally just been finished. He suggested we sit and watch it. Obviously, I was up for that. Me, the writer, lots of the story people and John all sat down, we all had our little notepads, we were all ready for this. I’ll add that I’ve seen A New Hope hundreds of times. So I was sat there, ready to take notes and really delve under the surface of the film. You have the Fox fanfare, then scrolling text with ‘A long time ago…’, and then the main music begins. Next thing we knew it had ended, and we looked around to one another and just thought – shit, we didn’t take any notes. You can’t watch it without getting carried away. It’s really hard to get into an analytical filmmaker headspace with this film. It just turns you into a child.

It’s a lovely story, but there are a few lingering questions.

First, what is the purpose of this Star Wars 4K restoration? Is it strictly for internal reference or does Lucasfilm intend to make public use of it? When Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, their deal came with all kinds of strings attached, including 20th Century Fox holding the distribution rights to the original Star Wars in perpetuity (as well as theatrical and home video rights to the rest of the films until 2020). If this restoration ever sees the light of day, it will have to mean Disney and 20th Century Fox working together, which is easier said than done.

Second, is this a restoration of the original version seen in theaters or the special edition, which features Greedo shooting first and all kinds of distracting digital manipulation? Because if Lucasfilm has a proper restoration of the original film, Star Wars fans and film history fans have something to celebrate. If it’s the latter…nothing to see here. Move along.

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