It’s a pretty well-known and much lamented fact that the original theatrical versions of the classic Star Wars movies no longer exist. It seems like George Lucas has spent every single second of the last forty years monkeying with his masterpiece, and now the trilogy comes in more different versions than the Bible. And, rather like the Bible, they’re all based on questionable sources.
Money literally cannot buy the film those starry-eyed, bell-bottomed youngsters saw in the cinema in 1977. Just think of it; growing generations of sci-fi nerds walking the Earth who have never seen a version of Star Wars where Han shoots first.
Or at least, that was the terrible vision of the future we were facing up until now. Now, a new hope has arisen in the form of the so-called Despecialized (sic) Edition.
A team of talented film buffs, led by Petr Harmy, have created a retro-mastered version of A New Hope. This Despecialized Edition was made using the latest Blu-Ray releases and the 2006 bonus DVDs (which included the unaltered films, albeit in inferior versions) as a base, combined with various other sources including old negatives and custom mattes.
But this is no cobbled together project; years of work have been put into it. Not only have all of the annoying CGI add-ons been painstakingly removed, but the film has undergone various edits and colour-corrections to bring it as close as possible to the original theatrical version.
Ben Kuchera, writing on Polygon, describes the Despecialized Edition as
…literally one of the most jaw-dropping presentations of classic science fiction I have ever seen. The colors (sic) look amazing, details pop off the screen and the overall image quality is so far beyond anything available in an officially sanctioned release that it’s nearly laughable.”
But, that’s where the fun ends – unless you’re willing to bend the law just a teensy weensy bit. You can only view the Despecialized Star Wars as a huge 17GB download from the internet’s grey market. Harmy’s film is classed as ‘fan made’, so it’s almost certainly never going to be available in any form you can order from Amazon. It’s true what they say; the best things in life are free.
There are whispers that we might be treated to HD special editions of all three films now that Disney is at the Star Wars helm (the company bought out Lucasfilm in 2012, sparking the latest Star Wars renaissance). However, these are just whispers and haven’t even grown big enough to be rumours yet, so we’re not holding our breath.
Meanwhile, Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits UK cinemas on December 18th 2015.