Star Wars fans have long wondered whether an official release of the original editions of the original trilogy would ever see the light of day — let alone get a chance to soar across the big-screen once again. In 2017, the 40-year anniversary of A New Hope, there is finally hope. This is the year that a theatrical re-release of the original versions could actually happen, and in 4K!
Before this year, the re-release argument simply hinged on nostalgia of fans, but thanks to Rogue One director Gareth Edwards’s particularly telling interview to Little White Lies magazine, there’s a real shot that fans’ greatest desire will be fulfilled in 2017. The self-professed Star Wars fanatic, who grew up to make one of the best Star Wars movies since The Empire Strikes Back, let slip details on the oft-mysterious inner workings of Disney’s Lucasfilm. Edwards told LWL that after he got the Rogue One gig he saw a new high resolution restoration of A New Hope to get him primed for his prequel:
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 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.
While we still don’t know whether the version we saw was a remastered original or a remastered Special Edition, the other question is whether this 4K version is for internal use only, or whether it’ll see the light of day for us plebes. The restoration was apparently first commissioned in 2012 from a company called Reliance MediaWorks (then, an even smaller company called Lowry Digital), the entertainment services company that restored the original trilogy for the 2004 DVD release.
Giving even more plausibility to the idea that audiences will see the version Edwards saw is his reference to the Fox fanfare. When Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, the deal came with a particularly lucrative string attached, which was that 20th Century Fox held the distribution rights to A New Hope in perpetuity, and the theatrical and home video rights to the other films until 2020.
The possibility of another home video release is disappointing. The possibility of a theatrical release between Disney and Fox is astounding, from a fan’s perspective.
Here’s the thing, the most basic reason why nerdy Star Wars fans get into such a tizzy over the inkling of a chance to see A New Hope as it was originally screened: It’s just better than the 20th Anniversary Special Edition. The CGI-tinkering is distracting and superfluous, and takes away from the tactile nature that the new Disney-approved films have strived to recreate, regardless of their hefty helpings of effects wizardry.
Currently, the only way to watch the only throwback of A New Hope again is through a sketchy BitTorrent link. A theatrical re-release from Disney would not only make them oodles of money, but also be seen as a massive token of goodwill by fans who’ve been craving this for literally decades. Even if Disney doesn’t end up releasing a 4K version of A New Hope for the film’s big anniversary, Star Wars fans don’t have to fret. Episode VIII is set to be released in December, and it’ll be a year long-remembered.