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Time for the Original Theatrical Versions of Star Wars.

Original Star Wars Poster

Original Star Wars Poster

David Figueroa, Contributor

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Back in 1977, a film called “Star Wars” flashed across movie screens around the world, breaking ground and winning seven Academy Awards. “Star Wars” was immediately a pop culture smash, and influenced the way films would be made from then on.

“Star Wars” launched a trilogy of films that continued with “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and concluded with “Return of the Jedi” (1983). All three of these films are now regarded as masterpieces of cinema.

Then, in 1997, George Lucas decided to re-release his original “Star Wars” masterpieces in theaters in all-new, special edition versions. Many fans were ecstatic over the news. For many years, the only possible way to watch the films was through the fairly low-quality VHS and Laserdisc versions. The move gave fans a chance to see the original “Star Wars” trilogy in theaters again, and for some, for the first time.

To make it even more exciting, the movies would be in all-new, improved, special edition versions. Enthusiastic “Star Wars” fans all over the world flocked to theaters to see these amazing films on the big screen once again. After the movie was over, many found that they enjoyed the new special edition versions, but they were happy that they would also still get the option of viewing the original versions. Right?

That’s just the problem. To this day, the original unaltered “Star Wars” trilogy has never been officially remastered for DVD or Blu-Ray. DVD’s were released in 2004 but contained only the Special Editions. In 2006, the special edition DVD’s were re-released, but this time, containing the original unaltered versions of all the films. However, this DVD was just a disappointment. This release was non-anamorphic and was nothing more than a direct master of the 1993 Laserdisc release.

Then, in 2011, it was announced that all of the films would be released on Blu-Ray. Perhaps this was it. However, fans were disappointed once again to find out that this Blu-Ray, like the DVD, contained only the special editions. Many fans decided to take matters into their own hands by restoring 35mm prints or upscaling the Laser-disc mastered 2006 versions to High Definition.

One Czech fan by the name of Petr Harmacek, or “Harmy” as he is known by the fan community, decided to go even further and combine the officially released Blu-Ray with other sources, such as the aforementioned 2006 DVDs (Which was of course upscaled and enhanced in order to fit in seamlessly next to HD footage), 35mm print scans, technicolor references, and animation techniques in order to restore the films to their original theatrical version in HD. This project is called the Despecialized Edition.

The Despecialized Edition is the preferred method of watching the films for fans like me who prefer the original theatrical versions and wish the prequels, and Jar-Jar Binks, had never happened (I am so sorry for putting that horrifying image of Jar-Jar in your head. I will give you a moment to get it out).

“Not only did Star Wars have a huge impact on the movie industry,” said Harmacek in a documentary on the creation of the Despecialized versions, “with its groundbreaking visual effects and set design, but it has also become an important part of not only American, but also global culture.” Harmacek views it as a crime against the integrity of the art of motion pictures to re-edit a classic film and then pretend that it is the only version – which is exactly what George Lucas has done.

The Despecialized versions are a labor of love that show just how passionate “Star Wars” fans have become in their quest to have the original theatrical versions of the original trilogy in HD. However, this all begs the question – why should all this be necessary? It shouldn’t.

If Disney and Fox could come together to restore the original versions (which, despite claims to the contrary, we all know they have in their vaults), most fans including me would gladly fork over insane amounts of money for them. Not only is it the right thing to do in order to preserve the integrity of the art of film, it would also be a great business decision.

However, that is not likely to ever happen. Despite no official word from Disney or Fox, there is much speculation that when Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, Lucas made them sign an agreement to not release the original versions. Ever. And when asked whether anything would be done at all to modify the original trilogy, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said that nothing would be done to them because they are “George’s versions, and we’re not going to do anything to them.” To be fair, the question was about whether they would make further CHANGES to the films, not about the original versions. So that means there is still hope from Disney.

Between of Disney and Fox, Disney seems the most likely to release the original versions. The only problem is that the rights to the original film will stay with Fox until the end of time, even after the other two films have transferred to Disney in 2020. However, Disney has recently announced that it plans to buy Fox. If this deal goes through, Disney will then have had the rights to the original movie. We can only hope that this results in the two companies coming together to release the original theatrical versions on Blu-Ray, but until then, we will have to stick with the Despecialized versions.

So how can you get the Despecialized Edition? Well, the problem is that it’s not exactly legal. That means that I cannot technically tell you. However, Disney and Fox have stated that they will not pursue charges against the people distributing them unless they are doing it for profit. For that reason, I will tell you to go to OriginalTrilogy.com, the website of the creators of these versions, where you can find out how to get these versions for yourself. Just make sure that you don’t give any money to anyone selling them. If you do, in fact, find someone selling these versions, please report them to the people at OriginalTrilogy.com who will take it from there.

We are living in a golden age of “Star Wars”. There are new movies coming out every year, the latest of which is “Star Wars: The Last Jedi“. We can only hope that Disney and Fox get some sense knocked into them by the fans so that they will finally give us what we’ve all been waiting for. Until then, Harmy’s Despecialized Edition is a great alternative. I recommend watching these versions for your Star Wars marathons, even better if you can get your hands on them before you see The Last Jedi.

May the force be with you.

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Time for the Original Theatrical Versions of Star Wars.