Although Lucasfilm is already planning a birthday bash for the Star Wars Saga at Celebration Orlando this April, fans might get another present for the saga’s 40th anniversary. According to fan site MakingStarWars.net, rumors abound that Lucasfilm might re-release the unaltered cuts of the saga’s original trilogy.
If the rumors are true, this is big news for Star Wars fans. Aside from limited VHS releases, the unaltered cuts of the original trilogy films haven’t been available since they premiered in theaters in the 1970s and ’80s. If Lucasfilm indeed re-releases the films’ original cuts, then this will be the first time in decades that fans can see the films in their original forms. Here’s what makes the unaltered cuts of the original trilogy so special.
Thanks to the commercial success of Star Wars, George Lucas has revisited and further edited his films for re-releases. The most notable — and controversial — release were the Special Editions of the original trilogy. In 1997, to celebrate the saga’s 20th anniversary, Lucasfilm spent a total of $15 million to remaster A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. The Special Editions had stints in theaters before moving to home media.
Although most of the Special Editions’ changes were cosmetic, others significantly affected the plot of the films. The most notable example is the “Han shot first” scene in A New Hope. As a result, the Special Editions generated significant controversy among Star Wars fans. Many fans remain skeptical about George Lucas’s decision to finish each original trilogy film “the way it was meant to be.”
While the Special Editions represent the most significant edits to the original trilogy, the saga has undergone other changes. Following up on the saga’s first Blu-ray release in 2011, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) began remastering the entire saga in 3D, starting with the prequel trilogy. The Phantom Menace saw a theatrical 3D re-release in 2012, but Disney’s 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm indefinitely postponed further 3D releases.
In 2015, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith received limited 3D showings at Celebration Anaheim. Other than that, it seems as though Disney has decided to refocus Lucasfilm’s efforts to new films. Of course, that’s why the saga has produced new content beginning with The Force Awakens. However, it looks like Lucasfilm isn’t likely to generate 3D versions of the original trilogy anytime soon.
Why the Original Film Cuts Matter
Admittedly, the differences between the original trilogy’s unaltered cuts and the Special Editions appeal to more hardcore fans. Casual fans are less likely to care about whether Greedo or Han Solo shot first. Still, given Star Wars’ indelible impact on pop culture, there’s certainly a market for the original trilogy’s unaltered cuts. They might not be for every Star Wars fan, but many of us care about them.
ILM supervisor John Knoll, who first pitched the story idea for Rogue One, said last year that ILM finished a brand new 4K restoration print of A New Hope. For that reason, it seems likely that Lucasfilm will finally give diehard fans the original film cuts that they’ve clamored for. There’s no word yet whether the unaltered cuts will be released in theaters or on home media. At the very least, however, fans will likely get them after all this time. After all, the Special Editions marked the saga’s 20th anniversary. Star Wars turns 40 years old this year, so there’s no telling what’s in store.